So, I thought today I’d share a little bit about how I got to where I am. I’ll focus on my writing, not on all of my life. (My life would take at least two blogs.)
- I decided to be a writer when I was in second grade. I kept escaping my classroom to the library (never one to set low goals, I’d decided to read every book in the library) and my teacher had a serious talk with me. “When you grow up you can be a writer, and spend all your time in the library. But first you have to finish second grade.” From that point on I told everyone I was going to be a writer.
- A little later on I was editor of my high school newspaper, which won an award from the New Jersey Press Association for being the best high school newspaper in New Jersey that year.
- I spent one summer in high school working at The Boothbay Register, a weekly paper in Maine that’s still around. My job was to proofread, walk around town to pick up ads, and remind local columnists if their columns were late. One of the men I worked with pinched. (Welcome to the adult world!)
- I majored in English and drama in college, since I couldn’t decide which one I liked better. I wrote plays for children’s theatre and poetry. Several of the plays were produced on campus, and one of my poems won a national award. Marianne Moore was the judge of the poetry contest; she praised my work, and I was thrilled. (The poem is on my website (see “Ellie Poem” under “Books”) and is used in high school and college classes in several countries today.)
- My first post-college job was as an executive speech writer at a now-defunct company called Western Electric, which manufactured telephones and other equipment for the old Bell System. When I was given my first assignment on the executive floor, the secretaries there wouldn’t let me in. They didn’t believe a woman could be a speechwriter.
- Later I worked for AT&T and for two years was the producer, writer, and on-camera talent for a daily CCTV show for employees in New York City and New Jersey.
- My master’s thesis (New York University) was on the changing role of the mother in fiction for teenagers written from 1950–1955 and 1960-1965. (As I remember, most of the 100 books I read focused on team sports or getting a date for the prom.)
- For about ten years, as the single adoptive parent of four and advocate for older child and single parent adoption, I wrote a bimonthly adoption newsletter for adoptive parents and prospective parents, and contributed articles on adoption to anthologies.
- My first published fiction was a short story from the point of view of a fourteen-year-old girl giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome. It was published in a literary magazine called Happy.
- And the first full book I wrote, a mystery, was rejected by over forty agents. Eventually, about six years later, it was published by Scribner as Shadows at the Fair, and was a finalist for a “best first” Agatha. It wasn’t the first book I’d had published, though. That was a book for ages 8-12 set in 1806 Maine called Stopping to Home.
I’ve had sixteen books published since Stopping to Home in 2001, and two more, one in each of my mystery series, will be published next fall: Shadows on a Morning in Maine in September, and Dangling By a Thread in November.