Ellen Harvey Showell

Selected Works

Children's Fiction: Ghost Stories and Mysteries
A realistic tale set in Appalachian hill country. 12-year old Willy and his sister dare to befriend a wild child of the woods--even though she is said to have drowned years ago. They take separate paths to discover the truth about her--just in time to prevent another tragedy. An Authors' Guild Backinprint edition.
History of American Women In Science: Inventors
True to the author's bent, this non-fiction book starts with an original fairy tale. Otherwise, it presents real stories of fascinating women inventors from colonial days to outstanding scientists of present time. Co-authored with Fred M.B. Amram. Ideal for homeschoolers.
Musical Plays for Children to Perform
A young girl who loves to dance finds a fiddle-playing boy on magical Blue Mountain. An Appalachian fairy tale with traditional and original songs. Based on the novel by the same name.
A musical play on words, ideal for elementary or middle school productions. Six syllables become a word that has to find its meaning -- a hilarious exploration of language. Fun, jazzy songs and dances. Could complement a poetry or creative writing unit.
Death Penalty
In this one-act play described as "Powerful," "Deeply moving,", Men and women with opposite feelings about the death penalty confront condemned persons and each other--and a medical technician confronts his own soul. "It makes you think." Especially suitable for death penalty focus groups. Feel free to downloadthe script.


The Children's Book Guild of Washington, D.C.

The Authors' Guild

The Women's National Book Association

The American Association of University Women

Song Writers' Association of Washington, D. C.

About Ellen Harvey Showell

The author grew up in the Greenbrier Valley in West Virginia. Early memories are of: "long hikes through woods and pastures; swimming in the river where the current was swift and dangerous; singing hymns and spirituals with my sisters while we washed dishes." Her mother was a high school teacher, her father a cabinetmaker/​rambler.

Ellen (also known as "Penny") studied English, drama and art at Berea College, Berea, Kentucky, graduating in 1957. A few years later, she settled in the Washington, D. C. area and began writing for advertising and public relations firms, and later, for the government's Office of Economic Opportunity. While working for Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), she visited poverty programs across the country, writing stories about how volunteers and local people worked together on projects ranging from co-ops on Indian reservations to tenant activist groups in inner cities.

Penny/​Ellen tells, "I began writing for children when my own son was 12, and we had read all the ghost stories we could find in the library." Her work includes five books for children, a screen play based on her book The Ghost of Tillie Jean Cassaway, musical plays for children, a play for adults, poetry and songs.

Her play, The Executioners, expresses her long-held feelings that "we need to reconsider the relationship between our killing of killers, and justice." Ellen is married to John S. Showell, a chemist retired from the National Science Foundation. They live in Springfield, Virginia. The author's son, Michael Showell, is publisher of The Mountain Messenger weekly newspaper in Lewisburg, West Virginia--giving her plenty of opportunity to stay connected with Appalachia.

She says, "I have always enjoyed singing harmony, and writing musical plays has led to my studying song writing, taking workshops led by Paul Reisler. I've also taken a Life Stories workshop from actor and playwright Julie Portman. I believe in lifetime learning."