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Ridley, Elizabeth J. 1966- (Elizabeth Jayne Ridley)

Ridley, Elizabeth J. 1966- (Elizabeth Jayne Ridley)

PERSONAL:

Born October 28, 1966, in Milwaukee, WI; daughter of Ronald Ralph Ridley (a banker and president of a mortgage company) and Marcia Kaye Ridley (an artist and homemaker). Education: Northwestern University, B.S., 1989. Politics: Liberal. Religion: "Non-denominational Christian." Hobbies and other interests: Travel, cooking, Celtic music and culture, Shakespeare, garlic, Star Trek, baseball.

ADDRESSES:

Home and office—Milwaukee, WI.

CAREER:

Coleg Elidyr, Llangadog, Wales, house parent, 1989-90; free-lance reporter for community newspapers in Milwaukee, WI, 1991-92; United Cerebral Palsy, Milwaukee, care worker for handicapped teenagers, 1991-93; Writer's Digest School, instructor, 1998-2002; The Writer's Midwife (freelance editing service), 2000—.

MEMBER:

International Women's Writing Guild, Wisconsin Regional Writers Association, Council of Wisconsin Writers.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Tri-Quarterly prize in fiction, Northwestern University, 1989.

WRITINGS:

Throwing Roses (novel), Permanent Press (Sag Harbor, NY), 1993.

The Remarkable Journey of Miss Tranby Quirke (novel), Virago Press (London, England), 1996.

Rainey's Lament (novel), Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1999.

The Leaves of Euclid Avenue (screenplay), 2002.

Dear Mr. Carson (novel), Permanent Press (Sag Harbor, NY), 2006.

Author of an unproduced play, Last Acts; ghost-writer of a mystery novel, 1993.

SIDELIGHTS:

Elizabeth J. Ridley's novel Rainey's Lament is the story of Rainey Astrid McBride, a child who is born to a teenaged mother but raised by her grandparents. Rainey's mother named her Rainbow Planet, but when the little girl is taken in by her Scandinavian grandparents in the Wisconsin countryside, she is given a more traditional name. Rainey takes the brunt of their resentment for the way their daughter turned out. Despite getting little of the affection she craves, she develops a powerful inner life. Rainey forms a bond with a distant cousin, Ambrose, but when he later commits suicide, Rainey feels guilty for failing to turn him away from that choice. Her journey toward healing and forgiving herself is "a compassionate and soulful combination of tragedy and triumph," stated Margaret Flanagan in Booklist. Rainey's Lament begins on Thanksgiving Day, 1970, and ends twenty-two years later; in the interim, Rainey suffers and struggles, but learns to love life even if it is not easy or happy. Her story is "beautifully observed and written with grave and elegiac insight," according to a Publishers Weekly writer.

Another troubled teen is at the center of Ridley's novel Dear Mr. Carson. It is set in the 1970s, when Johnny Carson was the host of the long-running late-night television program The Tonight Show. Sunnie Lindstrom is overweight and feels unloved by her mother and father. She is teased by her classmates and does not get along with her sulky older sister or her popular younger brother. Sunnie idolizes Johnny Carson, and daydreams about appearing on his show. The best thing in Sunnie's life is her grandmother, but when Grannie dies, Sunnie finds herself packed off to a camp for overweight teens. As much as she does not want to go, the experience turns out to be a pivotal one, giving her a confidence she previously lacked. Eventually, she escapes the camp and heads to California to find Johnny Carson. "Sunnie navigates the world with grit and gumption," noted a Kirkus Reviews writer. A Publishers Weekly writer found the book a little less than "inspired," but affirmed that it is "a warmhearted coming-of-age novel."

Ridley told CA: "I feel writing is a need, more than just a desire. It is too much hard work and too much pain and disappointment unless you are driven. One reason I write is that I can't do anything else. All my attempts to join the ‘working world’ were terrible disasters. I knew that I had to succeed at writing if I was going to make a life for myself.

"I started writing at the age of four or five. Originally I wanted to be an artist, a painter, and the first books I wrote were illustrated stories. My first inspiration to be a novelist came from the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ series of books and The Diary of Anne Frank. My grandmother's family were Norwegian immigrants and I always related to the ‘Little House’ books as a very personal kind of history of my own heritage. Anne Frank was a devastating book to me, having read it at exactly the age she was when she began writing it. Her diary convinced me of the power of language to transcend time, tragedy, and even death.

"My Norwegian grandmother lived with us when I was young, and she was a big influence on my writing. She made me memorize and perform all kinds of things—American poetry, Norwegian table prayers, even the Gettysburg Address. As a teenager, I fell madly in love with theater, no doubt inspired by her encouragement. I was always a strange child: not popular, very unfeminine. My interests were totally unlike those of other children. I played the tuba in the school band only because I was one of the few children large enough to carry the huge instrument to school! I loved Alec Guinness movies and memorized metaphysical poetry; John Donne and George Herbert were my favorites. I felt isolated, a thing many writers seem to have in common. I know my parents and grandmother worried about me, about what kind of adult I would become, but now it seems like everything worked out for the best.

"I wrote my novel Throwing Roses as a grown-up girl's adventure story. I loved adventure stories as a child, and it bothered me that fun things only seemed to happen to boys. Throwing Roses is the book I always wanted to read, the book I searched for in every book store and library. Finally, I realized the only way I could read this book would be to write it first.

"Nothing in the world feels as good as a successful writing session. Even getting a novel published isn't as deeply satisfying, or maybe it is satisfying in a different way. There's a feeling afterward of being totally drained, too depleted to care about anything, which is actually wonderful. The world dissolves."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 1999, Margaret Flanagan, review of Rainey's Lament, p. 1794.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2005, review of Dear Mr. Carson, p. 1296.

Publishers Weekly, April 26, 1999, review of Rainey's Lament, p. 53; November 7, 2005, review of Dear Mr. Carson, p. 53.

School Library Journal, March, 2006, Lauralyn Persson, review of Dear Mr. Carson, p. 229.

ONLINE

Elizabeth Ridley's Home Page,http://www.elizabethridley.com (March 1, 2007).

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