About

photo by Tim Loose

photo by Tim Loose

design by Alex Ferrari
design by Alex Ferrari

 
Design by Alex Ferrari

 

There’s lots here, but it’s all bulleted, so skim through and read what you’re interested in!

I was born in Boston, MA on March 3rd 1966. When I was three, my family moved to Holderness, NH, one of the places I still consider home. My dad ran a summer resort called Rockywold-Deephaven Camps on the shores of Squam Lake in the foothills of the White Mountains—the most beautiful spot in the world. The movie On Golden Pond was filmed there if you need a visual. A few tidbits:

  • There were four kids in my family, but my brother moved to LA when I was four (he was 16) so I hardly ever saw him.
  • We raised ducks and geese, boarded horses, and had a cow called Barnsmell.
  • When I was 8, my mother and I took the bus to California (she had a fear of flying)—four days and three nights. In Nevada, I was asleep and she went into a rest-stop to set her hair. The bus left without her. She caught up to me two hours down the road; we were both freaked out.

When I was eleven, my mom and I spent a year moving around: Newfields, NH, Redwood Valley, CA, Rochester, MI. She and my dad had just split so she was visiting family while she figured out what to do next. 

  • In Redwood Valley, I lived on a 98 acre grape vineyard and pig farm with my 12 cousins. No one wore shoes.
  • In Rochester, I attended St. John’s Lutheran School for two months—a world away from the pig farm.

After our year on the road, we settled in Durham, NH where my mom enrolled in a Masters’ program at UNH. I started seventh grade at Oyster River Middle School and stayed in that school system until I graduated from Oyster River High School in 1984.

  • My mom was part-time in the counseling program, but needed to be full-time to live in (cheap) student housing, so she took extra credits in PE. While my friends’ parents were going to jobs as bankers or teachers or engineers, my mom was rushing off to her classes in cross-country skiing, total fitness, and swimming.
  • I earned Varsity Letters in Math, Music, and Drama, and I still maintain that I was not a geek.
  • My mom took in roomers to help pay the rent when she had graduated and had to get a real apartment. One of the roomers was named Fudd.
  • I spent the summers with my dad and my step-family on Squam Lake .

When I graduated from high school, I went to Brown University in Providence, RI.

  • I took all of my classes junior and senior year (and most of sophomore year) Pass/Fail. (Brown calls it Satisfactory/No Credit, and allows you to do this.)
  • My roommates during sophomore year were from Long Island, Korea, and Belgrade.
  • I spent a semester of my junior year in London at Queen Mary College.
  • I read a lot of 18th and 19th Century British Literature, flirted with majoring in Physics, Classics, Religious Studies, and History before deciding to be an English major (and yes, I flirted with a lot of guys, too…)
  • I wrote my senior thesis on Virginia Woolf and graduated with Honors (despite the fact that I had no GPA).
  • During the summer, I waited tables at Howard Johnson’s (two years) and Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant (two years.) At Hart’s, they make everything with turkey instead of chicken: turkey croquettes, turkey cordon bleu, turkey nuggets. We don’t use the “c” word at Hart’s.  

For my first job, I taught 7th and 8th grade English at the Roland Park Country School in Baltimore, MD.

  • Roland Park was all girls, and they wore uniforms: blue jumpers or skirts, white blouses, white bobby socks, and brown shoes.
  • My roommate was from Mobile, Alabama. When she moved out with all the furniture, my new roommate and I had dinner parties on a blanket on the floor of the dining room.
  • My boyfriend from Brown and I carried on a long distance relationship between Ann Arbor, MI and Baltimore for two years.  He moved to Baltimore and we broke up two weeks later.

After Baltimore, I moved to Cambridge, MA and got a Master’s in Education at Harvard Unversity.

  • I was a freshman proctor and academic advisor and lived in a dormitory of freshmen right on Harvard Yard. It was my job to help them pick classes and prevent keg parties.
  • I got engaged to Ferg, a guy I’ve known since I was three years old. He and his family vacationed on Squam Lake. We got engaged six months after we started dating. When you know, you know.

After graduating from Harvard, I moved to West Chester, PA, where Ferg  is from, and got a job teaching at the Westtown School. That’s where I’ve been ever since.

  • I have two kids, a son who is 15 and a daughter who is 12.
  • Both of our kids have gone to the Kimberton Waldorf School—a school that has a no TV, no video games, no computer policy for school and home. Instead, students learn to knit, sculpt, garden and blacksmith, along with the usual three R’s. Still, my son knows how to download music from iTunes better than I do. How does that happen?
  • We still vacation at Squam Lake every summer. Now my kids play with the children of people I played with. A little scary.
  • I’ve become a Phillies fan, but I cried when the Red Sox won the World Series because my dad wasn’t alive to see it.
  • We used to have chickens but the zoning in our township says that you must have three acres to have chickens. Do they know that chickens live in two by two cages on most factory farms?
  • We have a dachshund named Buster who sits on my lap when I write.

Writing life.

  • I didn’t start even imagining myself as a writer until I was 30.
  • My first book took five years to write and never got published. (It’s set in the same world as Watersmeet and The Centaur’s Daughter, so it was still a useful book to write.)
  • It took me three years to write the draft of Watersmeet that sold to Marshall Cavendish.
  • I wrote a draft of The Centaur’s Daughter in less than a year.
  • I met my agent and my publisher at a conference at the One-on-One conference at Rutgers University.
  • I write whenever I can rather than at a set time. I tried getting up at 5 for a while but it turns out, I am not a good person when I wake up at 5.
  • I don’t write every day and probably wouldn’t even if I could fit it in. Five days a week, three hours a day would be ideal, but family and job keep me from being able to do this regularly.
  • I write on an antique tavern table with knife marks all over the top.
  • I always write on my laptop, never long hand.

So…that’s a flavor of my life. Feel free to ask about things you’d like to know! If I can, I’ll answer you!

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31 Responses to “About”

  1. Hello Ellen,
    It was a real treat meeting you and I had NO idea!!!
    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Kind regards,
    Fee

  2. A wonderful read, Ellen. Thank you and I’m all prepped for the sequel!!
    Kind regards,
    Fee

    • Thanks so much, Fee! Thanks so much for seeking out my book and reading it! I’m so glad you liked it! (How do you think it would translate into Farsi?) It’s too bad I couldn’t sign it for you. I’ll post my next reading here, in case you can drop by. Oh–and you have to give me some suggestions for good Persian fairytale/folktale collections!

  3. Hi! I just read ur book for summer reading and loved it!!!:)
    It’s excactly the kind of book I like to read, and I’m so glad the summer reading books r good this year

    • Thanks got getting in touch, Em! I’m so glad you liked my book–and that it made summer reading fun! I know lots of students complain about summer reading and I like to think that some of them are happy to have a book like mine to read on vacation! I hope I meet you in the fall!

  4. Hi Ellen,
    A quick note from your cousin Nathaniel. I bought the book from Amazon, had to read my cousin’s new book! Very impressive! I was pulled into the story. Much admiration for you and your awesome imagination. Looking forward to the movie! Others are in line to read the book. I hope you will write another.

    • Thanks for the note, Thani! I’m waiting for one of your books! And I would love to see a movie of Watersmeet too! I’m thinking Jimmy Smits as Rueshlan!

  5. Hi Ellen,
    I cannot believe you are a famous author – so many from our tiny town in NH. I just found Thalia’s book in my kids’ school library and from her website discovered that you too are an author so Watersmeet will be my next read! Congratulations!

    • Hey, Janet! Thanks for getting in touch! Isn’t Thalia’s book wonderful? Thanks for looking into Watersmeet, too. There must be something in the water in Durham, NH! PS Ethan Gilsdorf has a book out too: Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. Check it out!

      • Okay I finally read the book – I have to say I absolutely loved it! What a great book on so many levels. I have recommended it to a number of friends and will also recommend it to our school library ( who’s been waiting for my review). Can’t wait for the sequel!
        (Another published author who is a couple of years younger than us is Kristin Waterfield Duisberg – she wrote The Good Patient, a totally different genre than yours, but a good read all the same.)

  6. Hey Ellen! It was great to meet/have lunch with you at the Archdiocese librarian meeting a couple weeks ago! And I just realized I will be seeing you again tonight at Children’s Book World! Can’t wait. 🙂

    • I can’t wait either! I had a great time with you all at the librarians’ meeting! Librarians are great people!! See you at Children’s Book World!

  7. Thank you so, so much for the copy of WATERSMEET that you sent me as a winner of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s contest!! I had no idea that I won until I received your book in the mail yesterday, and I am just beyond thrilled, and have already started reading. I love the cover, and the feel of the book; it is just gorgeous. It made me imagine what it’d be like to hold a novel I’ve written in book form one day, so I can only imagine the thrill you have in seeing your novel in print now. Congratulations, and thank you again!! Jeni

    • Great to hear from you, Jeni! And how fun that the book arrived in the mail and you didn’t know that you won! I hope you enjoy it! And you’re right–holding your own book is an experience like no other! I’m actually re-reading Watersmeet right now to make the sure the sequel I’m working on makes sense. The book feels both familiar and distant to me; I’m so in the place of an older, more experienced Abisina right now that seeing her back in Vranille is a little bit strange. It sounds like you are a writer. Good for you!

  8. Just discovered Watersmeet and absolutely LOVE it. Thanks so much, and I look forward to more adventures in (newly christened) Seldara! NinaW, librarian and avid YA reader (but very far behind in reading due to 2 kids under the age of 3).

    • Great to hear from you, Nina! I’m so glad you enjoyed Watersmeet! I am hard at work on the sequel so there will be more tales of Seldara forthcoming!
      Best, Ellen

  9. Marguerite:

    I really, really hope I can do this! I will be in touch as soon as I have finished the work I am doing on the sequel to Watersmeet. It is due in a few weeks! Thanks for thinking of me!

    All the best,

    Ellen

  10. Hello,

    I absolutely loved Watersmeet. I can’t wait to read your next book in this series! I wanted to invite you to join Goodreads.com, which is the largest community of book lovers online. Because you are a published author, you already have a profile on Goodreads:

    http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2742416.Ellen_Jensen_Abbott

    If you join Goodreads, you can claim this author profile and make it your own! I think it would be a great way for you to connect with your fans!

    Happy Writing,
    Faith Ingram

    • Faith, Thanks so much for writing to me and mentioning Goodreads. I know of Goodreads, and had been intending to be more active, and then life got in the way! Thanks for the reminder. I’m very close to turning in revisions for Watersmeet’s sequel, and when I do, I will put Goodreads on my list of sites to do more with! So glad you liked the book!!

  11. Wow, that sounds good! I think I’ll have to pick that one up. I love how you pursued your English career and are now teaching and writing. I’m thinking of doing something like that, hopefully. It seems like I always think of something else to be when I grow up!
    How do you come up with your names? I know it’s a funny question, but I’m always intrigued with how the name of a character describes him/her more than we think with the way it sounds.

    Thank you for your valuable time!

    God bless,

    Taylor J. Beisler
    http://www.taylorbeisler.com

    • Great to hear from you, Taylor! I love what you said about “always think[ing] of something else to be when [you] grow up!” I think that’s a sign of a fulfilling life! When I was even post college and into my teaching career, it didn’t occur to me that I could become a writer, and here I am! My second book comes out in a few months! Wow!

      As to names–it’s funny how many people ask about that. Names are tough. I do try to have my names mean more than the surface when I can. I also think names should sound like names, but in fantasy, they can’t sound everyday, either. If you name a centaur “Bob,” you’re writing a comedy. And yet, it drives me crazy to see names in a novel that I haven’t the first clue how to pronounce. So I use a baby book–one with some cool and unusual names–and then I play with syllables and sounds so that I end up with a name that sounds like a name, is readable/pronouncable, and sounds like what it means or who it represenets. Boy, do I hate crowd scenes when I need to come up with nine or ten names at once! For a long time, those characters are called XX or YY or WW until I can comb through name books.

      Good luck with your writing!! Keep the faith!

      Ellen

  12. I, a fellow author, enjoyed meeting you at the Collingswood Book Festival in Oct. 2011. Thanks for the personal encouragement. I thoroughly enjoyed Watersmeet and look forward to reading The Centaur’s Daughter.

  13. […] out more about Ellen Jensen Abbott and her fantasy trilogy here Written by: Beverly Patt on February 20, 2012. No […]

  14. WHEN IS THE NEXT BOOK COMING??:)

    • It’s due out in the fall of 2013! Of course, that means I have to write it by then! Actually, I’m on my way, but that is what I’ll be doing this summer!!

  15. Mrs. Abbott, if your first book was based on the same world as Watersmeet, why not publish it now?

    • The short answer is–because it’s AWFUL (as many first books are!). It’s also been cannibalized for my later books. In addition, the central conflicts are the same as the central conflicts in Watersmeet, though the characters and situations are different. It still played a very important role in teaching me about the world and teaching me about how to write a novel-length work. In addition, it got me “out there.” It sent me to conferences, it got me networking, it connected with other writers. In fact, through this first book I met and did some work with Gail Carson Levine and Susan Campbell Bartoletti (they were mentors). I’m planning a longer post soon on why this book was critical even though it never saw the light of day. Thanks for the great question, Kendra!

  16. Mrs.Abbot,
    What was your inspiration to write a fantasy like Watersmeet and the Centaurs Daughter.

    • Chris–

      Thanks for the question! I just posted on this very question–about why fantasy feels so compelling for me. More specifically in the case of my books, it was Abisina who came to me first, but I had some of the world of Watersmeet already worked out because Watersmeet is actually a prequel to a novel I wrote earlier. In that unsold novel, I wrote about the final chapter of the country Seldara. Watersmeet is the about the beginnings of Seldara, and I knew Abisina played an important role in its beginnings, but I had to discover how. When I started to explore the world of Seldara, it was clear to me right away that it is a land divided. When Abisina came to me, I knew she was an outsider and I quickly realized that she could tell the story of the division. I did a lot of exploratory writing to work out both her history and the history of the communities in Seldara. Before I became a writer, I would be amazed to hear writers talk about their characters as if they existed outside of the writer—as thinking individuals with personalities and their own way of doing things. Now I totally get that! Abisina does feel like a person to me and I do feel as if she came to me with a story to tell.

      Hope this answers your question!

      Best, Ellen

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