(Kate DiCamillo-photo courtesy of Blue Slip Media)
by Jill P
MEET THE AUTHOR EVENT
Meet Kate DiCamillo, the two-time Newbery Medalist and former National Embassador for Young People’s Literature, at the Kalamazoo Public Library (Central location) on July 11, 2016 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
Kate brings her latest bestseller, Raymie Nightingale to Kalamazoo! Bookbug will sell copies of DiCamillo’s books for signing. Kate DiCamillo will sign unlimited copies of Raymie Nightingale and ONE backlist title per person.
MY INTERVIEW WITH KATE DICAMILLO
When I heard of Kate DiCamillo’s coming to the Kalamazoo Public Library on July 11 for a “Meet the Author” visit and that I had the opportunity to interview Kate prior to her arrival, I was very excited. What an honor to be able to have the opportunity to interview an author who has written so many influential books for children.
I’m still replaying the conversation in my mind. Some of the things Kate talked about really hit home with me.
Here are some of the highlights of our interview:
KZOOkids: How do you get the ideas for the characters in your books? All your books have wonderfully developed characters and they’re so engaging and they draw you into the story. Where are those ideas coming from?
Kate: I get asked questions about character development and I always feel like I fail miserably at the question.
For me, a couple things have to happen. One, the very first thing, is an image or a couple of lines and then the next thing is the name of the character and then I have to find a voice of each story. Once I have the voice, then I’m in there and I don’t… Like I said, I always feel like I’m disappointing people . . . I don’t work on developing the character because once I’m in the story, it’s like I’m following the character. It’s what the character is telling me…It’s just a matter of me getting out of my own way and following the character. Does that make sense?
KZOOkids: It does. That is just so interesting. You’d think it would just be almost the opposite where you have this character and you need to develop this strong character so you can build the whole story around the character, and it sounds that to you it’s almost the other way around.
Kate: It is…Just like people want to know if I outline stories and I don’t. I always say, if I were to figure out what was going to happen in a story before I started, I wouldn’t want to write the story.
I know a lot of people who write. Everybody does it differently. This is the other thing. There’s no right or wrong way. Whatever works. It is a very personal journey, whatever works for you as the person that’s writing the story.
KZOOkids: Our website is a kids and parenting (website) blog. What advice would you have for kids that are trying to write a story? I have a 7-year-old son and we’re playing around with getting him to write a little bit more this summer…what tips would you have for kids writing?
Kate: When I give writing advice, I give the same advice to adults. Because I find, generally, in a room of 400 people, there are just as many adults as kids who want to be a writer.
What I say is, read. That is the number one thing you have to do in order to write a story. The second thing is you have to find some way to make a deal with yourself about how you’re going to do the work.
That for me is (writing) two pages a day . . . because, again, everybody works differently. So you’re going to make yourself sit down and try. Don’t expect it to come out right the first time, because it won’t.
I think there’s an overwhelming belief, particularly in this culture, that if you’re meant to do this, then it should come out right, and it doesn’t. It’s work, like everything else. So be willing to work, read a lot, then keep a notebook, listen to everything around you, and write things down in there and look at everything and describe what you see. So I always have a notebook with me, in case I see something or if something pops into my head. So that’s it. It’s reading and writing and keeping yourself open, listening to everything and looking at everything.
KZOOkids: You’re attending a lot of the local libraries to promote summer reading. Can you tell me a little bit about being a summer reading champion? And what you’re trying to accomplish by doing that?
Kate: I was a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for the last couple of years. What I tried to do there was remind people about how much joy and pleasure there is in reading and also that privilege.
I’m trying to do the same here and remind parents that the library is there, that it has an incredible amount of reading programs and that kids can go — and I want kids to know this too — it’s like, no one’s going to tell you what to read. That’s part of the whole summer reading program, is with you taking your own journey and reading what you want to read.
Again, it’s just that thing about reminding people something that they already know. If I’m in a room with 500 people and I say, “How many of you know where your public library is?” Everybody raises their hand. So it’s just like, don’t forget about it.
It is a wonderful option for everybody in the summertime, and all year round — a place where you can make your own journey.
KZOOkids: Our summer reading programs in this area are awesome. They do such a good job of encouraging kids to pick up books to discover what they want to discover…
Kate: Yes. I think that’s such a big part of it, encouraging them to take the journey. Kids get told what to do all the time, what to read and how to read it, what you need to get out of what you’ve read. The great thing about the summer reading programs at public libraries is it’s not that; you get to choose. It’s an amazing thing. Anywhere in this country. I never met a librarian who hasn’t bent over backwards for books or information that’s on hand. I’m just thrilled to be out there talking about all of this and how amazing they are.
KZOOkids: Any final thoughts that you wanted to share with the readers of our website here in Kalamazoo, or any final thoughts about things you wanted about your new book that you’ll be signing at the event at the Kalamazoo Public Library?
Kate: I guess what I would want to say is how super grateful I am — this goes for Kalamazoo and every other place that I get to go — for readers. (I’m grateful) for people who come to these events and bring their kids to these events, so I get to be a part of reading communities. It is such a privilege to get to do this, to be with people and to be with people around a book.
Can we thank everybody in advance for all those people who will bring their kids? It matters so much to me.
MORE INFORMATION ON KATE DICAMILLO
Kate DiCamillo’s writing journey has truly been a remarkable one. She grew up in Florida and moved to Minnesota in her twenties, where homesickness and a bitter winter led her to write Because of Winn-Dixie—her frst published novel, which became a runaway bestseller and snapped up a Newbery Honor.
The Tiger Rising, her second novel, was also set in Florida, and went on to become a National Book Award Finalist. Since then, the best-selling author has explored settings as varied as a medieval castle, a magician’s theater, and the bustling streets of Memphis, while continuing to enjoy great success, winning two Newbery Medals and being named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
In Raymie Nightingale, Kate DiCamillo’s latest novel, she returns to her roots, once more setting the story in the Central Florida of her childhood. Like Raymie Clarke, the hero of this novel, Kate DiCamillo grew up in a small southern town in the seventies with a single mother, and she, too, entered a Little Miss contest and attempted to learn to twirl a baton. But while Raymie’s story is inspired by the author’s own life, Kate DiCamillo has transformed these seeds of truth into fction—and in doing so, has captured a more universal truth.
No matter where her books are set, their themes of hope and belief amid impossible circumstances and their messages of shared humanity and connectedness have resonated with readers of all ages around the world.
TOP TEN REASON TO PARTICIPATE IN SUMMER READING PROGRAMS