Heather and Arizona O'Neill

Literary duo Arizona and Heather O’Neill share thoughts on Dawson experience

Ahead of their guest appearance at a Dawson Reads event on March 22, Arizona O’Neill (Fine Arts, 2013) and Heather O’Neill (Social Science, 1992) shared some thoughts on their Dawson experiences, the creative process and writing. Thanks to organizer and English teacher Sarah Gilbert for interviewing the mother-daughter duo.

On Dawson 

“I loved Dawson,” says author Heather O’Neill who started in Creative Arts and Literature, moved to the New School, and graduated from the Social Science program.  “You have access to intelligent people and are taken seriously.”

“Dawson was the best two years for me, education-wise,” agrees writer and multi-disciplinary artist Arizona O’Neill, graduate of the Fine Arts Program. “CEGEP was where I first met people with similar interests. In everything I do today, I draw on skills and techniques I learned at Dawson. I was able to dabble in everything and had freedom to discover my interests.”


Of the artistic process, Arizona points to Heather as her inspiration, saying, “It’s a way of life. But we approach it differently. I’m at my desk every day by 9 and I work until 5:30. I need daylight.”

“My writing gets exponentially better after sundown,” Heather explains.

Advice on writing and reading

“The worst thing is a writer who doesn’t read. Their work is full of things I’ve already seen,” Arizona declares.

“If you want to be a writer, you have to write every day: a journal or something. You need to find peers who are writing. Find a writing group and read your work to your friends. Write and share it,” says Heather. “You need to be slightly masochistic to put up with all the rejection and humiliation,” she adds.

About Heather and Arizona O’Neill

HEATHER O’NEILL is the beloved award-winning author of When We Lost Our Heads, The Lonely Hearts Hotel, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, and Lullabies for Little Criminals. Born and raised in Montreal, Heather O’Neill has been said to write “like a sort of demented angel with an uncanny knack for metaphor” (Toronto Star).

ARIZONA O’NEILL is a multi-disciplinary artist who has made original videos for CBC’s Creator Network and artists such as Laurence Philomène and Patrick Watson. She recently wrote and illustrated the book, Est-ce qu’un artiste peut être heureux?

Together they form O’Neill Reads, the exuberant book review page on Instagram.

Last Modified: March 22, 2023