Friday, July 24, 2015

July 24, 2015  

To end our Soiree, today I'm highlighting the great Ellen Jackson, author of my favorite book for children Earth MotherPlease let me introduce you to……. the wonderful Ellen Jackson! Not only is she one of my favorite authors, she has penned more than fifty books and is a multiple award-winner. Ellen has written in many different genres, and isn’t afraid to step into something new! 

When Ellen was a child her mother worked for Walt Disney Studios, but discouraged Ellen from a writing career. So, Ellen was a Psychology/​History/​Philosophy major who ended up with a B.A. in English (UCLA), Teaching Accreditation (UCLA), and an M.A. in Counseling (California Family Study Center) with a specialty in early childhood development. She’s worked as an elementary school teacher, curriculum specialist, curriculum author, editor, and award-winning author of children's books. As if she has any extra time, she also volunteers at libraries and homeless shelters!

She says she likes to read, dance with her dog, collect rocks, play the recorder, hike among the redwoods, and make collages.

Presently, Ellen lives with her husband and dog in Santa Barbara, California, about a block from a very nice beach.

Here’s a good biography of Ellen:

Please visit her website at:

Here are Ellen Jackson’s books thus far…..


July, 2015




BEAR IN THE BATHTUB, Addison-Wesley, 1981.
ANTS CAN'T DANCE, Macmillan, 1990.
BORIS THE BORING BOAR, Macmillan, 1992.
CINDER EDNA, Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 1994.
THE PRECIOUS GIFT, Simon and Schuster, 1996.
THE IMPOSSIBLE RIDDLE, Whispering Coyote, 1995. 
MONSTERS IN MY MAILBOX, Troll Associates, 1995.
THE WACKY WITCH WAR, Troll Associates, 1995.
A TALE OF TWO TURKEYS, Troll Associates, 1995.
WHY COYOTE SINGS TO THE MOON, American Education Publishing, 1996.
SCATTERBRAIN SAM, Charlesbridge, 2001.
EARTH MOTHER, Walker, 2005
THE CUPCAKE THIEF, Kane Press, 2007
THE SEVEN SEAS, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2011.
THE BALLAD OF BOOSTER BOGG, Shenanigan Press, 2011.
BEASTLY BABIES, Beach Lane Books, 2015.


THE TREE OF LIFE, Prometheus, 1993. 
THE WINTER SOLSTICE, Millbrook Press, 1994.
THE SUMMER SOLSTICE, Millbrook Press, 2001.
THE SPRING EQUINOX, Millbrook Press, 2002.
THE AUTUMN EQUINOX, Millbrook Press, 2000.
THE MONTHS BOOKS (series of twelve books, one on each of the months of the year) Charlesbridge, 2002.
THE BOOK OF SLIME, The Millbrook Press, 1997.
HERE COME THE BRIDES, Walker and Co, 1998.
TURN OF THE CENTURY, Charlesbridge, 1998.
MY TOUR OF EUROPE, The Millbrook Press, 2003.
IT’S BACK TO SCHOOL WE GO!, The Millbrook Press, 2003.
THE WORLDS AROUND US, Millbrook Press, 2006.
THE MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE, Houghton Mifflin, 2008.
ABE LINCOLN LOVED ANIMALS, Albert Whitman, 2008.
TOOLING AROUND, Charlesbridge, 2014.


STAY ON THE SAFE SIDE, grades 5-6 and 7-8, Office of Criminal Justice Planning, Sacramento, 1985.
STAY ON THE SAFE SIDE, grades K-4, Office of Criminal Justice Planning, Sacramento, 1987.
EARTHQUAKE SAFETY, Horizon Publishers and Distributors, 1991.
STRANGER DANGER, Safety Advice for Kids, Horizon Publishers and Distributors, 1991.
HOUSEHOLD SAFETY, Horizon Publishers and Distributors, 1991.

And now, heeeeeeeere’s Ellen!

How did your interest in writing start and what inspired you to write your first book?

As a child, I loved to write.  When I was in third grade, I wrote a poem that the teacher liked.  She make a bulletin board out of it, which made me feel really special.  My mother was a children’s librarian who worked at Walt Disney studios.  She brought home wonderful books and sometimes we read them together.  I read so much that my sixth grade teacher told my mother I really should play outside now and then.  If you want to know what I was like as a child, I kept a diary.  I have some of the entries posted on my website here:

When I moved to Santa Barbara, I left my teaching job to take care of my sick mother and was homebound much of the day.  From my years as a teacher, I knew children’s books, and I’d always enjoyed writing.  So I thought, “I know.  I’ll become a writer.”  So I just plunged right in.  Today I’d caution other people from making that kind of leap without a lot of research.

How long did it take you to see your work in print and did you have an agent before you published?

No, I didn’t have an agent. I sold my first book myself. I sold it to the first publisher I sent it to. Note to other aspiring authors: This is extremely unusual and almost never happens. I was too inexperienced to know how lucky I was.

As a member of a multiracial family I've noticed a very deep need for more diverse characters and books for children. How do you choose subjects that include diverse characters/story lines and how are these manuscripts generally received by publishers?

Publishers are eager to publish multicultural and multiracial stories. There seem to be more and more of these kinds of books around. Many of my stories (and nonfiction books) feature multiracial and/or multicultural characters. The main character in my book EARTH MOTHER is African, one of the main characters in my book SCATTERBRAIN SAM, is African American, various races are depicted in the series IT HAPPENS IN THE MONTH OF...April, May, etc. and also in my nonfiction books TURN OF THE CENTURY and IT’S BACK TO SCHOOL WE GO and HERE COME THE BRIDES. I’m sure I’m forgetting some.

Do you have a favorite character or book from your work?

I love all my characters, even the villains!  There’s a little bit of me in every character I create. The main character in CINDER EDNA is a spunky girl who finds a positive solution to all life’s challenges. Unlike Cinderella, she doesn’t need a fairy godmother. She finds other ways of getting what she wants in life. I like to think I’m a little bit like her.

Where or when do you get or have gotten your best inspiration for stories?

My ideas come from my life, my childhood, the books I’ve read, my hopes and fantasies–everything that’s gone into making me who I am. I’ve noticed that ideas come more readily to people who pay attention. After I published my first book, I was afraid I’d never have another idea again. But I kept writing, and the ideas kept coming.

I keep an idea file, and when I get an idea I write it down on a card.  I always check Amazon or the library to seem if anyone else has published something similar–and if so, how long ago that was and in what format.

I always picture a parent and a child walking into a bookstore and looking for the perfect book.  I want to come up with a topic so interesting that both parents and children would want to read about it.

 Have you ever really disliked something you wrote that others loved?

You’re the only person who’s ever asked me that question, and it’s a good one!  The answer is, yes. But, really, most authors feel as if all their books are their children. Just as parents don’t want to choose a favorite child, authors don’t like to choose a favorite book. Let’s just say that sometime a certain book will get a lot of attention, but another one is neglected. And sometimes I really like the neglected book better than the ones that are the most popular.

When you are working on a manuscript, do you direct your characters or do they direct you?

I’d say–a little of both. Sometimes the characters want to do something surprising. Sometimes I let them, and sometimes I say “no.”

Do you work on more than one genre or manuscript at a time?

I’m always working on more than one manuscript. I write both fiction and nonfiction, and no manuscript really feels complete until I’ve sold it.

How do you organize your research, manuscript drafts, etc.

I keep drafts of my fiction manuscripts on the computer. I number the drafts sequentially. I keep a large file envelope for each nonfiction book and organize my research notes within each file envelope according to subtopic. For example, I recently published a book on animal tool use. The book featured eleven different animals. Notes and book references for each animal were clipped together.

 Is writing/art your only career? If not, what else do you do professionally?

Writing is my only career at the moment. I was a school teacher for ten years.

 If you could be a superhero, what would your powers be and why?

I’d like to be a time traveler because I’m really curious about what’s going to happen in the future. But I’ve written a few books on historical topics, such as ABE LINCOLN LOVED ANIMALS, and I’d also like to visit the past and meet the people I’ve written about.

I have many dreams about flying, but I’m not sure I’d really like it all that much in reality. My sense of direction isn’t that great, and I’ll bet it gets pretty cold up there!


  1. Thank you, Beth. You remind me that I can use my time so much more efficiently! Your work ethic is admirable!

  2. This was a great interview Beth and Ellen. I also started writing when I became caretaker for my father. It is so interesting to see into the lives of successful writers. Thank you!

  3. This is an interesting post, and an interesting life! I especially enjoyed your diary. It must be an unlimited source of story ideas, and the poem is certainly evidence of your talent even as a child.

  4. What an interesting writing journey! It is truly awesome to learn more about you, Ellen!
    Beth, thanks so much for sharing this interview!

  5. Thanks for an interesting post, ladies!

  6. Thanks for an interesting post, ladies!

  7. Thanks for an interesting post, ladies!

  8. What an interesting writer and great interview. Thank you Beth. Miracles can hapoen.

  9. What an interesting writer and great interview. Thank you Beth. Miracles can hapoen.

  10. What an interesting writer and great interview. Thank you Beth. Miracles can hapoen.