Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Crystal Kite Interviews: Pat Zietlow Miller's THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE wins in the Mid West Division (Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio)

Winner for the Mid West Division

Lee: Congratulations Pat! Please tell us about your Crystal-Kite winning book!

Pat: THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE took a while to come together. Here’s what happened:

I wrote a first draft after being inspired by Jacqui Robbins’ and Matt Phelan’s THE NEW GIRL ... AND ME and its take on friendship. I’d also been hanging around my youngest daughter’s school, and the voices of the kids had gotten stuck in my head and made their way into my manuscript. This draft was titled THE FASTEST FEET ON FLEET STREET and had two girls competing to see who was the better runner, jumper and rope-skipper. 

I sent the draft to my critique partners and revised based on their suggestions. Then, I took the manuscript to the Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference. Chelsea Eberly from Random House turned on a huge light bulb for me by suggesting a historical angle. I decided to set the story in 1960, when African-American sprinter Wilma Rudolph won three gold medals at the Olympics in Rome. I rewrote the story so both girls idolized Wilma and wanted to be just like her.

The story went on submission and the inevitable rejections arrived. But then, I received a note from Chronicle Books, saying they liked the story, but thought there wasn’t enough Wilma Rudolph. I did more research and learned Wilma grew up in Clarksville, Tenn., which was still segregated in 1960. Blacks and whites went to separate schools, saw separate doctors and ate at separate restaurants. But after Wilma’s Olympic victories, Clarksville wanted to throw a victory parade. Wilma agreed, if the event was integrated. So that parade was the first integrated event in Clarksville history. Knowing that, I moved my story’s setting to Clarksville and had both girls attend Wilma’s parade. I removed the jumping and rope-skipping elements and had the girls’ competition focus only on running events loosely patterned after Wilma’s three Olympic events. And the title became THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE.

And THAT was the book that sold to Chronicle Books and won the Midwest Region Crystal Kite.

Author Pat Zietlow Miller
Lee: Love learning the story behind your 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 almost 10 years, and it’s been invaluable to my writing career. I still remember how nervous I was at my first event. I sat in back rows and lurked in corners, worried that someone would discover I didn’t belong and ask me to leave.

After that first conference, I met people, joined a critique group and kept coming back. I learned a ton from the other aspiring writers and the published authors, agents and editors I encountered. And, when I finally sold my first picture book after 126 rejections, everyone celebrated with me. That support continues today.

SCBWI is a spot where writers, illustrators and children’s book lovers at all stages of the journey can interact, learn from each other and revel in the wonder of children’s literature. The state and national conferences are great, but there also are online opportunities and local events. At $80 a year to join, it’s a bargain.

[Note: First year of SCBWI membership is currently $95. Renewing is indeed $80 a year.]

 Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children’s book writers and illustrators?


· Read everything you can in every spare moment you have. Never stop doing this. You will never have read enough.

· Write and rewrite and repeat. This is an infinite loop you will never escape.

· Write something new and try to be better.

· Don’t take rejections personally. Use them to learn where your manuscript needs improvement.

· Persevere. Improve. Believe.

Thanks, Pat! And again, congratulations!

Find out more about Pat here: and on Twitter at @PatZMiller

Illustrate and Write On,

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