Elka Evalds

My first word was book, or so my mother said. But she was a librarian, so she was probably listening for it. She made sure we had a sea of wonderful books. I lucked out in the book department.

I also lucked out with grandmas. Grandma Evalds had gentle hands and flowered hankies and she never shouted. As long as you told the truth, you were never in trouble. She made Latvian pancakes and soft cinnamon bread; and she told stories about giant spiders, magical dresses, and trolls with silver axes. For some reason, we called her Grandma Pie.

Grandma-in-Connecticut had a garden with every herb mentioned in Shakespeare growing in it. She let us play all day in the woods where we pretended to be dead queens and angels, wearing gem-coloured velvet dresses that were once my great aunts’. Best of all she read to us: chapter books about Victorian runaways, houses with moats, and witches: good and evil.

If you had asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up I would have said write books and draw pictures for them.

I hated school. I didn’t care about it until university, and then I loved it. I went to: Greenfield Community College; the University of Massachusetts; Mt. Holyoke College; and Yale Univeristy. I got a PhD in art history at that last place.

I have lived in: Philadelphia; Chicago; Boston; London; Venice; Oxford; New Haven, Connecticut; Lawrence, Kansas; and Northampton, Massachusetts. But my favourite place to live is England.

I have worked at: an ice cream shop, two bakeries, a cookie shop, the Mug n’ Muffin, the Black Forest Kitchen, a shoe shop, a crèche, a woodworker’s studio, a flower shop, two gift shops, a dress boutique, a futon shop, an art gallery, the Porter-Phelps Huntington Museum, the Forbes Library Children’s Department, the Northampton (Massachusetts) Historical Society, Historic Deerfield, the University of Massachusetts, Hancock Shaker Village, Yale University, High School in the Community, a mask-seller’s stall on the Campo San Stefano, the popcorn counter at the Pleasant Street Theater, North Star Centre for Teens, Smith College, the University of Kansas, Quinnipiac University, the New Brewery Arts Centre, Oxford University Department of Continuing Education, and the Corinium Museum. And I almost became a nun once. But my favourite thing to do is to imagine stories, especially ones with magic in them, and write them down.

In 2015 I decided I really ought to do something more practical than teaching art history, so I enrolled in a master’s degree program in creative writing for young people at Bath Spa University, which I completed in 2016. Now I live in Gloucestershire, with my husband, who is called Tim. He likes to ride old motorbikes and watch birds. When I’m not teaching school children about the ancient Romans, I write stories all day long. It’s not actually very practical, but it’s the best fun ever.

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