Carolyn Huizinga Mills
Being a full-time teacher is what inspires me to get up early to write because at the end of the day, I am too tired to be creative! On a more serious note, my students do remind me of the importance of staying connected to my inner child and finding the magic in the ordinary.
Tell us about your new picture book, Grandpa’s Stars. What was your inspiration for the story?
This story was inspired by a comment from one of my kids near the end of a long, dark drive to Haliburton. I can’t remember which one of them said it, but they mentioned they knew we were getting close because they could see “Grandpa’s stars”. The line stuck with me, along with the concept of a child who experiences a different and special night sky outside of the city. The rest of the story grew from that seed of an idea.
Why did you choose to write a story about a child’s resilience in the face of sadness?
I didn’t set out with that intention, but as the story developed, I liked the idea of a shared experience and a child’s imagination serving as a means to provide comfort. At one point, I tried to take the story in another direction, away from the uncertainty and sadness of a loved one being ill, but those versions lacked resonance for me.
What do you hope your readers will take away from Grandpa’s Stars?
The importance of cherishing relationships and all the special moments that bond us to the people we love.
In addition to being a writer, you also teach Grade 7 students. How do your students inspire your work as a children’s author? (And, most importantly – do they think you’re a celebrity?)
Honestly, being a full-time teacher is what inspires me to get up early to write because at the end of the day, I am too tired to be creative! On a more serious note, my students do remind me of the importance of staying connected to my inner child and finding the magic in the ordinary. They are at the age where they are on the cusp of leaving childhood behind and entering a weird space of adolescent purgatory. Yet, even during this liminal stage, there is still magic in their imaginations.
Do they think I’m a celebrity? I know of exactly one student who considers me famous, but as for the rest, I’m not sure how interested they are in the fact that I’m an author. Twelve and thirteen-year-olds are difficult to impress!
What are you working on next?
I have another novel in the works and a few other picture book ideas in various stages of completion. Recently, while hiking with some friends, a compelling, new idea for a novel took root in my brain, and I was temporarily side-tracked by chasing the opening scenes of that story. It’s still germinating somewhere in the back of my mind, but the bulk of my attention has returned to finishing my current novel-in-progress, which strangely enough grew from a fleeting idea that originated on another hike.