Ridgeland native Malphrus authors first novel, celebrates with Jasper County friends
Subheadline: Former THA teacher Spilliards: ‘She’s always been special’
As the length of the line grew, Ridgeland native Ellen Malphrus penned personalized messages in her first novel “Untying the Moon” to those who have known her for nearly her entire life.
At a private reception Thursday at the University of South Carolina Beaufort Hilton Head campus held specifically for Malphrus’ friends and family from Jasper County, the support and pride for the author overflowed the room.
“It’s amazing,” said Kim Malphrus when asked what it’s like to see Ellen’s book receive so much attention. “I’m so proud of her. I knew the book was coming a year or so ago, but I had no idea it would be this successful.”
Kim Malphrus is longtime friends with the author’s siblings, Ridgeland Mayor Joey Malphrus and Judge Deborah Malphrus.
While Deborah knew her big sister would author a great book, it still overwhelmed her heart with pride, she said.
“This is something she’s worked on for years. Like Pat Conroy, we encouraged her for years to put her words into writing for everyone to enjoy,” Deborah said.
As a former Ridgeland “town” girl, Ellen Malphrus holds onto her roots despite moving to Bluffton in 1988, and is constantly fulfilling her wanderlust. Her summer 2013 trip to a cabin in Montana is what allowed her to finish “Untying the Moon.”
But she’ll never forget home.
“My Jasper County roots run the deepest ... Thank you for supporting your hometown girl,” she told the crowd filled with familiar faces.
USCB Chancellor Al Panu commended Ellen for not only becoming an accomplished novelist, but for making a lasting impression on her students at the four-year university.
“It is my great privilege to say one word about Ellen: pure gold. And we are golden to have her here. We’re very excited about the first of probably many, many more books that live in her. Not only is she a tremendous author, but she is a great professor,” Panu said. “I’ve ran into students who just brag about studying under her and excelling. You see the fruit of her labor in those students, and that’s an incredible combination.”
Former Thomas Heyward Academy teacher Eunice Spilliards understands the feeling of having an impact on a student. Although she didn’t teach Ellen during her tenure at the private school, Spilliards knew Ellen was destined to be successful.
“She’s always been special. From the time she was in high school, she was creative, and she just stood out in the crowd. As a teacher, you knew you had touched a life of someone who was going to be special. She’s fulfilled everything you want in a student,” Spilliards said.
Like many others, childhood friend David Heape also knew Ellen would become a star for “little ole Ridgeland.”
Heape introduced Ellen to her husband, Andrew Fishkind, who is also his best friend. The couples enjoy the outdoors together, including trips to their private island, Heape said.
“We just love her and we’re so proud of her. It’s not surprising because I knew she was due for stardom early,” he said.
Ridgeland Town Councilwoman Josephine Boyles, who has known Ellen before she was born, agrees that Ellen has become a celebrity.
“She’s just an outstanding person, and brilliant. I just love her, so what can I say? She’s like a celebrity, a movie star. We just love her,” Boyles said.
But writing her first novel was not an easy journey. Ellen wrote in spurts until the summer of 2013 when she traveled to her one-room cabin in Montana, dedicating her time to nothing but finishing the book.
Ellen’s inspiration for “Untying the Moon” came while on a camping trip. She was woken by a noise, which she followed to find it coming from the river.
“What it ended up being was a dolphin, floating the tide. There was a big moon lighting the night up. I looked into the dolphin’s eye and there was this thing that happened to me. It was incredible and it stuck with me,” Ellen said. “That single little incident sort of led to me thinking about writing about who is this woman, how did it happen and the story formed around that.”
“Untying the Moon” shares a story about a Lowcountry gal, and the Lowcountry life in general, Ellen said.
To purchase the novel, go to www.ellenmalphrus.com.