Nell Leyshon was born and grew up in Somerset, and spent half of her childhood in Glastonbury, and the other half in a small farming village on the edge of the Somerset Levels. She had a mixed education, and ended up attending art college for a year before moving to London. A first career culminated in working as a Production Assistant then Producer in TV commercials for directors including Ridley and Tony Scott. She gave it up to spend a year in Spain with her boyfriend Dominic, who remains her partner. She returned pregnant. She attended the University of Southampton as a mature student. Only after the birth of her second son in 1995 she started to write seriously.
In May 2004, her first novel, Black Dirt, was published by Picador and was long-listed for the Orange Prize and runner up for the Commonwealth Prize. She found herself struggling with prose, and secured a commission from BBC Radio 4 to write a play, Milk, which went on to win the Richard Imison Award for best first radio play.
Since then, she has she alternated between prose, stage drama and radio.
in May 2012, her third novel, The Colour of Milk, was published by Penguin. It was translated, winning the Prix Interallié in France where it was also shortlisted for the Prix Femina, and voted the book of the year in Spain. in 2015 her most recent novel, Memoirs of a Dipper was published.
Her second play, Comfort me with Apples, won an Evening Standard Theatre Award for most promising playwright, and was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award. She later adapted Daphne du Maurier's Don’t Look Now for the Lyceum, Sheffield which later transferred to the Lyric, Hammersmith. Her play Bedlam was the first written by a woman to be performed at Shakespeare's Globe. She has also written plays for the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, and RADA.
Her radio plays for BBC Radio 3 and 4, include Glass Eels and War Bride. In 2014 Leyshon wrote her first libretto, The River Keeper, for Streetwise Opera, a charity which works with homeless people.
Having taught adult students wanting to return to education when her children where young, she later decided to use her teaching skills to work with marginalised communities, including recovering addicts, mental health service users, gypsies and, in Labrador, aboriginal peoples. She taught and mentored creative writing and performance, focusing on developing skills and self-esteem, and, always, the writer's own original voice.
She is on the Management Committee for the Society of Authors, and an occasional lecturer at Goldsmiths University in London.
- Black Dirt, (Picador, 2004)
- Devotion (Picador, 2008)
- The Colour of Milk, (Penguin, 2012)
- Memoirs of a Dipper (Penguin, 2015)
- The Farm (2002) (BBC Radio 4)
- Glass Eels (2003) (BBC Radio 4)
- The House in the Trees (2004) (BBC Radio 4)
- Soldier Boy (2005) (BBC Radio 4)
- War Bride (2008) (BBC Radio 4)
- Sons (2009) (BBC Radio 4)
- The Iron Curtain (2011) (BBC Radio 4, Woman's Hour)
- Comfort me with Apples,
- Don’t Look Now (adapted from the story by Daphne du Maurier), Lyric Theatre (Hammersmith)
- Bedlam (Globe Theatre)
- Spencer, Charles (2007). "Playwright who ploughs her own furrow". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
- "Radio Drama Previous Winners | Society of Authors - Protecting the rights and furthering the interests of authors". www.societyofauthors.org. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
- "THE COLOUR OF MILK shortlisted for the Prix Femina étranger | United Agents". unitedagents.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
- "Evening Standard Theatre Award winners". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
- "Olivier Winners 2006". www.olivierawards.com. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
- "Previous Productions | Shakespeare's Globe | Education / Shakespeare's Globe". www.shakespearesglobe.com. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
- "'The River Keeper' | Streetwise Opera". www.streetwiseopera.org. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
- "Tinniswood Judges | Society of Authors - Protecting the rights and furthering the interests of authors". www.societyofauthors.org. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
- "Management Committee | Society of Authors - Protecting the rights and furthering the interests of authors". www.societyofauthors.org. Retrieved 2016-04-14.