Books

Offering hope: Newbery winner Kate DiCamillo loves writing for children, young adults

Author to speak in North Liberty on Saturday

Kate DiCamillos

Author Kate DiCamillo, author of many books for young readers, will talk about her latest book at 11 a.m. Saturday at the North Liberty Community Library.
Kate DiCamillos Author Kate DiCamillo, author of many books for young readers, will talk about her latest book at 11 a.m. Saturday at the North Liberty Community Library.
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Kate DiCamillo sees the world through stories.

“I think it’s how we all see the world to an extent,” she said by phone from her home in Minnesota. “We are the story animal and I’m just plugging into that.”

Thanks to DiCamillo’s plugging in for the last two decades, young readers — and the young at heart — have been seeing the world through her many picture books, early readers and middle grade novels since “Because of Winn-Dixie,” which was published in 2000.

Her latest book, “Louisiana’s Way Home,” actually follows the story of a character from a previous book — Raymie Nightingale, published in 2016 — which is a rare writing journey for DiCamillo. “Kids so want sequels and I understand it,” she said. “It’s a huge compliment because they don’t want the book to end. I’ve gotten lots of letters asking me to write another book about this or that, but I’ve never felt compelled to do it before. This is one of those things where the character wouldn’t go away. I kept writing down her voice, so I finally knuckled under and wrote it. I’m glad that I did.”

Readers will be glad she did, too.

DiCamillo will be in North Liberty on Saturday to talk about “Louisiana’s Way Home,” which was just released in October. It tells the story of Louisiana Elefante whose granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately. Separated from her best friends back in Florida, Louisiana wants to find a way back home, but soon finds her life becoming intertwined with the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder. It’s a story about saying goodbyes and finding your way home, wherever and whatever that might be.

She looks forward to visiting Iowa again to meet with readers, DiCamillo said.

“It’s taken me a long time to understand myself on this because I am an introvert and it has taken me a while to understand that connection,” she said.

“Any time I have to walk out onto a stage, I think ‘oh no, I can’t do it.’ But once I’m there with young readers and older readers, too, I think about how it completes the circle for me. You write the book alone and then here are the people that complete it for you. It’s very moving to me to get to do that. I’m so looking forward to meeting everybody.”

It’s speaking events like the one on Saturday that help DiCamillo connect with the world around her.

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“My friends call me rigid, I like to say I am disciplined,” she said laughing when asked about her writing routine. “I get up really early in the morning while it’s still dark and it’s the first thing I do. I write just two pages, but I’ve found that if I just write two pages every day, it can become a novel in a year’s time.”

When she’s asked where she gets her story ideas, DiCamillo said she can never quite answer to anyone’s satisfaction.

“Part of it is paying attention to everything,” she said. “When I give advice to young writers and older writers I say, ‘Make sure you have a notebook with you and look at everything and listen.’ I’ll hear things like a line of dialogue that I think can become a story. I’ll see something. Sometimes things just pop into my head. I’ve learned to just be open to those things and write them down when they happen.”

Despite the fact she’s been the recipient of the Newbery Medal twice — for “Flora & Ulysses” in 2014 and “The Tale of Despereaux” in 2004 — and is a New York Times Bestseller many times over, she’s still amazed that she is an author.

“There’s still a part of me that is surprised that I got published, much less everything that has happened after it,” she said. “There’s always that disbelief and that gratitude that people are going read what you write and show up for a signing.”

DiCamllo first got her start writing short stories for adults, but soon found her way into writing for children.

“When you write for kids there is this necessary hope that needs to be in the story,” she said. “And there’s what I think of as a peripheral magic so that you can feel possibility always. What I like most in writing for kids, in addition to those letters that I get that say, ‘I hated to read until I read “Because of Winn-Dixie,”’ is how it changes me as a writer and makes me more hopeful. I love that.”

“And I just always hope with all my stories that people close the book and feel less alone, more hopeful.”

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As for DiCamillo, a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Emerita through the Library of Congress, she hopes that readers just keep finding themselves in her books and that they keep reading.

“I’m grateful for everybody who reads to somebody else,” she said. “I’m such a big fan of people reading out loud and sharing stories.”

Book reading

• What: Author Kate DiCamillo will read from and talk about her new book, “Louisiana’s Way Home”

• When: 11 a.m. Saturday

• Where: North Liberty Community Library, 520 W. Cherry St., North Liberty

• Cost: Free, but preregister at www.eventbrite.com/e/author-visit-kate-dicamillo-tickets-49703237722#tickets

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Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.