Elizabeth Rusch was almost born in a taxicab in the Queens-Midtown tunnel in New York City. Her mother made it to the delivery room of St. Vincent’s Hospital in the nick of time.
She is the third child of six, three boys and three girls. Her brother Mike, older by one year, had a hard time pronouncing Elizabeth and could only sputter out Li-li, so her nickname became Lili.
(She was “Lili” until she bloomed into an ornery middle school student and insisted that everyone call her Liz. She sticks to her guns on this one, though her husband got away with calling her “Liver” once.)
Lili went to a small Catholic elementary school called St. Mary’s in Greenville, South Carolina, complete with knuckle-wrapping nuns in black habits. Little Lili loved
staring out the window, chasing kids all over the
concrete playground, and sitting under the shade of the pecan tree, nibbling on the nuts. She was an avid reader, but not a great student at first. (A-F grades were not-too-sneakily disguised as E for Excellent, V for Very Good, G for Good, S for Satisfactory, and U for Unsatisfactory. Little Lili got a few too many Ss and Us.)
One of her earliest attempts at writing was a gripping story of two girls racing horses, suspiciously named Lili (her own name) and Sharon (her little sister’s name). To this day, Lili does not know why she let the little sister win. Maybe she knew even then that in any good story the underdog must prevail.
Before becoming a writer, Lili was a playwright. Though she didn’t actually “wright.” She and her best friend Karin Anderson made up and performed plays. Their longest running series was The Carter Girls, about two clever girldetectives. (She also performed in local productions of Tom Sawyer, Oliver and Oedipus Rex.)
When her family moved to Guilford, Connecticut, in the sixth grade, Lili, now Liz, started to pay attention and actually like school. She distinctly remembers thinking how interesting her classes were. She read legal cases and built a model city in social studies, peered into a telescope in science, and wrote poetry in English class. Her favorite subjects went from recess to English, social studies, and science. Once she got past adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, she liked math, too. (She still finds that almost everything interests her.)
Liz went to high school, then college at Duke University, then landed this amazing job as part of the start-up staff for a new national magazine for teachers. She was part of creating the magazine: the look-and-feel, the content, the marketing plan,
even the budget.The magazine got the greenlight, and the editor hired editors and writers from top magazines across the country. When Teacher Magazine began publication in 1989, the big question was: What are we going to do with Liz?
Since Liz did not have a writing degree (she majored in Economics in college) or any real experience writing, she was made the Copy Editor. When offered the position, she told her boss that she was terrible at spelling and grammar. His jaw dropped. But she promised to look everything up, and managed not to get fired. And that’s how her writing career really began.
Liz loves being a writer because she can write about anything in whole world that interests her. She has written more than 100 magazine articles and more than a dozen acclaimed children’s books, including picture books, middle grade, fiction, nonfiction and even a graphic novel. She recently received her first credit as a story editor on a documentary film and is considering writing a screenplay.
Liz loves where she lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, two terrific kids, and one very funny, quirky dog named Reba.