At first glance, it may appear that Kate DiCamillo waltzed onto the children's book scene and experienced nothing but success. Her first published novel, Because of Winn-Dixie, won a Newbery Honor in 2001. That book became a Hollywood film. In 2004 DiCamillo's book, The Tale of Despereaux, received the coveted Newbery Medal. And in 2013, DiCamillo won a second Newbery Medal for her novel Flora and Ulysses. But Kate DiCamillo's success did not happen overnight. For roughly a decade, before the public knew her name, DiCamillo worked odd jobs, submitted manuscripts, and collected nearly 400 rejection letters. "I decided a long time ago," DiCamillo says, "that I didn't have to be talented. I just had to be persistent."
In January 2014, DiCamillo was named the fourth National Ambassador for Young People's Literature for 2014–2015, by the Library of Congress. "Stories Connect Us" is the theme of her two-year platform as she tours the nation to promote reading.
You can watch the interview below, view the interview transcript, read a short biography on Kate DiCamillo, or see a selected list of her children's books. (This video is also available on YouTube and iTunes.)
Kate DiCamillo was born in Philadelphia in 1964. Because she had pneumonia for the first five winters of her life, the doctor suggested that she would do better in a warmer climate. So, in 1969, Kate, her brother, and her mother moved to sunny Florida. Kate's health improved and she quickly developed a fondness for the warmer South.
Kate DiCamillo attended the University of Florida and majored in English. That is when she first decided to become a writer. For the next decade she wrote mostly short stories for adults, submitted them, and collected hundreds of rejection letters. To pay the bills, DiCamillo worked a variety of jobs at places like Disney World, Surfers' World, campgrounds, and greenhouses.
After moving to Minneapolis, DiCamillo began working at a book wholesaler. That is when she started reading children's books and decided to try writing for a younger audience. During a long, cold Minnesota winter, DiCamillo felt homesick and wrote a story that took place in the warm South. That story, Because of Winn-Dixie, was not only accepted and published; it also received a prestigious Newbery Honor.
Eventually, DiCamillo left her job at the book wholesaler to become a full-time author. When The Tale of Despereaux won the Newbery Medal in 2004, Kate DiCamillo solidified her place as one of today's most popular authors for young people. More recently, DiCamillo has tried her hand at writing books for an even younger audience. After delighting young readers with her whimsical Mercy Watson easy-reader series, DiCamillo published her first picture book, Great Joy, in 2007.
Kate DiCamillo and her dog, Henry, live in Minneapolis, Minnesota.