Ellen Kushner (Author of Swordspoint)Ellen Kushner weaves together multiple careers as a writer, radio host, teacher, performer and public speaker.
A graduate of Barnard College, she also attended Bryn Mawr College, and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. She began her career in publishing as a fiction editor in New York City, but left to write her first novel Swordspoint, which has become a cult classic, hailed as the progenitor of the “mannerpunk” (or “Fantasy of Manners”) school of urban fantasy. Swordspoint was followed by Thomas the Rhymer (World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award), and two more novels in her “Riverside” series. In 2015, Thomas the Rhymer was published in the UK as part of the Gollancz “Fantasy Masterworks” line.
In addition, her short fiction appears regularly in numerous anthologies. Her stories have been translated into a wide variety of languages, including Japanese, French, Dutch, German, Spanish, Latvian and Finnish.
Upon moving to Boston, she became a radio host for WGBH-FM. In 1996, she created Sound & Spirit, PRI’s award-winning national public radio series. With Ellen as host and writer, the program aired nationally until 2010; many of the original shows can now be heard archived online.
As a live stage performer, her solo spoken word works include Esther: the Feast of Masks, and The Golden Dreydl: a Klezmer ‘Nutcracker’ for Chanukah (with Shirim Klezmer Orchestra). In 2008, Vital Theatre commissioned her to script a full-scale theatrical version. The Klezmer Nutcracker played to sold-out audiences in New York City, with Kushner in the role of the magical Tante Miriam.
In 2012, Kushner entered the world of audiobooks, narrating and co-producing “illuminated” versions of all three of the “Riverside” novels with SueMedia Productions for Neil Gaiman Presents at Audible.com—and winning a 2013 Audie Award for Swordspoint.
Other recent projects include the urban fantasy anthology Welcome to Bordertown (co-edited with Holly Black), and The Witches of Lublin, a musical audio drama written with Elizabeth Schwartz and Yale Strom (which one Gabriel, Gracie and Wilbur Awards in 2012). In 2015 she contributed to and oversaw the creation of the online Riverside series prequel Tremontaine for Serial Box with collaborators Joel Derfner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Racheline Maltese and Patty Bryant.
A dauntless traveler, Ellen Kushner has been a guest of honor at conventions all over the world. She regularly teaches writing at the prestigious Clarion Workshop and the Hollins University Graduate Program in Children’s Literature.
Ellen Kushner is a co-founder and past president of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, an organization supporting work that falls between genre categories. She lives in New York City with author and educator Delia Sherman, a lot of books, airplane and theater ticket stubs, and no cats whatsoever.
An Interview with Ellen Kushner, Part One
Ellen Kushner: Taking Audiobooks To Another Level
Or, rather, I didn't realize just what sort of change it would be. Doing a show about the music, traditions and beliefs of people around the world and through the ages meant I had to open myself up to everything, without judging except, maybe, aesthetically a huge variety of human experience. I just plain learned a lot about our world, and got to hear some really good music. But my greatest learning came from you and your listeners. As you can imagine, the personal letters we got about each show were a revelation: moving, heartbreaking, hilarious, erudite, engaged - they reminded me of the range of humanity whose lives can be touched by public radio at any time.
In , Public Radio International teamed up with WGBH Radio Boston to create a nationally-broadcast weekly public radio series focused around Ellen.
we will light the way with our lanterns on
The Privilege of the Sword
The Truro Agricultural Show is still remembered fondly as a quirky traditional folk show that aired in greater New York City for some years. Ellen managed to subvert the all-classical formula with an eclectic blend of programming. But she found her true calling on the air as an interpreter of culture and meaning, with a series of Jewish Holiday Specials for APR later PRI that blended storytelling, interviews and personal insights with music ranging from Laurie Anderson to Georgia Sea Island chant to bring the listener to a deeper understanding of what lies behind the holidays. During that time, Ellen and her staff also produced two albums based on the show, and created two one-woman musical shows, Esther: the Feast of Masks and The Golden Dreydl , whichtoured the country. In , Ellen fell into the world of audiobooks, when Zizza proposed that she narrate all three of her own Riverside novels.
Kushner has an unusual background. She started out as a science fiction editor in New York in the early s. Her first novel, Swordspoint , was published in and she devoted herself to writing full time. At science fiction and fantasy conventions, she would perform musical renditions of verses from her books that she had set to music. Sound and Spirit ran until , during which time Kushner gained a lot of experience working in audio production with actors and musicians. And when the opportunity rose to produce audio renditions of her books for Neil Gaiman at Amazon's Audible. Being a radio drama person is like being the world's best thatcher of roofs--it's a really specialized skill that not a lot of people have a lot of use for--and it's very expensive to do.