The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 13, 2006


Ellen Miller takes over as Feature Editor

Ellen Miller (Photo by Rik Pierce)

New Mosquito editors usually arrive with a number of qualifications, such as a love of Carlisle, a commitment to the mission of a community newspaper, and lots of enthusiasm — but not always with much experience in journalism or communications. In Ellen Miller, who takes over as Feature Editor this week (see below), the Mosquito is fortunate to get a professional editor with years of experience in print and media productions, and a Carlisle resident with a deep, ten-year involvement in the community and the newspaper.

Professional history

Ellen's long career in audio-visual productions and publications began with a Master's degree in Television Communications and continued over 25 years at Harvard Law School, where she created and organized a new Department of Media Services and served as Director of Educational Technology and Director of Administrative Publications. In these positions she and her staff wrote, designed, and produced administrative publications, training videos for lawyers, and special projects such as oral histories with long-serving law school professors and deans. She was the first webmaster and had the first e-mail address at the law school. "I have always been interested in technology, and not been afraid of it," she says.

Coming to Carlisle

Ellen and her husband Bill Houssell moved to Carlisle from Belmont in 1994, looking for a place to create a beautiful garden and eventually to retire. Her son Matthew and his family live in Woodside, California.

From Oral History to nitty-gritty proofreading

Soon after arriving, she responded to an ad in the Mosquito looking for someone to manage the Carlisle Oral History Project.

Oral histories are interviews with ordinary people who might not write an autobiography but whose voices can contribute to the shared history of a family or a community or an institution Since then she has produced about three to five oral histories per year (all available at the Gleason Library and on the Mosquito web site.)

Mosquito readers will also remember her colorful feature articles, including "Counting sheep ... by the millions," (June 20, 2003), "Valleyhead: 50 years of healing on South Street," (February 6, 2004), and "A wrenching visit to Auschwitz," (October 14, 2005).

In 2001 she was invited to join the staff of the Forum and since then has contributed three to four essays per year.

Ellen has also been a regular Wednesday proofreader at the Mosquito. "I love to proof," she claims. "I love to do this nitty-gritty copy editing. And it has been a good way to get to know what is going on in town."

Carlisle historian, official geek

A member of the Carlisle Historical Society, Ellen knows more about Carlisle history than if she lived here for a century. She is the editor of a new book on Carlisle history. Images of America: Carlisle was written by the Carlisle Historical Society and published last year by Arcadia Publishing.

Because of her, technology expertise, in the late 90s she was appointed to the town's Cable Advisory Committee which negotiated with a series of cable providers to bring cable and high speed internet services to Carlisle.

Love of words and ideas

For most, these activities would be enough, but Ellen's love of words and ideas drives her to other challenges of the mind. In the coming year she expects to see her new book published. Entitled The Window Shop: Safe Harbor for Refugees, the book tells the story of a legendary restaurant/gift shop/social services agency on Brattle Street in Cambridge from 1939-1972 that initially employed refugees from Hitler, then later immigrants from many countries.

She is a competitive Scrabble player, although she claims that her national ranking is "dismally low."

In 1980, she read a book by Barbara Pym, a British author who writes about English country life, and found a deep connection to her writing. She researched, wrote, filmed and produced a 30-minute video on the author and her works, and in 1998, she founded the Barbara Pym Society of North America, a branch of the English Pym literary society.

What can we expect?

As Feature Editor, Ellen will resign the Forum but will contribute editorials in rotation with News Editor Betsy Fell and retiring Featuring Editor Marilyn Harte.

When asked about her plans for Mosquito features, Ellen does not have an agenda, but mentions several directions that she expects to pursue. I think people like reading about other people, and the people who live in our town are really very interesting and a great source." Change is another theme. "The town is changing, we need to reflect [these changes] in the paper and relate them to the past. Reminding people, especially those who are new to town, of Carlisle's history is very important."

It's also important to encourage Carlisle citizens to become involved on town boards and other organizations. "There are many long-time residents who have done their share. Where will the new people come from?" she asks. "We need a creative way to encourage people to become involved."

But the future directions are still wide open. "I would like to know what people want from their community newspaper. I need to get around and talk to people and get reader feedback." She continues, "Carlisle is a unique place in what it has and what it doesn't have. It doesn't have a central meeting place." She sees the Mosquito as its meeting place.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito