ALAMEDA -- Ellen Mulholland has published two Young Adult novels in the past 12 months -- and is working on a third -- but her love of writing dates back much further than that.

"As a child, I was always in the library and always liked to read and write," said Mulholland, an Alameda resident who teaches academic strategies and reading intervention at Wood Middle School. "In seventh grade, my teacher submitted my poetry to a contest, which I won -- that was very validating."

Her two published books, "This Girl Climbs Trees" and "Birds on a Wire," are both about adolescent coming of age.

"My novels focus a lot on self-discovery and self-acceptance," Mulholland said. "They explore friendship and all kinds of love, whether love of self, family love or romantic love."

She said the inspiration came not only from her own children -- Carson, 16, and Connor, 20 -- but from her middle school students.

"Being a teacher, I've been in school pretty much my whole life," Mulholland said. "School is a central setting in all my novels."

As a middle school teacher, Mulholland said she's read a lot of Young Adult fiction, so she's in tune with what that age group likes to read.

"Adolescence is such a great age, there are so many stories going on in their own lives, that if each kid wrote a book, they would all be totally different," Mulholland said. "My first novel is about a young girl's awakening to the world as she separates herself from the little girl.

"I wrote 'Birds on a Wire' for boys. It's a story about the friendship between three adolescent boys and what it means to become a man."

Mulholland, 50, was born and raised in San Bernardino. She earned a degree in journalism and English literature from the University of Southern California, where she was editor of USC's newspaper, the Daily Trojan, for three years.

"After my graduation in 1985, my dad asked me if I'd like a computer or a ticket to Europe," said Mulholland, who spent a semester in London while at USC and loved it. "I didn't want a computer -- they were so big and clunky in those days -- so I moved to London with the intention of writing the great American novel."

She bought a manual typewriter from a pawnshop and began writing "This Girl Climbs Trees."

"I cranked out more than 300 pages but, at the time, I had no luck getting it published," Mulholland said. "I put it in a drawer and thought, 'I'll work on it more later.'"

Fast forward 20 years: Mulholland, who is a single mom and teaches full-time, decided it was time to take the book out of the drawer. She revised and edited her original manuscript and in December 2012, "This Girl Climbs Trees" was published. Her second novel, "Birds on a Wire," was published in October.

Mulholland said she learned a lot about literature and the importance of reading from her dad.

"Growing up, I remember him reading all the time -- and to this day, he reads voraciously," Mulholland said. "I remember that my mom was always good with words and writing."

She believes the support of her parents, along with the encouragement of her seventh-grade English teacher, spurred her to write her books.

"It means such a lot when a parent or teacher shows interest in what you are doing," Mulholland said. "My parents never discouraged me from wanting to be an author. They never said, 'Oh, you can't make a living that way.' They said, 'If you love it, pursue it.'"

Mulholland said she has a great passion for all the arts and that artists are an important and integral part of society.

"It's important that kids pursue higher education, but that can look like a lot of different things," Mulholland said. "Not every student wants to pursue a collegiate life."

Mulholland tries to write every day -- even if it's just scribbling notes on her phone or on the writing pad she keeps by her bed and in her car.

"During the school week, it's not always possible to find time to write, and I don't want to make it a burden to myself," she said. "However, it's always in my head, I'm always thinking about what I'm going to write."

Mulholland's books are available on Amazon, but she encourages people to check out Books Inc. on Park Street in Alameda, which carries her books, or their local bookstore.

"I love to support local independent bookstores," Mulholland said.

Mulholland said that although she initially "had a bug for journalism," she is happy with her decision to pursue a teaching career instead.

"I never thought I'd be a teacher, but I really enjoy it -- it's a pretty rewarding career."

---