About Ellen

About Ellen
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I was born in Belleville, Illinois on October 21, 1948 and lived there until I left for college at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. I was the only child of parents who owned a small grocery store. We lived in a house that adjoined the store, so I could raid the ice cream freezer or the candy bar boxes more often than I should have. (Which made me very popular in grade school.) But on weekends I was sometimes pressed into service to bag groceries or dust the shelves, never my favorite jobs.

By the time I finished college, I wanted to see another part of the country, so I moved to Ashland, Oregon where a good friend of mine was living. I loved Oregon and probably would have stayed there except for the fact that I was accepted into the Iowa Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa for my Master of Fine Arts degree. I wanted to become a poet, and I did publish a book of poetry, Breakers, in 1979.

After that I spent three years living in Provincetown, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, where some of my books have been set. Again, I'd found a beautiful place where I loved living. I was fortunate enough to have two fellowship years in Provincetown at the Fine Arts Work Center, a residential program which nurtures young artists. I wrote fiction and poetry there, and soon after began to try my hand at playwriting. I also worked for the local newspaper, The Provincetown Advocate.

I loved writing plays; they're all dialogue--my favorite thing! But the process of getting a play produced is very difficult. All of my plays were given staged readings in Boston, and one of them, entitled "One Civilized Person," was done in a limited performance in New York City. It also won the author's prize at the annual Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theaters competition. Over the years I've been a finalist four times in the Massachusetts Artists Fellowship programs, twice in poetry, and once each in fiction and playwriting.

It wasn't until I had two children of my own, and a job as a children's librarian, that it occured to me to try to write for young adults. I started reading the YA books in my department and found so many of them were wonderful. Some of the first and most inspiring books I read were Celine and The Goats, by Brock Cole, and The Great Gilly Hopkins and Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson. I decided to try writing for young adults myself. My first novel, Lombardo's Law, was published in 1993 and I've never looked back.

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