Author Profile

Ellen Urbani

Ellen Urbani

Ellen Urbani is the author of Landfall (2015), a work of modern historical fiction set in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and the memoir When I Was Elena (2006), a BookSense Notable selection documenting the years she lived in Guatemala at the end of that country’s civil war. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times and numerous anthologies, and has been widely excerpted. She has worked as a federal disaster/trauma specialist focusing on psychosocial responses to grief and loss, and her career is the subject of the Oscar-qualified documentary film Paint Me a Future. She teaches creative writing in high schools and colleges throughout the country. A Southern expat now residing in Oregon, her pets will always be dawgs and her truest allegiance will always reside with the Crimson Tide. 

"Nobody tells a story like Ellen. At turns irreverent and earnest, she always knows her audience and always speaks from the heart."
-- Wendy Lawton, Communications Manager, City of Gresham

"Ellen is a desirable speaker for any group. She is an enchanting storyteller and a warm, compelling presenter. She can hold the attention of a large crowd or adeptly facilitate a small group discussion."
-- Jennifer Greenberg, Program Director, Congregation Neveh Shalom

"The best part of [Ellen's] presentation was how she handled the audience. Her kindness flowed from the stage."
-- David Gillaspie,

"Ellen is an imaginative thinker, compelling storyteller, and visionary writer who communicates with fluid eloquence and magnetic appeal to audiences from stage or screen. Her poised, charismatic, self-assured presence grabs your interest and your heart. As the spokesperson in my documentary film, Paint Me A Future, about the therapeutic influence of art, she appeals to the artist inside everyone with a personal poignancy that captivates the soul."
-- David B. Kaminsky, M.D., FIAC, Surgical Pathologist/Documentary Filmmaker

"Ellen is, by far, my students' favorite guest speaker. She didn't need to rely on a fancy Power Point or unusual artifacts or a slide show of photos to totally enrapture my classes. Ellen is a true storyteller who is able to so deftly put a story together that the audience feels like they are with her, experiencing her emotions and living out her memories. Ellen solicited students' questions and turned her answers into intricate tales that carried us right along with her. My students spoke of her and her experiences for the whole rest of the school year."
-- Monica Emerick, Social Studies, West Linn High School

"Ellen painted a very colorful picture of her time in Guatemala for our P.E.O. chapter. She was engaging, detailed when necessary, and humorous; our diverse group of women all came away from her talk intrigued and wanting to know more about life in Central America. I'd read her first book in advance and found it to have the same charming personality as the author - honest and lively."
-- Debi Laue, P.E.O. International (Philanthropic Educational Organization)

For more about Ellen and her works, go to

Reviews of Landfall

With her new novel Landfall, Ellen Urbani enters the world of American fiction with a bang and a flourish. She brings back the terrible Hurricane Katrina that tore some of the heart out of the matchless city of New Orleans, but did not lay a finger on its soul. It is the story of people caught in that storm and lives both ruined and glorified in its passage. Her descriptions of the flooding of the Ninth Ward are Faulknerian in their powers. It's a hell of a book and worthy of the storm it describes.
-- Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides