Tag Archives: Claudia Mills

Animal Testing? NO WAY!

(Controversial!)

Long ago, I met Claudia Mills when shecame to speak at an SCBWI event. Oh, I LOVED her immediately. Little did I know, I had found a writer who’s books I loved right at the same time and had been reading all the author’s works. AND IT WAS CLAUDIA! AND THEN I MET HER AND REALIZED THIS IS MY FAVORITE GAL!

Anyway, I said to Claudia, “Do you like Oreos?”

She gave me an odd look. “Yes. Why do you ask?”

“Because your characters always eat them when they have a snack.”

People know who I am when they read my books, too. Bits and pieces of me slip through.

As writers, we must remember we are writing for teens or kids and not writing to drive home an agenda. Spoon-feeding a reader isn’t fun for the reader.

#37

What is the most controversial thing in your book?
Is it there because you want to make a point? Is it there because you are trying to change someone’s mind about something? Or are you just telling your story?

Go through your work.

Is this what a kid would say? Think? Feel?

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Filed under CLW, Exercises, Point of View, Voice, writing process

Memories

No one sent any of their writing exercises in, so there is no need to share.

I wonder, should we even try these anymore?

(Shrug)

 

I happened upon a very interesting thing as I wrote my speech for the Outstanding Achievement Award that was given to me by LDS Storymakers.

(By the way, this honor blew my mind. I never expected it. There are many, many people who could win this. Many great people who have won–like Rick Walton–last year.)

So, while I was writing what I would say (because you know in advance about this) I figured out why I write for kids.

The truth is, I have a very 12-yr-old voice.

I remember parts of when I was twelve.

And, while I won’t share it here, when I was writing this acceptance speech I knew the MOMENT I became twelve forever.

 

How the world was upside down because two important people in my life  were both so ill. Both in hospitals. One in Orlando. One in Daytona. We lived in Longwood, right in the middle between these two hospitals that were more than 56 miles apart.

My family and I would drive back and forth, after I got out of school, nearly every day to see these loved ones.

 

I must have been tired.

Because one day my best friend Vickie Finlay said, “You shouldn’t be going every day. This isn’t something a kid should be doing.”

I can’t remember what classroom we were sitting in. But she turned around in her seat to tell me that. “Carol. Only your mom should be doing that.”

 

Have any of you ever felt like writing a memoir?

I know my dear friend Claudia Mills has. In fact she has an amazing first line that makes you laugh and feel sorrow at the same time. She is a terrific writer.

Anyway, some days, I think, ‘Should I tell my story? Do I make it official? Do I have enough memories? Do I want those memories coming back?’

I’m not sure.

Plus, there is this fact: I know my truth seeps out and into my writing.

Do I need anything more?

 

Here’s another thing: The Olivers–that line Nanny came from–could hold a grudge forever.

I have tried to not do that because I mostly love people, but there have been a few individuals, a handful, that I have gotten angry with and kept the fury-flame a-burning because that person–who probably never thinks about me–deserves my fury. For example, the woman who has caused me so much grief these past two months.

I should be angry with her!

I have no place to live!

And she’s the kind of person who would walk around Macey’s grocery store in her wedding dress and not buy anything. (I know this for a fact.)

(PS I have decided to stay angry a little longer. I will let this go when I am no longer panicked about  where we will go. I will stop my Southern Turnip Curse when all my stuff has been safely placed in my forever home. I will quit telling others what I hope happens to this woman once we move to a good place. I promise!)

 

That said

these grudges aren’t so great.

One of my family members hasn’t spoken to me–really spoken to me–in more than sixteen years.

And now her children, who meant the world to me–haven’t spoken to me in several years. Not one of them.

I am missing out on their lives.

Yes, this story, bits of it will wind up in books.

But.

 

I think of how Ann Dee adores her mom.

That’s the way life should be.

 

I guess what I am saying is, even more important than all the books I have published or all the awards–and I have been very, very proud of these things–is who I am on the inside and my children. In the end, no books will circle my deathbed. Only my children and their families will. The Chosen One will not kiss me goodbye. Carolina Autumn will not hold my hand. Waiting will not tell me to “Go toward the light.”

Only my girls will.

Plus maybe my best friends (I have a few).

This will be my reward.

 

So I must do better. At all of it.

(Except the couple of grudge holding bits)

 

 

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Filed under CLW, Depression, Family

Ten Lists of Ten Things

So, let’s do a little digging into our characters this week.

In order of love to like, write ten things (where applicable) for the lists below.Do this for each of your characters. Do this for anyone who makes a significant appearance in your novel. Get to know them all.

When I had a permanent office, I would write lists and put them all over the room. This  was also the library and I remember I once taped up so many things that I hid many of the books on the shelves near my desk. I like that memory.

I’m going to ask Main Character Questions, but you make a list for secondary characters, too. Think ten things per question, starting with the very best and going down to something they quite like but could live without. This isn’t a don’t like list. Only a Yes! list. If you can think of the whys to these answers, do. Write them down. Maybe use a scene to show something mentioned here happening.

1. What is your main character’s favorite foods? (The first time I met the very cool and famous Claudia Mills I asked her, “Are Fig Newtons your favorite cookie?” “They used to be,” she said. “Why?” “Because all your characters eat Fig Newtons.” We have been fast friends ever since.)

2. Favorite TV shows? (TV plays an important part in my 1972, one-legged rooster, stolen motor home book.)

3. Favorite songs or bands? (Music can set a time or period. It can tell how a character feels. I have some novels where my character never mentions music at all, and some where music might be a life saver.)

4. Favorite clothes or outfits? (I do have my very own favorite sweatshirt, that has been in storage for too long, that I decided to wear every day of winter one year. Yup, my four-way sweatshirt. Hope I get that out of a box before it gets cold–really cold–again.)

5. Favorite places to travel to or hide or go to get away? (This could be important to the plot, couldn’t it?)

6. Favorite books? (Books always end up in my novels. I mention my friend’s published books or the books I loved when I was a kid or that I love now. Sometimes these books have an indirect importance in the story. Sometimes they give the MC the edge she needs to do something.)

7. Favorite activities? (I had one character who loved to skinny dip when it was night. Another who loved her crayons and started each journal entry with a different color. What tells us about your character?)

8. Favorite things to do when frustrated? (I watch HGTV. If I can get my mind off the hard stuff, my brain can sort of power up by letting  go. What about your character. Remember this–if your character is bored, so is your reader.)

9. Favorite secrets to keep? (Are any of these secrets dangerous? Do they hold a key to why your character does what she does? When the secret is revealed, does the story unfold?)

10. Favorite worries? (I bite my nails. It’s not really a favorite, but when things get super-tough, my nails are the first thing to go.)

While you may not use all these things in your own writing, remember this–that everything you put in your book may play a significant role. You can’t just throw things in because. Writing isn’t about word count. Let what you put in your novels work for you.

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Filed under Character, CLW, Exercises, writing process

Nothing Like a Contest to Remind Us We’re Aging!

We lucked out this week and got the amazing Claudia Mills to judge this middle grade contest for us.

Here’s her bio:
Claudia Mills is the author of forty-five books for young readers, most recently the Mason Dixon series from Knopf and Fractions = Trouble! from FSG, which was just named one of the “best of the best” books of 2011 by the Chicago Public Library.

Claudia has an amazing mid grade voice. When I first discovered her work, I’d published only Kelly and Me and a few Latter-day Daughter books. Claudia’s voice, her characters and their situations made me laugh till I cried. We met at an SCBWI meeting and I stalked her for only a little while before we became fast friends. I’ve loved her ever since I read one of her Dinah novels. Meeting her only confirmed my undying affection–Claudia is as funny in true life as she is in her writing. Plus also, guess what? I’ll love Claudia Mills till the day I die (and after that, too). We are PTSW and share the same agent.

Here’s what the amazing Claudia Mills had to say about YOUR writing:

Oh, this was hard to do! There was something I liked in every single one of these, from a sparkling detail, to an especially memorable line, to a promising story premise, to a surprising twist. Here’s a few:

The doctor speaking “in that high voice used for littler kids than me”
The scene idea of a boy sent to do his service hours cutting out valentine hearts for the dance committee
The idea of a a clueless character doing inappropriate field research into the science of love
A school project of making a mini city with marshmallow and spaghetti
A girl called Queen Dork because King Dork likes her
An opening line: “No one else believed it was a dragon house, but we knew.”
A vivid sense of place: “I set my suitcase down on the porch, hoping that it wouldn’t put another hole in the rotten boards. A small shower of dust fell from the roof as a truck rumbled by.”
Parents having to sign a permission slip before you can watch a snake eat a mouse
Two girls judging another girl’s curtsey as only a “peasant curtsey”
Feeling like “the gray-blue color of crayon that’s only good for storm clouds and stinky whales”
Another great opening line: “Until I kissed him, I’d thought Trent Lowry was cute.”
Plus a great closing line: “At that moment, I would’ve given anything to be kissing a frog instead of having one hop around in my stomach.’

Okay, no more stalling. I guess I really must choose.

So:

First place: Hugh Greenwood

I’d thought a lot about what Uncle David’s house would be like. The drive to Malone had taken three hours short of forever so there had been plenty of time. Besides, imagining a house I’d never seen was easier than imagining an uncle I’d never met. I came up with hundreds of possibilities: a mansion, a ranch, a log cabin with a bearskin rug, but the run-down, peeling, saggy house that we pulled up to didn’t come close to any of them.
I set my suitcase down on the porch, hoping that it wouldn’t put another hole in the rotten boards. A small shower of dust fell from the roof as a truck rumbled by. I coughed. There had to be some kind of mistake.
“This is it, Sam. No mistake.” Deb followed me up the steps, careful to avoid the gaping hole in the third one up. She always denied it, but I knew she had ESP or something; it was part of her job.
“Don’t give me that look,” she nudged me. I tipped into the railing which groaned and covered my sleeve in dirt and slivers. “I know it may not be– ”
“Safe?”
She gave me her shush-up-and-be-nice look.
“–what you expected, but I’m sure it’s perfectly fine.”
I saw her eye the front door which sat crooked in its frame. It looked like it would take some convincing to open.
“Besides,” she straightened her sweater, the envelope thick with my files shifted in her hand, “we talked about this. You’re not old enough to have a say in where you go. You’re lucky to have family to go to at all. At any rate, we are very thorough about these things. We’d never put you with your uncle if he didn’t check out.”
“Maybe you weren’t thorough enough this time,” I muttered as Deb stepped up to press the bell which dangled out of the wall by its wires.
A muted ‘ding-dong’ echoed behind the door.
Footsteps started from somewhere in the house and moved toward the door. The handle turned but the door didn’t budge. There was a brief pause and a muffled curse. Suddenly the door rattled violently, bringing down another shower of dust. After more cursing and one last screeching yank, the door flew open. A man covered in wood shavings and sweat stood in the doorway.
“You must be Sam.”

I loved the vivid sense of place here that put me completely into the scene with every detail. The opening drew me in immediately: “I’d thought a lot about what Uncle David’s house would be like. . . Imagining a house I’d never seen was easier than imagining an uncle I’d never met.” By the end of the short scene, after the beautifully detailed presentation of the house, I couldn’t wait to see what the uncle was like. That last line, “You must be Sam,” made me wild to know more about how the relationship between the two would develop.

Second place (tie) :
Ruby Tuscadero
Very funny young middle-grade voice, with spot-on kidlike perceptions of the cool and uncool teachers.

Emberly Clark
A well-framed scene building to an abrupt wrenching shift from funny to scary, just as would happen in real life.

April Hill, that means you are out. Please move over to the Play at Home side.

Congratulations, everybody, for putting your work out there for all of us to enjoy.

And thank you, Claudia, for helping us out this week.

NEW CONTEST


This week you must write a short, personal essay about you, the writer.
Please don’t think, “Essay? School! Yuck! No creativity there!”
What we want is something that touches our judge in some human way and convinces us of your heart.

You have just 300 words.
That means every word you use, counts.
So tell us why writing matters to you.

Remember to use a new name, and don’t tell anyone until after the judging is over.
The contest closes at five (5) pm on Wednesday, February 29.

You may vote for two (2) people now!
Judging will be on Thursday and Friday and will close midnight.
Follow the rules, exactly!

On your marks, get sets, go!

PS I am apologizing right now for any mistakes I may have made in this post.

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Filed under CLW, Project Writeway