Ellen was born in the far north of Duluth, Minnesota but grew up in pre-freeway So-Cal during the fifties and sixties, when the towns were sweetly small and funky and orange groves still ruled the landscape. If she wasn’t racing around on her bike, she was reading Nancy Drew, The Boxcar Children, The Bobbsey Twins, Mrs. PiggleWiggle, Mary Poppins, comic books, and the backs of cereal boxes (just like The Lucky Lizard does).
Her first published story, “My Cat Felix”, appeared in her hometown newspaper when she was seven. Later, in eighth grade English class she wrote her first Y.A. story, “The Execution”, a grim Thanksgiving tale (told by the turkey).
Ellen’s story ideas come from all sorts of places, real and imagined. The Lucky Lizard began when her son captured a bluebelly lizard in the chaparral-covered hills near the family home. Tarantulas used to migrate across their yard; that’s where the story “The Tarantula” got its start. When Ellen’s kids caught chicken pox she stuck them in a bathtub of oatmeal and wrote “Itching to Play”.
Her picture books grew from early memories: at five she wanted to be the Lone Rangerette. That inspired Buckamoo Girls. My Life as a Chicken began with feeding the chickens at her great-grandparents' Encino, CA ranch. How their chickens transformed into the adventure of Pauline Poulet is part of the mystery of being a writer. Ellen doesn’t exactly think of stories, so much as hear the characters’ voices and see pictures in what she calls her “movie mind”–more about that in a later installment on her Kids’ Clicks page.
When she’s not writing or leading poetry workshops, Ellen likes to sing, play guitar, beachcomb, bake cookies, swim, visit her grown-up kids, and play with her grandson. She and her green-architect husband John enjoy road trips to the southwest and to national parks. Ellen considers herself even luckier than The Lucky Lizard to live the writer’s life.