Last week I published an essay in TIME (you can read it here) in which I posed the following questions: “How honest can an author be with an auditorium full of elementary school kids? How honest should we be with our readers? Is the job of the writer for the very young to tell the truth or preserve innocence?”
I imagined myself directing these questions to Kate DiCamillo, who I’ve only met once, at Western Washington University’s amazing children’s literature conference. Kate and I sat next to each other at dinner, and at one point I worked up the courage to tell her she was one of my two favorite writers. Of all time. (The other is Cormac McCarthy). I also told her I was deeply attracted to the deep undercurrent of sadness in her work, though all of her stories are ultimately hopeful. Well, she’s now one of my two favorite humans, too (Cormac is NOT the other one). Because she publicly answered my questions in a TIME essay of her own (you can read it here.)
Now some truth. The day she responded, people kept telling me about it. They sent me the link. But Loren Long and I were busy with our tour. And I wanted to read it by myself. Some place where I could process. Our late flight to Cincinnati turned out my moment. I read it three times. And I openly cried. Right next to some older woman who was glued to her Tom Clancy novel. I think reading Kate’s essay is one of the most humbling moments of my entire career.
Soon after we landed, I had an idea. From this day forward, every time I sign a copy of LOVE, I will write “Love the world” too. Because that’s it. That’s what the book is about. And that’s what all of us kids book writers are trying to do with our stories.