Kate DiCamillo Biography
It's a pipe dream of many an aspiring author: publish your debut novel, claim
a spot on the New York Times bestseller list, and rack up an astonishing array
of awards, including a Newbery Honor. For Kate DiCamillo, author of Because
of Winn-Dixie, it was a dream come true--and nobody could have been more
surprised than she was. "After the Newbery committee called me, I spent
the whole days walking into walls. Literally," she says. "I was
stunned. And very, very happy."
She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but moved with her
family to Florida when she was five years old. "People talked more slowly
and said words I had never heard before, like 'ain't' and 'y'all' and
'ma'am," she says, recalling her first impressions. "The town was
small, and everybody knew everybody else. It was all so different from what I
had known before, and I fell swiftly and madly in love."
Indeed, it was homesickness for Florida's warmth that helped inspire Because
of Winn-Dixie, which Kate DiCamillo describes as "a hymn of
praise to dogs, friendship, and the South." The author was experiencing
winter in Minnesota, where she had moved when she was in her twenties. "I
was also missing the sound of Southern people talking," she says.
"And I was missing having a dog. One night before I went to sleep, I
heart this little girl's voice with a Southern accent say, 'I have a dog named
Winn-Dixie.' I just started writing down what India Opal Buloni was telling
Her second novel, the National Book Award finalist The
Tiger Rising, is "considerably darker" than Because of Winn-Dixie,"
she notes, "but there's light and redemption in it." Once again, the
story began with the appearance of a single character. "Rob Horton showed
up in a short story I wrote and than hung around the house driving me
crazy," she says. "I finally asked him what he wanted, and he told
me he knew where there was a tiger." Like Opal in Because of Winn-Dixie,
Rob struggles with the loss of a parent and ultimately discovers the healing
power of friendship. "I don't think adults always realize how much
friends mean to kids," Kate DiCamillo says. "My friends have been
the saving grace of my life."
She credits one friend's son for inspiring her extraordinary new
book, The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some
Soup and a Spool of Thread. As she tells it, "A few years ago, my best
friend's son asked me if I would write a story for him. 'Well,' I said, 'I
don't normally write stories on command.' 'But this is a story that I know you
would want to tell,' he said. 'It's about an unlikely hero. He has
exceptionally large ears.' 'What happens to this hero?' I asked. 'I don't
know,' he said. 'That's why I want you to write it down, so you can find out.'
Well, Luke Bailey, three years later, here is the story of what happened to
your exceptionally large-eared, unlikely hero."
When asked about her latest book, she says, "One Christmas, I received an
elegantly dressed toy rabbit as a gift. I brought him home, placed him on a
chair in my living room, and promptly forgot about him. A few days later, I
dreamed that the rabbit was face-down on the ocean floor - lost, and waiting
to be found. In telling The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, I was lost
for a good long while, too. And then, finally, like Edward, I was found."
She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she faithfully writes
two pages a day, five days a week. "E. B. White said, 'All that I hope to
say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world,' "
she says. "That's the way I feel too."
This biography was last updated on 02/10/2006.
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