Archive for February 2018

An Interview with Pat Zietlow Miller

February 22, 2018

Me_Books

Pat Zietlow Miller is an author of renown. Her picture books have received starred reviews and multiple awards. Pat has an innate talent to create books children love. She is an amazing writer and gives the most incredible presentations. She is the author of eight published picture books and counting. The most recent is BE KIND. Pat is upbeat, clever, and funny, and I’m honored to call her my friend.  

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Welcome, Pat!

BE KIND is such a timely book in that we need to be reminded how a simple act of kindness can make a huge difference in our everyday lives. How did you come up with this idea? 

Well, I can’t take credit for the initial idea. Connie Hsu, my editor at Roaring Brook Press, came up with the book’s title and asked me to write it – for which I am so, so grateful.

But, I did come up with how the idea was executed. I remembered being a shy, quiet, nervous kid who wanted to do the right thing but sometimes did nothing because I was scared it would be taken the wrong way. It took me a while to learn how to step in and speak up and – I hope – be as kind on the outside as I wanted to be on the inside.

That’s why I wrote the book about a child who tries to be kind and then has to rethink things when it doesn’t go well and ask: What does it mean to be kind?

You’ve sold thirteen books and have received numerous awards and starred reviews. Amazing! Besides being a very talented author, what do you think you did right at the beginning of your writing career in order to have editors take notice of your manuscripts?

Well, editors didn’t notice for a while. I got 126 rejections before I sold my first book. I’d like to think that it was my focus on writing well and learning the craft of picture book creation that helped me out the most. I wanted to write the very best stories possible, and I focused on doing that, rather than jumping into chasing publication the first time I had a halfway decent draft.

Having said that, I’ll also say that some of the early stories I sent out were, indeed, awful. I didn’t know that at the time, though. I had written and rewritten and revised and reworked and I thought they were good to go.

I was wrong.

What type of writer are you? Do you always know the beginning, middle, and end of your story, or do just go with the flow of an idea?

I’m more of a go-with-the-flow person. I usually have the first sentence of my story when I start writing and an idea of how things will end. Then, I have to connect them in an engaging and plausible way. Which is not easy.

Do you ever give up on a manuscript you’ve been writing, and is there any part of writing you find particularly challenging?

Absolutely. Not all stories work right away and some don’t ever work. And you can’t know which is which until you try. Most of the stories I’ve given up on are ones that I know aren’t working, so I don’t feel bad about it. But there are one or two I’m quite fond of that have not yet found an editor who feels the same.

In terms of what I find challenging, I sometimes struggle with plot. I’m very good at lining up the words in an order that sounds good and flows well. But, I often have to go back and make sure the structure is there to support them.

You work full time. How do you eke out time for writing and everything else that comes with being a published author?

I’m perpetually exhausted? There is a lot to balance, and the only way I can do it is by focusing on whatever task is in front of me until it’s done and then moving on to the next thing. I do my writing at nights and on weekends and try to take care of the emails and requests as they come in so they don’t build up.

You have a wonderful agent. How did you go about finding the right person to represent you? And do you have any advice for those looking for representation?

I stumbled upon my agent, which isn’t necessarily a technique I recommend, although it certainly worked out well for me.

I sold my first book through the slush pile. After I got the offer, fellow writer Jessica Vitalis said to me: “You’re going to get an agent, right?” I said: “Oh, no. They only want picture book writers if they illustrate too, and I don’t.”

Jessica said: “You at least have to TRY!”

So, mostly to tell her I had tried, I emailed the book and the offer to Ammi-Joan Paquette, an agent I’d heard speak at a writing conference. She emailed me back asking what else I had. I sent her five other stories, we talked on the phone and then she signed me.

I later found out she’s part of one of the best-regarded literary agencies in the country and that she’s generally awesome, but it’s not like I did any research to find that out beforehand. So I got very lucky. I’d recommend that other writers do research.

How do you go about promoting your books?

I do a lot on social media. I truly enjoy Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, so I use them to talk about my books, to talk about other people’s books and to share photos of my kids and cats – which I don’t think increases sales, but makes me happy nonetheless.

I also blog at www.picturebookbuilders.com with several other children’s authors and illustrators. We feature picture books we love and talk about what makes them work.

What’s next? Any new books coming out?

LORETTA’S GIFT comes out in August from Little Bee Books. It tells the story of Loretta and her new baby cousin. She wants to get him the perfect gift, but what could that be?

Thanks, Pat. It has been such fun interviewing you. Best of luck with your upcoming books.

You can find more about Pat here:   www.patzietlowmiller.com

You can find BE KIND here:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

IndieBound 

Books A Million

See my review of BE KIND here.

 

 

 

 

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An Act of Kindness Goes a Long Way

February 15, 2018

Hurry up! Move it! Hustle!

These words and phrases have become part of our vocabulary in our fast-paced society. We’re so caught up in our own lives sometimes we don’t even have time to share a smile or say hello. Are common courtesy and kindness disappearing? Not if talented authors like Pat Zieltow Miller have anything to say or write about it. In her newest book, BE KIND, she reminds us what kindness is and how a simple act of thoughtfulness can spread like ripples in a pond.

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When a young student spills grape juice all over her dress, all but one of her classmates laugh. The classmate who didn’t laugh remembers her mother’s words to always be kind. She tries several different ways to make the girl feel better but is unsuccessful. She then ponders what it means to be kind. She begins with small things and goes on to bigger acts of kindness that spill out of school, spread around town, and around the world. Jen Hill’s illustrations show a diverse group of individuals in various settings doing acts of kindness throughout the book. With simple but powerful text, this book demonstrates empathy and understanding for others. It’s a wonderful resource for discussions of what it means to be kind, and it’s a must-have book for children, parents, and educators.

What have you done to be kind today?

The Relatives Came

February 8, 2018

“One of the things that binds us as a family is a shared sense of humor.” ~Ralph Finnes

We came from California, from Texas, from New Hampshire, from Massachusetts, from Florida, from Washington state, and from Washington D.C.  The core group: A brother and his wife. Three sisters and their husbands. Along with us came our daughters, their husbands, and their children. Three generations of the family were together again. We hugged. We kissed. We laughed. We cried. We’re a small family with big hearts. In all, there were nineteen of us plus one on the way. We were missing only two who were unable to attend. While the children played, the adults gabbed, ate, drank, and laughed some more. For one long weekend, we were a wild and crazy family again.

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Sometimes you don’t realize how much you miss your family until you come together, and the love that surrounds you is magical.

 

“You go through life wondering what is it all about but at the end of the day it’s all about family.” ~ Rod Stewart

One of my favorite books is The Relatives Came written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Stephen Gammell.  It’s a Caldecott Honor book filled with charming illustrations and a story with heart.

relatives

Embrace your family!

“I think the family is the place where the most ridiculous and least respectable things in the world go on.” ~ Ugo Betti

 

 

 

 

 

World Read Aloud Day

February 1, 2018

It’s here!

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Check out World Read Aloud Day and find out all the things you can do to be an active participant.

What others have said about books and reading:

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.          ~ Maya Angelou

A book is a dream that you hold in your hand. ~ Neil Gaiman

There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all. ~ Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book. ~ Marcel Proust

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. ~ Dr. Seuss

Don’t waste another minute. Grab one of your favorite books and read it aloud to someone special!

 


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