Interview with Sarah Ellis

We’re back with another great Red Cedar Award author interview! The Red Cedar Club at Ecole Heather Park Elementary in Prince George, Summer, Torrin, Erin, Trista, Mya, Leila, Megan and Maya, and their Teacher-Librarian Ms. Maria Weisgarber, interviewed Sarah Ellis, author of Outside In.


Questions about Outside In

What inspired you to write Outside In?

Every day I walk in a big park near my house,  Queen Elizabeth Park. There is a reservoir at the top of this park.  I often go “off-road” into the trails where the gardeners have their compost boxes and the maintenance workers keep their tools.  One day I noticed a metal door in the side of the reservoir.  I wondered what was behind it.  I started to think about living under the reservoir.  Then I started thinking about living entirely off the grid.  How could you manage it?  Where would you get food? Clothing?  Education?  Could you live without money? What kind of a family might live that way?

Where did the idea of Underlanders come from?  Do you know any people who live like the Underlanders in the story?

I don’t personally know any Underlanders but once I invented them I started to notice magazine articles and documentary films  about people who live in our society in different ways.  There are people who grow all their own food in their own gardens.  There are people who trade skills and goods, rather than using money.  There are people who make art out of junk.  There are people who live in the subway. There are people who “glean,” going over harvested fields and picking up the produce that the machines missed.  There are people who live in city parks.

How did you come up with Lynn’s nickname “Sixer”?

Ha!  That’s a good question.  When I was a kid I was a Brownie and then a Girl Guide.  Sixers were the leaders of the little groups.  Was this Brownies or Guides, I can’t remember.  Was I ever a sixer?  Can’t remember that either.

Does the tall building Tron jumps from really exist?

Not that I know off.  The kind of jumping Tron does is called “Base Jumping” and you can see it on youtube.  But I made up the actual location.  (Do I need to say this?  Base jumping from buildings is illegal for good reason.  It’s hugely dangerous. A young Vancouver man was killed just last year.   But my characters sometimes do things that are foolish and I figured that this is exactly the sort of thing that Tron would do.)

Questions about writing

Why do you write?

I’m a reader and I’ve had such pleasure from reading my whole life that the idea of giving somebody else that pleasure makes me feel that writing is a worthwhile thing to do.  I also just plain like doing it.  I enjoy getting the words right.  I like going out in the world and seeing something or hearing something and thinking “Hey, that would make a good bit in a story*.”  Being a writer makes you notice things and pay attention.  It makes the world a more interesting place.  And I like the feeling at 5 p.m. that I’ve created something that didn’t exist at 9 a.m.  Just our of my own head!

*For example here’s something I just found out about:  There are adults who love Disneyland so much that they go there at least once a month, just by themselves, without kids.  Now, I went to Disneyland once with a couple of kids and I had fun, but ONCE A MONTH?!  Are you kidding me? What’s that about?  The question, “What’s that about?” is a very good story starter.

When did you write your first book?

My first book was published in 1986.  (Back when dinosaurs walked the earth.)

Are you writing any books right now?

Yes, I’ve got a short chapter book for little kids about a boy and his new baby sister.  That one will be illustrated and it is pretty much done.  I think the title will be Liam and Sophie.  And I’m working on a novel for you folks about a family that takes in an American draft dodger in 1970. It is going to be about war and friendship and (yikes) love.   (That one is a little bit autobiographical.)  I’ve got 50,000 words and I keep adding more and so far it is a BIG MESS.  I’m working on sorting out the mess.  Believe it or not, that’s fun for me.

By the way, if you’ve got some time, could you do me a favour and  tell me what the title “Square Five” might suggest to you? Anything? Hint:  did any of you used to play hopscotch?

Questions about Sarah Ellis

Are you married and do you have kids or pets?

I’m not married and I have no kids of my own (nieces, nephews, step-daughter, foster grandchildren, there are important kids in my life)

As for pets:  Memo the cat has just arrived from Catfe.  She’s called Memo because as soon as she arrived at my place she jumped into the in-tray in my office.  She is sociable and funny.  Here she is:


Do you have siblings?

Yes, two older brothers.  One is a retired policeman and one is an artist. We all like to make things.

A big thank you to the Red Cedar Club at Ecole Heather Park Elementary in Prince George for this great interview!

Stay tuned to the blog for more great interviews with Red Cedar Award nominees!

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