Saturday, August 5, 2023

Writing From Real Life: How To Turn Lived Experiences Into Fantastic Fiction! with e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow-Miller

Writing From Real Life: How To Turn Lived Experiences Into Fantastic Fiction! with e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow-Miller

One thing aspiring picture book writers hear a lot is not to write a story based on something cute their kid did. Or their dog. Or that story their grandfather told at holiday gatherings. Yet a lot of people try, including Pat and e.E. Three of Pat's books were inspired by her adorable youngest daughter and two of e.E.'s from their childhood. Pat and e.E. will increase your chances of success by sharing tips and tricks for having your fictional story be informed by reality, but not ruled by it. #WriteYourTruth

Copyright: e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow-Miller

"What makes a picture dream team?"

"How we connected."

"How we make it work."

"What story is for us?"

Pat's Journey

Pat has loved picture books from childhood to the present day. 

Pat's first time writing a book was at 19 years old, sophomore year of college. She submitted and when she received her first rejection, she stopped writing. 
But 20 years later, Pat started again and after saying to herself--"I didn't really try," she treated writing for kids as a part-time job. 

Now she has written 20 books!!!

Copyright: e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow-Miller

e.E Charlton-Trujillo's Journey

From poetry, prose & playwriting, to filmmaking, e.E ended up writing for children and teens. Their first children's book (The Outsiders) was given to them by a history teacher, and that is when e.E began to find their
 voice as a children's book writer. 

"There are A LOT of ways to find publishing success"

"Everyone's journey is different"

"Your mileage may vary" - Pat Zietlow-Miller

"Have fun" - e.E Charlton-Trujillo

Why real life?

"So many ideas come from real life." 
"Ideas are everywhere, they are all around us."
"We all have a story"

How do you take an idea and expand it?

By collecting phrases, names, and conversations; noticing things, and documenting them.

Pat's "Unstoppable John": 
From an interesting tweet that grew into an idea then into a story.

e.E's "Fat Angie": 
Opening chords of a song that spoke to them.

"We grow and learn from our experiences and it allows us to tap into authenticity."

How to Make it Happen
"Look around."
"Be curious."
"Take notes (written, photos, assemble digital lookbooks)."
"Allow this to be a fun process."
"Mine your life."
"Mine other peoples, but with respect. Especially if you are not of that experience."
"Always keep in mind why you are the best person to tell this story."


Pat's Wide-Awake Bear book came from an experience with her daughter. 

She woke her daughter from a nap and after a tantrum, Pat asked "What was that all about?" and Sonia, her daughter, responded, "I was hibernating and went into a bear frenzy.

After revisions to make it about the fear of waking up and being alone, Wide-Awake Bear was born.

e.E Charlton-Trujillo, who is Mexican-American, had epilepsy as a child. When e.E was young, they had a seizure, and their community ostracized them. e.E also had gotten into a car accident in their youth, and e.E pulled these experiences to create the story:

prizefighter en mi casa

Possible Pitfalls

Copyright: e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow-Miller

They continued to dive into:
  •     How to start
  •     How to revise
  •     Fact vs Fiction

If you want to view this session to hear the full content, along with the rest of the conference, register at Replays of the conferences will be available until September 10, 2023.

Check out the SCBWI Bookshop.

e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

e.E. Charlton-Trujillo is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and youth literacy activist. They have written books for teens and children such as the ALA winning and the Lambda Literary Finalist Fat Angie series, Prizefighter en Mi Casa and Feel Like Home. Their debut picture book, co-authored with NYT Bestseller Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Joe Cepeda, Lupe Lopez: Rock Star Rules was a Bank Street Best Book of the Year among other lists. Other picture books include A Girl Can Build Anything, written with Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Keisha Morris, and Lupe Lopez: Reading Rock Star.

Pat Zietlow Miller

Pat Zietlow Miller has published 20 picture books and has more on the way. Her first book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH, won the Golden Kite Award, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor, and a Charlotte Zolotow Honor. BE KIND was on the New York Times bestseller list for 10 weeks, and IN OUR GARDEN was a Dolly Parton Imagination Library selection. Pat lives in Wisconsin. Find her at, on Twitter at @PatZMiller and on Instagram at @patzmill.

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