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Book Giveaway

patzmillerA few years ago, my sister in agent-hood Pat Zietlow Miller asked if I would take a peek at her manuscript. That manuscript turned out to be the newly-released WHEREVER YOU GO. I immediately knew it would be a beloved hit because of its lyrical text and universal theme, but once Eliza Wheeler signed on to illustrate, I became certain her art would exponentially elevate WHEREVER YOU GO into the stratosphere. (Don’t you wish we had flying cars to take on that trip?)

Since this blog loves to talk about how ideas originate, I asked Pat and Eliza a few questions about the path to this book’s publication. (Get it? THE PATH???)

Pat, what was the genesis of WHEREVER YOU GO?

This book started when I was at work and a few lines of random poetry popped into my head:

Over a hill, under a bridge, deep in a dale, high on a ridge …

I liked the way the words sounded, so I emailed them to myself at home and started working with them to see where they could go. (Ha! See what I did there?) I realized that the words described places roads could go, which got me thinking about other places roads could go, which led to a first draft of the book.

But, I felt it needed something more. Some heart. So, I set it aside and proceeded to do something I do really well. Worry about my children. This time, it was my oldest daughter. She was growing up so fast! In a few years she wouldn’t even be living with us! Was she ready to be on her own? Would she make good choices?

After some time, I realized that could be the heart my book needed. All the places roads could go also could represent life and its many choices. So I revised my draft keeping all the things I wanted my oldest daughter to know in mind, and that became the book that sold.

And it came out this spring, right before her high school graduation. I could not have planned that, but it was perfect timing.

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Eliza, as the illustrator, how were you approached for this project and what attracted you to it?

Connie Hsu, the book’s editor at Little Brown at the time, sent the manuscript to my agent with the loveliest email introducing the project. When I read it, I could see the pictures flowing in my imagination. This is a dream text for an illustrator; no frivolous details or lengthy descriptions—a blank canvas for the art to tell its own part of the story. But I didn’t say ‘yes’ right away, because I could see two directions this story could take: 1) The story of life’s roads, or 2) A cars and trucks book. I wanted to make sure that my vision of it as the first direction was also what the publishing team envisioned, and I was happy to hear that we were all on the same page about staying true to the deeper meaning under Pat’s text. I found out later from Pat that this was a deciding factor for her in choosing Little Brown as the publisher, so it seems it was all meant to be!

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Any creature could be the lead character traveling these roads. What made you select a bunny on a bike?

I did try a few different animal choices while doing character development, and it came down to a cat, owl, and bunny. These animals in particular are all pretty cute, but in the end the bunny felt the most age-less and gender neutral. The editor and art director also loved the idea of the bunny’s ears flying behind him/her to help emphasize the motion of the bike. That’s how we landed on the bunny!

Oh, so it really had nothing to do with your last name being WHEELER? 

Hahaha! Maybe that was the whole subconscious reason! You can change my answer to that. 😉

Pat, what do you hope the child (and adult) reading this book will take away?

The message I’d like people to take away is this:

Life isn’t a straight line.

It’s good to have goals in life. It’s good to pursue them and to celebrate when you reach them. But, there will be unexpected detours along the way. Those detours may take you somewhere greater than you ever expected, or they may lead you somewhere you never wanted to be. But, either way, you can chose how to react to where you end up and to take a different path if you’re not happy with your current location.

A long time ago, I read that the most mentally healthy people are the people who see the most options in their life because they can get unstuck from the nasty places more easily than people who can’t envision a different future. So I hope readers will internalize the message that they’re in charge of their own lives and that they always have choices about where they want to be.

*SNIFF* *SNIFF* *BLOW*

That’s a beautiful message, Pat. And it’s one that’s true for writing as well as life. No career is a straight line. It’s rather bumpy. But hold on and you will indeed get the ride of your life!

Thank you, Pat and Eliza, for sharing your journey (GET IT AGAIN???) and for offering the book and an art print from Eliza as prizes to our blog readers!

To win a copy of WHEREVER YOU GO, just leave a comment below. One comment per person and a random winner will be chosen at the end of June.

To win Eliza’s print, take a photo of you with WHEREVER YOU GO and post it on Twitter with the hashtag #whereveryougo. A random winner will be selected at the end of June.

Good luck!

patzmillerby Pat Zietlow Miller

“What process do you follow to write your stories?” I’ve heard that question more frequently as I’ve sold more picture books, and I never know how to answer.

The people asking usually look as if they’re waiting for a golden ticket to inspiration. Like maybe I’ll say that I always walk three times around my living room, stand on one foot, hum the “Star-Spangled Banner” and then run to the computer to start writing before the muse I’ve conjured flies away. Then, they can do the same thing and wait for their own inspiration to strike.

When I tell the truth—that I don’t have a specific writing process—they seem disappointed. But, trust me. I’m doing them a favor. If they knew how things really go down, they might give up writing altogether. I’m a little haphazard.

But, just for you, in honor of PiBoWriMo, I am pulling back the curtain and sharing my process, such as it is. Here’s how I wrote WIDE-AWAKE BEAR, which is coming from HarperCollins in 2017:

Step One:
Have a cranky child.

Three years ago, my youngest daughter was happily napping on the couch. When I woke her to take her to volleyball practice, she had a world-class meltdown. There was wailing, tears and shouting. I tossed her into the car and took her anyway. Afterward, when she was calm, I said, “What was THAT all about?” Her response? “I was a hibernating bear. You woke me up, and I went into a bear frenzy.” (Author’s note: Is that not the best response ever? I love this kid.)

Step Two:
Forget about that adorable incident.

I filed that wonderful remark under the category of “Cool Stuff My Kid Has Said” and went about my business. For several years.

Step Three:
Be bored on a plane.

On a plane ride home from Yellowstone Park, where I was disappointed I hadn’t seen a bear, I thought I should use the flying time to do something productive. So I grabbed a notepad and pen and wrote a story about a bear cub who wakes up in the middle of winter and goes into a bear frenzy.

Step Four:
Listen to your critique group say, “Meh.”

I shared this story with my critique group and got a lukewarm response. They thought the bear cub got too cranky and deserved a timeout. They also didn’t understand why he got so angry. So I adjusted and reworked the story over several weeks. The title changed, and the storyline morphed into a bear cub who woke up midwinter, got scared and couldn’t fall back asleep. I shared it with some more writing friends and adjusted it even more. Then, I stopped, because I didn’t know what else to do.

Step Five:
Let it sit on your desktop for a while.

I wasn’t sure the story was ready. So I worked on other things and didn’t think much about it.

Step Six:
Send it to your agent on a whim.

Then one day, I opened the file and thought, “This isn’t so bad.” (See how I just glow with self-confidence?) I sent it to my agent, hoping she might give me a few ideas so I could work on it some more. But she thought it was ready to go, sent it out and it sold in about three weeks. That’s my quickest sale ever.

So, there you have it. How to write and sell a picture book in six simple steps. You know just what to do now, right?

I told another writer about my lack of a process, and she said, “You do have a process. It’s organic!” And she is absolutely right, because I’ve never once used pesticides in any of my books.

If there’s anything to learn from my post, it’s that everyone’s process is different. As long as you find something that works for you, you’ll be fine. If you’re not seeing the results you want and feel like your process may be fault, try a few different things.

  • Be haphazard—I mean organic—like me.
  • Be super-organized like another writer I know who sets her timer for 45-minute chunks and logs her writing time on a chart posted on her office door.
  • Try writing mornings or evenings to see if something works better. Try different locations, too.
  • Try standing on one foot in your living room and humming the national anthem. (It could work.)

Chances are something will seem more appealing to you and you’ll be well on your way to finding your own inspiration.

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To learn more about me, visit PatZietlowMiller.com or follow me on Twitter at @PatZMiller.

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If you leave a comment on this post you could be one of two people to win one of two prizes—a signed copy of SOPHIE’S SQUASH (Schwartz & Wade, 2013) to be sent immediately or a signed copy of WHEREVER YOU GO to be sent once it’s released from Little, Brown on May 5, 2015. Each of these books followed a totally different process than WIDE-AWAKE BEAR. I meant it when I said my process was haphazard.

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This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

 

7ate9
Winner of the 2018 Irma S. Black Award and the SCBWI Crystal Kite!
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As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL
illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
2019

THE UPPER CASE:
TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY
illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
Fall 2019

FOUR WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2020

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