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Author Showcase

Spring 2005 Featured Authors, Telva Elwell and Barbara Kelley

RT: In reading the blurb about the book, it’s clear that Ellasense Misses the Train was a family project. As cousins, you collaborated on the plot and major illustrations, but your children were also involved in writing and drawing pictures for the book. What was it like working together on the story?

Barbara: It was fun! We had discovered we both enjoyed writing and had been sending little stories and poems back and forth since we began our correspondence. When TJ's (Telva) little boy asked her "What would happen if an elephant got on an airplane?" she wrote and told me what he had said. I knew we needed to write a story. She started writing and sending me a few stanzas; I'd make some changes, add lines of my own, and send them back to her. We really had no intention of actually writing a book when this thing started, it was just something fun we thought maybe "our grandchildren" might enjoy reading one day. My children were wonderful critics, offering suggestions with each draft. They'd point out that "no kid would know the meaning of that word," tell me the "iambic pentameter was off." They pointed out that a "real elephant" wouldn't be able to do a hand stand, but they didn't mention that a real elephant also could not talk! We definately feel we have added another member to the family!

TELVA: It was much more fun than writing a story all by myself. Since Barb lives in Kansas and I live in South Carolina, we did most of our writing via e-mail. I could hardly wait to sit down at my computer each day and do a little writing, or read what Barb had written. Having Luke, my then 8- year-old son, illustrate the title page was very special for me. My husband and older son fell in love with Ellasense, and both gave good advice on how to grow her personality. As a result Ellasense has become a new member of our family.

RT: Have your children been inspired to write or illustrate other stories?

Barbara: No, my children are grown and married. They did write little stories when they were small, and my daughter wrote a lot of poems when she was growing up.

TELVA: Luke is a wonderful storyteller. He just isn't ready to start putting his ideas on paper. I was much the same way when I was young. I loved to tell stories, but didn't like the discipline of writing. I still prefer to be the storyteller, but I am growing to love the writing process more and more each day. Perhaps Luke will follow in my footsteps. My older son, Zack, is very artistic, but has other interests at the moment.

RT: Were there any challenges you faced in trying to collaborate on a book while living in two different cities?

Barbara: & TELVA: The most challenging thing about living in two different states and collaborating on a book, was finding a publishing company to do the book as we wanted it. We spent a lot of time on the phone deciding about elements of the book and brainstorming. When we decided to go with a Kansas company, everything had to be mailed here, including TJ's huge porfolio of pictures. I was a little nervous about making some of the decisions that had to be made with the printing company, and wished she could have been here to agree or disagree. We learned to trust each other, and thankfully, our vision for the book was very much the same. We both wanted the book to be one kids would want to pick up and read over and over again.

RT: Are there any other adventures in Ellasense’s future? Are you planning to collaborate on other stories?

Barbara: & TELVA: Ellasense will definitely have another adventure or two. She is such a lovable character, we can't envision not having more fun with her. We started writing the follow-up book in 2003, the 100th anniversay of Orville and Wilbur Wright's first flight. So this story takes place in Kitty Hawk, where Ellasense goes to learn how to fly. We are also working on a few other stories. One of our favorites is Snow Day (title subject to change), about a town that is brought together by a common project. Then there's Conner, a new character in a story about a cat who has to endure a lot of bullying by the other alley cats. TJ has a couple individual projects up her sleeve, with some very interesting characters.

RT: Are there any specific themes that you think parents and/or teachers can use to help make the story more meaningful for kids?

Barbara: From the language arts perspective, this is a story even a young reader can understand and enjoy. Even though the vocabulary is on the 4th or 5th grade level. Teachers can have their students create an "Ellasense Glossary" with new words. The story is also chock full of interesting "sound" words kids enjoy. We selected colors to highlight words repeated in the story. For example, the word "elephant" is always grey, and "circus" is always yellow.

TELVA: Our first priority in writing this story was simply to creat a fun story for the kids. To do that Ellasense needed to be a character with lots of personality, someone with whom the kids could relate. Fear, sadness, separation, and loss are feelings everyone experiences in life. Ellasense acknowledges her feelings and problems, then she uses her ingenuity to develop a plan to solve her problem. She seeks help from others, then relies upon others, yet balances that with a healthy dose of self-confidence and independence. Ellasense is a good role model.

RT: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Barbara: & TELVA: We'd like to mention a special feature we are adding in future books. We want kids to have their own short stories, poems, or drawings published in our books. It was so special to Luke to have his illustration included in this book, that we thought other kids would like to have the same opportunity. Details can be found on our new website. So teachers and parents, get the word out to your kids and students! Ellasense Misses the Train can be ordered from our website, or your favorite bookstore. Also, a big thanks to Terry and everyone in The Reading Tub™ for allowing us to share Ellasense Misses the Train with you!

Website: http://www.talesfromtwocousins.com


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