Ellen Amelia Cook grew up in Fairland, Maryland, a crossroads community with a cinderblock gas station/grocery store, a barbershop the size of a closet, and an elementary school. Not glamorous, but great neighbors and kids, plus woods and streams for imaginary play, made-up games, and riding ponies. (Her borrowed pony bit, ran off, and once rolled over with her in a freezing stream—but she was desperate to ride anything.) Her mother gave her a love of reading. Favorites were fantasy, animal stories, and the Classic Comics.
At Western Maryland College (now McDaniel), she met her smart funny husband Ken Nibali whose Italian-American family of nine brothers and sisters lived in a big white Victorian house in Catonsville. She and Ken settled in Woodlawn with their daughter and son, Jennifer and Ben, and she found herself writing children’s stories whenever she could. For the 1976 Bicentennial, she co-authored a history of Woodlawn, tracking down old photos, exploring ruins, and even puzzling out the words in a crumbling 1800’s diary sewn together by a man named Freeborn Hipsley. She found out history was fun!
Then the family moved to land in West Friendship that was nothing but corn stalk stumps. They got hamsters, cats, and a pony that didn’t bite or roll over on you. Ellen raised golden retriever puppies. The family was blessed with another son, Vince. She gardened like crazy, and they grew a woods and built a pond for wildlife. Ellen wrote articles for The Baltimore Sun newspaper and helped her oldest son’s 5th grade class write a history of West Friendship. Years later she wrote some songs and helped her youngest son’s class produce a musical based on that same history.
Meanwhile, Ellen finished her BA at the UMD Baltimore County and kept writing. She taught kids’ religion classes and participated in Bible studies. Now she performs characters such as Rahab the Harlot and Hannah in a traveling troupe, Women of the Bible-Alive!
Today Ellen works as a horticultural consultant for the University of Maryland Extension Service. She loves her job educating and writing about gardening and protecting our environment, especially from non-native invasive plants. Each week her Gardening Q & A column appears in The Sun.
She and Ken have four grandchildren and Maxi, a golden retriever-yellow Labrador retriever who, coincidentally, looks just like the dog in The Secret of St. Nicholas!
She and Ken like to experience other places, such as Italy, England, the British Virgin Islands, Africa, and, of course, all the United States.