A few weeks ago, I finally had the opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for a very, very long time:
I got to meet Kate DiCamillo!
You probably already know who Kate DiCamillo is, because she’s THAT famous. But if you don’t know, then it’s high time you had the pleasure. She’s written numerous short stories, picture books, early readers, and middle-grade novels. She’s one of, oh, SIX people to ever win two Newbery medals AND a Newbery Honor, plus she served as the National Ambassador for Children’s Literature in 2014-2015.
Also, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, she’s my writing idol. Her books (two of which are on my Top 30 Favorite Books of All Time list) touch my heart and make me both laugh and cry. I love to teach them almost as much as I love to read them. Their key themes are empathy, creativity, community, and the mixture of joy and sorrow we encounter in life. I want to be her when I grow up.
Which is why I didn’t think twice about driving 3 1/2 hours to see her speak on a Friday night. She’s based in the Midwest and almost never makes appearances in northern California. To borrow a Hamilton reference, I wasn’t about to throw away my shot.
Listening to her speak was worth every minute of the drive. She was funny, down-to-earth, and supremely articulate. She spent most of the time fielding questions from the audience, and her answers validated so many of the things I have experienced and come to believe about writing. One of my favorite quotes of the night:
“As a writer, you have to have everything open: your eyes, and your ears, and your mind, and your heart.”
And that’s why she’s amazing.
I didn’t even feel awkward standing in the signing line with a gazillion starry-eyed elementary schoolers, because there were plenty of other starry-eyed adults in line too. I felt like a teeny bopper at a boy-band concert. Except…you know. Without the boy band. Or the concert. Much more fun.
And finally I got to meet her! In spite of the throngs of adoring and noisy fans around her, she was so personable and easy to talk with. We talked about writing and publishing and the themes of loss in her books. She signed all the books I brought/bought (including four copies of Because of Winn-Dixie, because, you know, a person needs four).
And I’m pretty sure I gushed about her all the way home. Life goal, unlocked.