About The Author
Elvira Woodruff is the author of many popular books for children. In the many years she has been writing both picture books and novels for middle grade readers her work has won many awards and honors. She was born in Raritan, New Jersey in 1951 and has lived for the last twenty years in Martins Creek, Pennsylvania. When she isn’t writing she likes to travel to research her stories, work in her garden (morning glories being one of her favorite flowers), and bake cookies and pies in her kitchen. Her road to a writer’s life was full of twists and turns as she tells us below…
Life doesn’t always come with a map. We aren’t all born with recognizable gifts that automatically direct our lives. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Sometimes we can define our gifts and strengthen them by leaving ourselves open to new experiences. That’s what happened to me.
I didn’t discover my gift for writing until I was pretty much an old women of thirty-five! Even though I loved creative writing in elementary school and on into high school, I never imagined it as a career for myself. When I graduated from high school I didn’t have a clue about a profession I should pursue. I thought it must be wonderful to be born with a gift for music, or art, for example, or to just know that you wanted to be a doctor.
As happy as I was, I didn’t see that I had any outstanding gifts. My parents were very understanding and supportive and never pressured me to be anything more than who I was. That was a gift. It allowed me to follow my heart and be comfortable with myself. I didn’t need to be a doctor or an artist, or anything else to gain their approval.
I went to college for two years and majored in English literature, still clue less about how I was going to make a living. At nineteen I was too restless to sit in a classroom any longer. I remember just wanting to get out and live my life. So I quit school and returned home to New Jersey, married my high school sweetheart, and took a job as a janitor in an office building.
That was the beginning of a long road that finally led to writing. Over the next fifteen years I worked as a gardener, receptionist, ice-cream truck driver, window-dresser, store owner, and storyteller in a library. I do believe having experienced so many different jobs and meeting all kinds of people has broadened my writing and the subjects I’m interested in. My last job, working in the library, took me back to my love of books and writing. My cousin, the author/illustrator Frank Asch, had been in the business of children’s books for many years, and he was instrumental in showing me the ropes.
I was lucky to sell my first story, but still didn’t see myself as a writer. If I hadn’t gotten divorced at about this time, I very well could have stayed at the library forever. But I needed a job that paid a bit more. I knew writing books was a risky business, but I liked the challenge and wanted to try. So for the next four or five years I was writing three and four books a year! I began with picture books and moved on to novels and then to historical fiction. At this time I began speaking in schools, talking about creative writing.
My restlessness doesn’t get out of control due to my two very different jobs. As a speaker I must be very social and extroverted and bounce about the country. As a writer I must close in and be very introverted and remain for long hours holed up in my study. I enjoy both experiences and feel grateful I can divide my time that way.
Even if I weren’t doing a lot of public speaking, this business of writing could never be boring because each story that I slip myself into is a new adventure. I’m traveling to wherever my passion takes me, traveling in my imagination as well as physically to do the research.
I don’t know of a greater pleasure than researching a subject you’re passionate about. It’s also an experience you can share with your family and friends. I often took my boys on research jaunts as they were growing up. That way we all learned together.
I’m grateful my life didn’t come with a map. I’ve been only too happy to map out the adventure myself.
Originally published in The Eighth Book of Junior Authors And Illustrators.
Also see Elvira Talks About School Visits.