Books made me. My parents came from working class, subsistence-farming backgrounds in rural Missouri. Reading inspired me to travel beyond the safe and known, and I became the first person in my family's history to hold a passport. The journey of the imagination took me even further: I became a writer.
I'm passionate about children's literature and the importance of reading for pleasure. I love working with children and encouraging them to believe in the strength of their imaginations.
What do I want readers to take from my books? Unforgettable characters, richly imagined worlds, challenging problems and sweeping adventure! My books entertain but also ask questions about empathy, power, privilege, gender and otherness. My current series, the Storm Witch books, have a core environmental theme that can help children explore and question our own crisis and how the world should best respond.
Fantasy is the tool I use to explore aspects of our world. S.F. Said, in his Guardian review of my young adult book, Tribute, observes: "Two things make or break a fantasy novel: the magic and the world. In both these respects, Ellen Renner's Tribute shares something with Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books, stories that gave us an original conception of magic and a richly imagined world, using the genre to say something deeply resonant about our own world."
Tribute was endorsed by Amnesty International.
Currently, I'm writing my eleventh book for publication. My first, Castle of Shadows, came out in 2010 and won the Cornerstones Wow Factor, the North East Book Award, and was shortlisted for half-a-dozen regional awards. It made both the Times and the Independent newspapers' lists of best books of 2010.
Author appearances, school and library visits and festivals:
I have enjoyed many school and library visits over the past nine years, and they remain one of the great pleasures of my writing career. I love working with children on their own creative writing, but am also happy speaking to larger audiences and assemblies. I have given workshops to children, teens and adults.
I have worked with the Hay Festival, Exeter EXEtreme Literary Festival (author in residence to both high schools and primaries; workshops for adults in writing fantasy) and various regional festivals.
I was the 'Writing for Children' Tutor for the London School of Journalism for several years, and am happy to teach creative writing to young adults or adults, as well as children.
We need to talk about the environment: The Storm Witch books and are an excellent narrative to use to begin a discussion about the environmental crisis with groups of children and young people. Teacher's materials are available.
School/library visits and writing workshops can be given on any topic concerning writing for children or children's own writing, including: world-building, character, plot, dialogue, and how to write a really good villain. I also give workshops on writing fantasy for readers of all ages.
I trained as a painter and printmaker and love speaking about how drawing and art can inspire creative writing. I also give workshops on using drawing to find and develop your characters.
I have experience with interviews in print and live radio, including the BBC's Radio Devon, Radio Scilly and Radio Leicester.