Heather O'Neill

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Heather O'Neill
Heather O'Neill speaking at a book panel in 2016
Heather O'Neill speaking at a book panel in 2016
Born1973 (age 50–51)
Montreal, Quebec
OccupationWriter, poet, journalist, screenwriter, novelist
EducationMcGill University
Notable worksLullabies for Little Criminals

Heather O'Neill (born 1973)[1] is a Canadian novelist, poet, short story writer, screenwriter and journalist, who published her debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, in 2006. The novel was subsequently selected for the 2007 edition of Canada Reads, where it was championed by singer-songwriter John K. Samson. Lullabies won the competition. The book also won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and was shortlisted for eight other major awards, including the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Governor General's Award and was longlisted for International Dublin Literary Award.[2]

Lullabies for Little Criminals was a publishing sensation in Canada and went on to become an international bestseller. O'Neill was named by Chatelaine as one of the most influential women in Canada.


O'Neill was born in Montreal, Quebec. Her father is from Montreal and her mother is of Southern American descent. O'Neill spent the first part of her childhood in Montreal. After her parents' divorce, she lived in the American South with her mother for several years before returning to Montreal to live with her father. She has lived in Montreal ever since. She was educated at Dawson College and McGill University. She has one daughter, Arizona,[3] whom she raised as a single parent.[4]


O'Neill published her debut novel Lullabies for Little Criminals in 2006 and it immediately became a bestseller.

She published her second novel The Girl Who Was Saturday Night in 2014. It was shortlisted for the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize.[5] It was also nominated for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction[6] and the Encore Award.

Her short story collection, Daydreams of Angels, was published in 2015[7] and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.[8] It won the 2016 Danuta Gleed Literary Award from The Writers' Union of Canada.[9]

Her third novel The Lonely Hearts Hotel, was published in 2017 and won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction.

She has made contributions to The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, This American Life, CBC Radio, Rookie Magazine, Elle, Chatelaine, the National Post, The Globe and Mail the Toronto Star, and The Walrus.

O'Neill was on the jury for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize.[10]

O'Neill's 2017 CLC Kreisel Lecture was published in 2018 by University of Alberta Press as Wisdom in Nonsense: Invaluable Lessons From My Father.[11][12]

In 2019 O'Neill was awarded the Writers' Trust Fellowship for her body of work.

She appeared as a panelist in the 2024 edition of Canada Reads, winning the competition while championing Susan Ouriou's English translation of Catherine Leroux's novel The Future.[13] With Lullabies for Little Criminals having won the competition in 2007, her participation in the debates made her one of very few people who have ever been featured in the series both as an author and as an advocate.



  • two eyes are you sleeping, 1999 (poetry)
  • Lullabies for Little Criminals, 2006 (novel)
  • The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, 2014 (novel)
  • Daydreams of Angels, 2015 (short stories)
  • The Lonely Hearts Hotel, 2017 (novel)
  • Wisdom in Nonsense: Invaluable Lessons from My Father, 2018 (nonfiction)
  • When We Lost Our Heads, 2022 (novel)[15]

Other work[edit]

O'Neill wrote the screenplay for the 2000 film St. Jude, directed by John L'Ecuyer and starring Liane Balaban and Nicholas Campbell. It debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival.

O'Neill has written a book of poetry entitled two eyes are you sleeping.

Her 2008 short story "The End of Pinky" was adapted as a 2013 animated short of the same name, with O'Neill providing English narration.[16] In December 2013, it was named to the Toronto International Film Festival's annual top ten list, in the short film category.[17]


  1. ^ O'Neill, Heather (March 19, 2014). "One woman shares the perks (and hardships) of being a mother at 20". Chatelaine.
  2. ^ Hoffert, Barbara (December 16, 2013). "Damien Echols, Stephen King, Larry McMurtry, Lisa See, & More". Library Journal. Archived from the original on February 18, 2014. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
  3. ^ Stoffman, Judy (December 13, 2006). "Lyrical Lullabies; Heather O'Neill's first novel, inspired by her hardscrabble childhood, draws raves". The Toronto Star. p. D.4.
  4. ^ O'Neill, Heather (February 18, 2017). "We've been children together, my daughter and me". The Guardian. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  5. ^ Carter, Sue (October 6, 2014). "Heather O'Neill, Miriam Toews among six Giller Prize finalists". Quill & Quire.
  6. ^ Flood, Alison (March 10, 2015). "Shami Chakrabarti reveals Baileys women's prize for fiction longlist". The Guardian. Retrieved May 15, 2015.
  7. ^ Medley, Mark (January 2, 2015). "The 50 most anticipated books of 2015 (the first half, anyway)". The Globe and Mail.
  8. ^ "2015 Shortlist". Scotiabank Giller Prize. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  9. ^ "Danuta Gleed Literary Award". The Writers' Union of Canada writersunion.ca.
  10. ^ The Scotiabank Giller Prize: Introducing the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize Jury
  11. ^ 2017 CLC Kreisel Lecture | Heather O'Neill
  12. ^ Wisdom in Nonsense – Invaluable Lessons from My Father – CLC Kreisel Lecture Series – By Heather O'Neill
  13. ^ "Meet the Canada Reads 2024 contenders", CBC Books, January 11, 2024.
  14. ^ "Margaret Atwood, Heather O'Neill up for Frank O'Connor short story prize". CBC/Radio-Canada. May 1, 2015. Retrieved May 15, 2015.
  15. ^ "66 works of Canadian fiction to watch for in spring 2022". CBC Books, January 11, 2022.
  16. ^ Leighton, Heather (September 9, 2013). "The End of Pinky to premiere at TIFF". The Rover. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  17. ^ "TIFF's Top 10 films of 2013 taps Enemy, The F Word, Gabrielle". CBC News. December 4, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2013.