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CINDER EDNA by Ellen Jackson…Still delighting readers after 20 years

In 1994, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard published Ellen Jackson’s CINDER EDNA, a fun, twisty take on the traditional Cinderella story. Twenty years later, The Washington Post revisited CINDER EDNA to find out why kids and their
caregivers are still reading and loving this tale. (It’s still in print!)
Ellen has stopped by today to discuss the book and her writing. Thanks for coming, Ellen!
Can you believe it’s been 20 years since CINDER EDNA was published? 
How did you decide to write this story in the first place?
Even as a little girl I was bothered by the Cinderella story (even though it was probably
my favorite fairy tale). For example, I could never understand why the prince
didn’t recognize Cinderella when he came to her house with the glass slipper.
He’d been dancing with her all night, and presumably looking at her. And why
“glass” slippers? That didn’t seem like the best choice of material for a pair
of shoes. My first thought was to write a humorous story that would explain all
those little discrepancies. But then it occurred to me that Cinderella wasn’t
much of a role model either. Why not have my Cinderella be spunkier and more of
a go-getter?
Did the writing come quickly, or did you have to work to get it just right?
The general plot came fairly quickly, but I struggled to get the details just
right. For example, at the end there’s a description of the Cinderella’s life
as a queen and daily routine. I wanted to make it funny, and I rewrote it
several times. And the same was true at the beginning of the book where I tell
about Cinder Edna’s chores. The details had to be funny, but appropriate and
not too distracting.
Was there a message behind the story that you wanted to convey to kids?
I don’t really try to send a message when I write. My primary goal is to entertain and
make children (and, hopefully, their parents) laugh. The “message” or theme
usually creeps in somewhere along the way, but it’s often just a part of how I
look at the world. In the case of CINDER EDNA, I was aware that Cinderella had
led me astray as a child. It instilled in me the idea that I needed to look for
a prince–someone who would sweep me off my feet and provide for all my needs.
And I’d better grow up to be beautiful to attract that prince.
That was just my childish take on the story. Don’t misunderstand, I love fairy tales and
I think that most can be interpreted in more than one way, especially
Cinderella. But I’m not beautiful and I’ve learned that it’s more satisfying to
improve your own life rather than expect a fairy godmother to do it for you.
All this was in the back of my mind when I wrote the story, but I wasn’t really
planning it all out consciously.
After you finished writing the story, how long did it take to sell it?
It took awhile—probably at least two years. It was rejected 40 times before the 41st
publisher acquired it. Some editors thought it should be a “magazine piece.”
Others thought fractured fairy tales were a dying genre. There were a lot of
different reasons why it was rejected.
Tell us about the illustrator, Kevin O’Malley. Had you worked with him before or since?
I’d never worked with Kevin before, nor have I worked with him since. At the time, he was
very much an up and coming illustrator at Lothrop, Lee and
Shepard.  Kevin and I did sign books together at ALA when CINDER EDNA
first came out, so I got to meet him. I thought he was absolutely delightful.
He’s a wonderful performer and very funny.
CINDER EDNA is still going strong as a book. Hasn’t it been performed on stage, too?
Yes, CINDER EDNA has been made into a short film, performed as a play by several
different theater companies, and made into a musical three or four times. My
agent has sold foreign rights to Germany, Korea, and several other countries.
That’s amazing! I’m thrilled for you that this wonderful story–one of my personal
favorites–has touched so many lives. Thanks a bunch for telling us about it,
Ellen. And continued success with your writing!

Readers, you can visit Ellen at http://www.ellenjackson.net/.


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