MONTCLAIR, NJ - Celebrity author Meg Cabot visited Watchung Booksellers on Wednesday to display her new book.  Having sold over 25 million books worldwide, Cabot is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of adult and children’s books including Princess Diaries, Mediator and Heather Wells Series.

Born in Bloomington, Indiana, Cabot said she always loved writing. She initially went to school for fine arts and moved to NYC to become an illustrator, but when she realized she was not gainfully employed using her art, she started to work as assistant manager of the dorms at NYU.

Carolyn from Watchung Booksellers said, “We are so thrilled to have Meg Cabot, rock star author, come to Watchung Booksellers all the way from Genovia. Her books have encouraged so many girls to keep reading and for that we are grateful.”

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Audience member Eileen McElroy went out to see Cabot in Long Island on another occasion. McElroy works at Barnes and Noble and has read all of Cabot’s children’s and adult books. She said, “I love the stories she comes up with, they are all different. Particularly the series Size 12 Is Not Fat.”

Cabot said the sequel from The Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, is The Royal Wedding Disaster. She told the group of children, “A lot of my books, I wrote by hand when I was your age. There were no laptops then.” She explained what fan fiction was and said she loved Princess Leah from Star Wars.

Cabot showed a picture of herself when she was seven, she was already writing back then.  She wrote about Benny, a puppy whose family died in a horrible accident, and he had to escape from wolves. She teased that the rights are still available.

Cabot’s mom was a teacher, and her father taught quantitative analysis. She said that at her house if she wasn’t funny at the dinner table they wouldn’t pay attention; hence she became a lovely storyteller.

When she was planning to go to college she couldn’t decide if she wanted to draw or write. She got into Indiana University for free because her dad taught there.

While there, she went to a party and met a boy who asked her what she was majoring in. She told him of her conundrum and he advised her, “What ever you do, don’t major in creative writing because this university will suck the creativity right out of you.” She graduated with a fine arts degree and now illustrates her books… But later realized the young man had given her some “not so good advice.”

Cabot got a job at NYU, ended up meeting up with the boy that gave her the bad advice and, just like in a fairy tale, married him. 

She said, “Right about that time, my dad died. It was really sudden and really sad.”

Her husband advised her to send out her books, reminding her that life was short. She did, but they kept getting rejected.  She persevered. “Some people don’t appreciate your genius no matter how hard you try,” she laughed.

At one point Cabot’s mom called her to tell her she was dating her daughter’s college teacher. Cabot was more than a little disturbed by said occurrence and started writing a story about it.

She said most people believe the Princess Diaries is about a princess, but it’s in fact about her mom dating her teacher. “I made the girl into a princess because of Princess Leia and that is how the Princess Diaries got started.”

Because her mother was dating her teacher, that series turned into many others and got optioned by Disney to be a movie.

When asked where she got her ideas, Cabot first said she and her friends go to the idea store, but then came clean, saying, “They come from your life, from maybe being mad, or happy about something in your life.”

Arielle Eckstut, co-author of Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published and co-founder of The Book Doctors, a local company dedicated to helping authors get successfully published, was in the audience with her daughter Olive who is a fan of Cabot’s books. Once Olive bought the new book, she couldn’t put it down.

Eckstut said, “She’s [Cabot] hilarious. Pound of pound some of the best author stories I’ve ever hear, and I’ve heard a lot.”

Cabot opened up for Q&A. Someone asked where she got the complicated names in her book. She said she opened the phone book, and highly suggested using that method, instead of people’s real names.

Tap into Montclair asked the author what she did for fun. She answered, “I love to read, be in the pool, ride bikes, go out on other people’s boats and watch TV.” She also added excitedly, “Ooh and I love eating food that other people have cooked.”

When asked what her favorite series was, Cabot told the audience that when she was a young child there was a series called Prydain Chronicles, about a pig herder on a quest. She said the movie is soon to come out. She also liked A Wrinkle in Time and Nancy Drew.

When referencing sources for storyline, Cabot said she was once bullied as a child, and included that story in one of her books. At one point the person who bullied her read her book and called her.

Cabot was terribly concerned that she would be in trouble for writing about the girl, but it turned out the woman called to say, “I was not aware you were a princess.” It was at that point she realized that bullies are not always very smart.

She advised the children listening to her story, “Now remember…maybe the person who is being so mean to you is just dumb. Maybe show them compassion and feel a little bit sorry for them.” Parents were roaring in laughter, some kids however, seemed to be evaluating the seriousness of that comment.

One child wanted to know how long this particular book took the author to write. It took her a few months to write this book, “but much longer to make the drawings” that she whimsically described as, “extremely beautiful and detailed.”

Cabot offered advice to budding writers who’ve had their work rejected saying, “If there’s something you really love, just keep at it. I kept at it and look where I am now!”

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