The Art of Inspiring Through Storytelling: In Conversation with Kate DiCamillo

“Each letter has a shape,” Beatryce said. “And each letter has a sound and you put these shapes and sounds together and they become words.” This is one of the many prolific lines that stuck with our readers while the New York Times Bestselling author, Kate DiCamillo weaved magic through her words. 

 

Having won accolades such as being a two-time recipient of the Newbery Medal, Kate spoke with us of her latest novel, The Beatryce Prophecy, as part of the NLF Reading Challenge 2022. This book is the story of a girl named Beatryce, who experiences great loss and is not allowed to be herself, but eventually finds her family in three very special people and one indomitable goat! 

 

Just like all her reads, Kate always manages to bring out themes of hope and belief amidst challenging circumstances, through this book. So, where did the inspiration come from? The answer is just two words: her mother. 

 

Kate recounted: 

 

I realised that I need to dedicate this book to my mother. I remember how I struggled to read as a kid, and I was all hysterical when I came back home. My mother calmed me down and said that together we’d find a way around it. She made flashcards for me that I’d memorise and practice with her every day after school. The book is grounded in that experience of mine.

 

In response to a question from a reader about her writing process, Kate said: 

 

I always feel like the story is in charge; my job is to get out of the way of my own ego, and let the story tell me.

 

As the discussion progressed, there was a mention of how writers anticipate their stories serving as mirrors to what’s happening in real life. This struck an emotional chord with the author, who said, 

 

I know that my heart is not different from other hearts, and what my heart wants is comfort and love, but what my heart sees is desperation and suffering. I know that that’s the way of the world but I also know that there is comfort and love and that it can be found! So, I’m working to comfort myself as I tell these stories, and hopefully, it will comfort the reader as well.

 

She even touched upon how she automatically thinks of herself as a reader, her mother’s deep influence on her childhood, and how much attention she herself received for reading. But writing didn’t always come easy. 

 

The best way to get something done is to get up and do it right away. Because I’m always afraid to write, my primary strategy is to just write a little bit, each morning. I have found through the years that no matter what I’m doing and how busy life is, or how overwhelmed I feel, I can always find the time to do two pages at least. 

 

As a takeaway, Kate offered a slice of life for all those who haven’t yet found a book that speaks to them  – recognising how when a child discovers reading, it’s their own entirely; it’s a gift, it’s a privilege and it sets a child forth on their journey. 

 

About the Author

Kate DiCamillo is one of America’s most beloved and celebrated storytellers. She is a two-time Newbery Medalist and a former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Kate DiCamillo has authored several bestsellers, including Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, The Magician’s Elephant, Flora & Ulysses, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which have been read in schools and at bedtimes for over two decades. She currently has about 30 million books in print around the world. Through her writing, Kate explores some of life’s most complex topics to young readers.

 

About the Book

The Beatryce Prophecy is set in a war-torn age and follows the story of a 10-year-old princess as she is pursued by the soldiers of the King. She finds brief refuge at a monastery, in the care of a kind monk and a protective goat. Beatryce sparks bewilderment when the monks learn that she can read and write. In her land, it is forbidden for girls, women, and the common people to be able to do so.

 

Disguised as a young monk, Beatryce strives to forge a path for herself.

 

While she does encounter death and darkness along the way, the young girl also sees the light, in friendship, humour, love, the joy of learning, and the power of storytelling.

 

About the NLF Reading Challenge

 

The NLF Reading Challenge is a four-month-long reading event from March to June 2022, involving students between 10 to 13 years of age. It runs for participants across India on the competitive and non-competitive tracks. In addition to fun book-based activities and regular author interactions, the challenge will conclude with a quiz competition that will see the three best teams win gold, silver, and bronze engraved trophies respectively, certificates of achievement, and a great set of books! 

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