Published 6 months ago
One of the featured books in our Bookroo chapter book box this month is Izzy Barr, Running Star, by Claudia Mills.
Claudia has been writing ever since she was six years old, when her mother, who was a teacher, gave her a poetry notebook. Her path to becoming a published author is quite a tale in and of itself! While she was working at a publishing company, she was submitting drafts of her stories to the same company. One day, her boss asked her to read one of her own drafts to get a second opinion. She did so, giving some suggestions to the author, and later incorporated those suggestions to herself in what became her published book, At the Back of the Woods. Claudia was born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, earned degrees from Wellesley College, Princeton University, and University of Maryland, and now lives in Boulder Colorado, where she recently retired from being a professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado to write full time.
We hope you enjoy the interview and the chance to learn more about Claudia and her work! You can also see more of her work on her website.
Bookroo: What is one of your favorite things about creating your Franklin School Friends series?
Claudia: It may sound nerdy to confess this, but as a child I loved school. I loved it so much I even counted down the days till school would start again at the end of summer vacation. So I loved writing a series built entirely around a group of friends at school, focusing on their classroom interactions. It was also fun to have a different main character for each book, so that every kid gets a turn to star in a story.
Bookroo: Izzy Barr, Running Star is the third book in the series. What is one thing you hope readers learn from Izzy Barr's character?
Claudia: Sometimes when things are wrong, it's up to you to take the right step to make them right.
Bookroo: You have written 56 published books. Can you share some of the highs and lows of the journey to that milestone?
Claudia: I love to write, so the more chances I get to write, the happier I am. I’ve learned so much about writing from wrestling with the challenges posed by each individual book. I have to say that the journey itself has been pretty much all joy. But the hardest thing for me has been to accept that every book – every single one! – is going to require require significant revision. I have never ever gotten a book right on the first try. Although revision is the most satisfying part of writing – watching a book get so much better before my very eyes – just once I’d like to have my editor read a manuscript I send to her and say, “This book is perfect!”
Bookroo: You have a morning routine of writing as you watch the sunrise over the Rocky Mountains. Can you tell us more about that daily writing routine?
Claudia: Routines and rituals are so important to me as a writer. I always get up early – usually at 5, but today it was 3:30 – in the morning! I always drink the same beverage – Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate – yum! I use an hourglass to measure my writing time: I begin my writing time by turning over the hourglass so the sand starts to shift through. Lately, I’ve started adding the burning of a candle. A lit candle feels like an invitation to the writing muse: come in, I’m here!
Bookroo: What other interests or hobbies do you enjoy?
Claudia: In my life, I have what I call “the four pillars of happiness” – four things that I want to include in every single day. They are: writing (of course!), reading, walking, and spending time with friends. Any day is a good one that has those four things in it.
Bookroo: What does an average day look like for you?
Claudia: I’m such a morning person that it’s crucial for me to get up early and have my writing time first – followed by walking time with my little dog, Tanky, and a friend. There is no average shape for the rest of the day. I may teach a class – or give a talk – or read a manuscript for a writer friend – or answer a lot of emails – or play with my two little granddaughters, age 5 and almost 3, who stay with us for ten days each month. In the evening is when I do most of my reading.
Bookroo: What are you currently reading?
Claudia: I read a lot of children’s books because I love them! The most recent kids’ title I’ve read is The Encyclopedia of Me, by Karen Rivers – such a great voice. I’m in a grownup book group where we read and discuss a book each month from a country or culture other than our own. This month it was a collection of contemporary poetry from Cuba called Burnt Sugar.
Bookroo: Do you have a favorite children’s books?
Claudia: I do. It was my favorite as a child, and it’s my favorite to this day: Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown from the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, published in the 1940s and 1950s. I even attend fandom conventions where hundreds of people who love this author and her work gather in Minnesota, where the books are set – we eat food from the books, sing songs from the books, and compete fiercely in trivia contests about them.
Bookroo: What advice do you have for parents and others who are trying to raise readers?
Claudia: Make reading a special time, with family pilgrimages to the library to pick out armloads of books. Don’t supervise your kids’ reading too much – let them discover treasures on their own. Let your kids read widely in all different kinds of genres – it’s fine if they love graphic novels, or sports books, or nonfiction. Read to your kids even after they are well able to read on their own; making reading aloud a favorite family activity. Most of all: be an ardent reader yourself. It’s hard to encourage our kids to be readers if we are somehow always too busy to read.
Bookroo: We’re a community of book lovers. Do you have any recent or upcoming books you can tell us about?
Claudia: Thank you for asking! I have a new chapter-book series coming out from Holiday House this summer, called After-School Superstars, which is set in an after-school program where the kids attend a different themed camp each month. The first title is Nixie Ness, Cooking Star, set in a cooking camp. I had such fun trying out all the recipes for it (the Morning Glory muffins turned out best). The second title is Vera Vance, Comics Star, where the kids learn all about making their own comics – which meant that I had to learn all about making comics, too, which was a huge treat.
All images courtesy of Claudia Mills
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