I went to listen to Kate DiCamillo at the Wheeler Centre last June. Yes, I know, where have I been, that was ages ago. Well, I had my website re-done and I didn’t like it and it’s attached to my blog which I couldn’t access, so it’s a long, long story.
Anyway, my point is I haven’t stopped thinking about Kate since, nor the advice she gave.
(can you see how ridiculously thrilled I am to meet Kate?!!)
Kate spoke about the difficulties of writing. This had me on the edge of my seat, writers like her had difficulties? This was a revelation. I just assumed beautiful words just flowed from her fingertips. Not so. It’s complex, she tells us.
Then she quoted Dorothy Parker, and I love her even more.
‘I hate writing, but I love having written’
Kate writes two pages at 5am every morning. At this hour, when all is muted and quiet, she has a foot in each world. She journals, goes back to earlier pieces and works her way through things. She writes without an outline, she has names and scenes and finds her way. She says she cannot make herself talented, but she can do the work. She asks herself, am I afraid or am I lazy? She admits to both but always pushes forward, focusing on one day at a time, then a week, getting to know her characters until they take over.
The first draft is often a mess and it always takes seven drafts before a novel goes to an editor.
Kate tells us to commit to writing and to find a way to do the work. Keep our minds open and our hearts and ears and eyes.
The Miraculous journey of Edward Tulane is one of my all time favourite books. It’s achingly heart breaking and the first time I read it, I sobbed the whole way through it. Kate’s connection to Edward is so visceral and real, for anyone who’s loved a dolly, a bunny or a teddy bear, this is the book for you.
Edward Tulane was inspired by a gift. Kate was given a rabbit doll. A very large rabbit doll. It freaked her out but she dreamt about it underwater one night and the story started from this image. It was a picture book, but the story unfolded and told itself, becoming a novel.
Kate makes time to read every day, she’s most present when she’s reading.
Daydreaming is essential to every writer as it ‘maximum’ staring (I love this).
Leave your phone off and don’t talk about your work. You’ll jinx it. Just sit down and do it.
Thank you Kate DiCamillo. See you at Christmas…ha ha ha
About the novel ‘The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane’
Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who treated him with the utmost care and adored him completely. And then, one day, he was lost.
Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the top of a garbage heap to the fireside of a hobos camp, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. And along the way, we are shown a true miracle: even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.
Candlewick Press, 2006
Ages 7 and up, ISBN 0-7636-2589-2
Kate DiCamillo is one of the United States’ leading junior fiction and illustrated fiction authors for children. She has sold over 22 million copies worldwide, with books translated into 41 languages.
Kate is one of only six people to have won two prestigious Newbery Medals, awarded by the American Library Association, for The Tale of Despereaux (2003) and Flora and Ulysses (2013). Kate recently completed her two year appointment as the Library of Congress’ National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature 2014–2015. She is the fourth US National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.