Monday, January 29, 2018

Authors To Watch: 'Good Girl's Guide to County Jail' Ellen Marie Francisco

Canadian born Ellen Marie Francisco worked in feature film development and production in Toronto on Canadian Content film projects partially funded through Telefilm Canada in the ‘80s. She was transferred to Los Angeles in the early ‘90s to help expand the production company into Los Angeles. Her work in the entertainment industry continued for decades under a NAFTA Investor Visa in Los Angeles, and environs with her catering company Amazing Graze. Her resort community Real Estate business Cabin Ready operated to the point of her untimely arrest.
Francisco has also worked in the publishing industry. Along the way, she landed a job with writer Sidney Sheldon as a proofreader and fan mail response writer. That experience and her tenure in publishing helped shape her own voice. 

Her work as a photographer in Toronto and California in the early ‘90s landed her backstage access to Cirque du Soleil and one of her first print credits. She has sold and/or shown photographic works in galleries on the Big Island of Hawaii, in Los Angeles and Toronto. The book is filled with her raw and captivating vector artwork, a visual storyboard to her harrowing journey through the “Incarcer Nation.”

Francisco is the adoptive mother of two children and a Chihuahua named Piglet. They currently reside in Ottawa, Ontario. 



Millions of viewers have made the television series “Orange is the New Black” a pop culture sensation, but Ellen Marie Francisco ( has no interest in watching it or reading the memoir, by Piper Kerman, which spawned the hit show.

Francisco has lived her own version of “Orange is the New Black,” an experience she refers to as “innocent in oranges.” “Oranges” is prison jargon for the orange jump suits worn by prisoners who have been charged but who have not yet been to trial, Francisco explains.

Francisco, an author and entrepreneur, describes her experience behind bars in her latest book, GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO COUNTY JAIL (FOR THE BAD GIRL IN US ALL). A gripping and candid tale of her journey through three California jails for women, GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO COUNTY JAIL ( also serves as a resource guide for navigating the legal thickets necessary to surviving what Francisco dubs the “Incarcer Nation”.

GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO COUNTY JAIL “is a call to action to remedy the lack of support for pre-sentenced women sitting in jails across America who are not educated enough to understand what they’re negotiating in the courtroom,” Francisco explains, “and for the women who don’t realize how close they already are to the courthouse steps.”

Francisco was arrested in 2013 in Lake Arrowhead, California and charged with carjacking, assault with a deadly weapon and robbery after an incident involving her impounded car. The charges were ultimately dropped, but not before Francisco had served nearly two months in three county jails. While locked up, she talked to hundreds of women “each on a different path without a definitive end, each living with the certain fear that they were not in control of their own lives.”

Those conversations became the nucleus of GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO COUNTY JAIL.


Welcome to My Bookish Pleasures. We would love to get to know you and your book! When did you begin writing?
I began writing poetry in high school. Years later when I had a job in publishing, I started writing my first novel Moon Over Mandeville, a paranormal novel.
Describe your writing process. When and where do you write?
I write on my laptop. I take it with me nearly everywhere. I do like writing at home when my kids are at school or asleep. If I can see I'm going to be easily distracted I'll go to the library and work there instead, or I'll head to Starbucks and pull up my word doc and write until my drink is long finished.
Can you tell us about your most recent release?
Good Girl's Guide to County Jail for the Bad Girl in Us All: Your Guide to the Incarcer Nation is like a travel journal for the summer I spent in county jail in 2013.
How did you get the idea for the book?
I was sitting in county jail with a colorful array of women who were all fighting criminal cases for a myriad of different reasons. I'd been arrested when I'd reclaimed my own car from an impound lot. Our lives (and the lives of our loved ones on the outside) were dismantling around us. Even bad girl repeat-offenders who'd had paid attorneys had blind spots, and those like me who had never been in trouble before were lost as well, without resources to fight their cases effectively in court. Being in jail was such a different world than the one I lived in just forty-five minutes away from it, but it was like being in a foreign country. It made sense that I keep a travel journal of sorts and speak with the natives, the locals, and learn as much as I could from them.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
There were so many challenges - being arrested in the first place was no picnic, certainly. Having to revisit the emotional pain, and the physical and psychological trauma I'd suffered just prior to, and during my incarceration was the most challenging aspect of writing this book. The normal reaction would be to pretend it never happened and move on, but I was so disturbed by what I saw in there I felt I had no choice but to write it.
Do you find it easier to write nonfiction?
I do find it easier to write nonfiction because it's based on reality. I do find reality fascinating.
Do you have plans to write fiction?
I wrote my first novel in the nineties, my second novel Lip Service after that. I have a collection of short stories that work on here and there. I would like to start another novel, but I seem to be turning into a social activist of sorts. I worked with Sidney Sheldon years ago for a short while and learned so much from him. Funny enough, I'd already written my first two novels before that. I'd like to put his advice into practice.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am working on edits to I Stand Corrected which is the story behind the story of Good Girl's Guide to County Jail for the Bad Girl in Us All. It was written in tandem with this book, while I was in jail, but was content edited out last year. It's a much more personal narrative, and I wasn't ready to share it with the world quite yet. I felt it better if that stand on its own after this guidebook through the "system". 
And then there's Good Girl's Guide to Inner Peace for the Guru in Us All which takes this first GGG a bit further and offers guidance through self-awareness, self-healing, self-transformation, and self-preservation with more advanced tools and techniques for empowered living.
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring nonfiction authors?
Write a proposal first, before you write the book. It will help you define what you're trying to accomplish with the book, and who you're doing it for. It's a pre-requisite for most agents to sell to a publisher, and it invariably saves time in the long run. You'll write a better book with it than without it. Writing is a lonely pursuit during the writing phase where confusion and self-doubt can wreak havoc on the minds of the most talented writers. Having a plan, and plotting the course will allow you to do your best work with the least amount of duress.

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