Jo Ely: How The Writers’ Workshop helped ‘Stone Seeds’

I’d had a couple of short stories published in magazines and one book anthology (Woven Tale Press, Chief Ed Sandra Tyler), I’d been Shortlisted for the Fish short story prize, I’d written reviews, mostly for the Empathy Library. But my unwritten novel nagged me like a child.

I wrote the first draft fast, at the bottom of my garden, hidden behind an overgrown hedge, large crows’ nest to the left and above me. The birds would caw with disapproval. I could hear trains rattling toward me and away. It was far from romantic, although … sometimes, at dusk a fox would shake the hedge behind me, passing through. It was mid-winter and freezing. But I loved it out there.

The first time I sloped out from my spot, flushed red with cold and a leaf sticking out of my hair, my husband stepped back and blinked. “What were you doing in there?”
“Writing a novel.”
He looked me up and down, wearing the coat he thought he’d mislaid, moss on the sleeves. A musty feather fell out of my hem and we stared down, considering it.
“Are you … Alright?”

I wrote the second and third drafts in a dingy corner of Starbucks, noise cancelling headphones, and quite transported. In retrospect I must have looked a bit odd.

Getting The Writers’ Workshop to review my work was an intervention of the best kind – editorial. After these reviews I felt hugely encouraged. I threw a bucket of rainwater over my novel, twice. I ditched thousands of words and it was liberating.

I pitched to Urbane, a small, innovative indie publisher. The publisher emailed me back to say how much he’d enjoyed the manuscript. We arranged to meet for coffee near Betjeman’s statue, St Pancras. Two days later I was clutching a publishing contract. Amazed.


stone seedsJo’s debut novel Stone Seeds is available on Amazon now.

‘Jo Ely’s superb debut novel combines the vision of Russell Hoban and Ursula Le Guin with her own unique talents as a powerful and poetic storyteller’ — Roman Krznaric, Author of Empathy


Follow Jo on Twitter @Jo_ely_ness

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  • Boo! Hiss! The book is NOT available “now.” It won’t be released until March 24! Waaa! 🙁