Pat Zietlow Miller: Will Write for Cookies PLUS GIVEAWAY

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

pat headshot

PAT ZIETLOW MILLER

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 Amazon.com 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?

 PAT:

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?

PAT:

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?

PAT:

 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?

PAT:

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?

PAT:

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.

PAT:

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 www.picturebookbuilders.com. 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

Ingredients:

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.

 

Directions:

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.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Shmulik Paints the Town

The mailman delivered a box the other day. I couldn’t wait to open it. Inside…a copy of the debut picture book of a dear friend. And I knew right then and there that I would be reviewing it for Perfect Picture Book Friday.

shumlik

Shmulik Paints the Town

Written by Lisa Rose

Illustrated by Catalina Echeverri Continue reading

[AFCC 2013] Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2013 – One Big Story!

I can hardly believe it! Just two more weeks till I fly to Singapore to participate in the 2013 Asian Festival of Children’s Content. It will be an opportunity of a lifetime. I will definitely take LOTS of pictures and keep a journal of my adventure so I can share with all of you when I get back.

I’m reblogging a fantastic post about it from Myra over at Gathering Books.

And I just found out that Erik, from This Kid Reviews Books, is going to be part of the event via Skype…congratulations, Erik…that is FANTASTIC!

[AFCC 2013] Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2013 – One Big Story!.

Sunday Post: Attraction – Why Libraries?

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!!

Jake, at Time after Time, has a Sunday Post Challenge – today’s theme is ATTRACTION.

Attraction definition: A quality or force of someone or something that pulls others in.

Sunday Post: Attraction - Why Libraries?

Libraries are an amazing attraction.

For me, libraries are the best place to spend a couple of happy hours.

Are you interested in photography? The library has awesome books for you.

Do you want to find a recipe for a delicious Indian curry dish? Continue reading

Sunday Post: Silence…Should Children Be Seen and Not Heard?

Jake at Time after Time has a Sunday Post Challenge and every week he provides a theme…this week’s theme is SILENCE.

 

I’ve only “heard” true silence twice in my life…twenty-five years ago while parasailing and last year while skydiving.  Silence…the absence of sound or communication…is sometimes helpful when one needs to collect one’s thoughts or ponder an important decision.

But should we apply this to our parenting approach…following the old proverb that says…children should be seen and not heard?

I don’t recommend it.

Why not?

 

Children need opportunities to tell us what they think and feel.

 

Children need time to interact with their peers.

 

Children need to form strong friendships in those early years in order to develop healthy relationships later in life.

These activities don’t call for silence…they call for open and honest communication.

What activities do you have planned for your kids this summer?  Summer is a perfect time to read picture books to young children!  Children who are read to at an early age are more successful in school.  I’ll be posting an A-Z list of some of the best in my next post.

For great story suggestions and quick and easy activities for kids, you might want a copy of Show Me How!

 

Are you wondering if the book really works?  Check out these recent reviews: http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/show-me-how/

http://creatingcuriouskids.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/summer-fun-shortcut-show-me-how/

 

Want more information about Jake’s Sunday Post?

 http://jakesprinters.wordpress.com/ 

And here are some other bloggers who are doing Jake’s Sunday Post:

http://p0nky.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/sunday-post-silence/

http://piecesofstarlight.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/what-does-a-mixed-garden-of-prompts-grow/

http://northernnarratives.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/sunday-post-silence-2/

http://jullianeford.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/sunday-post-silence/

http://francineinretirement.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/sunday-post-silence/

http://tostir.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/sunday-post-silence/

http://jmeyersforeman.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/3307/

Project 365 Challenge: Day 18…Where Does Time Go?

 

This is a picture of my three-year old grandson, getting a haircut.  He’s so grown-up…but the memory of walking up and down the hospital corridor with my daughter on the day he was born is as fresh in my mind as if it had happened yesterday.

Time passes so quickly.  Please don’t waste it regretting the past or pinning your hopes on the future. 

Today is here.  Use it to the best of your ability.  Do something you’ve been meaning to do for yourself.  Reach out and help someone else.  Pass along a smile.  And, if you can, read to a child. 

Reading and Crafting Fun with Kids

I’ve been smiling a lot these days.

During the past few weeks, the Show-Me-How Story-time with Miss Vivian program has traveled to several local kindergartens and libraries.

Back in November, the children at Edison Elementary enjoyed hearing Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis.  Young children are often reluctant or unable to express their feelings.  Reading a story like this one gives them the opportunity to talk about what might be bothering them.  In Chapter Four, I Am Really Mad Right Now, my book, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, gives parents and teachers over a dozen picture book titles with summaries and a related quick and easy craft project and matching child-friendly cooking activity for each.

After the kindergarteners had a chance to talk about the feelings of the main character in the story and their own feelings, I showed them the fun craft we would be making.  The children were excited to work on the smiling/frowning paper plate.  We punched a hole in the top and pushed a piece of yarn through so they would be able to hang it up on the door to their room…anyone entering will know how they are feeling…another wonderful opportunity for parents to engage  their children in a discussion about emotions.

I was thrilled to receive a bunch of letters and pictures from Ms. Gustafson’s class, thanking me for sharing the story and craft activity with them. 

This past week, I visited with the kindergarteners at Fremont Elementary.  Again I was met with smiling children, eager to hear The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.  Ms. Vassar’s class was excited to hear about the little raccoon who didn’t want to leave his mother to go to school until she shares a special secret with him. 

 

Young children can relate to this story very well…many of them are anxious about leaving home to go to school or daycare.  Again, picture books can be a wonderful vehicle for calming a child’s fears or helping him realize that others feel just the way he does. 

 

After the story was over, the children made Kissing Hand pictures.   Tracing the outline of their hands onto a piece of paper, I encouraged the children to think about who they love and who loves them.  Each finger represented someone important in their lives. 

Then, on Saturday, I read the same picture book at the Penrose Library’s 10:30am Story-time.  Many of the children attending were only three and four years old, but they still loved hearing the story and looking at the beautiful illustrations.  Very young children are developing important pre-literacy skills when parents read to them.  Knowing how to hold a book, turning the pages from front to back, reading the pictures from left to right, observing and pointing out things they see in the pictures…these are all important skills they MUST learn before they can read themselves. 

Because the holidays are fast approaching, I changed the craft that accompanied the story and we made Kissing Hand Ornaments.  Each child received a handprint, cut from cardstock paper that was white on one side and glittery color on the other.  Using the white side, the children and their parents drew faces of family members on the fingers.  The handprints had a hole punched at the top and a piece of yarn strung through so they can be hung from the Christmas tree, if desired.

It only takes 15 minutes to read a picture book story.  It only takes 15 minutes to do a simple craft project.  Such a little amount of time…but it has such a great impact.   “If you want to be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you need to be in their lives today.” 

I implore parents: please do this with your young children.  Go to the library.  Get out a few picture books.  Read them with your children.  Get some paper and crayons and draw with your children.  Staple several pages together and let them make their own “book” and have them tell you the story they have drawn.

The book I wrote last year is a perfect addition to your home library…with 100 classic picture book recommendations; you only have to flip through the table of contents to find the perfect book to read to your child.  When you open to that page, you will find the story summary, a tip on why that particular book is helpful to read to your child, a quick and easy craft project and a child-friendly healthful recipe…all laid out for you in a simple, easy-to-use format.  Most of the crafts use only paper, crayons or markers…some also need a glue stick, pair of scissors and pictures cut from magazines or catalogs.  Most of the recipes are low-fat, low sugar and high fiber…many are even no-cook, like fresh orange juice made from squeezing oranges and peanut butter balls made from peanut butter, honey and dry milk. 

I wish I had had this book when my children were growing up…everything in one place…no guesswork involved when it comes to planning activities for young children. 

If you order the book NOW, you will be able to start the New Year off right.

Don’t delay…at $24.95, it makes the perfect gift for yourself or anyone you know who has young children.  It even makes a great baby shower gift…unique and priceless…with great parenting tips on building a child’s self-esteem and creating a life-long parent-child bond.

And we all want that…don’t we?  Please visit the Show Me How website now and order a copy today!