Dear Kate DiCamillo by Lisa Schroeder
Dear Kate DiCamillo,
I’ve always wanted to write you a letter to tell you how much your books inspire me as a writer. So when I got the chance to write a post for the Nerdy Book Club, I decided I’d share my letter with them, too.
I read Because of Winn-Dixie many years ago and my love for that book is still as strong as ever. As far as I’m concerned, it’s about as perfect as it gets for a middle-grade novel. Once or twice a week, I substitute in libraries in our school district and if I’m ever in a situation where there is no book planned for third through fifth graders, I will usually go and grab a copy of Winn-Dixie. In fact I even read it to a large group of second graders once.
“Do you think you’ll be okay with a book that doesn’t have any pictures?” I asked the students sitting in front of me. Some of them nodded while others shook their heads. “I bet you can do it. It’s fun to use your imagination, right?”
As I read those first pages where Opal walks into the grocery store and sees everyone fussing over a dog (a stinky, ugly dog), I was reminded of what’s so magical about this book. We are rooting for Winn-Dixie. And we are rooting for Opal. I read two chapters to those kids and for fifteen minutes, they were completely captivated.
Back in 2009, I read The Magician’s Elephant for the first time. I remember it clearly. As soon as I closed the book I thought, I want to write a book that feels like that – magical, atmospheric, and full of hope. I opened my idea journal and began brainstorming elements that I might include in a book if I were to write a fairy tale-type story. Here’s a photo of that page:
It took me about six months to find my way into this story, partly because I didn’t quite know the story yet and partly because I was scared to death to try and write a fantasy book for younger readers. Up to that point, I’d only published realistic fiction so this would be new territory. Not all of the elements in that original brainstorming session stayed, of course, but some did, like the garden and the bird(s).
For me, a great book can inspire me like nothing else can. It’s not so much the subject matter (after all, you wrote a book that includes an elephant, I wrote a book that includes two hummingbirds named Peace and Pax), as it is the feelings the book elicits. Your book made me feel hopeful. It assured me that sometimes the impossible can happen. And so I wrote my own story, about a girl who must somehow figure out the impossible – how to break a witch’s spell and reunite her family.
Some will surely think, with a title like The Girl in the Tower, that my inspiration was Rapunzel. It couldn’t be further from the truth. My inspiration was an orphan named Peter and an elephant who crashed through the ceiling of the opera house in the city of Baltese.
Thank you. A million times, thank you.
p.s. I haven’t read RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE yet, but I couldn’t be more excited about it. As I write this, it’s not quite out yet – but very soon, yay!
Once upon a time, Lisa Schroeder wanted to join Encyclopedia Brown on his fun adventures. Since that didn’t work out, she decided to be an author instead. Lisa’s written over a dozen books for kids and teens including the YA novels I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME and THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU, and the MG novels IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES, MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS, and the GIRL IN THE TOWER. She’s a native Oregonian and lives outside of Portland with her family. You can visit her at http://www.lisaschroederbooks.com.