I love author events! Tonight I got to hear Kate diCamillo speak thanks to Eagle Harbor Book Co. and Kitsap Regional Library.
She started out by reading the first few pages of Because of Winn-Dixie, then opened the floor to questions.
Here are some of the stories she shared:
She came upon the idea for Flora & Ulysses because she had two situations nagging at her - one was her mother's vacuum. Before her mother passed away, she was obsessed with making sure her vacuum would be taken care of and Kate promised to make sure that happened. She ended up putting it in the garage because it made her too sad to see it all the time. The other niggling incident was seeing a squirrel dying on her porch. She panicked and called her best friend and asked her what to do. "Do you have a shovel?" Her friend said she'd be right over with a tee shirt and they would take care of the poor dying thing. Kate says she moved away from the squirrel during the conversation, hoping it wouldn't hear the plan, but she is sure that it did because when she returned to the porch it was gone :)
One of the pieces of the Mercy Watson character fell into place when she got a brand new car, a Mini, and she was so excited. A friend asked for a ride to the airport and got into her car with a piece of liberally-buttered toast, and as she ate and talked, greasy toast crumbs flew all over Kate's new car. She asked her to wait till she got out of the car to finish her toast, but instead got a lecture about the wonders of toast. After she "got rid of her," she realized that the missing piece of the pig's personality was a love of liberally-buttered toast.
A young lady asked her why she chose the color red for the sacrificial thread in The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread. Kate said that she didn't realize the significance of red when she wrote that. She told us about her first school visit: the teacher told her class that they would be discussing the themes of her book with Ms. diCamillo. She was thinking, "My book has themes? I wonder what they are?"" Luckily the teacher knew what they were and when she returned to her car, she wrote them down and on her next school visit, she walked in and said, "Ok kids, today we're going to talk about the themes of my book." She said that often writers pull things into their writing without even realizing that they are significant.
One of my colleagues asked her to say something about the editing process. She said, "The editing process is EVERYTHING!" Kate edits her own work 6-7 times before sending it to her editor, who then sends her 6-7 pages of single-spaced "suggestions" for changes. After she sulks and mutters for a while, she digs in and makes the changes and is never sorry she did. The book always ends up being richer, better than she could have imagined.
Two comments I particularly enjoyed: First, Kate reminded us that reading is a privilege. Then, she said she is the luckiest person in the world because she gets letters all the time from children who tell her they didn't like to read until they read her books.
Kate was wonderfully gracious, she stayed until every book was signed and every picture was taken. We were second-to-last in line and she was just as friendly to us as she was to the first people in line. My compliments to the event staff - they kept the line moving at a fast pace without anyone feeling short-changed.
If you haven't read one of her books yet, start with Because of Winn-Dixie. Today.