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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."