Books And More

A Running Start

TFK chats with Pat Zietlow Miller, author of the new picture book, The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

February 26, 2016
DON HEINY FOR TIME FOR KIDS; BOB BEAVERSON

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville, written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Frank Morrison, is about two girls — Alta and Charmaine —who live in Clarksville, Tennessee. They both claim to be the fastest runner in town. Clarksville also happens to be the hometown of African-American sprinter and Olympic gold medalist Wilma Rudolph. Although Alta and Charmaine don’t get along at first, they become friends through their shared admiration for Rudolph and their passion for running. Miller spoke with TFK about the book and her career.

TFK:

At the beginning of the book, Alta and Charmaine are very competitive with one another. Later they realize their similarities. How would you describe the moral of this story?

MILLER:

The moral is that you never really know who your friends are going to be. Sometimes you can meet someone and not like him or her initially because of some little thing, but as you get to know them you learn that there is more to them than you originally thought.

TFK:

Did you provide your ideas to illustrator Frank Morrison, or did he surprise you?

MILLER:

I adore Frank Morrison's art, and I didn't see it until it was almost done, so it was a surprise. Usually picture-book writers and illustrators don't collaborate. I think Frank's talents as an illustrator are how well he can show facial expressions and how well he shows movement.

TFK:

In what way did Wilma Rudolph inspire you?

MILLER:

I learned about her story in grade school and I remember thinking how awesome it was that she worked so hard to overcome the fact that she could not walk so well, and that she didn’t come from a wealthy family. She ended up being extremely successful because she was determined. You can do a lot of things if you work hard and put your mind to it.

TFK:

What type of research did you do, to learn more about Wilma Rudolph’s life?

Kid Reporter
Nicholas Curry

MILLER:

I read a lot of books about her, including a hard-to-find autobiography. I talked to a historian that filled me in on the history of the town and about Wilma. When you read the book there’s only a couple of lines about Wilma, but getting those lines right took a lot of work, reading and research.

TFK:

Would you ever write another book inspired by a real character or historical figure?

MILLER:

I hope so. The funny thing is, when I began writing this book I didn’t think that it would have Wilma in it. I thought it would only be about the two girls. But then I realized I needed to add something more and that’s when I added Wilma. I really liked how it turned out, so I do think I would do it in the future.

TFK:

I learned that you were a sports reporter earlier in your career. What was your favorite assignment?

MILLER:

I was a sports reporter throughout college and then for a few years after I graduated. I mostly covered local high school and college sports, but I did interview Olympic gymnast Bart Conner and I interviewed current University of Virginia college basketball coach and former NBA player Tony Bennett when he was one of the top high school basketball players in Wisconsin.

TFK:

Did you ever grow up running track or competing in sports?

MILLER:

I played basketball, but never ran track. Actually, Wilma Rudolph played basketball too.


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