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. I'm also on the faculty of the MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Baypath University.
For information on my programs and workshops, visit the Mass. Cultural Council artist profile.
Among my 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 essay, "Green Card" was cited as a notable in "Best American Essays 2013," and my essay, "Sanctuary" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
As well as working, writing and teaching, I get out and about now and again. I belong to local and regional arts and writing organizations, including PEN New England, the New Hampshire Writers Project and the American Conference for Irish Studies.
I travel back to Ireland frequently.
To the shores of Americay
I was born and brought up on a small farm in County Mayo, Ireland. My home parish is best known for the filming of that iconic Irish movie, "The Quiet Man" and for contributing the word "boycott" to the English language.
The boycott 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.
It derived from a local British land-agent, Captain Boycott, known for his post-famine-era rackrenting and general cruelties toward his Irish 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 workers, suppliers, drivers and neighbors set down tools and stopped serving Captain Boycott's Downton-Abbey-styled estate (only much smaller). Following a long and bitter standoff, the peasants won, and Mr. Boycott eventually moved his family back to England. This victory offered such hope for future peasant revolts and tenants' rights, that the priest suggested using the word "boycott" as a verb ("We'll boycott them!") to describe this practice of social shunning.
So is it any wonder I grew up to be a touch bolshie?
In 1986, after a brief career as a primary-school teacher in a 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. The Merrimack Valley was the cradle of America's industrial revolution. In fact, Charles Dickens is reputed to have visited the area's mill towns and to have written back to his native England praising this pristine example of U.S. industrialization.
Inside these loud and terribly 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.
Check out my four published books.
Most recently, I've published and broadcast personal essays in various outlets, including NPR's WBUR station, "Boston Globe Magazine," "Salon.com," "Huffington Post," "Generation Emigration (The Irish Times) and The Feminist Wire.
See my entire portfolio of personal essays and features.
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 healthcare 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.