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Claudia Johnson

Claudia Johnson is a nationally recognized advocate for free speech and social justice. In 1993, she was honored with the inaugural PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award, presented by Paul Newman, for her “extraordinary efforts to restore banned literary classics to Florida classrooms”—and again in the 2022 “PEN America at 100” exhibition at the New York Historical Society. She continues to fight book banning, recently helping reinstate banned books to Virginia Beach classrooms and libraries.   

Her second memoir, Hurtling Toward Happiness: A Mother and Teenage Son’s Road Trip from Blues to Bonding in a Really Small Car, was praised by the New York Times for its “quick pace and energetic dialogue that shows genuine warmth between mother and son.” Her screenwriting text, Crafting Short Screenplays That Connect—now in its fifth/Twentieth Anniversary edition—introduced the narrative theory that human connection is as essential as conflict in the stories we tell. Her civil rights documentary, The Other Side of Silence: The Untold Story of Ruby McCollum, was awarded the Gold Jury Prize at Seattle’s Social Justice Film Festival and Best Florida Documentary at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. She is a member of the founding faculty of the FSU Film School and also taught screenwriting at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. 

She has coauthored two books with her longtime writing partner, Matt Stevens—A Christmas Belle, a sequel to Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, and Script Partners: How to Succeed at Co-Writing for Film & TV, now in its second edition. And their cowritten screenplays have been optioned and named finalists in multiple competitions, including Final Draft’s Big Break Screenwriting Contest and the Sundance Screenwriters Lab.  

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