Jan Ellison biography

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Jan Ellison

Jan Ellison

Jan Ellison Biography

Jan Ellison is an O. Henry Prize winner and author of the debut novel, A Small Indiscretion. A graduate of Stanford, Jan left college for a year at nineteen to study French in Paris, work in an office in London, and try her hand at writing. Twenty years later, her notebooks from that year became the germ of A Small Indiscretion.

After college, Jan spent two years in Hawaii, Australia and Southeast Asia. She worked as a waitress and a typist, trekked solo in the Himalayas, took trains across India, and job-hunted, unsuccessfully, in Hong Kong. Then she returned to Silicon Valley and ran marketing for a financial software startup for five years. After the company went public, Jan left to raise her kids and write.

Jan holds an MFA from San Francisco State University. Her essays about parenting, travel and writing have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, MindBodyGreen and elsewhere. Her short fiction has received numerous awards, including the O. Henry Prize for her first published story. A California native, Jan grew up in L.A. and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband of twenty years and their four children.

Jan Ellison's website

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Interview

Jan Ellison discusses how the genesis of her first novel, A Small Indiscretion began many years ago when she was nineteen, traveling in Europe and experienced the heady, lonely liberty of the moment in life when you can choose to become anyone at all.

What was the genesis of the story of young Annie?

When I was nineteen, I took a year off college. I spent three months in Paris, then moved to London and checked into a youth hostel. On my birthday, I called my mother from an iconic red phone booth. This was before cell phones and the Internet, and when we'd hung up, I realized there was no way she nor anyone else could reach me. I found that idea exhilarating. Two decades later, when I sat down to write what became A Small Indiscretion, it was simply that feeling I was trying to capture—the heady, lonely liberty of that moment in life when you can choose to become anyone at all.


One of the main themes is the tension between the freedom of youth and the constraints of family life. Why did you decide to focus on these two periods in Annie's life?

It's not easy for Annie to give up that sense of liberation and possibility she feels when she first arrives in London. Yet later, it seems unthinkable for her to turn away from keeping her children safe in the world, or to compromise the marriage that is the bedrock of those children's lives. This paradox confounds Annie— and fascinates me.

Freedom is intoxicating. ...

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Books by this Author

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A Small Indiscretion jacket
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