How Liane Moriarty, Kate DiCamillo and Jacqueline Woodson Got Their Starts
Inside the List
“I am short. And loud,” the children’s book author Kate DiCamillo says. “I think of myself as an enormously lucky person: I get to tell stories for a living.” Her latest story, “A Piglet Named Mercy,” enters the picture-book list at No. 5.
On her website, DiCamillo writes movingly about how she became a writer, remembering a college professor who told her class, “That’s what writing is all about. Seeing. It is the sacred duty of the writer to pay attention, to see the world.”
The lecture didn’t make much of an impression on her. “I didn’t want to see the world. I wanted the world to see me. Not until years later when I finally made a commitment to writing, when I was fighting despair, wondering if I had the talent to do what I wanted to do, did those words come back to me. And what I thought was this: I cannot control whether or not I am talented, but I can pay attention. I can make an effort to see.”
It turns out that a lot of novelists use their websites to talk frankly about how they became writers.
Nora Roberts recalls that in 1979, when she was a stay-at-home mom, she was “snowed in with a 3- and 6-year-old with no kindergarten respite in sight and a dwindling supply of chocolate.” In desperation, she “pulled out a pencil and notebook and began to write.”
Jacqueline Woodson admits that she “wrote on everything and everywhere. I remember my uncle catching me writing my name in graffiti on the side of a building. (It was not pretty for me when my mother found out.) I wrote on paper bags and my shoes and denim binders. I chalked stories across sidewalks and penciled tiny tales in notebook margins.”
Liane Moriarty “didn’t actually believe that real people had novels published” until her younger sister got a book deal. “In a fever of sibling rivalry,” she writes, she rushed to the computer and “wrote a children’s book called ‘The Animal Olympics,’ which went on to be enthusiastically rejected by every publisher in Australia.”
R. L. Stine remembers that when he was 9, he “found an old typewriter up in the attic” and “started typing stories and little joke books.” Though his mother often told him to go outside and play, he always refused and stayed in his room “typing away.”
John Grisham, working as a lawyer at the DeSoto County courthouse in Mississippi, “overheard the harrowing testimony of a 12-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl’s father had murdered her assailants.”