The Perils of Letting Children – and Books – Out Into the World

Pat Zietlow Miller was an EMU’s Debuts member when her picture book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH, was released in 2013. Now, she’s happy to be back to talk about her second picture book, WHEREVER YOU GO, which just released Tuesday.

Wherever you go

When my oldest daughter was starting to crawl, a dad with grown children gave me this warning:

“Parenting gets harder when your children get mobile,” he said. “When they walk. When they drive. When they leave for college. You lose some control and have to help them while letting them go.”

As my daughter grew, I saw the truth in his words. So while she was still in school, I started thinking about what I wanted her to know before she ventured out our door. You know, mushy stuff. Like:

Your choices control your destiny, so you should choose wisely.

You should celebrate your successes but forgive your inevitable failures.

Worthy goals are hard to achieve, but you’ll always be glad you tried.

There’s value in seeing what’s around the bend in the road, but it’s good to remember your home.

And life goes more easily with the right group of friends.

Those thoughts, and my love, became the inspiration for my second picture book, WHEREVER YOU GO. And the timing of its release – two days ago – is perfect, as my daughter graduates from high school in less than a month.

But I couldn’t just write book that blatantly said, “Hey, you’re leaving, so listen up.” That would surely have elicited eye rolls. Plus, my daughter isn’t stupid. She’s a very smart, very kind, very capable person. But … but … she’s so young. So inexperienced.

Fortunately, I realized that a manuscript I was writing about roads and all the places they could take you would benefit from a little subtext. A little heart. So my advice got woven into a story that you could take at face value or get misty about. And my daughter’s eyes haven’t rolled once.

This story also taught me something important about publishing. Its subjectivity. I knew this in theory, but submitting this manuscript taught me it in practice.

I liked the story. So did my agent. So she sent it out to some editors. One responded promptly and said something like: “I can totally see the illustrations, but I think the writing is clunky.”

Not what I’d hoped to hear.

Barely a day later, another editor responded saying, “I LOVE the writing. But I’m having a real problem picturing the illustrations.”

Now I was just confused.

Fortunately, two other editors liked the text and could visualize illustrations. They both made offers, and the book sold at auction. Interestingly enough, when I talked with each editor before making a decision, they had distinct views of how the book could be edited and illustrated.

I’m very happy with the results, but this scenario does show how a manuscript that’s just right for one editor might not work for another at all. And it shows how much an editor’s vision contributes to the book’s final look.

In fact, a lot of the advice I want my daughter to remember is stuff all writers should keep in mind as they pursue publication. As I said:

Roads … remember.
Every life landmark, the big and the small.
The moments you tripped,
the times you stood tall.
Where you are going, and where you began.
What you expected. What you didn’t plan.

So as my daughter and my book head out into the world, I hope they’ll both find their footing and make their mark – wherever they go.

And for your enjoyment, the amazing book trailer.

Pat photoPat Zietlow Miller got 126 rejections before selling her first picture book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH. Since then, she’s sold eight additional picture books. Two of them are coming out in 2015 — WHEREVER YOU GO from Little, Brown in April and SHARING THE BREAD: AN OLD-FASHIONED THANKSGIVING STORY from Schwartz & Wade in August. Pat has also won the Golden Kite Award for picture book text and the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor.
Learn more about Pat on her Website.



Filed under Guest Posts

11 responses to “The Perils of Letting Children – and Books – Out Into the World

  1. Looking forward to seeing this one, Pat. Congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kevanjatt

    So looking forward to having this one in my hands!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lindsey Lane

    Hmmm…I think this will be the perfect graduation gift for my daughter. Thank you. Pat.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks, Pat. I’ve been at this writing thing for as long as my daughter has been alive (well, trying to get published, anyway) and those kinds of conflicting rejections break my heart over and over. I only hope that my story has a happy ending like yours! This book sounds wonderful for kids at all stages of life’s journey. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mariagianferrari

    Happy book birthday, Pat! I can’t wait to read this. And I just love the cover art so much!


  6. This post was encouraging–thank you! Getting 126 rejections before you sold Sophie’s Squash!
    Your new book sounds great, too!


  7. Thanks, everyone! If you’d like to see the book trailer, which was created by Eliza Wheeler’s husband, Adam, it’s here:


  8. Thanks for being our guest today, Pat. As usual you offer such applicable insight. The book trailer is great! I added it to the post 🙂


  9. You’ve said it all, Pat. Great post!


  10. wheelerstudio

    Pat — I LOVED hearing what was happening in your mind when you wrote this book. It’s the heart and personal emotion that you infused into the text that made it more than simply a book about roads. I’m sending happy vibes out to you and your daughter, for a joyful next step in your journeys. How honored I am to have been given the opportunity to create the visual side of your sweet and universal story!


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