Seventeen years ago, I quit practicing law to become a writer. I was too ornery to get an MFA (I was a big important lawyer; no one was wasting my time), but I managed to find kind, amazing teachers willing to nurture the good in my writing—Rebecca McClanahan, Randall Kenan, Margot Livesey, Richard Bausch, and others. The first short story I ever submitted won an Honorable Mention in a contest and $500. I thought, man, this is going to be easy.
But, in a way, it has been. The wonderful Phyllis Tickle championed my first book, Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God (Paraclete Press, 2009). As a result, I was able to give hundreds of cross-making workshops where the Holy Spirit zinged through the room (and the book’s still paying royalties 😀 )
The gracious Neil White made the dream of Writing Our Way Home: A Group Journey Out of Homelessness (2014, Triton Press) a reality. Fifteen formerly homeless men and women became authors, and their words have changed hearts across the country.
My friend Preston Johnson—sound guy extraordinaire—gave a professional polish to Cain’t Do Nothing with Love. Of all things, these short stories have been downloaded all over the world over 55,000 times. (I bolded that because I really can’t get over how many diverse folks have heard these funky short stories.)
Now, my talented photographer sister Elli Morris and the patient Brian Harris of Novagiant Media have given me a striking cover for Tracking Happiness: A Southern Chicken Adventure (right, I don’t know if I can publish a book without a subtitle.) Soon to come is an audiobook and the hilarious podcast “Ellen’s Very Southern Voice,” thanks to the talents of Jeff Bossert and Gil Worth of OAMNetwork.
What does all of this have in common? A belief the inexplicable joy of life will overcome the inescapable presence of grief.
And trains. There are lots of trains in my writing.
Many others have helped me along the way—wonderful readers, patient editors, general cheerleaders—and I thank them all. If you want to see what they’ve helped me accomplish, you can go to Achievements to see my awards and publications.
For more, scroll the blog if you want to see what types of things get me to actually write a post. And peruse the pages on my books (Tracking Happiness, Cain’t Do Nothing with Love, Making Crosses, and Writing Our Way Home) to read more about the books.