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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 June, 2005, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Retired Jo's designs on writing
Clare Gabriel
BBC News website

Jo Verity
Verity began to write after a holiday fell through
Jo Verity is beginning a new career as a writer at a time when most would be thinking of putting their feet up.

Jo, from Cardiff, retired at 60 last November, and her first full-length novel was launched at the Hay Festival.

The launch came on the day that 80s pop stars Sting and Bob Geldof descended on the annual literary festival to promote issues other than their music.

Her book Everything in the Garden, is already being touted as a summer best seller.

The novel is about a group of 50-something couples who sell up their city homes for a rambling farmhouse in the Welsh Marches.

The writer - a former graphic designer at the dental hospital in Cardiff - has already won acclaim from TV interviewers Richard and Judy on whose programme she beat 17,000 entries to win the short story prize competition two years ago.

I feel quite proud that I am going to be leaving a row of books on the shelf
Jo Verity

And she only fell into writing seriously when a planned holiday fell through and she found herself with a spare week to fill and her daughter's new computer to work on.

"I thought to myself 'what shall I do with this?' and five days later I was completely hooked on writing," said the mother and grandmother of two.

After the Richard and Judy acclaim, Welsh publisher Honno rang and asked her if she had written anything longer. The seeds of her first novel had begun but after the call Jo set about completing it with more energy.

She says the story is a modern twist on the 60s idea of running away to a commune.

The cover of Everything in the Garden, by Jo Verity
Her first book is a modern twist on the 60s idea of a commune

The story's heroine Anna is "like her" - a potter and a gardener. But in an ironic twist on the title of the book, it soon becomes clear that everything in her "garden" is not lovely.

"She sees that people who are good friends when they meet once or twice a week for coffee, when you move in with them you don't share all their problems. It's too in-the-face."

"Anna is the "shock absorber" for all the family but when her daughter suddenly falls pregnant, and her father announces that he is going to marry, the idealised life begins to unravel."

After a life spent mostly not writing, Jo admits she is now thoroughly hooked.

She has already finished the first draft of her second novel, also set in Wales, about a Morris-dancing dentist who is a disappointment to his wife. And she is still entering short story competitions.


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