A Peek at the Creative Space of Claudia Mills

claudia-picture-2 Claudia Mills is the beloved children’s book author of more than fifty books, including the Franklin School Friends series, The Nora Notebooks series, and one of my personal favorites, Zero Tolerance. Her latest book (and THIRD published this year!!) is Write This DownHere is the publisher’s summary:

Twelve-year-old Autumn loves to write, and she can’t wait to grow up and be a published author. She finds inspiration all around her, but especially in Cameron, the dreamy boy in her journalism class who she has a major crush on. When her older brother Hunter makes fun of one of her most personal poems―about Cameron―Autumn decides to prove that she is talented enough to become a published author. But when her essay about Hunter wins a contest, and her dream of being published is finally within reach, Autumn has to decide whether being a real writer is worth the cost of sharing her family’s secrets and hurting people she loves. This touching story is sure to resonate with readers, and prove that the heart is mightier than the pen.


If you happen to be near Boulder, CO, tomorrow night (Tuesday, October 18, 2016) you can join Claudia at the Boulder Bookstore for the launch party for Write This Down at 6:30pm! More info here.

To learn more about Claudia Mills and her books, visit her website.



Describe your workspace.

I’m lucky enough to have an office to myself in my home, with a desk where I can look out at tree branches just inches away from the window, two bookcases crammed full of beloved children’s books, and best of all, a little, comfy, cozy, tan suede-y loveseat where I can curl up beneath a literary-themed throw (I have one for the Little House books, and one for the Betsy-Tacy books of Maud Hart Lovelace).


Describe a typical workday.

I get up at 5, indulge in a teensy bit of email and Facebook, and then write for a good, solid hour from 5:30-6:30. From 6:30 to 7:30 I walk with my close friend Rowan, who lives a few blocks from me. For the last 25 years or so, the rest of the day would have been taken up with my job as a philosophy professor at the University of Colorado. But now the rest of the day is taken up with amusing an adorable two-year-old granddaughter, while her daddy is off at work and her momma is preoccupied with her equally adorable newborn baby sister. I have never in my entire career counted on more than one hour of real work time in a typical workday.


List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.


  • My beautiful cherry-wood hourglass which times my writing hour for me.
  • The clipboard I’ve had since high school, minus its clip, and with a dented corner where I threw it at an old boyfriend partway through college. I’ve written every single book leaning on its surface.
  • My pads of narrow-ruled white paper and huge quantities of Pilot Razor Point fine-tipped black marker pens, my writing utensils of choice (well, for me, they are necessities).

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

My rituals are just writing early each morning, by hand, using the beloved objects just mentioned and drinking the beloved beverage to be mentioned below!


What do you listen to while you work?

With any luck, just my own thoughts. But sometimes I listen to the dog whining for me at the gate downstairs, and at the two-year-old, up too early, clinging to the gate and sobbing, “Mimsie! Mimsie! Mimsie!”


What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Swiss Miss hot chocolate. Always.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

For me, it’s knowing that I have just that one hour. If I had all day, I’d probably waste most of it.


Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

I write longhand for all my creative work. Then I type the first draft onto the computer and do revisions there, unless I need an entire new scene, in which case I return to pen and paper. For academic, scholarly work, I work directly on the computer from minute one.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I spend a good amount of time jotting notes on my pad of paper, including lots of questions to myself (“What is this book about?” – “Nixie needs to act badly – how?” – “I need one more story strand!” – “How can I make the reader feel for Nixie?” But so much changes as I write that I try to plunge into that part of the process as soon as possible.


If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

Snickers-the-cat is an agreeable companion; Tanky-the-dog, never! I do love having writing dates with friends, but usually prefer going to their houses, as mine is so full of human and animal residents. The crucial thing for me is that I have to be the one to get the couch.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

This is not explicitly writing advice, but I love the Pete Seeger Garden Song that begins, “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make my garden grow.” It helps me to have faith that if I write a page a day, in an hour a day, day after day after day after day, I’ll end up with a book, or actually, lots and lots of books. Tiny seeds really do grow into something big and beautiful.