Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Meet the Author: Kate DiCamillo

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My name is Kate DiCamillo, and I've written four novels, and I'll have a total of six

easy readers soon enough. The novels are Because of Winn-Dixie, Tiger Rising, Tale of Despereaux,

and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. And the easy readers are all about a pig named

Mercy Watson. I've just finished the sixth one in that series, and I've got a picture

book that will come out this fall, called Great Joy. I've written mostly novels, but

I'm branching out into other things.

When I was in college, and professors said, "Hey, you should think about graduate school.

You've got a way with words."

I thought, "Super. I've got a way with words. I'm gonna be a writer. I'll be rich and famous."

So then I bought a lot of black turtlenecks and started looking sophisticated and world-weary,

and I spent the next ten years that way, until I realized that I wasn't going to be a writer

unless I wrote something.

So, I didn't actually start until I was almost 30. But I decided that I wanted to do it in

my twenties. Sad story. Wasted youth

I worked at Disney World. I worked at Circus World. I worked at a campground. I worked

in a greenhouse. And the whole time, I said, "I'm gonna be a writer" — but I wasn't writing.

At the time, I was certainly a lost soul, but all those jobs at the margin of society

were a profound influence on me and became a way of looking at the world. I became an

outsider, because the rest of my friends were moving along on a very prescribed path, and

I had fallen off the track. So it was actually a good thing.

I didn't know that at the time, though. Nor did I believe it. It's like, "Man, I'm a loser.

What a loser. I'm a loser." And then I would say, "Look down and watch your step," which

was my job at Disney.

Why would somebody bother to keep on sending stuff out after that many rejection letters?

I don't have an answer. I'd waited so long to start. You know, a whole decade of my life

went by with me saying that this is what I wanted to do, but not doing it. I had reached

such a critical level of self-disgust. I didn't want to die saying, "I think I could have

done it."

Since I was doing the work of telling stories, it was then an easy enough thing to then send

the stories out and to keep on doing it, so I didn't have to say some 50 years hence,

"I think I could've done that."

Well you know, I've been in so many writing workshops, writing classes, and to the right

of me and to the left of me, there's always somebody much more talented than I am. And

what I figured out is they're not willing to go through the rejection, which is enormous,

and then the compromise that comes with editing your work. I decided a long time ago that

I didn't have to be talented. I just had to be persistent, and that that was something

that I could controlthe persistence. I've always been kind of persistent.

That was unbelievable, you know, because the amazing thing about the Newbery is that, as

far as literary awards go, it's something that the layperson recognizes. People who

aren't in the book world know that award and pick up a book because of that award, and

I, as a child, knew to look for that medal on a bookthat it guaranteed me that I

was going to like the book.

And so to think that that would be on something that I had writtenthe first thing that

I'd writtenthere's no describing that feeling. Hysteria.

I can't remember where they were that year. It must've been on the West Coast, because

the call came relatively early, and I was hysterical, and then I went off to work at

the bookstore. It was a life-changing thing, and I hadn't understood the implications of

how it was going to change my life.

I wrote Because of Winn-Dixie during what was at the time referred to as the "worst

winter on record" in Minnesota, which is a considerable statement for Minnesota, which

is roughly the equivalent of Siberia in climate. And because I'd grown up in Florida, it was

a double shock to me. I mean we had a week where the high didn't go above 20 below, and

so you walk outside, and you open up your car door, and pieces of it fall off because

it's so cold.

So, at that point, I was thinking, "Hmm. I wonder what things are like in Florida." And

so I was homesick, and it was the first long period in my life that I'd been without a

dog or access to a dog. I desperately wanted a dog, so I made a dog up, and I went back

to Florida - all of that happening without any conscious decision on my part. I can look

back and see what was at work now, but then I just knew that I was longing for home and

that I wanted to write a book

When I got to the set, they were filming the scene with Dave Matthews playing a song for

Opal in the pet store. And I'm not a weeper, but I sat there and just cried like a baby,

which delighted Wayne Wang, the director. He was so pleased.

It's an astonishing thing, because, you know, you're in your little room, in your little

apartment at 4:30 in the morning making things up, and then all of a sudden five years later,

there it is in everybody's mind, in a way, so it was very unsettling and very moving.

I always quote Dorothy Parker: "I hate writing. I love having written." And so every morning,

it's the first thing I do when I wake up. And every morning, I wake up and think, "Oh,

God. I don't want to write today." But I just go ahead and do it anyway. And then for the

rest of the day, I can think, "Oh, I got that done." And then I start the battle over again

the next morning

Why do I write? Because life makes more sense when I write, because even though it's a struggle

for me every day, at least once a week I'll be sitting there, and a feeling will wash

over me of, "This is what I'm supposed to be doing." And I feel like I'm incredibly

lucky that I get to do it. I feel like I'm incredibly lucky that I found what I'm supposed

to do. And just because it's hard for me doesn't mean that it's not what I'm supposed to be


Anything teachers can do for the struggling readers in their classroom? Read to them.

I know that's incredibly hard to do now, with standardized testingthat there's not

enough time in the day to do that. But if you can read aloud

And parents, it doesn't matter if the child is reading on their own, if you continue to

read aloud with them each night. And, again, for parents, if the child sees you reading

a book for your own pleasure, rather than screaming at them to read for 15 minutes,

and then you're sitting out there, watching TVif you can model for them that it a

profoundly moving experience for you to read a book for yourself, then that, I think, will

encourage the child to read.

And beyond that, I don't know, because I was such a reader myself, you never had to beg

me to read. It was how I made sense out of things.

If you want to write, you should reada lot. And not only in a certain genre, but

outside of what you're interested in. If you like realistic fiction, you should read fantasy.

You should just read across the board. And if you want to write, you should write, which

seems kind of like a no-brainer, but it took me about ten years to figure it out. That

means making some kind of commitment to doing the work of writing, even if it's two pages

a day; if it's a page a day; if it's, you know, just some kind of goal that you set

for yourself that's reachable.

If you want to write, you should pay attention to peopleeverybody has a storyand

listen to people when they talk. Not because you want to steal their story, but because

almost everybody's interesting if you give them a chance and if you ask them the right


So, that's it. Listen. Write. Read. Pretty simple.

The Description of Meet the Author: Kate DiCamillo