Location:Home > news > Author Kate DiCamillo to visit Wichita Watermark Books Dec. 2

Author Kate DiCamillo to visit Wichita Watermark Books Dec. 2

Time:2016-11-27 09:34Shoes websites Click:

Children Book author Wichita Kate DiCamillo

When Kate DiCamillo began writing “Raymie Nightingale,” her latest book for middle-grade readers, she had no idea it would delve into such thorny topics as abandonment, abuse, poverty and death.

“Where I started was with Raymie’s name and with the name of a contest – Little Miss Central Florida Tire,” DiCamillo says.

“I thought, you know, it’s just going to be a funny book about an inept child in a beauty contest. I thought it was going to be kind of madcap.”

What happened next was what often happens when DiCamillo writes, she said: The story took over.

Before she knew it, the young and fretful Raymie Nightingale was recounting how her father had run away with a dental hygienist, similar to the way DiCamillo’s father had left home when she was 6. Then Raymie’s friends Louisiana and Beverly appear, and the self-proclaimed “Three Rancheros” set out to guide one another through their troubled lives.

“It was one of those wonderful things that I learned about myself as I was doing it,” DiCamillo said. “My father left when I was 6 years old, and in a big way, I think it was me processing that. But it’s not what I set out to do.”

DiCamillo, author of the Newbery Honor book “Because of Winn-Dixie” as well as two Newbery Medal winners, “The Tale of Despereaux” and “Flora and Ulysses,” will visit Wichita on Friday for a talk and book signing hosted by Watermark Books and Cafe.

As a former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in 2014, DiCamillo chose “Stories Connect Us” as her theme for that year, emphasizing how reading together – and particularly reading aloud with children – helps youngsters develop empathy and a love of literature.

As she has toured the country talking with people about “Raymie Nightingale,” a for Young People’s Literature, DiCamillo said she once again was reminded of books’ power to connect and heal.

“I’ve cried a lot, let’s just say that,” she said in a telephone interview from Miami, where she was featured as part of this year’s Miami Book Fair.

People have told me so much about themselves, offered themselves back to me with this book. So it’s been a really deeply moving experience, and totally unanticipated and totally unplanned.

Kate DiCamillo on her newest work, “Raymie Nightingale”

“People have told me so much about themselves, offered themselves back to me with this book,” she said. “So it’s been a really deeply moving experience, and totally unanticipated and totally unplanned.”

DiCamillo, 52, grew up in Clermont, Fla., just outside Orlando, and majored in English at college because she liked to read. “That’s as far as I went with career plans,” she said, laughing.

When a college professor told her she “had a certain facility with words,” DiCamillo said, she took it as a sign that she should be a writer. Unfortunately, for nearly a decade after that – a period she refers to as her “dark ages” – she did more talking and dreaming than actual writing.

“What I did was go around flapping my gums about how I was a writer,” she said. “I read a lot of books on writing and I continued to be a huge reader, but I didn’t write anything.”

When she turned 30, she decided to get serious. She moved to Minneapolis, Minn., and started writing two pages a day, every day, first thing in the morning – a practice she continues to this day.

“Because of Winn-Dixie,” published in 2000, became a best-seller despite DiCamillo’s humble predictions.

What happened with that book, how people opened their hearts to it, just changed my life. Everything

that’s happened to me has happened because of ‘Winn-Dixie.’

Kate DiCamillo, Newbery Award-winning author

“I knew enough by that point to know that if I was lucky, 6,000 or 7,000 copies of that book would sell, and that would let me earn out the advance and be allowed to do another book,” she said. “So what happened with that book, how people opened their hearts to it, just changed my life.

“Everything that’s happened to me has happened because of ‘Winn-Dixie.’ ”

DiCamillo’s penchant for animal characters – Winn-Dixie is a dog, Despereaux a mouse, Mercy Watson a pig, Edward Tulane a china rabbit – is ironic because she boycotted animal books after being traumatized by the plot of “Black Beauty” when she was about 8.

“I wouldn’t check out any book with any animal on the cover after that,” she said. “The great irony is, the kid me would not read anything I have written.”

At readings and book signings, such as her upcoming first visit to Wichita, she says she hopes young readers come away recognizing they have stories inside them but that being a writer takes daily practice.

I would love it if a kid thought, ‘If I’m willing to work, then I can be a writer, too.’

Kate DiCamillo, children’s author

“People think that you have to be incredibly talented or that what you’re going to write, if you’re meant to be a writer, is going to come out right the first time,” she said. “I would love it if a kid thought, ‘If I’m willing to work, then I can be a writer, too.’ ”

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias

Kate DiCamillo reading

Watermark Books and Cafe will host children’s author Kate DiCamillo for a reading and signing of her newest book, “Raymie Nightingale.”

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Where: The former Head’s Shoes space in Lincoln Heights Village at Douglas and Oliver. It’s in the same shopping center as Watermark Books, 4701 E. Douglas.

How much: Tickets are $25 for two people and include one copy of “Raymie Nightingale.”

Information: Call Watermark at 316-682-1181 or visit

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