My mother was an elementary school teacher who loved to write. When I was six years old she gave me a blank notebook and told me that this was to be my poetry book. So I began to write poetry. This was the beginning of my life as a writer.
I have one sister, one year younger than I am. She and I were (and are) extremely close, since we both loved reading and elaborate fantasy games. Together we dreamed up the magical kingdoms of Bladen (perfectly round), Maloone (shaped like a star), Socker (shaped like a sock), and Moo (shaped like a cow), ruled by princesses with names like Candleceina and Moonerette. So my sister helped me to become a writer, too.
I wrote dozens of poems in elementary school, as well as stories and plays. By the time I was in junior high school, I was writing love sonnets to one poor, persecuted boy I called "Apollo." My major literary effort in those years was a hundred-page-long autobiographical book about my eighth-grade year, called T is for Tarzan (my nickname in those days was Tarzan). I still draw heavily from my own life in my books, but at least now I change the names. And I've learned that I can change the stories, too -- to make them funnier, sadder, better -- to make them turn out the way things should have turned out, but didn't, in real life.
I began writing professionally when I left graduate school impulsively in mid-year to take a secretarial job at Four Winds Press in New York City. I had a two-hour commute each way by bus, and I used that time to write novels and picture books. I began submitting these to Four Winds Press, using a fake name, so I could observe their fate undetected. On two occasions, I had the sad task of having to type rejection letters to myself. But finally a story proved promising enough that the editor who was my boss asked me to read it for a second opinion. I took the challenge and wrote an objective, balanced report on my own story, including suggestions for needed revision. The editor then sent the author (me) a copy of my report and said that if the manuscript was revised as suggested, she would like to see it again and consider it for publication. And so I took all the advice that I had had the good sense to give myself and reworked my story accordingly. It became At the Back of the Woods. And I became a published writer.
I have always had another job while writing my books. In fact, I have two other "jobs" right now, because I am a philosophy professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and I am the mother of two boys. This means that my writing never seems like a job to me. It is the special, secret work that I love best. I write early in the morning, while the rest of my family is still sound asleep. I lie on the couch upstairs, with a mug of Earl Grey tea or hot chocolate beside me, and scribble away with my favorite felt-tipped pen on a narrow-ruled pad, as I watch the rising sun cast a rosy glow on the Rocky Mountains beyond my home. It's a lovely way to start a day. And I love thinking that on some other couch far away, someone will be reading my stories and sharing the characters and worlds I have created.
Claudia Mills was born in New York City on August 21, 1954. She received her B.A. degree from Wellesley College in 1976, her M.A. degree from Princeton University in 1979, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1991. She also received an M.L.S. degree from the University of Maryland in 1988, with a concentration in children's literature. She worked as an editorial assistant at Four Winds Press (Scholastic) from 1979-1980 and as an editor at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland 1980 to 1989. Since 1991 she has taught philosophy, first as an assistant professor at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, then as an assistant professor and now as an associate professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She has two children, Christopher Wahl (born in September 1988) and Gregory Wahl (born in October 1991) and one cat named Snickers.
Email Claudia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or write to her at 47 Benthaven Place, Boulder CO 80305. You can also visit her University of Colorado Philosophy Dept website at www.colorado.edu/philosophy/fac_mills.shtml