I'm an Irish 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 creative writing, I work as a health writer and communications professional for nonprofit organizations, including healthcare.
My healthcare background—and my own experiences as a patient and as a caregiver—have given me a strong interest in narrative medicine and I believe that the arts can enhance our healthcare delivery.
As well as writing, I lead wellness and creative writing workshops at various locations on the North Shore of Boston and throughout New England.
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.
My fifth book, “Green Card & Other Essays” is forthcoming from Wising Up Press in Spring 2019.
I travel back to Ireland frequently.
From Ireland to Massachusetts: My Story
Ever watched that Irish movie, "The Quiet Man?” My home parish features in most or many of the movies scenes with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Of course, since 1953, when the movie was made, many things have changed in modern Ireland, including the way that men—even John Wayne—treat their women.
Boycott: Words and Advocacy
More significant about my home parish is this fact: We contributed the verb "boycott" to the English language and, in the 1800’s, our local land rights insurrection inspired future non-violent protests among oppressed groups across the world.
The word Boycott was coined in the front living room of our family's ancestral home, the thatch-roof cottage where I spent the first years of my childhood.
The Boycott verb derives from a local British land-agent, Captain Boycott, who oversaw one of our local, Downtown-Abbey-styled estates. Mr. Boycott 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 stopped serving the big house.
Following a long and bitter standoff, the peasants won, and Mr. Boycott had to move his family back to England. Based on this success, our local priest saw the possibility for future revolts and began using the word "boycott" as a verb ("We'll boycott them!").
So with this story in my ancestry, is it any wonder I grew up to love words and language and to have a staunch (some would say stubborn) sense of fair play and civil rights?
On Being an Immigrant Writer in America
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 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.
It’s also the topic of my most recent book, “Green Card & Other Essays.”
Getting Started as a Writer
After working the usual hodgepodge of minimum-wage jobs, I went back to college to study for a master's degree 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. There, I studied with the Canadian author, Douglas Glover, a gifted teacher and writer who gave me the skills and courage to finish and publish a short story.
I still have that literary journal's acceptance note, 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.
Writing in New England and the Merrimack Valley
These days I live and write where the Merrimack River meets the Atlantic Ocean.
During the heyday of the Merrimack Valley’s industrialization, 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 efficient commerce.
Inside these loud and chronically unhealthy textile mills, the machines were mostly worked by immigrant girls and women. The 'mill girls' led Bread and Roses, a landmark labor strike (they won!) and 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 an immigrant writer.
Writing and Creative Writing Workshops
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 New Hibernia Review, The Fish Anthology, The Drum: A Literary Magazine for Your Ears, Natural Bridge, IMAGE Magazine," "Litro" and "The Irish Sunday Tribune."
I teach creative writing workshops (fiction and non-fiction) on the North Shore, in greater Boston and in venues throughout New England.
Writing Workshops for Beginner Writers
I love working with beginner writers, and my workshops have been cited for their blend of humor, humanity, high-value resources and respectful peer review. I also present on the evidence-based benefits of expressive writing for health and wellness. These presentations are available for conferences, at various clinical education settings, colleges, advocacy, caregiver groups and others.
To find out more about my writing workshops and teaching for your organization, complete this brief inquiry form. You will receive a response within 24 hours.
As well as continuing education in narrative medicine and digital marketing, I hold a B.Ed in teaching and an M.A. in English.
Home page cover photo, "Into The Airport Light" by Alan Levine. CC license here.