| Ellen Wittlinger
Send Email to Ellen at: PritchWitt@aol.com
Photo of Ellen Wittlinger by Morgan Pritchard
Authors Among Us - Children's Writers Who Are or Who Have Been Librarians
Featured Titles by Massachusetts
writer Ellen Wittlinger
| Hard Love
| What's in a Name
| Gracie's Girl
| Forthcoming Books:
Razzle, Simon & Schuster, Fall 2001
The Long Night of Leo and Bree, Fall 2002
|What influenced you to work in a library?
I always loved hanging around in my hometown library (in Belleville, Illinois). It was a lovely, big, comfortable old building, and books, of course, were magical.
Do you have a library/information science degree? No, I don't have an MLS.
What kinds of library positions have you held and where?
I first worked in the University of Iowa library during the two years I was working on an MFA in Creative Writing there in the early 70s. Then in the late 70s I worked as a cataloging assistant in the main library at Tufts University for two years. In 1990 I was hired as the children's librarian at my local library in Swampscott, Massachusetts. I held this position for three years.
Are you currently working as a librarian?
No, I'm not currently working as a librarian. I left my job when my first YA novel, Lombardo's Law, was published because I hoped to write full time, which I have done.
Which came first in your life, your work as a librarian, or writing for children?
I've always put writing first, although I enjoyed my various library jobs too. But all jobs have been foremost a way to pay for my writing time.
Did your library work have anything to do with becoming a childrenís writer?
Absolutely. I started my writing life as a poet, and after about a decade of that, switched over to writing plays and then adult fiction. I liked the playwriting best, at that time, but it was hard to travel around the country with a play because I had small children. I had tried once to write a young adult novel, but wasn't successful in publishing it. Once I began to work as a children's librarian I started to read all the marvelous novels for this age group, Brock Cole, Lois Lowry, Chris Crutcher, Katharine Paterson, M.E. Kerr, Ron Koertge, and I loved them. And they taught me about this genre, how a young adult novel sounds. Of course, I could have read these books without working at the library, but I don't think I would have. Like too many others, I had assumed these books were shallow or slight. I learned how untrue that was!
Did your library work directly influence your work as an author?
Yes, as I said above, reading the best of young adult novels inspired me to try to write them. In my first novel, Lombardo's Law, which was written while I was still a children's librarian, I made the main character's mother a librarian too. Justine says, a trifle sarcastically, that her mother loves being a librarian "because you don't have to wear high heels and you can sing 'I'm a Little Teapot' and read ghost stories and organize pet shows all day long." (Aside from the singing, those were some of my favorite things.)
What were the greatest benefits of being a librarian to you as a writer?
I loved working in such a supportive atmosphere where my "other job" was held in high esteem. And, being around books all day long was wonderful. As I read first the reviews of the new young adult books, and then the books themselves, I began to hone my own ideas about the genre and what I wanted to accomplish within it.
Were there any drawbacks to being a librarian and also a writer?
I don't think so. It's an obvious place for a writer/book lover to be. Of course, staying home and writing all day is just slightly preferable.
If you wrote while working as as librarian, how did you manage the time-juggling act?
When I was working and writing and managing two small kids and a household, it was very difficult to fit in the writing time--that was always the thing that had to be left out when time was short. I wrote in the evenings, when I could, and sometimes on weekends, but that's not the best way to keep the flow going.
Were those you worked with in the library supportive of your writing career?
At our library I was completely supported, and still am, though I don't work there anymore. Everyone I worked with knew I was writing, but only those patrons I knew personally were aware of it. Now, however, many more people in town know it.
Do you feel that librarianship had specific benefits to you as a writer?
As I said before, becoming aware of all the wonderful young adult books helped me considerably in writing my own.
Special quote from Ellen Wittlinger:
If you have to have a "day job," librarianship and writing for children are a great match.
Ellen's books are:
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Last Updated October 31, 2003