Because of Winn Dixie, popular children’s fiction writer Kate DiCamillo’s first novel, is a story about a young girl who feels abandoned by her mother and becomes friends with a dog called Winn Dixie. This relationship helps her to grow and find happiness again. But why did Kate DiCamillo write this book?
Kate DiCamillo wrote Because of Winn Dixie because she was inspired to do so by her life circumstances at the time. She was missing having a dog and wanted to include a fun and wonderful dog into a story. She was also homesick for Florida, which was the setting for her novel.
In this article, I’ll explore the reasons Kate DiCamillo wrote Because of Winn Dixie in greater detail, looking at what inspired her to write her charming first novel that became a Hollywood movie and has won awards such as the John Newbery medal in 2001.
Children’s author Kate DiCamillo has always been open about what inspired her to write her first novel, Because of Winn Dixie. One of her biggest inspirations was her love of dogs.
Kate has always been an animal lover and, before starting to write Because of Winn Dixie, Kate was not in a good space in her life. She was lonely and missing being able to have her own dog. She was living in an apartment that didn’t allow residents to own pets and really missed being able to share her life with a dog.
This was the first time in her life that she didn’t have a dog as a pet. “I was living in an apartment where no dogs were allowed, but there weren’t any rules about imaginary dogs,” Kate writes on her website. “So I made a dog up, the best dog I could think of: a smelly, friendly, big old mutt.”
Besides wanting her own dog and transforming her desire to have a dog into the character of Winn Dixie, who is both mischievous and lovable, Kate focused on writing the book because she was feeling homesick and didn’t have enough money to go back home to Florida, which became the setting for her story.
“I wrote Because of Winn Dixie during the worst winter on record in Minnesota. I was cold and lonely, and homesick for Florida (where I grew up). I couldn’t afford to go home, but I could write a book that took me there,” she says on her website.
Kate had lived in Florida as a child due to medical reasons. She had suffered from chronic pneumonia, so her doctor told her family to move to a warmer climate as this would be healthier for her condition. Kate’s health improved in Florida, and she also discovered her love for the south.
Kate recalls her love for living in a small town in Florida when she was a child on the Scholastic website, saying, “Everybody knew Everybody else. Even if they didn’t, they acted like they did. It was all so different from what I had known before, and I fell swiftly and madly in love.”
It was also the dog she owned when she was a child that helped her get better and heal from pneumonia. She speaks fondly of her poodle, Nanette, on the OnBeing site, saying: “We always used to say [Nanette] must’ve been a nurse in a previous life. It was the dog that was up with me in the middle of the night and on the bathroom floor with me, and like, she really took care of me. She certainly gave me courage.”
Kate’s desire to have her own dog and her longing for her life back in Florida were two reasons she started dreaming up Winn Dixie characters. However, she was also surprised by ideas that seemed to find her.
As she recalls to Candlewick Press, “One night before I went to sleep, I heard this little girl’s voice (with a Southern accent), ‘I have a dog named Winn Dixie.’ When I woke up the next morning, the voice was still talking, and I started writing down what India Opal Buloni was telling me. Nothing I’ve written before or since has come so easily. It was, from beginning to end, pure pleasure.”
This experience is why Kate has described her novel as “A hymn of praise to dogs, friendship, and the South.” The process of writing Because of Winn Dixie was so inspiring for her that she says it’s probably her favorite book to have written (and she’s penned over 25 books!).
“It was the first book. I didn’t know what I was doing. All I knew as I sat there every morning was that I had found what I was supposed to do. I was so happy,” she tells the School Library Journal.
Kate goes on to say that the inspiration for her stories usually begins with an image or character that pops into her mind. “Then, I follow those clues to the wider world of the story,” she explains to the School Library Journal. “The eight-year-old in me is always present and helps me to see that world, to imagine it, and inhabit it – to hope and wonder in it.”
If you’re interested in Kate DiCamillo’s work, you should read our article, “7 Best Kids’ Books About Toys”, in which we feature information about another one of her books, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It contains good lessons for kids, such as the importance of love.
If you’ve ever wondered what inspired author Kate DiCamillo’s imaginative and successful first children’s fiction novel, Because of Winn Dixie, there were a few reasons behind her wanting to write this book.
- She created the character of Winn Dixie because she was missing having a dog.
- She was feeling homesick for her hometown in Florida.
- She was inspired by ideas that spontaneously came to her.
- Kate DiCamillo: FAQs
- AdLit: Kate DiCamillo
- Scholastic: About Kate DiCamillo
- OnBeing: Kate DiCamillo: For The Eight-Year-Old In You
- Candlewick Press: Speaking With Kate DiCamillo About Because Of Winn Dixie: A Hymn Of Praise To Dogs, Friendship, and the South
- School Library Journal: Newbery Winner Interview: Kate DiCamillo