The writer Meg Cabot’s, BA’91, life could have gone in an entirely different artistic direction. Raised in Bloomington, Ind., the author of The Princess Diaries attended IU, lived in the Collins Living Learning Center, and studied art, intent on immersing herself in campus life. “My parents lived across from the music school, but once I got to college, I loved meeting new people who were so different from me,” she remembers. “I didn’t go home except to do laundry.”
She recalls meeting a guy in high school who told her not to study creative writing because it would leave her uninspired to write. But she did take a few writing workshops while at Indiana. After graduating in 1991 with a degree in fine arts, she moved to New York City, where she again bumped into that guy—they later married. She worked as a residence hall director at New York University for a decade and began to write under pen names. At age 30, she published her first book, Roses Grow Wild, under the name Patricia Cabot.
The Princess books developed as a way for Cabot to deal with aspects of her own life. “I started writing for adults—for myself—as a way to process my mom dating a professor after my dad passed away,” says Cabot. “The whole thing freaked me out, so I wrote.” She turned that experience into the book that became the bestselling Princess Diaries, about an awkward teenager who learns she’s royalty and the heir to the throne of a kingdom. Cabot shopped it around to publishers. “It got rejected by everyone until Disney wanted to make a movie out of it,” she says.
When Walt Disney Pictures made The Princess Diaries into a film starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews, Cabot’s career in writing for young adults went from dabbling to stellar success. Cabot is now the bestselling author of more than eighty books for tweens, teens, and adults.
In 2015, after writing more than a dozen Princess installments, she published Royal Wedding, the first in the series aimed specifically at an adult audience. Cabot now lives with her husband in Key West, Fla., still visits Indiana frequently, and publishes prolifically. “For a long time I was doing so many books—sometimes seven—in a year, but now I’m trying to narrow it down to a kid and an adult book each year,” she laughs. “I’m slowing down just a bit.”
Her books have sold 25 million copies in 38 countries, and Cabot hears from fans all over the world. “I learn how to write for kids by just being around them, talking in schools, mentoring them, and listening to what they talk about, what’s important to them,” she says. This summer, she releases another book for tweens, Royal Crown: From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, which Cabot also illustrated, bringing her interests in writing and art full circle.
Meg Cabot was featured in the Summer 2018 issue of the Indiana University Alumni Magazine, a magazine for members of the IU Alumni Association. View current and past issues of the IUAM.