The Authors and Illustrators - Profiles

Sarah Ellis

  Sarah Ellis was born on May 19, 1952 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The energetic and imaginative youngest of three, Ellis liked to tell stories and play imaginary games. Ellis learned to read at a young age as reading was a family activity in Ellis' home. Her parents often read stories aloud to Ellis and her brothers and encouraged her love of literature by giving her books. Ellis' loving and supportive family-life nurtured the storyteller in her. The family also spent a good deal of time talking with each other and telling anecdotes. In addition to writing Ellis also had a diverse range of other interests, and like Polly, the protagonist in Pick-Up Sticks, Ellis played the French horn. Because of her wide range of interests, Ellis did not envision a career for herself as a professional writer, although others did.
  In 1973, after completing a diverse Bachelors of Arts program at the University of British Columbia, Ellis still did not know what career path she wished to pursue. When a friend decided to go to the UBC's Library School she decided to attend as well. She greatly enjoyed her studies and planned to become a professional librarian. After working for some time as librarian, Ellis decided to pursue a Masters degree in children's literature at Simmons College, in Boston. While studying, she began writing because her instructors encouraged writing as a part of the program. When she completed her degree in 1980, she returned to her work as a librarian for the children's collection at the North Vancouver District Library.
  In 1984, Ellis decided that her life needed a new direction and she took a six-month leave to write. Ellis tried writing articles but no one would accept them. She wrote short stories and even an instructional manual. She even started a picture book which was rejected. The rejection letter sent by the publisher was encouraging and suggested she try writing fiction and her first novel The Baby Project was born. In addition to her fictional writing and work as a part-time librarian, Ellis also writes literary criticisms. A large number of her critical reviews and other articles can be read in literary and library publications like The Horn Book and Emergency Librarian
  Writing is never an easy process but Ellis is very dedicated writer. She writes for seven hours each day sometimes longer, when she is inspired. She spends about a year perfecting a story, working out the details, revising and correcting as she goes. An intuitive writer, Ellis lets the story lead her. Her novels start from vague notions of character and plot and evolves from there. After extensive revising she sends the manuscript off to her publisher, receiving it back for one or more rounds of editing. When all the problems have been worked out and the last of the proofing has been done the final version is sent out for publication.
  Sarah Ellis' objective is not to write books for children, but rather to write books about children. She says she writes about the adolescent years because she is interested in the period of transition from child to adult and is driven to explore it in her writing. She often uses her own experiences and memories as a guide to writing about adolescent characters. Ellis is a careful listener and observer which enables her to create realistic dialogue and compelling visual descriptions. Ellis' story ideas are also inspired also by events outside her own experience. Her ideas are often triggered by a radio program, observing others or simply listening to people speak. She also uses her personal memories of growing up, her family and her own life as inspiration for her work.

Sarah Ellis


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