An Unreluctant Writer

Author and longtime Valley resident JoEllen Collins. Photo credit: JoEllen Collins

From English teacher to author, Collins has put pen to paper whenever, wherever she can

By Eric Valentine

The cover of “A Reluctant Pioneer.” Image credit: Stratton Press, Inc.

From the #MeToo movement to last week’s news about changes to Texas’ laws concerning abortion, it’s not hard to imagine how many women feel unheard. There’s no need for this reporter to mansplain that to anyone and there’s no attempt here to cause divide—female opinion, like all opinion, lies on a spectrum, not in a box.

And all that is why readers and literary enthusiasts in the Valley and beyond are fortunate to have access to people like JoEllen Collins, a local author who has just had her second novel—“A Reluctant Pioneer”—published by Stratton Press. The story is about … Sorry, no mansplaining needed. Let’s let Collins summarize the tale:

“Leah Brown, a wife and mother from San Francisco, decides to spend time at a small cabin built in the Idaho Territory in the late 1860s by her great-great-grandparents, Linnea and Thaddeus Milton. Her memories of childhood and the tragic loss of her father stir her mind, especially when she discovers Linnea’s long-hidden diary. As she reads and rereads it and begins to explore the world around her, she gains perspective on the challenges women have always faced. She honors the pioneer’s words and imagines Linnea’s unwritten thoughts.”

Collins said she loved writing the novel, especially the diary parts, because it gave her the chance to think about the real feelings women during that era must have had but may have been reluctant to write them down.

“They were probably trying to be devoted, supportive wives of the 19th century,” said Collins. “What I hope is that I’ve left my own daughters something now that helps them look into what it was like to be raised in the 20th century.”

Originally from California, Collins was the daughter of a radio announcer who directed the San Francisco USO during World War II. Her earliest memories are of sitting on her father’s lap in front of a microphone and asking for donations for the war effort. She has continued performing, on radio, television, and in theater, and has been a member of AFTRA/SAG since she was seventeen. When she lived in Los Angeles, she appeared in commercials and had formal training in acting at UCLA, the Burbank Studios, and in professional theater workshops.

Among her Idaho stage roles were Amanda in The Glass Menagerie and Mrs. Gibbs in Our Town, and several appearances in musical productions with the St. Thomas Playhouse.

Collins was an English teacher at Santa Monica and Beverly Hills high schools, where she also directed the debate team, and at Santa Monica College and the College of Southern Idaho. She has continued to teach children and adults in several venues.

After a move to Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho, Collins lectured for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities (now the Sun Valley Museum of Art) where, for example, she reviewed classic plays prior to performances. She developed community seminars, including “Hemingway in Idaho,” “The Press, the Public and You,” and a class at The Community Library called “The Poet in You.”

JoEllen Collins Novels

“A Reluctant Pioneer” (2021)

“A Roof Against the Rain” (2019)

Local Book Buying Options

Hailey—Iconoclast Books

Ketchum—Chapter One Bookstore

Collins’ latest novel is being read by local book clubs.

For more information, please visit


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