Ellen Wittlinger went to college at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. She received her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa and lives in western Massachusetts. She published a book of poetry, Breakers, in 1979. Wittlinger had two fellowship years in Provincetown at the Fine Arts Work Center and worked for a local newspaper, The Provincetown Advocate. One of Wittlinger's plays won the author's prize at the annual Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theaters competition. Her first novel for young adults, Lombardo's Law, was published in 1993.