Tag Archives: second book

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

The Second Time Around the Second Time Around

Riffing off Tara Dairman’s piece, The Second Time Around, from a week ago in which she explored why the excitement factor of her second book paled in comparison to her first book, I’d like to explore the panic factor of the second book.

The first book I penned, BUNNIES!!!, was sold in a two-book deal to Katherine Tegan Books/HarperCollins a little over a year ago. It was, for all practical purposes, a finished manuscript needing very little editing. I had written it one day in December, 2012. It was inspired by a drawing I had done a couple months earlier and the story just came to me. Seriously. It was that easy. I hate when people talk about banging out a story in a day, an hour, twenty minutes. It is usually people new to the industry and with no clue of what it takes to write a picture book. It seems disingenuous and sounds both dismissive and braggartly at the same time.  I don’t know if it was a rare alignment of the stars, or if I had brushed up against some strange talisman in an antique store, or if it was just dumb luck, but if I spent more than two hours writing and rough-dummying the book I’d be surprised. My critique pals all agreed that with a couple minor tweaks, it was ready for submission. My amazing agent sold it in no time in the afore mentioned two-book deal. I spent most of the rest of last year doing the illustrations and probably prematurely resting on my big fat laurels.

The manuscript for book number two is due at the end of this month. And I’m in second book panic mode. It will feature the same characters from BUNNIES!!! I’ve been working on it pretty regularly since the first of the year with what I thought were some pretty good ideas. They have morphed from one storyline to another to another to another. And I still don’t have it nailed down. I’m close, I think, but not as close as my critique pals suggest after last night’s  meeting. Agh. They are right, of course, the story is almost there, but it is lacking the particular style and delivery of book one. So I am up at 4:15 this morning, unable to sleep and panicking once more about this book. The first one was so damn easy! Why is this one so damn hard? Why doesn’t it just come to me?  When I wrote my dear, sweet editor in a panic late one night last week, she told me to take a break from thinking about it, it needs to simmer. Go see a movie! Relax! She also suggested that maybe this second book does not have to be about the same characters, maybe it could be something else – take a break from them and come back to them later. She was making it so easy for me. And it worked. For a while. I started thinking about other manuscripts I had that I could tidy up and send to her, other new ideas that I haven’t fleshed out. After considering this for a while, I decided that I love the characters in my first book and need to give them one more shot before I temporarily shelve them. So, panicked or not, (panicked) I am back in the land of BUNNIES!!! I will put on my thinking ears and channel the panic into something brilliant. No, really, I have 25 days. Maybe when it is done and it is accepted, the rest of the process of book number two will be the calm that Tara alluded to.


by kevan atteberry



Filed under Anxiety, Colleagues, Creativity, Editing and Revising, Editor, Panic, Writing

Owning It

There are a million things I should be worried about right now.  What will my first review be like?  How will I steel my guts for asking other humans – sometimes in person – to buy my book?  How much caffeine can the average liver tolerate?

But do you want to know what I’m most worried about right now?  I’m warning you: it’s not flattering.

Right now, I’m most worried about my next book.

Yeah, I know.  It’s a problem a lot of people wish they had.  It’s a problem more than six months at arm’s length when I have real and pressing worries crowding my headspace right now.

Natalie recently talked about being in the publishing sweet spot.  And she’s right.  Most of us EMUs are basking in that golden time between the debut sale and the accumulation of businessy writer-things like sales numbers and reviews.  But if we’re also being honest about the debut experience, it doesn’t do any good to pretend this worry doesn’t exist.  And I don’t think I’m alone.

For some writers, this manifests as What if I can’t write anything new?

For others, it’s more like What if my editor hates what I write next?

For me, it’s something like I love The Wicked and the Just to little tiny bits.  What if I never love any other book I write as much as I love this one?

I confided this to a writer friend recently.  She shrugged and said, “Heck, everyone feels that way. Just ignore it.”

But you know what?  I don’t think that will work for me.  I need to think this worry through.  I need to confront it.  Owning it lets me deal with it.

What if I never love another book like I love The Wicked and the Just?

First of all, I was never going to love a book as much as the trunk book I wrote before I started W/J.  I hated the whole middle of W/J till the third draft, and the first fifty pages had to be rewritten twice.  I didn’t love it either time.  So I eviscerated them, ended up with fifteen pages of sentences held together with chewing gum and duct tape, which I subsequently rewrote.  Then the last fifty pages needed the scalpel and the gutting hook.  Then the middle again.

Right about then, when W/J began to come together like I knew it could, I realized that I loved it.

There’s a feeling you often get, usually when you hit the infamous 25k wall, and this can loosely be described as ambient hate.  It’s when you start to hate a book good and proper, right down to its nubs.  You feel like it’ll never come together and you’re just fooling yourself.  And sometimes you’re right, and you need to write something else.  It’s a book you’re never going to love.

But here’s the key: there was always something I loved about W/J, and that was the characters.  That’s how I knew this book wasn’t trunkable.  I loved them too much to give up on them, so I’d crack open the tomes and dredge up another few more unpleasant conditions of medieval Caernarvon to inflict on them.  And that never failed to drag me by the pigtails back into their world, to double down and make the story work.  I did that until I began to love the outcome as much as I loved what kept me coming back.

Medieval Caernarvon: For best results, visit while English.

Sometimes booklove just happens.  I hope it happens for other people, and I darn well hope it happens for me someday.  But sometimes it has to be made.  It’s not love at first sight – it’s the kind of love that has to grow and be nurtured.  And if I have to, I can make it happen again.

So I guess that means I’m on my way to owning this worry.  I’ve named it and picked it apart.  It wouldn’t be realistic to say I’ll never worry about it again, but it’s lost some of its power.  Now, with any luck at all, I can write my way through it and get back to enjoying the sweet spot while it lasts.


Filed under Writing