Beginner’s Pluck: Roisín O’Donnell

Brought up in England to Northern Irish parents, Roisín has always felt a sense of dislocation. A writer since she was small, she had completed three novels by the time she was 24.

“I wrote the first at 15. But I had no confidence. I didn’t show them to anyone.” In her final year at Trinity College Dublin she took a module in African Literature, and was blown away.

“Reading writers like Ben Okri opened the door to my own writing,” she says.

After College Roisín completed a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course, and travelled to Spain, Malta, and Brazil. Then, returning, she trained, then worked as a primary school teacher. Meanwhile she took a course in Experimental Creative Writing with Dave Lordan. “Writing short stories was a revelation. He encouraged me to send away my work, and it was accepted quickly. Some stories were published in anthologies in the UK.” Her work has appeared in Young Irelanders and The Long Gaze Back both published by New Island. “I then sent them a few stories and they were keen to publish my collection.

Who is Roisín O’Donnell?

Date/place of birth: 1983/Sheffield.

Education: Notre Dame High School in Sheffield. Trinity College Dublin; English. University of Ulster: Postgraduate Certificate in Education.

Home: Dublin.

Family: Husband, Richard. Mum and Dad and sister Alice.

The Day Job: Teaching English at DCU.

Interests: “I love the outdoors.”

Favourite Writers: Ben Okri; Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Lucia Berlin.

Second Novel: “I’ve started working on something.”

Top Tip: Live your life. Don’t closet yourself in your room writing. The years when I didn’t write, when I travelled, and met lots of people, is where my inspiration comes from.


Twitter: @jroisinodonnell.

The Debut

Wild Quiet; New Island, €10.95

A child engages with a beast dwelling in a closet who eats memories. Nigerian brothers Ezekiel and Kingsley, negotiating life in their educate together school, battle over a girl called Shanika. A Brazilian girl learns Irish so that she can teach, but is her new marriage in trouble?

These refreshingly different stories concentrate mainly on outsiders in society, and those feeling dislocation. Using elements of magical realism they radiate charm.

The Verdict: Astonishingly accomplished. I was blown away by this varied, imaginative collection.


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