Home page cover photo, "Into The Airport Light" by Alan Levine. CC license here.
I'm a transatlantic writer, in that I was born and raised in County Mayo, Ireland, and I'm now living on Boston’s North Shore.
As well as writing, I lead writing workshops at various schools, arts organizations, libraries and colleges in New England and beyond.
My essay, "Green Card" was cited as a notable in "Best American Essays 2013," and my essay, "Sanctuary" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Among my other writing awards and shortlists are the Hennessy Award for New Irish Writing, the Fish Anthology, the Rubery International Book Award, the Frank O'Connor Award, the Irish News Short Story Award and Indie Lit 2011.
I travel back to Ireland frequently.
To the shores of Americay
My home parish is best known for the filming of that iconic Irish movie, "The Quiet Man."
A lesser known fact: Our rural little village contributed the word "boycott" to the English language.
In fact, the word was coined and sent into the English-language lexicon from the front living room of our family's ancestral home, the thatch-roof cottage where I spent the first years of my childhood.
The verb derives from a local British land-agent, Captain Boycott, who oversaw the Downtown-Abbey-styled estate and was notorious for his exploitation and evictions of our peasant tenantry. In the heyday of the Irish Land League, a local priest (who rented rooms in our house) led an all-out public shunning in which Boycott's workers, suppliers, drivers and neighbors set down tools and stopped serving the big house.
Following a long and bitter standoff, the peasants won, and Mr. Boycott eventually moved his family back to England. This victory offered a blueprint for future peasant revolts and non-violent protests, so the the priest suggested using the word "boycott" as a verb ("We'll boycott them!").
Listen to the origins of the word "boycott"--including shots of my ancestral family home and farm--in this short movie clip.
So with this story in my history, is it any wonder I grew up to love words and language and how they can determine who we become?
In 1986, after a brief career as a primary-school teacher in an isolated, four-teacher school, I moved to the U.S.
In those days, 25% of Irish college graduates left our country for continental Europe, Australia or the U.S. I write about this experience in my memoir-in-progress and in the literary essay, "The Borders We Cross," in Stone Canoe: A Journal of Arts and Ideas from Upstate New York, and in "I Hate Saint Patrick's Day" at Salon.com.
After working the usual hodgepodge of minimum-wage jobs, I went back to college to study for a master's in English. I also got accepted to a fiction-writing intensive at the New York State Writers Institute at the State University of New York, which is where I finally got the skills and courage to finish and publish a short story.
I still have that literary journal's acceptance letter, and it still gives me a thrill to re-read it.
From upstate New York, I moved to Boston's North Shore, which is where I live and write now.
Where Maritime Meets Industry
These days I live and write where the Merrimack River meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Charles Dickens is reputed to have visited the Merrimack River Valley's mill towns and to have written back to his native England praising this pristine example of U.S. industrialization.
Inside these loud and chronically unhealthy textile mills, the machines were mostly worked by immigrant girls and women. The 'mill girls' founded America's first literary journal which featured the writings of young female immigrants from places like Quebec, Poland and Ireland.
So I live and write at the crossroads of America's industrial and maritime and immigrant histories--the perfect spot for a transatlantic writer.
I became smitten with the short story form as a student in my convent secondary school in Ballinrobe, County Mayo. To this day, I remember reading Padraic O Conaire (Irish Gaelic) and Guy de Maupassant (the great French story-author) and loving the art and artifice of each short work. I've published my own short stories in Irish and U.S. literary journals and anthologies.
Most recently, I've published and broadcast personal essays in various outlets, including NPR's WBUR station, "Boston Globe Magazine," "Salon," "Huffington Post," "Generation Emigration (The Irish Times) and The Feminist Wire.
Other outlets include Creative Nonfiction, Books Ireland, Numero Cinq, The Literary Review, The Fish Anthology, The Drum: A Literary Magazine for Your Ears, Natural Bridge, IMAGE Magazine," "Litro" and "The Irish Sunday Tribune."
I work in nonprofit communications, and have a strong interest in narrative medicine or the intersection of writing, the arts and healing. I am a lifelong journal keeper.
I hold a B.Ed in teaching and an M.A. in English.