Pat Zietlow Miller: Will Write for Cookies PLUS GIVEAWAY





pat headshot


Writing a book is a big thing. And getting it published is even bigger. My guest today is amazing…she has done this not once, not twice, but many times…and she is not done yet. That’s why I was so thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed for Will Write for Cookies.

Pat Zietlow Miller has five picture books in print and five more on the way. Her debut, SOPHIE’ S SQUASH, won the Golden Kite Award for best picture book text, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor and a Charlotte Zolotow Honor. It also won the Midwest Region Crystal Kite Award and was a Cybils’ finalist. WHEREVER YOU GO briefly made Midwest Booksellers bestseller list and won a Crystal Kite Award and SHARING THE BREAD was the No. 1 release for new Thanksgiving books. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with one wonderful husband, two delightful daughters and two particular cats.

Please make sure you read down to the end of the post to find out how to get entered into the GIVEAWAY for a copy of Pat’s newest book, Sophie’s Squash Goes to School.

I know Pat’s got so many insights to share with us…so let’s get to it!

WELCOME, PAT!  We are so happy to have you here today.

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?


My two favorite books as a child were THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin and BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Patterson. I was in awe of both of them and the shiny Newbery Award stickers on their book jackets. I read them and re-read them. And, when my youngest read THE WESTING GAME and midway through told me, “I think Angela is the bomber.” I just about burst with pride.

 I also read a ton of Paul Zindel when I was in middle school. Other books I remember reading and re-reading were the ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN series, the ANNE OF GREEN GABLES series and the BOXCAR CHILDREN series. We also had tons of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries in my house.

Interestingly enough, as someone who loves picture books like I do, I remember very few picture books from my childhood. I can only think of three that I remember reading – WHEN I HAVE A LITTLE GIRL by Charlotte Zolotow, MY FIRST COUNTING BOOK by Lilian Moore and THE GOLDEN EGG BOOK by Margaret Wise Brown.

I remember more picture books from when I a teen and young adult because I’d read them in the library and the bookstore. In fact, when I was in college, I bought my very own copy of ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY because I loved it – and Judith Viorst – so much. Note: I still do. She is my picture book writing idol.

book cover

ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?


Two things:

  1. That you’ll always have something to worry about even when you’ve achieved what you thought were your goals. Publishing that first book is awesome, but it doesn’t erase any self-doubt you might be carrying around.
  2. That worrying, in general, is useless. I know this now, but that doesn’t mean I always can avoid it. But now, at least, I try to recognize it for what it is and either head it off at the pass or channel it into a more productive direction. So much of publishing is out of an author’s control, so focusing on the activities that you truly have some say over is the only way to stay sane.

ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook? And when do you find time to write?


 I write inside. I’m a bit of a fragile flower when it comes to outdoor activities. I get hives if I’m in the sun for too long and I don’t handle extreme heat well. So I’ll always go for the climate-controlled activity.

Usually, I write at my kitchen table using my laptop with the rest of my family going about its business around me.

On very rare and lucky days, I’ll take my laptop to the Fitchburg Public Library and set up shop there. It’s peaceful and quiet and lovely, and being surrounded by so many books is inspiring. It’s good karma. As an aside, I’m always surprised by how many adults talk loudly on their cell phones in the library. I’m not someone who thinks libraries should be silent, but people there should be considerate of the people around them.

ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?


I have a full-time day job, so I mostly write in the evening or on weekends.

But ideas can come at any time – they don’t care where I am. Sometimes, when I’m not at home, I’ll get inspired and scrawl the idea for a story on whatever piece of paper happens to be handy and then I’ll take it home with me to work on when I’m free.

 sophie squash school

ME: Why do you write for children?


I don’t know. That’s a good question.  Maybe because books were so important to me as a child. I’ve always loved kids’ books. I loved them when I was a kid and when I was a teen and I love them now that I’m an adult.

I’ve always felt drawn to kids’ books – almost like a magnetic pull. It’s an attraction that draws me to them and makes me read them and admire them and smell them and hold them and admire them some more and tell others about them and then do it all over again. And while I like reading adult books too, that same pull is not there.

ME: Pat, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, writers, librarians might want to hear.


Writing a really good picture book is hard.

You can feel like you’re so close, but still know that: Something. Is. Just. Not. Right. And no matter how many shiny parts your book has, it won’t really glow until you figure out what’s not working. So give yourself time. Don’t rush to finish. Don’t rush to publish. Set things aside. Write new things. Revisit previous manuscripts and see what fresh perspective you might find. The results will be worth the wait. And even then, even when you think you’ve truly done it, if you wait a few more weeks you’ll look at your work and think, “Hmmm … If I just changed this one part, this story would be SO MUCH BETTER.”

To give you an idea of how THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE, one of my now-published books, moved through this process, here’s a blog post I wrote.

Always remember what you’re going for. Something that’s SO MUCH BETTER than what you have right now.

Kate Messner wrote a blog about this that says it better than I did. So take a moment and read Picture Books Math (And Why You Should Write Something New).

Pat. I know everyone is going to get so much out of this interview. I’m hopping over to reread those two links you provided…I hope everyone else does, too.

And for all of you who want to find out more about Pat and her delightful books or get in touch with her, she blogs about the craft of writing picture books at You can also connect with her on Twitter @PatZMiller.

SPOILER ALERT: The following recipe is guaranteed to knock your socks off and please every sweet-treat-loving palette.

Pat says, “This recipe is, hands-down, my family’s favorite cookie. We make it every Christmas and at various other times during the year. I got it from a friend when I was a newly married graduate student, and I’ve made it ever since.”

Chocolate-Chip Pistachio Cookies


3¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter (Do not use margarine. The cookies won’t be nearly as good. Trust me on this.)

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips

¼ cup crushed walnuts

1 3¾-ounce box of instant pistachio pudding

Red and green M&Ms, cinnamon candies or chocolate chips for garnish.



Sift dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, milk and vanilla. Mix. Add dry ingredients and mix again. Set aside a quarter of the dough and add the walnuts to it. Add the pudding mix and the chocolate chips to the rest of the dough and knead until it turns green.  Shape the dough with the chocolate chips into balls. Place on cookie sheet and flatten slightly with a glass dipped in flour. Shape the walnut dough into smaller balls and place one on top of each flattened cookie. Garnish with an M&M, cinnamon candy or another chocolate chip. Bake at 350 degrees for eight to 10 minutes. (Do not overbake or let the cookies get brown around the edges. They won’t be nearly as good. Trust me on this.)

Okay, Pat…we totally trust you on this!

And another thing we will trust is that Pat’s newest book, Sophie’s Squash Goes to School, rocks! Yesterday, in the Perfect Picture Book Friday post, when we announced the winner of City Shapes, by Diana Murray, I mentioned there would be another great GIVEAWAY today. Please leave your comment below for a chance to win a brand new copy of Sophie’s Squash Goes to School. Just tell us what was the STRANGEST thing you or your kids ever brought to school.

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend…I’ll be leaving for the WOW Retreat on Sunday…can’t wait to hug all my dear writer friends. It will be a great way to pump me up for my upcoming surgery on August 3rd. I may not be posting again until our August Will Write for Cookies interview with Jill Esbaum. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

36 thoughts on “Pat Zietlow Miller: Will Write for Cookies PLUS GIVEAWAY

  1. This is a great post! So many times I find myself circling around the same manuscript and if I’m not careful, I will edit it to death, second guessing every choice. This is a great reminder to give your manuscripts time to breathe!
    My kiddos haven’t really chosen to take anything strange to school, but when my daughter was in preschool, her friend brought a gallon size jar full of tadpoles! The kids LOVED it! Thank you for the giveaway!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great post. I am battling with a mss at the moment, so I will be hopping over to those links too Vivian. I think the funniest thing was once my youngest insisted on wearing his pyjama top to school…he wanted to show everyone his super cool Monsters Inc :). Hoping to see some photos of WOW and will be keeping you in my thoughts for August.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So sorry it took me forever to respond to these comments, Julie…but with the surgery behind me and a Cancer Free Pathology report, I feel free as a bird!! Love that the interview and links will be helpful.


  3. Wonderful insight from Pat! And so interesting to learn how The Quickest Kid in Clarksville came to be. Kate Messner’ s math post was fascinating as well!

    On my first day of school in America, I brought slippers and put them on before entering the first grade classroom. This was the custom in Poland from where I’d just emigrated. Needless to say, gIggles from my American schoolmates ensued!

    And last but not least, Vivian, have a wonderful time at the WOW retreat. And I will be thinking of you on August 3rd (and always.) Sending warmest wishes and love!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my goodness…I’m so sorry you had to endure the giggles of schoolmates…it’s not easy being ‘different’…and young kids can be cruel.
      I’m happy the links were useful, Iza…and especially happy to tell you that all went well with the surgery…your warm wishes and love buoyed me up and it was smooth sailing all the way. 😉


  4. Thank you Pat & Vivian for an inspiring post. Just let the MS sit, and breathe – excellent advice.

    The strangest thing I remember any of my children bringing to school wasn’t a thing but a person: I informed the teacher at my eldest’s first pre-school that our cousin would be with me at pick-up time. My daughter rattled on endlessly all during school that day about what she & Dellie would do together. When we walked in the door, the teacher kept looking for a pre-school sized cousin only to meet a grandmother-sized one: Dellie is my husband’s eldest cousin & godmother, 20 years his senior, and the closest thing my kids have to a grandmother on that side of the family.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a wonderful post~ I LOVE Sophie’s Squash (so do my kids) and am a huge fan of Pat’s.

    This is going to sound terribly odd, but I once found a deceased squirrel in someone’s yard that was stiff as a brick~ this was during my lunch hour in 3rd or 4th grade, back when we could walk home for lunch if we lived close enough. I asked my mom if I could bring it to school as a show-and-tell for science reasons, and she called the teacher who said, “sure, why not.” So off to school I went with a dead squirrel in a brown paper bag… to this day, I cannot believe the teacher allowed me to bring it in (Or that I wanted to!). I would LOVE to win Sophie’s Squash Goes to School. Fingers crossed!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am always inspired by reading anything by Pat Zietlow Miller, whether it’s one of her books or an interview or blog post. I love her tenacity, her honesty, her creativity, and her willingness to share her journey with others.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. One of the best pieces of “writerly” advice I ever received was to let a manuscript simmer on the back burner before returning to it with fresh eyes. Pat Zietlow Miller, one of my all time favorite authors, offers this same sound advice. I currently have a middle-grade manuscript that has been simmering for about three years. I received a rather harsh critique on it and sadly never set eyes on it since. Sadly also that it was one of my favorite stories. Maybe enough time has passed along with having gained more knowledge about the important ingredients that belong and don’t belong in a novel that I can polish it up now with seriously fresh eyes.

    When I was in 6th grade, I recall with nauseous clarity a chicken’s foot a girl brought in for show and tell. Her family lived next door to me on a small farm. She demonstrated how she could yank on a tendon and cause the claw-like foot to pinch together.

    Vivian, my thoughts are with you that all goes splendidly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooooh…yes, that must have been creepy, Leslie…but pretty cool. 😉
      I’m so happy the post was helpful…especially if it gets you to take that wonderul story out and look at it with fresh eyes. 😉


  8. I don’t qualify for a prize because I can’t think of an odd thing anyone brought to school. But I do want to say how much I appreciated this post, Pat’s insights and advice (and recipe!) and to you Vivian, have a wow time at WOW and successful surgery. Heal quickly, and I look forward to seeing you back here when you can.


  9. Strange things my kids have taken to school? Hmmmm….Once, my daughter brought composting worms (red wiggles) to school in Kindergarten. It was for her science project. Not only were there worms but also the rotting bananas, onions, and other yucky stuff the worms were snacking on!


  10. I love Sophie’s Squash and can’t wait to read about her school adventure! Thanks for your books and your blog-post-thoughts today. I, too, have to let all of my stories simmer for awhile so I can look at them with fresher eyes.

    I remember a fellow classmate of mine bringing in his pet tarantula in sixth grade. As for my children, I’m not sure how unusual these are. One of my children was extremely attached to a stuffed bunny he named Hop-Hop. He brought it everyday to preschool and kindergarten (kept it in his bag — just wanted to know he was close). Once he entered first grade I think he felt more self-conscious about it, so he began bringing a photograph of Hop-Hop instead. Another of my children was pretty creative. She used to pretend she was various animals (Tigger, elephant, horse), particularly a dog (she has been asking for a pet dog since she was three — finally got her wish 2 years ago when she was 16!). She would make ears and tail out of paper and tape them to her head/bottom and walk on all fours, bark, wag, and pant. She would do this in preschool as well. One day her preschool teacher told me that they had a discussion with her and told her she could be Caitlin in school and a dog at home. That phase lasted for quite awhile!


  11. This is a wonderful post! Thank you, Vivian and Pat!

    As a former teacher, I brought many strange things to school to help motivate kids and stimulate their imaginations. I once brought an uglier-than-ugly statue to school that someone had won at a county fair. I used it as a writing prompt.


  12. Pat had me at The Westing Game! Great post and links. And Sophie’s Squash is one of those that makes me wonder why I can’t come up with something so original. Cookies sound yummy!


  13. Thank you Pat and Vivian for a great interview. Pat, I really admire you for your wonderful books and the fact you can write while your family surrounds you doing their thing!

    When I was in second grade some adult friends took me (just me) deep sea fishing. I caught a really ugly, slimy SQUID. I was so proud. I took it to school for show and tell. Everyone but the teacher was impressed.

    Have fun at WOW Vivian. Sending you positive and good thoughts for your surgery. Surgery can really take a lot out of you. Make sure to take it slow during your recovery.


  14. Great post! Congrats on all your books, Pat!

    Two months ago I took a Venus Fly Trap into school so my 1st graders could see it. They went outdoors, found a live ant, and fed it. My co-teacher bought a live baby octopus which you can get in the fish markets here. The 2nd graders were studying ocean animals.


  15. I love children’s books, too. As a teacher, my favorite part of the day was reading aloud. The strangest thing I ever brought to school was a collection of my grammar school yearly class photos to show my students what I looked like as a kid.


  16. Wonderful interview with lots of great advice. And so many other lines to agree with, as well (such as cell phones in libraries, hives in the sun, and ESPECIALLY that magnetic pull to children’s books!) Thanks for the delicious-sounding recipe, too!


  17. Wonderful advice, Pat! And thanks for the delicious cookie recipe – gotta try that one. I may have brought a little jewelry box for show-n-tell with a dancing ballerina that twirled when you opened the box. I’m sure the boys in my class were thrilled! Vivian, will keep you in my prayers.


  18. Wonderful post from Pat on letting your work simmer a bit and I can’t wait to try those cookies with my granddaughter.
    The strangest thing I ever brought to school was my tonsils…in a jar after the surgery…which broke on the classroom floor. I’m sure that story made it to the teacher’s lounge.


  19. I love Pat’s story! (And her advice.)

    Strangely enough, I’m drawing a blank trying to come up with the strangest thing I or my kids have taken to school. I’m going to go with a collection of foreign currencies and coins, even though it’s not nearly as strange as some of the things mentioned in the comments above! Dead squirrel? Tonsils? Yikes!


  20. I am a big fan of Pat, her books and her willingness to share her story and advice. The strangest thing I brought to school was something given to me in the hallway before class at college. My boyfriend gave me a can of black olives with a handwritten “label” saying “Olive you!” (Yes, we are married now)


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