the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

Sarah Ellis and OUTSIDE IN!

Posted by Adi Rule on Sat, May 17, 2014 @ 12:05 PM

We are inside out with excitement about the release of middle grade novel Outside In by Sarah Ellis (Groundwood Books)! Sarah has been on the faculty of VCFA-WCYA since 2007, and was kind enough to pop by the blog. Here's the scoop:


Lynn’s life is full --- choir practice, school, outlet shopping with her friends and dealing with her annoying, free-spirited mother.

Then one day she meets a mysterious girl named Blossom, who has a very different kind of life. Blossom’s family lives secretly in an ingenious bunker underneath a city reservoir. The Underlanders forage and trade for what they need (“Is it useful or lovely?”), living off the things that “Citizens” throw away.

As the two girls become friends, Lynn comes to realize that Blossom’s world may somehow be more sane than her own. But Lynn must tell no one that Blossom exists. The Underlanders’ survival depends on it.

Can Lynn keep their secret without lying to her mother and her friends?

Smart, funny, wise, thought-provoking and moving, Outside In is classic Sarah Ellis.

Welcome, Sarah! We'll use our best Canadian spellings today in your honour. So, tell us . . .

Who was your favourite character to write?

My favourite character to write was Blossom. She actually began as the hero of her own short story about ten years ago. But she wouldn’t leave me alone. She was liberating to write because she has a lateral thinking approach to life.

What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why? 

I had a notion of how Blossom sounded, slightly non-idiomatic, slightly formal. But it became clear that this idiolect did not make logical sense as she had access to popular culture and media. It was hard to let it go because I liked listening to her!

describe the imageWhat was the spark that ignited this book?

The sparks that ignited this book were two big questions about the way we live. Why are we so busy, and why are we so afraid? What if we weren’t? The Underlanders are rich in time and they regard the world as a fundamentally welcoming place.

What was the strangest thing you Googled for this project? 

The strangest thing I googled for this book was a craft site on using toilet paper rolls.

(Note: We would love to see any and all toilet paper roll masterpieces crafted by writers/readers.)

What is your favourite VCFA memory?

My favourite VCFA memory is from a summer residency. There was a huge thunder and lightning storm, the like of which we don’t get in Vancouver where I live. I was enjoying the show from my dorm room window when, FWIT!, all the lights went out. I made my way into the hall and one by one doors opened and my colleagues appeared, using their laptops as flashlights, a parade of writers in weird blue light, eager, as always, for the ongoing VCFA conversation.

Thanks for visiting, Sarah!

Outside In has already received glowing praise from the Canadian National Reading Campaign and a starred review from Kirkus.

You can visit Sarah online at!

Topics: 2014 release, middle grade, Groundwood Books, Sarah Ellis

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