On what may be the coldest day of the year in Minnesota, with temperatures dipping down to the negative teens, and the wind chill making it feel like -35 in the Twin Cities and even colder elsewhere, 2014 Newbery Award winner Kate DiCamillo might be the only person in the state who’s not complaining.
Reporting that she was awakened at home in Minneapolis at 5:30 a.m. CST by “the call” from the Newbery committee, DiCamillo, who explained that she typically is awakened at 6 a.m. by the noises made by her coffeemaker, said that she was “stunned” by the news that she had won for Flora & Ulysses (Candlewick). “There was not a single coherent word uttered to them,” she said of the phone conversation with the Newbery committee. “And after I hung up, I started to think that I may have imagined the whole thing.”
Giving up any hope of returning to bed, DiCamillo went to her kitchen, pushed the timer on her coffeemaker, poured herself a cup of coffee, and cried. “I cannot believe it; this is unbelievable,” she repeated to PW several times, disclosing that she is “more stunned this time around” than when she won the 2004 Newbery Medal for The Tale of Despereaux, or the Newbery Honor in 2001 for her debut novel, Because of Winn-Dixie.
“I was thrilled to hear from them, but maybe I am more stunned this time because I’m older and everything stuns me more,” DiCamillo said, maintaining that she did not consider at all on Sunday evening that there was a possibility she might receive a call from the Newbery committee in the morning.
Despite the fact that she was still half-asleep during that early-morning phone call, DiCamillo recalled that, while speaking with the committee, she appreciated the personal significance of the call being made from Philadelphia, where the ALA was held this past weekend. Philadelphia is also where DiCamillo spent the first five years of her life before moving to Florida in 1969. “That was in my head,” she said. “Philly. The city where I was born.”
DiCamillo, who was recently named the fourth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress, is not concerned that her ambassadorial duties, as well as, as of today, any obligations as the 2014 Newbery Medalist, will distract her from her writing. Describing her responsibilities as ambassador as being primarily “short trips” around the country, she insisted that when she is home in Minneapolis, she will continue to work full-time on her next novel. “Writing at home and then going out into the world to talk about why books matter to me feeds the writing,” she explained. “It’s a good mix. It provides balance.”
When asked how she planned to spend the rest of such a memorable day, DiCamillo, who has lived in Minnesota for 20 years and isn’t afraid of venturing out into subzero temperatures, said she was hoping to play an afternoon game of Scrabble with friends at a local coffee shop.
Reflecting upon the prospect of playing Scrabble after completing the rest of the interviews she had lined up this morning, DiCamillo expressed gratitude for all of the successes she has experienced since impulsively moving to Minnesota from Florida in 1994: “So much of who I am as a writer is because I’m here.”
Click here to see our interview with 2014 Caldecott Medalist Brian Floca.