Órfhlaith Ní Chonaill   

 

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Órfhlaith Ní Chonaill was born in Tralee, Co. Kerry. At the age of five, she became a writer when her mother and aunt told her a story which fired her imagination. Taking old cigarette packets (the ones with pictures of sailors on them), and being entrusted with a very blunt scissors and a darning needle, she made her first “book”. In it she wrote the words, “The sailors were in the ships. The ships were in the sea. It was the war.” Since then, that theme has stayed with her and it is now the subject of her most recent manuscript, Lure of the Lusitania.



Órfhlaith and her family lived in Nairobi from March 1993 until November 1996. She was bowled over by the culture and by the local people with their openness, their (very Irish) sense of humour, their cheerfulness and their resilience, often in the face of great adversity. For the first time in her life, she had to redefine herself as a white woman. She found herself belonging, somehow, to the wrong tribe. The ghosts of coloniser and colonised were still thick in the air. The Kenyan experience found its first timid expression in a short story called The Laughing God.






She obtained an M. Phil (Creative Writing) from Trinity College Dublin (1998). During that year, a second African story, Kikuyu Grass, was published in the Sunday Tribune and was short-listed for a Hennessy Award. These two stories later grew into the African novel, The Man With No Skin.


Órfhlaith went to Boston in 2001, to study with Pat Schneider, the creative writing guru, who developed the Amherst Writers & Artists’ method of facilitating creative writing workshops. The belief behind the method is that genius is hidden everywhere; it is in every person waiting to be evoked, enabled, supported and celebrated. She has been facilitating writing workshops in Sligo and around the country for fourteen years.


The Man With No Skin was published in Colorado in 2005. It was the recipient of IPPY (Independent Book Publishers’) and CIPA (Colorado Book Publishers’) Awards in the US in 2006. It was very well reviewed. Eoghan Harris, in his column in the Sunday Independent said that it “carries big ideas with the deceptive ease of JM Coetzee’s Disgrace, but has the same eye for local African colour as Alexander McCall Smith in his comic classic, The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency.”



Her poems, short stories and interviews have been published in Force 10, The Sunday Tribune and in the anthologies: Westland Row, A Woman’s Work is Never Done, Dolly Mixtures and Badal. In 2012 her non-fiction writing was included in the Mid Life Slices anthology and And the Blue Sky Bends Over All — the tenth anniversary book from the Lismore Immrama Festival.


Órfhlaith lives with her husband in the beautiful, seaside village of Strandhill, Co. Sligo. She is the mother of two grown-up sons.

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