The ranks of Indiana writers boast such venerable names as Kurt Vonnegut, Jessamyn West, James Whitcomb Riley and Theodore Dreiser. But one of the state’s best-selling authors to date bears little kinship with the traditions of satire, historical fiction, sentimental verse and gritty realism represented by those literary forbears. Born in Bloomington in 1967, author Meg Cabot has made her mark in the so-called “chick-lit” genre, most notably with her series of novels, The Princess Diaries , which chart the angst-ridden adventures of a teenager of royal descent.
Cabot’s father was an Indiana University professor and her mother, a college advisor, illustrator and aspiring writer, who once placed ahead of Sylvia Plath in a literary contest sponsored by Seventeen magazine. An alumna of Bloomington High School South, Meg Cabot went on to spend six years at IU before graduating in 1991 and moving to New York City to pursue a career as an illustrator of children’s books. Working as a resident manager in an NYU dorm, Cabot took to writing in her spare time. Almost a decade later, a British publisher accepted Cabot’s manuscript about an incognito princess named Mia, and Disney optioned the story for the movies. The film version of the Princess Diaries made $22 million its first week in the theatres, and a sequel performed comparably.
Cabot has written more than 50 books for young readers and adults, of which 15 million copies have been printed worldwide. Cabot’s books have been published in 37 different countries, and have taken up residence on the New York Times bestseller list. Her novel Teen Idol is set in Indiana, and the world of the 1-800-WHERE-R-YOU series includes an Ernie Pyle High School. The Allie Finkle series, geared toward the eight-year-old set, takes place in an unspecified college town, whose anonymity is somewhat compromised by the abundance of geodes in the fictional landscape. In 2004, Bloomington’s mayor declared July 31 Meg Cabot Day.