Writer-in-residence Ellis brings knowledge, experience to UWRF
April 10, 2008
Author Mary Relindes Ellis visited UW-River Falls this week to offer her expertise for students.
Ellis is UWRF’s spring 2008 writer-in-residence as she is originally from northern Wisconsin in which her award-winning novel, “The Turtle Warrior,” is themed.
Ellis came to campus Wednesday to hold a critiquing session for selected graduating senior’s work. She also joined English professor Jennifer Brantley in her Writing Seminar class to discuss her writing process with students.
On Thursday, students had the opportunity to accompany Ellis in a brown-bag lunch in the dean’s conference room which was hosted by the English department and Papercuts, the UWRF Literary Society. The lunch was followed by a public reading of her novel in the Library Breezeway.
“I am currently a graduate student in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and when Professor Brantley invited me to be the writer-in-residence I jumped at it because it is an honor to be invited to speak here. The University [UWRF] is an excellent college and I had two sisters who attended. And I was homesick,” Ellis said.
Ellis lived in Hammond, Wis. for five years and spent some time in River Falls, especially the library, during her residence in Western Wisconsin. She also worked at the University of Minnesota for 25 years.
“I’ve given readings here before but I think people find the novel fascinating, particularly the writing process and how it came to be and that it is about a part of the world they are familiar with,” Ellis said. “It has been published and is doing well in France which was a wonderful surprise.”
Ellis has been writing in her contemporary fiction style for 25 years. “The Turtle Warrior,” has a major influence from her childhood.
“I grew up in an old culture with immigrants and big extended families. Northern Wisconsin has a unique and powerful history. My upbringing there was unique and meaningful. I wanted to honor a region I felt often got overlooked,” Ellis said.
“The Turtle Warrior” is about a boy, Bill Lucas, “and his tenacity for survival amidst family violence. But it parallels his neighbor’s belief as a mixed-blood man, of what turtle means in Ojibwa culture.”
Ellis has been influenced by writers like Leslie Marmon Silko, Margaret Atwood and John Steinbeck.
She is currently working on her latest novel titled “Geese” about female generations and the family mythologies that can both enhance and hide the truth.