Here's the second entry in Claudia Mills's charming middle-grade series, that finds the lovably sardonic title character starting the fourth grade, which he's dreading because everyone in fourth grade is expected to join the school choir. And sing. In front of everyone. Mason can't think of many things he enjoys less than singing--but performing in front of other people might come close. Mason devises a foolproof plan that will keep him out of the spotlight on concert night. Of course, in the world of Mason Dixon, there is no such thing as a foolproof plan. There is only disaster.
Some writers say that they hate to write. I love to write. I write my books early in the morning, while the rest of my family is still asleep. I get up at 5 a.m., fix myself a mug of hot chocolate or Earl Grey tea, and then curl up on the couch with my pad and pen. I still write the first draft of every book by hand, always on a white, narrow-ruled pad, and always with a black, felt-tipped, fine-point pen. Sometimes I lie there half dreaming, making notes on my pad that say things like "Help! Where is the humor !!" or "I need more action!" Sometimes I scribble away as fast as my hand can move across the page, lost in the world of my story. I write until breakfast, or until my two boys wake up, whichever comes first. Usually I don't get much more than one page written in a day. But page by page, day by day, on the couch at dawn, I've written many books now.
I didn't always write on the couch, and I didn't always write with the same kind of pad and pen. When I was growing up in New Jersey, I wrote anywhere and everywhere often during math class, which is why I never learned much algebra. When I finally collected all my childhood writings from my parents' house, I had a drawer full of hundreds of poems I had written before I was sixteen. There were poems scrawled on napkins, on the backs of church bulletins, and, of course, on math tests, where the answers should have been. But I have always loved the early morning best.
Now I live in Boulder, Colorado, with my husband, Richard Wahl, and my two sons, Christopher and Gregory. All my first books were about girls show-off girls, shy girls, selfish girls, unselfish girls but all somehow me, reflections of the girl I once was, and still am deep inside. Now I find myself writing about boys, too, inspired by the two real-life boys who share my days. When I was expecting the birth of my first child, I was stunned when the doctor told me it would be a boy: "But all my books are about girls!" "Well, now you'll have to start writing books about boys,"he told me, and his prediction came true.
I've also started writing stories about younger children, though most of my stories are set in the middle grades. I remember a poem I wrote the day before I turned ten, which began: "There is much magic in the
age / Of ten, that year as rich as gold " Ten and eleven and twelve have certainly been magical and rich ages for me as a writer. When I go to schools, I tell the children that they could spend the rest of their lives just writing books about the things that happened to them in fifth grade.
So between 5 and 7 a.m. every day, I return to fifth grade, or sixth grade, sometimes even seventh, and, between sips of cocoa or tea, I bring that world to life again.
And I love doing it.