Today we are talking to New York’s Bestseller children’s book author – Pat Zietlow Miller. Pat has written some really amazing children’s books. One of her books, BE KIND, has already been released and she has two other books coming out next year, Remarkably You and When You Are Brave. I was lucky enough to get to talk to Pat about her experiences writing and some of the inspirations that helped her along the way.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what made you want to become a children’s author?
I’ve loved books since I was a kid. Books took me wherever I wanted to go – safely – and exposed me to people like me, people different from me and people I could aspire to be. I remember being in my school library at Merrill Elementary in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and trying to find where my book would go on the shelf once I wrote it. Now that I have written books, I always send the Merrill Elementary library a copy because my elementary-school self would have been so happy to have her books on those shelves.
How cool to have your books in the same library that you grew up going to! So what was your favorite book growing up?
My favorite book was THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin. I got a copy for Christmas one year from my aunt who was a librarian and I read it and read it and read it. I loved that it was a mystery solved by a determined girl. I loved the quirky cast of characters in Westing Towers. I loved that – spoiler alert – Angela was the bomber. I loved that the author lived in Wisconsin, like me. I still have that copy.
I also adored ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY by Judith Viorst. It’s one of the best-written picture books I know, and it’s funny and so true to life. In fact, if you want to write picture books, you should read every one ever written by Judith. She’s outstandingly talented.
Please tell us about the importance of children’s literature and what it has meant to be a part of this industry?
I don’t think you can over-state the importance of children’s literature. Books help children grow up to be the best version of themselves. They offer information, perspectives and glimpses beyond whatever world the child usually lives in. They reaffirm the good things in life and offer hope that the bad things can get better. They encourage empathy and imagination and problem-solving. They build language and life skills. I wake up every morning so grateful that I get to be a part of getting the right book in the hands of the right child just when that kid might need it most.
Wow, I love that saying (probably going to steal it, lol) – “They reaffirm the good things in life and offer hope that the bad things can get better.”
So, if someone asked you for same wisdom about being a children’s author, what would you say to them?
The best thing I can suggest is to read hundreds and hundreds of children’s books. It’s the best way I know to improve as a writer and respect the children you’re writing for. And, as a bonus, doing this is so much fun that it’s not even work.
When I started actively pursuing writing for kids, I went to the library and checked out every book ever written by some of my favorite picture book authors. I sat on the floor, surrounded by stacks of books and read and analyzed and learned. I still do this.
You’ll find some titles you don’t like, and that’s helpful, too, as you develop your own writing voice. But there’s so much quality work out there. Reading is like your own personal master class in how to be an author. And it costs nothing but your time.
If you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of some of my favorite picture books.
So back to BE KIND, your newest book, what was the inspiration behind the book? I mean the message is timeless. Tell us about it and where we can pick it up at?
BE KIND came out in February 2018. It’s about all the ways to kind to one another and how even the smallest acts of kindness can make a big difference. It’s available in libraries, bookstores and online. I think its message is one that is resonating with people now. It’s being used in a lot of schools, and it made the New York Times bestseller list.
Finally, our last question, and it is a very serious question – would you rather be able to fly or walk through walls?
Hmmmm. That’s a good one. I’m going to go with flying. There are lots of times in my life, I want to be somewhere, but don’t have a good way to get there. Being able to fly could solve that. Of course, if I could apparate, like the wizards in Harry Potter, that would be even better.
Awesome choice! Thank you so much Pat for talking with us today. Everyone, be sure to check out BE KIND and look for Pat’s new books coming out next year: Remarkably You and When You Are Brave. Thanks everyone!