Discipline: Literature – nonfiction

Kate O'Neill

Discipline: Literature – nonfiction
Region: Philadelphia, PA
MacDowell Fellowships: 2023

In 2018, writer Kate O’Neill’s youngest sister died while incarcerated after struggling for more than a decade with substance-use disorder. Kate spent the following year writing an award-winning series about addiction for a newspaper in Vermont, the state where she and her sister grew up. She sold a nonfiction book proposal to Knopf in 2021 about what she learned during her reporting and her family’s experience loving her sister through chaotic addiction.

While at MacDowell, O'Neill worked on We Grow Accustomed to the Dark, which combines memoir and journalism to explore issues that affect people with substance-use disorder through the lens of her family’s experience, as well as the larger historical/sociopolitical contexts of drug use in the U.S., to be published by Knopf in 2024. The book also examines potential solutions to the current addiction/overdose crisis, such as drug decriminalization and harm reduction, a public-health movement grounded in love, social justice, and human rights.

O’Neill has a M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns fellow, and now lives in Philadelphia and Burlington, Vermont.



Kate O'Neill worked in the Barnard studio.

Originally built near MacDowell's Union Street entrance, the Barnard Studio — which was funded by Barnard College music students — was re-located to its current site in 1910. When the small structure was moved, its size was doubled with the addition of a second room. This remodeling, financed by Mrs. Thomas E. Emery of Cincinnati…

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