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Bio

Dr Ellen Wiles is a writer, anthropologist, curator, editor and teacher.

She is represented by Laura Macdougall at United Agents. 

Her debut novel is The Invisible Crowd (Harper Collins, 2017). It is a polyphonic novel about immigration and asylum, and tells the story of Yonas, an Eritrean asylum seeker, his experiences after he is smuggled into the UK, and the people he meets along the way. It was inspired by a case that Ellen worked on as a human rights barrister, and years of research and voluntary work after that. It is available in hardback, paperback and audiobook (with Ellen performing one of the parts).

Ellen’s first book, Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts: Literary Life in Myanmar Under Censorship and in Transition (Columbia University Press 2015), is one of the first explorations of fiction in this fascinating country, and includes extended interviews about the lives of nine writers, from three generations, alongside new translations of their fiction and poetry. Ellen researched this book while living and working in Yangon as a human rights lawyer.

Ellen is also a literary critic, and a regular TLS contributor, reviewing fiction, non-fiction and theatre. She writes articles on subjects ranging from censorship, Myanmar, literary culture, literary anthropology, ethnography, law and human rights. Links to published pieces are listed on her work page.

She has a PhD in literary anthropology from the University of Stirling, which was funded by the AHRC. Her thesis explores live literature events and their cultural value; and how experiential literary ethnography can provide fruitful insights into participant experiences. Her research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and won a Firth Award from the Royal Anthropological Institute as a piece of outstanding research. It is forthcoming in book form from Palgrave. 

Ellen is now available as an ethnographic consultant, specialising in creative and engaging ways of articulating and communicating the value of participant experiences.

Ellen founded and directs an experimental live literature project called Ark to stage immersive short story performances in library spaces. These have included The British Library, Palace Green Library in Durham University and Swiss Cottage Library. Ellen writes and makes audio stories as part of those shows. She is particularly interested in the intersections between the creative and the critical, as well as between genres of writing. 

She has an MA in creative writing from Royal Holloway (Distinction), a Masters in human rights law and social theory from UCL (Distinction), and a degree in Music from Oxford (first), and is a qualified barrister.

Ellen currently teaches creative writing at QMUL, CityLit, Camden Arts Centre and the Estorick Collection. She is available to teach workshops and courses in varied contexts and loves sharing her passion for creative writing and literary with others.

She also enjoys editing other writers’ work in progress, and is a writing mentor for The Riff Raff. She offers independent editing and mentoring too.

Before focusing on writing, Ellen practised law as a barrister at 39 Essex Chambers in London for seven years. She has worked on international projects including for an AIDS orphan charity in Zambia, in a refugee camp court in Thailand, on the Botswana's Bushmen's trial contesting their eviction from ancestral lands, and in Myanmar training lawyers on human rights.

As a flautist, Ellen has played professionally in orchestras, busked around Europe and winged it in a jazz quartet. 

She is married with two children and lives in London.

If you'd like to say hello or ask Ellen anything about her work, please do via the contact page or through her agent.

Seek her out on Twitter @ellenwiles