Author Kathryn Stockett of The Help

Kathryn Stockett spoke in West Reading last week at an event sponsored by the Friends of the Berks County Public Libraries. “The Help” has sold 5 million copies, is being translated into 40 languages, and has been adapted into a movie.

Kathryn Stockett said she loved to read as a child but the school librarian limited her to a shelf of books for her grade. So she read her sister’s books and then her mother’s which led to her being expelled in 6th grade from the First Presbyterian Day School for reading Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying.

She said she received 60 rejection letters from agents and wondered what would have happened if she had given up after 40 rejections, or even after 60. She began writing the book in the voice of her family’s maid Demetrie. Then when her character Aibileen started talking in a sassy voice unlike Demetrie’s personality, she created Minny. Finally she added the character Skeeter. She said her New York editor hired a copy editor in New Jersey who edited out the dialect from the book. Then she found a copy editor in New Orleans who got it.

She said the first idea for the bookcover which she loved showed a small white hand in a black hand. She said after several months the painting with birds was chosen for the bookcover because it had nothing to do with the book, although she said she gets fan emails analyzing the meaning of the cover as it relates to the characters in the book.

The Help bookcover birds

She said the British edition “The Color of Feelings” has done well but in Amsterdam where the title was translated into a play on words “The Maid’s Lacy Apron” sales have lagged.

She said she does not plan to write a sequel and is instead working on a book about women living in the 1920’s.

Kathryn Stockett

To read more about the event, click on the Reading Eagle newspaper article here.

Kathryn Stockett autograph

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