Posted tagged ‘Pat Zietlow Miller’

Wide-Awake Bear

March 1, 2018

We’ve all been there at one time or another. It’s the time when you’re exhausted but your child is wide awake.

Wide-Awake Bear is Elliot’s story.

wide awake

Elliott, a little bear, and his mother prepare to nap until spring arrives. Elliot dreams of spring until something awakens him, and he can’t go back to sleep. He tries everything, but the shadows and dark shapes in the cave scare him. His mother wakes and comforts him, but he is still a Wide. Awake. Bear. He pretends he’s a little fish and swims to the den’s opening. When he sees snow, ice, and dark clouds, he’s disappointed spring isn’t anywhere to be found. Mama assures him spring will come and tells him many things need to sleep during the winter. With his mother’s help, they fix Elliot’s bed, share a treat, and snuggle until there is no more wide-awake bear. Author, Pat Zietlow Miller does a splendid job of creating a sweet tale about going to sleep. Parents and children will easily relate to this story when it comes to family bedtime. Jean Kim’s illustrations done in soft colors will steal your heart. This book begs to read again.





An Interview with Pat Zietlow Miller

February 22, 2018


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.  


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 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:

You can find BE KIND here:


Barnes & Noble


Books A Million

See my review of BE KIND here.





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.


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?


May 19, 2016

My niece graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison this past weekend.


We celebrated her success in a stadium filled with proud parents, relatives, and friends.


I’d like to say the day was perfect, but that would be an understatement. The problem was the weather. It felt more like January than May. The temperature was thirty degrees, the wind was blowing between fifteen and twenty miles per hour, and the sky was spitting snow and sleet pellets. Not even keynote speaker Russell Wilson, a UW graduate and Seahawks quarterback, could warm the cockles of my heart.

IMG_0714 (1)

Despite the highly unusual weather, we were proud to see our niece graduate and embark upon the next steps to achieve her career goals. “On Wisconsin!”

So what do you give as a gift to a graduate? Money, of course, that’s always appreciated. But if you want to give a gift that’s from the heart, choose Pat Zietlow Miller‘s book, WHEREVER YOU GO.


Eliza Wheeler‘s enchanting illustrations and Miller’s rhythmic text take the reader on a wondrous journey of roads that “bend, merge, zoom, climb, …” This book is perfect for graduates as they decide which road they will choose.



SOPHIE’S SQUASH Comes to Visit

February 27, 2014

Yesterday was a great day! Pat Zietlow Miller, author extraordinaire, visited St. Francis Xavier School.

Pat’s debut picture book, Sophie’s Squash, has done exceedingly well. Not only did her book receive FOUR starred reviews, but it is also a Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book and an Ezra Jack Keats Honor Book. Wow! That’s says a lot about Pat and her talent as a writer!

The students at St. Francis were thrilled with Pat Zietlow Miller’s spot-on presentations and reading of her book. She spoke about how to look for ideas, about revisions and editing, and how a picture book goes from a manuscript to a finished product. With a PowerPoint presentation, samples of edits, folds and gathers (F&Gs), and fun tattoos for the younger set, Pat captured the students’ attention. She and Sophie’s Squash left everyone with lots of food — or is that squash—for thought.

Here are some highlights of the day.


Pat Zietlow Miller arrives!


Pat signing copies of Sophie’s Squash.


Pat reading Sophie’s Squash to kindergarten, first, and second graders.


Pat showing 4K  a “Sophie.”


Pat giving a PowerPoint presentation to the third, fourth, and fifth graders.


Pat mesmerizing sixth, seven, and eighth graders.

Some reactions and questions from students.

From a 5K student:  “I’m going to write a book when I get home.”

Pat asked 4K students, “What do you need to write?” One student quickly answered, “Glasses!(Did you notice Pat wears glasses?)

 Heard when students found out Pat dedicated Sophie’s Squash to her daughter, Sonia. “Sonia’s famous.”

Asked what was going to happen to Bernice, the squash, as she got older — the answer:  “She’ll melt.”

Also heard:  “I don’t like squash.”

Asked by a third grader:  “Do you ever get frustrated?” (Oh, yes!)

Heard from one of the first graders after receiving a squash tattoo, “I got a tomato!”

At the end of a successful day, the St. Francis students couldn’t let Pat leave without taking home a bag of squash that included student suggestions on what to do with them.



Dinner in a bag!

St. Francis Xavier thanks Pat Zietlow Miller for coming to their school.

Watch for more of Pat’s books coming in the future.

Harvesting a Great Book with Pat Zietlow Miller

August 8, 2013


It’s August. The garden is overflowing with ripe tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, and squash. It’s time to harvest the crop. In among those tasty treats, there might be a seed of a great story. Pat Zietlow Miller discovered a creative seed in a butternut squash and let it grow into a story beyond compare.


Sophie’s Squash is Pat Zietlow Miller’s debut picture book. When Sophie’s mom purchases a butternut squash at the farmer’s market, it doesn’t become dinner as she expected. Sophie draws a face on the squash, names it Bernice, and the two become inseparable friends. No matter how hard her parents try, they can’t convince Sophie to give up Bernice. When the squash begins to rot, Sophie realizes Bernice will not last forever. Sophie does what she needs to do with Bernice and is rewarded with a delightful surprise come spring. Anne Wilsdorf’s charming ink and watercolor illustrations and playful end pages combine with Miller’s appealing story to produce a book worth adding to your collection.

Pat Zietlow Miller is a very talented writer and has worked diligently to achieve her goals. She was gracious enough to “Humor Me” and answer some burning questions I had for her.

Pat, Sophie’s Squash is your debut picture book. You’ve received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist. Can you share some of your emotions after seeing these fabulous reviews?

I was a mixture of thrilled and stunned. Thrilled, because I’d always hoped other people would like Sophie and think she was worthy of attention. And, stunned, because it’s a way more positive response than I ever anticipated.

I’ve wanted to be an author for so long that just having the book out and looking as lovely as it does would have been enough. That was always my goal. I never really thought about what would happen after that. So getting the stars and nice comments and seeing which parts the reviewers especially liked was something happy I hadn’t expected.

It’s also been a little humbling because there are many books I adore that haven’t gotten starred reviews, so I know how subjective the process is. I feel disproportionately fortunate.

How did you come up with the idea for your book?

When my youngest daughter was small, I took her grocery shopping and put a butternut squash in the cart. By the time we got to the checkout, she was rocking it in her arms, like a baby. When we got home, she drew a face on it and carried it everywhere.

I took that idea, expanded it greatly, and there was the beginning the book.

Have you always wanted to write for children?

Yes. I wrote my first draft of a children’s story when I was in college. But I had no idea what to do with it and hung on to it for years, thinking, “Someday, I’ll pursue this.” But jobs and life got in the way, and I didn’t seriously think about writing for children again until I was 39. That’s when I realized two things:

  1. If I didn’t at least try to become a published author, I was going to regret it when I was 80.
  2. That no editor from New York was ever going to call me and ask me to write a children’s book. If I wanted to be an author, I was going to have to sit down and actually … you know … write a manuscript.

Once I realized those two things, my next steps became pretty obvious. (And, yes, I still have that manuscript draft from college.)

Who are some of your favorite children’s authors and illustrators?

There are so many that making a list could get me into trouble, but I adore picture book writers Kari Best, Dori Chaconas, Kelly DiPucchio, Jill Esbaum, Candace Fleming, Mem Fox, Kevin Henkes, Mary Lyn Ray, Jacqui Robbins, Liz Garton Scanlon and Judith Viorst. Outside the picture book realm, I also love anything by Sharon Creech, Kate DiCamillo, John Green, David Levithan, Ellen Raskin and Gary Schmidt. Oh, and I should mention J.K. Rowling, because I am a total Harry Potter geek. And Ann Brashares, because I love The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

And, I admire all illustrators because I can’t draw at all. Anne Wilsdorf did a spectacular job bringing Sophie and Bernice to life and Jill McElmurry and Eliza Wheeler, who are working on future books of mine, are amazingly talented, as well.

Has any particular book influenced you and your writing career?

No one book has influenced me, but authors who have are Erma Bombeck, Nora Ephron and Judith Viorst. That probably sounds like an odd mix, but I read them all when I was a middle schooler, and I remember just being floored by how well they used words. Sometimes I’d honestly be so overwhelmed by how well they shared a thought or turned a phrase that I’d have to put the book down for a moment and just regroup.

They showed me what was possible, and I spent lots of time trying to write like they did. And, ultimately, that helped me figure out how to sound like myself.

You have three more picture books coming out, Sharing the Bread with Schwartz & Wade in Fall of 2015, The Quickest Kid in Clarksville with Chronicle in 2015, and Wherever You Go with Little, Brown in 2015. Besides writing, you also have a full-time job, a husband, and two children. How do you balance everything?

I run after whatever fire is most out of control at the moment. Once I stomp out those flames, I move on to the next.

But really, I’m fairly good at concentrating on whatever task I’m handling at the moment. When I’m at work, I’m working. When I’m writing, I’m writing. And some things I’ve just given up on. My house is not clean, my garden is overgrown, I watch very little TV and I don’t have much of a social life. But that’s OK, because usually I’d rather be writing.

What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

  1. Dedicate time to achieving your goal. You can spend that time reading, or analyzing why books you like worked, or writing your next book. As I learned, merely wishing won’t get you anywhere.
  2. Expect your book to need a ridiculous amount of editing and revising before it’s ready to submit. Expect it to need even more once it sells. Realize that even when you think your book is absolutely, positively done, in all likelihood, it isn’t I’ve been amazed at how much better my books have gotten long after I thought they were complete.
  3. Don’t over-react to rejection. It’s just part of the process, and it’s not personal. Even my books that sold were rejected many, many times. Just hang in there, always be open to making your book better, and move forward.

What’s next for you, Pat?

I have editing to do on one my picture books that sold, and I have two others out on submission. Plus, I’m working on a very rough first draft to see if it has the potential to turn into something more. And, I have a list of new books that I can’t wait to read.

Congratulations, Pat, on your charming book and thank you for sharing your time and providing some great writing advice for all of us.

You can find Pat at her blog, READ, WRITE, REPEAT   and on Twitter:  @PatZMiller

If you’re in the Madison, WI area on Saturday, August 17 at 1:00 p.m., don’t miss the book launch party for Sophie’s Squash at:

Barnes and Noble

7433 Mineral Point Road

Madison, WI

(Near West Towne Mall)

There will be crafts, a prize drawing, snacks, and Pat will be reading and signing her book!

Below are some excerpts from the starred reviews Sophie’s Squash has received.

Kirkus: “From her bouncy braids to her red shoes, Sophie’s vibrant, determined nature shines forth charmingly.”

Publishers Weekly:  “Debut author Miller takes the idea of playing with one’s food to another level in this sensitive but funny story about a girl’s affection for a squash.”

School Library Journal:  “With lessons on life, love, and vegetable gardening, this tale will be cherished by children, and their parents will be happy to read it to them often.”

Booklist:  “In a perfect blend of story and art, the humorous watercolor-and-ink illustrations are bursting with color and energy on every page …”

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

February 7, 2013

Pat Zietlow Miller, author of the forthcoming picture book, Sophie’s Squash, asked me to take part in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop.

What is the Next Big Thing? Participating writers answer a standard set of questions about what they are currently writing or have written. They then tag other writers to do the same. It keeps the Next Big Thing Blog Hop hop, hop, hopping along!

I’ve been writing for quite a while. I’ve had articles and stories published in children’s and educational magazines, and I’ve had two early readers published. I’ve also had the unfortunate experience of having a two-book contract cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. Writing is hard work. It takes time, passion, patience, creativity, a little bit of luck, and a hefty sense of humor (for those rejections).

So what’s my NEXT BIG THING? I’m hoping it’s the piece I’m currently revising.

What is the working title of your next book?

Up Your Nose, Noah Zielinski!

Where did the idea come from for the book?

My husband has always said my nose smells things most noses don’t. So I put my nose to the grindstone and my brain to the task at hand and came up with an idea for a book where the main character’s nose plays an important part.

What genre does your book fall under?

Chapter Book Humor

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m clueless here. Casting call! I’m looking for two fresh young actors for the main characters who are naturals when it comes to acting and humor. Of course, the actor playing Noah must have a good looking sniffer on his face.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Noah Zielinski is on a mission to convince his mom to let him get a potbellied pig, but his plans go awry and a freak accident involving his nose creates chaos in his quest for his pet.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My agent is Stephen Fraser from The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. I’m in the process of doing a revision for him. When I’m finished, I hope he thinks Noah Zielinski reeks of success!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Sometimes it’s easier for me to think of an idea than it is to actually get it down on paper. After much procrastination, it took me eight months to complete the first draft.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Dare I compare my writing to these authors whose works I admire? There are similarities in my book and That Crazy Eddie and the Science Project of Doom written by Judy Cox and Mason Dixon Pet Disasters written by Claudia Mills. Each of these stories has two boys as best friends, some crazy ideas, and humor. I can only wish to be as prolific as these two wonderful authors.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with my agent at a conference we both attended. He suggested I try writing a chapter book. I came up with a few ideas, and after a short session of brainstorming, Noah was born.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Noah has an older sister who he considers a diva. The two of them are constantly at odds, trying to one-up each other with their zingers. Beneath all their squabbling, there is genuine admiration between the two.

Writer you’ve tagged for the NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop.

April Jones Prince, my friend and talented author, has graciously agreed to hop aboard and do the NEXT BIG THING. Look for her blog post next week. April Jones Prince: Blog

%d bloggers like this: