IRENE O’GARDEN has won or been nominated for prizes in nearly every writing category from stage to e-screen, hardcovers, children’s books as well as literary magazines and anthologies. Her critically acclaimed play Women on Fire (Concord Theatricals), starring Judith Ivey, played to sold-out houses at Off-Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theatre, and was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award. Her new play, Little Heart, just received its world premiere at the Jewel Theatre in Santa Cruz. It won her a Berilla Kerr Playwriting Fellowship and was awarded full development at the New Harmony Play Project.
O’Garden was awarded a Pushcart Prize for her lyric essay “Glad to Be Human,” which is included in a book of her essays by that name published by Mango in 2020. Harper published her first memoir Fat Girl; her second memoir Risking the Rapids: How My Wilderness Journey Healed My Childhood was published by Mango in 2019. Nirala Press published Fulcrum: Selected Poems, which contains her prize-winning poem “Nonfiction,” as well as “The Hands of Masters,” commissioned to accompany The American Artists Hand Archive. Her poems and essays have been featured in dozens of literary journals and award-winning anthologies (including A Slant of Light, USA Book award Best Anthology.)
Risking the Rapids: How My Wilderness Adventure Healed My Childhood was published by Mango in 2019. The memoir opens with the shocking death of her problematic older brother in 2014. Presented in short, punchy, lyrical chapters, Irene’s narrative alternates between her repressed mid-century Midwest Catholic upbringing to the present-day pitching white waters of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness — immediately grabbing readers where most of us live — in a family.
Irene’s children’s book The Scrubbly Bubbly Car Wash (Harper,) won a Gold Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Book Award. Harper also published her first children’s book, Maybe My Baby, which sold over 90,000 copies. Holiday House published her third children’s book, Forest What Would You Like? Irene has twenty-five years’ experience teaching poetry to children—offering workshops in New York City as well as schools in the Hudson Valley, as part of the national River of Words program which helps children connect with nature via poetry and art. Irene has also presented at Children’s Literature Conferences at NYU and Vassar College and received an Alice Curtis Desmond Award for her contributions to children’s literature.
In addition to appearing at top literary venues (The Player’s Club, the Bowery Poetry Club, Nuyorican Poetry Café, and KGB in Manhattan; The Poetry Café, Mycennae House and Vinyl Deptford in London.) O’Garden is a proud member of The Dramatists Guild, The Authors Guild, Actor’s Equity Association, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and The Society of Scribes.
Irene has lived joyfully with her husband John Pielmeier for over 45 years. Pielmeier, who is most known for his play Agnes of God, also writes movies and miniseries for television. Scribner recently published his first novel, Hook’s Tale, and his stage adaptation of The Exorcist played London’s West End and will be opening on Broadway in New York. They live and write in Garrison, NY.