Kate DiCamillo lived in the South for much of her childhood and received her bachelor's degree from the University of Florida in Gainesville. Her debut children's book, "Because of Winn Dixie" (2000), was a Newbery Honor Book and her second book," The Tiger Rising" (2001), was a National Book Award finalist. DiCamillo's "The Tale of Despereaux" (Candlewick, 2003), is the winner of the 2004 Newbery Award. Her newest book is "The Magician's Elephant." DiCamillo lives in Minneapolis.
Previous National Book Festival Appearances
From the 2009 National Book Festival
What sparked your imagination for you recent book – The Magician’s Elephant?
Summer before last I was in New York City, sitting in the lobby of a hotel and waiting for a friend, when a magician appeared before me, or rather the vision of a magician appeared before me. He was a down-on-his-luck-kind-of-desperate-and-tired-of-tricks-and-sleights-of-hands magician and I understood that he wanted to perform real magic. What kind of magic would that be, I wondered? And then the elephant showed up.
What challenges do you face in your writing process? How do you overcome them?
Well, I am always afraid. And sometimes I despair. But I overcome the fear and the despair by setting small manageable goals for myself (two pages a day).
What tips or advice can you share with young students who hope to start writing?
Read a lot and write a little every day. Listen when people talk.
Can you suggest a fun writing topic to get them started?
Yes. Get on a city bus with a notebook. Write down some of the dialog that you overhear. Write a story incorporating some of that dialog.
What is your list of favorite children or teen books?
I love so many different books for some different reasons, that this list is different every time I am asked to give it. E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web is one of the most perfect books ever written. I love Mary Norton’s The Borrowers. William Steig’s Abel’s Island is an inspiration. So is Sara Varon’s Robot Dreams.
How do you decide on themes for your books?
Oh, I never think about themes. When I’m done with a book, I can see that there are themes in it, but they happen organically, as a part of the storytelling process.
How important is research in the development of your books? Can you explain the process as well?
Acccck. I don’t really do much research. As I near the final draft of a story, I will do some fact checking. But for the most part, I am just imagining things.
What is your advice to parents for passing the joys of reading on to their children?
Let your children see you reading a book for your own pleasure.
If you weren’t creating children’s books, what do you think you would be doing?
I really can’t think of anything else that I would be doing. I have found what I’m supposed to do with my life and I get to do it and this makes me very, very happy.
Do you have a website where young people can learn more about you and your work?