Lakeville author Loretta Ellsworth remains persistent in her writing practice.
The brilliant magic of a picture book can gleefully guide children to new places, challenge young minds through the complex world around them and introduce readers to new friends as they travel along together page by page—and Lakeville author Loretta Ellsworth’s newest story, Tangle-Knot, manages to do all of those things.
Tangle-Knot is the tale of a willful little girl named Fia who refuses to brush her hair. The whimsical Fia thinks her hair, bird’s nest and all, is just perfect. “She’s developing her sense of self,” Ellsworth says of the story. “She’s very confident, more confident than I ever was, and I think that’s something that can resonate with young readers.”
The story itself comes out of the author’s own experience. “I have several granddaughters,” Ellsworth says. “They all have tangle hair.”
Her first picture book for 4- to 8-year-olds evolved during the pandemic at a time she says she was struggling to write and decided to put her pen to a genre she hadn’t tried before—helped along by the FaceTime visits she kept with her grandkids. “It started to be an over-the-top book, but as I revised, a mother-daughter story evolved,” Ellsworth says. “It’s obviously a little silly but based on acceptance of who we are. Though it’s dedicated to my granddaughters, a lot of boys have tangle knots, too.”
Ellsworth, who was born in Iowa, has been writing since she was a young child. Her childhood diary contained gems like “Had Girl Scouts today and watched Bonanza.” Yet, it was that writing habit that propelled her to seek out a master of fine arts degree in writing from Hamline University and led to her career as a published author.
Ellsworth wrote her first novel, The Shrouding Woman, while working as a Spanish teacher and raising four children. The book is about a young girl’s experience of losing her mother and learning to heal with the help of an ancient practice called shrouding. “When I first started writing The Shrouding Woman, I thought it was going to be an adult novel,” she says. “But this young person kept coming through.”
Ellsworth’s book Stars Over Clear Lake, a tale of love and loss in a rural Iowa town, takes readers from World War II to the POW camps of Iowa and the role of music and the town’s beloved dance hall. “It goes back and forth between a teenage love story and an adult decades later and takes place in part at Surf Ballroom, where my parents actually met,” Ellsworth says.
Ellsworth and her husband moved to Lakeville in 1986 when their youngest child was a year old, and Ellsworth’s contributions to literacy in Lakeville go well beyond her own books. She’s the founder and chairperson of One Book, One Lakeville, a community read event that’s entering its 16th year. A new book is highlighted each year, along with a discussion with the book’s author.
When she’s not writing or reading whatever she can get her hands on, Ellsworth judges for the Minnesota Book Awards and belongs to writing groups to help stay connected to her work. “Persistence is key if you want to make yourself write,” Ellsworth says, noting that persistence is one trait she has in common with her latest main character. “You have to be stubborn enough. Maybe that’s what Fia has is part of me in her.”
Find Tangle-Knot in stores and online on June 6. Join Ellsworth for a reading of Tangle-Knot at 10:30 a.m. June 10 at the Heritage Library (20085 Heritage Dr., Lakeville; dakotacounty.us/library).