Thursday, October 30, 2014

The 2014 Crystal Kite Winners: SOPHIE'S SQUASH by Pat Zietlow Miller (SCBWI Wisconsin)

This week's Crystal Kite Winner Spotlight is on SOPHIE'S SQUASH, written by Pat Zietlow Miller.

It may sound familiar, because SOPHIE'S SQUASH also won the 2014 Golden Kite award for best picture book text. Well, Pat just keeps on winning, because her book also took home the Crystal Kite award for the Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio division.

Multi Award-Winning Author Pat Zietlow Miller

I connected with Pat to celebrate her latest accolade:

Lee: For those who don't yet know, please tell us about your book!

Pat: SOPHIE’S SQUASH is a fiction picture book loosely based on the time my youngest daughter fell in love with a butternut squash when she was small. It’s my debut book, and I sold it through the slush pile to Schwartz & Wade. 

Lee: Oooh! A slush pile success story! How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Pat: I’ve been an SCBWI member for seven years. Wisconsin is my home base, but I’ve attended state conferences in Iowa and Illinois, as well. Joining SCBWI kick-started my writing career. The conferences I attended inspired me and helped me learn how to polish my writing, make the most of my manuscripts and submit them properly. I also met my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, at an Iowa SCBWI conference. 

In addition, I’ve made a lot of writing friends through the SCBWI who have been critique partners and partners in crime as we all pursue our writing goals. 

If I were to give one piece of advice to aspiring children’s book authors or illustrators, it would be to join the SCBWI. The returns hugely outweigh the investment. 

Lee: You also won the Golden Kite Award for Sophie's Squash. What impact has that had for you?

Pat: Winning the Golden Kite was a mountaintop moment for me. I didn’t expect it, and I didn’t realize the impact it would have on me until I was at the national SCBWI conference in Los Angeles this summer to accept the award. Everyone was so friendly and complimentary, and I got to meet several of my writing heroes and even speak to the 1,200 or so conference attendees in the main ballroom. 

(Lee interjecting to share that you can hear the audio of Pat's Golden Kite Acceptance speech here.)

Pat: It was sort of funny, because in my everyday Midwestern life, I usually blend into the crowd. There’s nothing about me that particularly stands out. But at the SCBWI conference, many people knew who I was and had read my book and seemed excited to meet me. That was a new experience. 

It made me realize how far I’ve come from the person who really, really wanted to write picture books but wasn’t sure where or how to start. It also made me realize how much there still is to learn and do and how much fun it’s going to be learning and doing all those things. 

Lee: Do you have any additional words of wisdom to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Pat: Work hard to learn the craft of writing or illustrating. Study the folks who do it best and absorb what they do into your own personal style. Keep working, even if what you’re producing doesn’t yet measure up to what you want it to be. Be patient with yourself and the process. Don’t rush something out before it’s really ready. Trying shortcuts probably won’t get you where you want to be any faster. Oh, and join the SCBWI.

Thanks, Pat!

I also contacted Michael Kress-Russ who, along with Jaime Swenson is co-Regional Advisor of SCBWI Wisconsin, to hear their take on Pat's win. Here's what Michael wrote:

As a community of storytellers for children we are all buoyed by the successes of our peers, and enriched by association when their efforts are met with much-deserved accolades. All the more so when a writer’s debut earns one of the highest awards in the world of children’s writing, prompting fantasies of one day dazzling librarians and classroom teachers with boasts of having “known her when.”

That the author in question is as humble, approachable and down-to-Earth as our own Pat Zietlow Miller only restores faith in the cherished and oft-challenged belief that the world is a fair place.

Congratulations, Pat. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer book.

- Michael Kress-Russick

Thanks to Pat and Michael, and Cheers to Pat for SOPHIE'S SQUASH winning the 2014 Crystal Kite Award!

You can find out more about Pat and her writing at her website here.

And learn more about SCBWI Wisconsin and their events here.

Illustrate and Write On,

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