Nuala O’Connor

1970- [writes short fiction as Nuala Ní Chonchúir]; b. 14 Jan., in Dublin; ed. TCD (BA); MA in Translation Studies - Irish/English (DCU); works as Arts Administrator, bookseller and librarian; issued short-story collections, The Wind Across the Grass (2004), the title-story of which won the RTÉ Francis MacManus Award in 2002; To the World of Men, Welcome (2005) - both from Arlen - and Mother America (2012); also Of Dublin and other Fictions (Idaho 2013); winner of Munster Literature Centre Award with the collection Nude (2009); appt. writer in residence at Cúirt Literary Festival, Galway, 2009; issued You (2010), a novel about a 10-year old girl living with her single-parent mother in semi-rural Co. Dublin, revealing adult lives through her naive perspective; afterwards broadcast on RTE;
issued Portrait of the Artist with a Red Car (2009), a poetry pamphlet which ranked among the four Templar finalists that year; The Juno Charm (2011), a poetry collection , won the Cecil Day-Lewis Poetry Award; issued a fourth poetry collection as Mother America (2012); guest writer at the 5th South American Conference of Irish Studies in Natal, Brazil, held under the aegis of ABEI (Sao Paolo), August 2012; her story “Squidinky” occupied the front page of The Irish Times Weekend Review (13 Oct. 2012); served as editor of Southword 14 & 15 (Munster Lit. Circle 2008); Horizon Review (2009-10), and Faceless Monsters (The Atlantis Collective 2010); attended Irish Studies Conference at ABEI (S. Paolo U/USP) in 2012; wrote “The Boy from Petropolis”, an account of Elizabeth Bishop’s affair with Lota from the poet’s standpoint;
issued Closet of Savage Momentos (2014), and  Miss Emily (2015), a widely admired novel about Emily Dickenson and her Irish maid-servant Ada Concannon - short-listed for the Eason Book Club Novel of the Year 2015 and long-listed for the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction 2016; also four collections of short fiction, a chapbook of flash fiction and three full poetry collections - one in an anthology; settled in Galway; appt. fiction mentor to third year students on the BA in Writing at NUI Galway, 2013; gives frequent readings with other Irish writers in Ireland and conducts writing workshops (“The Peers”);  issued Becoming Belle (1018), set in London where Isabel Bilton, a vaudeville duo with her sister Flo, becomes a countess - considered cringe-making by some readers;
winner of the James Joyce Quarterly competition to write the missing story from Dubliners (i.e., “Ulysses”), 2019; curated the Ulysses 100 exhibition at MoLI as Love, Says Bloom; issued Nora: The Love-story of Nora Barnacle and James Joyce (2021) - called [‘a lively and loving paean to the indomitable Nora Barnacle’ by Edna O’Brien; speaks about research for Nora at the Princess Grace Irish LIbrary (PGIL), 28 April 2022; winner of Irish Short Story of the Year Award, 2022 with “This Small Giddy Life”; she is editor at flash e-journal Splonk - the Irish for Splash.

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  • You: A Novel (New Island Press 2010), xi, 186pp.;
  • Closet of Savage Momentos (Dublin: New Island Books 2014);
  • Miss Emily (UK: Sandstone Press 2015); another edn. (USA & Canada: Penguin 2015).
  • Becoming Belle (London: Piakus; NY:  GP Putnam’s Sons 2018) [considered cringe-making by Good Reads posters].
  • Nora: The Love-Story of Nora Barnacle and James Joyce (Dublin: New Island 2021)
  • Birdie (Arlen House 2021), 50pp. [an ekphrastic work based on Matisse [incorporating ‘Ébauche, Esquisse, Étude, Tableau’].
Story collections
  • The Wind Across the Grass (Galway: Arlen House 2004);
  • To The World of Men, Welcome (Galway: Arlen House 2005);
  • Nude (London: Salt Publ. 2009), 133pp. [see contents]
  • Mother America (Dublin: New Island Press 2012);
  • Of Dublin and Other Fictions (Idaho: Tower Press 2013).
  • Joyride to Jupiter (Dublin: New Island 2017), 157pp.
  • A Little Unsteadily into the Light (New Island [2022])
Poetry collections
  • Tattoo:Tatú (Moher: Salmon Poetry 2007), 80pp. [bilingual introduction in English and Irish; some poems and their translations on facing pages, some in English only];
  • Portrait of the Artist With a Red Car (Derbyshire:Templar Poetry 2009), 26pp. [copy in BL];
  • The Juno Charm (Galway: Arlen House 2011), 83pp.

See also “Molly's Daughter”, in Divas!: New Irish Women's Writing (Galway: Arlen House 2003) [with others by Deirdre Brennan and Maíghréad Medbh; 218pp.; ‘Miss Emily Dickinson’s Coconut Cake’, in Prairie Schooner (Spring 2013) [pending].

  • Ed., Divas!: A Sense of Place (Galway: Arlen House 2005), 288pp.
  • Ed., with Paul Perry, Scoth na hÉigse/Best Irish Poetry, 2009 (Cork: Southwards Edns. 2008), 118pp.
  • Guest ed. [and foreword], Faceless monsters / Atlantis Collective (Dublin: Original Writing 2010), 158pp. [contribs. incl. Aideen Henry; Dara A’ Foghlu Wood [“Faceless Monsters”]; Maire T. Robinson; Alan Caden; Paul McMahon; Trish Holmes; Colm Brady; Ni Chonchuir ["Mother America"]; Conor Montague; Paul McMahon.
  • Intro. to The Bogman by Walter Macken (New Island 2020), 388pp.
  • contrib. “Squidinky” to Silver Threads of Hope, ed. Sinéad Gleeson (Dublin: New Island Press 2012) [in aid of the suicide prevention charity Console].
  • ‘On Writing Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor’, in The Irish Times (20 Aug. 2015) - see extract.

Bibliographical details
Nude (London: Salt 2009), 133pp. CONTENTS - Madonna Irlanda; Unmothered; To Drift and to Lift; Ekphrasis; An Amarna Princess up North; Mrs Morison of Haddo; Cowboy and Nelly; Before Losing the Valise, but Mostly After; The Woman in the Waves; As I Look; Jackson and Jerusalem; Xavier; Night Fishing; Roy Lichtenstein's Nudes in a Mirror: We are not Fake!; Sloe Wine; Mademoiselle O'Murphy; Amazing Grace; Juno out of Yellow; In Seed Time, Learn. [See opening extracts - as attached.]

  • John Lavin, interview with Nuala O’Connor, in The Lonely Crowd (July 2018) [see attached].
  • Nuala O’Connor and Siobhán Mannion in Conversation, Granta - New Writing (London: Granta, 13 June 2016) - online [accessed 23.09.2016]..

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O’Connor has called herself one of the last generation in Ireland to be brought up under the influence of the Catholic Church (the X Generation) and a ‘lapsed Catholic”:

“Mine was the last generation (Gen X) to be utterly steeped in Catholicism. I was brought up super-Catholic – not just mass, but special masses in handpicked churches outside our own parish. We were brought to prayer meetings too. (Before he married, my father was in a monastery). And I was quite a fervent youngster – I loved the ritual, the music, the iconography, the built architecture. I still love those aspects but I awakened in my late teens to the narrowness of the church’s teachings, the abhorrent attitudes towards women, the rampant crime and hypocrisy.
 Still, after that I went through a long phase of collecting and displaying holy statues (in a kitsch way) but eventually I got rid of most of them because they had begun to annoy me, the look of them.”

—See John Lavin, interview with Nuala O’Connor, in The Lonely Crowd (July 2018) [as attached].

See opening extracts from Nude (2010) - as attached.

On Writing Miss Emily [...]’, in The Irish Times (20 Aug. 2015).

 The first historical novel I attempted, about the German Expressionist Paula Modersohn-Becker, was consigned to a bottom drawer. When you write novels, a certain amount of ignorance, coupled with mystery, serves to keep up your interest as you write. At least as you begin, you’re better off not knowing too much and not overburdening the whole structure with facts. I learned from that failed novel that using the story of a real person’s life fictionally is tricky and that there are ways to do it that won’t make the whole house cave in. I realised that I needed to seek out the nuance behind the facts, and to leave room for imagination, otherwise the lightness and play necessary for good fiction would not exist in the final draft.
 When I decided to write a dual narrative about Dickinson and her Irish maid, I deliberately didn’t use the most well-known of her real Irish maids - Maggie Maher - but a made-up cousin of Maggie’s called Ada Concannon, whose history would be mine to concoct.
 Emily Dickinson’s life is a life of gaps - a frustration for fans and Dickinson scholars alike, but a joy for the writer who wants to fill those gaps imaginatively. In my research into Dickinson (conducted for the most part via her poetry and letters, as well as biographies and scholarly works) I discovered a gap that suited my purposes: in 1866 the Dickinson household in Amherst, Massachusetts did not have a maid. Mrs Dickinson had trained her daughters in the domestic arts and, between them, the three women managed the house, but this meant that Emily Dickinson had little time to write. This was also around the time that Dickinson chose to dress in a white wrapper, rather than in a more standard gown, and she continued her retreat from the outside world. So, here I had a couple of moments of quiet drama with which to begin my fictional exploration of a part of her life. My invented maid fitted nicely into this gap.

See full-text version - as attached.

On the election of Donald Trump

I cried when I came down to breakfast this morning and my husband said Trump was in. I had lain in bed, afraid to check Twitter on my mobile just in case, but I’d chastised myself for being silly, truly feeling that it would be Hillary all the way. I cried because a capable, qualified woman lost, and women lose far too often, in every walk of life, to unworthy men.

I cried because Trump is fascist, sexist and racist, and his values and actions will influence my world - and my children’s world - for the next four years. This juvenile, abusive man will have dominion not only over America, but over many aspects of our lives here in Ireland too. Will my friends who work for American companies retain their jobs? Will Trump’s racism and sexism incite further violence, in the States and all over? Will his fluid relationship with the truth stoke ever more turbulence and conflict?

In The New Yorker, editor David Remnick labels Trump’s win ‘a tragedy’ and ‘a sickening event in the history of the United States’. He goes on to say that people ‘can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory.’

The USA has found its demagogue in Trump, a truly awful candidate who cannot deliver on his campaign promises and who will fail the people of his country for sure. For me, anxiety and despair are the dominant feelings today. But hope will return, as it always does, and maybe, just maybe, this terrible news will provoke us all to positive action.

The Irish Times (10 Nov. 2016) - available online.

Nuala O’Connor, “This Small Giddy Life” - winner of the Irish Short Story Competition 2022.

 ‘Is that plastic?’ Imy taps a fingernail against the urn. ‘Trust Mam to end up in a shitty pot.’
 ‘It’s brass. Painted.’ I frown and rub my hand over the cold surface. ‘That’s what I ordered, anyway.’
 The urn sits on my kitchen counter, the lid wedged shut; I take a knife from the block and prise it open. We peer in at the ashes.
 ‘Wormy poo,’ Imy says. ‘Bird plop.’
 ‘Cremains,’ I say, and we both laugh, the same stupid, in-unison snorts we’ve done all our lives. I close the urn and it sits there, horribly present and, somehow, vital.
 ‘What’ll we do with her?’ Imy asks.
 ‘Same thing we always did with Mam, I suppose. Put up with her.’ I sigh and push away tears with my fist. ‘The last thing she got from me was blame, Imy.’
 My sister shrugs. ‘It doesn’t matter, Sharon; she was beyond understanding, you said it yourself.’ She pokes at the urn with the knife until I take it from her. ‘What sort of blaming was it?’ she asks.
 I flick my hands through my hair and stare at the table instead of Imy. ‘I said, “I’ve no clue how to fit into my own life, and it’s your fucking fault, Mam.” Do you think she heard? Understood?’
 ‘She was hopped up on morphine, didn’t even know where she was. Or who she was.’
 I sigh. ‘Well, none of us knew that.’


 We move to a place where backstory is not allowed; over and again we move to this place. People are coldly civil towards my mother; she draws that out of them. Men like her well enough, but women are often hostile. Mam makes no pretence at being widowed, or still married to whomever, and she gets disapproval in return for her honesty, her lack of cover-up. God knows she hides everything else, but no one likes a woman alone in these places, especially one with two daughters. A handsome woman who might do harm to husbands; a woman who talks a lot, who asks questions, and reveals herself too soon. A woman with obvious appetites.

—See remaining text as attached.

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Nuala O’Connor / Nuala Ní Chonchúir has an author's webpage - online; see also her Wikipedia page [accessed 29.10.2012].
See also Splonk - the Irish for Flash, edited by O"Connor - online [accessed 28.11.2022]

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Nude (2009): ‘The women and men in Nude play out their desires and frustrations from Dublin to Paris, Delhi to Barcelona, and beyond. In these stories there are mercurial lovers, illicit affairs and mistakes that cannot be undone. And at the centre of it all is the unclothed body: in bedrooms, in art, and in and out of love. Award-winning writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir uses her trademark sensual frankness, coupled with poetic language, to weave an intoxicating spell in these stories. If fictional worlds pivot on yearning, then the characters in these stories yearn for passion, for understanding and, sometimes, for freedom. In the opening tale, a naive painter travels to early 1970's Paris and meets fellow Irish artist Micheal O'Farrell; there she becomes the model for his iconic political nude “Madonna Irlanda”. Elsewhere, a master art forger is infatuated with his lovingly carved alabaster sculpture of an Egyptian princess, but he eventually falls foul of the Art Squad and loses everything. The story “Sloe Wine” sees two teenage cousins begin a closer relationship with each other, while their mothers untangle the knots of their own teenage years and, in so doing, unleash a family secret. These are lush stories of visual art, the heart and the body, in all their beauties and betrayals; there is humour and quirkiness, but beneath that is the reassurance of truth - the hallmark of all quality fiction.’ (See COPAC - online.)

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Pininterest: Nuala O’Connor saved 12 pins including a British stamp of Virginia Woolf at Pininterest online (accessed 20 Aug. 2016.)