Ellen Hopkins Headshot

Ellen Hopkins

2015 Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Inductee, 2006 Silver Pen Awardee


Ellen Hopkins published her first haiku, at age nine, in the Palm Springs Desert Sun, igniting the writing spark. Born and educated in California, she entered, and won, creative writing contests throughout high school. She began her career as a freelance writer, then worked as a reporter and editor for the Tahoe Truckee Reader from 1992-96 and later as editor and contributor for Northern Nevada Family from 2000-02. She has also been a contributor to the Reno Gazette-Journal. She was an instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature from 2000-03. During that time, she began focusing on children’s nonfiction, publishing 20 titles before switching to fiction. Concurrently, as a member of Carson City’s Ash Canyon Poets, she stoked her fire for poetry, growing her craft through exceptional critique. Her involvement with the regional Children's Book Writers and Illustrators group led to a meeting with a representative of Simon & Schuster, which published her first novel-in-verse, Crank, in 2004. Both one-word titles and free form verse fiction would become her trademarks. In 2006, she received the Friends of the University Libraries' Silver Pen Award and her young adult novel, Burned, was nominated for a National Book Award. In 2014, her YA novel Smoke was a runner-up finalist for the Teen Choice Book of the Year Award. In January 2014, TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada produced Flirting with the Monster, a stage adaptation of her award-winning and controversial first novel, Crank. To date, nine of her young adult novels-in-verse have been New York Times bestsellers. Her 12th novel is being published in November 2015. Characterized as a young adult phenomenon, her "breathtakingly raw" YA novels delve into tough subjects, such as addiction, religion, sexual abuse, and suicide. Her decision to pull no punches when dealing with real world problems has occasionally led to book-banning controversies in some school districts. Characteristically, her response was to write a poem for Banned Books Week about people seeking to force their values on others through censorship. Her books for adult readers touch on hot button issues like military deployment and its impact on both those deployed and those left behind. Hopkins uses social media to interact with her readers, crediting them for some of her writing ideas. In 2012, she and her younger daughter, Kelly Foutz, co-founded Ventana Sierra, a non-profit organization that helps at-risk youth with housing, medical care, and other necessary resources, including educational support and career guidance. She has lived near Carson City since 1990 with her extended family, two dogs, one cat, and two ponds (not pounds!) of koi.