Featured Children's Book Author: Pat Zietlow Miller
By now most of you have had some time to enjoy your March Bookroo boxes. We hope you’ve been having fun reading your new books!
One of the books we shared in our March picture book box was WHEREVER YOU GO, by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. We were very excited to share this book with you, and from your feedback, we know it was a big hit!
That’s why we were thrilled to have the opportunity to interview the book’s author, Pat Zietlow Miller, to learn more about creating WHEREVER YOU GO and her work as a children’s book author. She is the author of five children’s books and has several more in the works. She is a recipient of the Juvenile Literature Award and the Golden Kite Award for best picture book text, as well as the Crystal Kite Award for WHEREVER YOU GO.
Interview with Pat Zietlow Miller
Bookroo: We look forward to learning a bit more about you, Pat, but to begin, we’d love to jump right in and talk about WHEREVER YOU GO. How did you come up with the idea for the story?
PZM: I wrote this book while my daughter was in high school. I thought about the advice and love I wanted to send her into the world with, and those thoughts became WHEREVER YOU GO. The book is also dedicated to her. And, it was published the year she graduated, so the timing was perfect.
Bookroo: The rhyming and cadence of the book are exceptional. We know you describe writing a children’s book as “verbal Sudoku.” Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process, from initial draft to polished manuscript?
PZM: The first two lines came to me randomly when I wasn’t writing or thinking about writing. I wrote them down and then started working on them in earnest. I find writing rhyme to be much more difficult than writing prose, so it took many drafts and many long hours of staring at my computer and tapping out the beat on the table to get the language where I wanted. I wanted each action the road took to mirror a life stage or a life choice, so I did a lot of Google searches looking for various landscape words. After I had a version I was pleased with, the book’s initial editor, Connie Hsu, provided invaluable feedback to make it even better.
Bookroo: One thing we love about WHEREVER YOU GO, and we’ve heard this from others in our Bookroo community who feel the same way, is that the message and story is both fun for kids but also very mature and really connects with and speaks to adults. What audience did you have in mind as you worked on the story?
PZM: Even though I was thinking about my daughter as I wrote, I wanted it to be a book for younger children too. So I used the theme of traveling and roads. I hoped older teens and adults would see it as a metaphor of life’s journey and younger readers would get a sense of all the possibilities waiting for them.
Bookroo: WHEREVER YOU GO really comes alive through Eliza Wheeler’s wonderful illustrations. As an author, how do you feel when you see illustrations for your story for the first time? Do you have any input on illustrations?
PZM: My favorite part of writing a book is seeing which illustrator the publisher matches me with and then seeing what he or she creates after reading my words. I was thrilled when I saw the rabbit and the other animals Eliza envisioned. I initially assumed the book would feature people. But once I saw the animals, I couldn’t picture it any other way. I usually don’t have much input on the art. If I see something that concerns me, I will mention it, but that’s a rare occasion. Eliza did a marvelous job of bringing everything to life with her glorious, detailed artwork. I find something new to admire every time I pick up the book.
Bookroo: We’ve seen where you said it took 126 rejections before you were successful in getting your first picture book published. How did you stay committed to your goal throughout that process?
PZM: I’m pretty tenacious person if there’s something I really want to do. And I really wanted to be a traditionally published children’s book author. So I decided I was going to put in as much time as it took to do the work that was necessary to write at a professional level. I read. I studied. I wrote. I rewrote. And I rewrote again. I basically treated it like it was a part-time job in addition to my regular full-time job. And a big thing was that I didn’t take the rejections personally. I just looked at rejections as saying my manuscript wasn’t ready yet. But I knew one day it would be.
Bookroo: When you’re not creating wonderful new stories, what do you enjoy doing?
PZM: I am an avid reader. It’s my biggest hobby. I also love visiting bookstores and libraries. And, I’m a bit of a social media junkie. (You can find me on Twitter at @PatZMiller.)
Bookroo: Do you do anything to celebrate the completion of a new book?
PZM: I’m usually nervous when a new book comes out. By the time it’s released, I’ve spent so much time working on it that I can’t look at it objectively anymore. I have to remind myself that:
- I’ve done the best I can.
- It’s out of my hands.
- Now it’s up to other people to decide if it works.
I’m much happier and relaxed when I sell a new book. Because then, the possibilities are endless.
Bookroo: We see you have a few new books in the works. Want to share any teasers with our community of children’s book lovers?
PZM: I have two books coming out early next year that I’m very excited about. One is BE KIND, illustrated by Jen Hill. It’s coming from Roaring Brook Press and it’s about the various ways you can be kind. The other, WIDE-AWAKE BEAR, illustrated by Jean Kim, is from HarperCollins. It’s about a baby bear who wakes up in the middle of winter and just can’t get back to sleep.
We really appreciate the chance to learn more about Pat and her work. If you enjoyed WHEREVER YOU GO and our interview, you can learn more about Pat and her books on her website.