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Dr Sally O'Reilly

Sally O'Reilly photo

Profile summary

Professional biography

I joined the English Department in January 2014 as Lecturer in Creative Writing. Previously, I worked as an Associate Lecturer for the OU (from 2008 – 2010) and as a creative writing lecturer at the University of Portsmouth and Brunel University, where I studied for my PhD.

I have also worked as a journalist and editor for Christian Aid and Barnardo’s, and as a freelance for the Guardian, Sunday Times and New Scientist. My teaching has covered a wide range of genres, including the novel, the short story, creative non-fiction and screenwriting.

I’m the author of two contemporary novels, The Best Possible Taste and You Spin Me Round, both published by Penguin books (2004 and 2007). My debut historical novel Dark Aemilia was published by Myriad Editions in the UK in March 2014, and by Picador US in May 2014.   

My short stories have been published in South Africa, Australia and the UK and I was shortlisted for both the Ian St James and Cosmopolitan short story prize. My short story ‘Brief Encounter at Bill’s Café’ was published in the Illustrated Brighton Moment in 2008 by UnMadeUp books in 2008.  I have also written a non-fiction guide for writers: How to Be a Writer: the definitive guide to getting published and making a living from writing’ (Piatkus, 2011).


I can be contacted via the English Department, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK or by e-mail at

Research interests

My research interests focus on historical fiction and its relation to genre and literary fiction, and the status of the novel as creative research.

I convene seminars for the Contemporary Cultures of Writing research group, and in March/April 2014 I chaired three seminars on the 21st century short story.

I currently supervise PhD students focussed on creative writing. Applications in the field are welcome. Please see our advice pages about creative writing PhD study.



Dark Aemilia, Myriad Editions, 2014, Picador US, 2014

You Spin Me Round (as Sam O’Reilly) Penguin Books, 2007

The Best Possible Taste (as Sam O’Reilly) Penguin Books, 2004


How To Be a Writer: the definitive guide to making a living out of writing, Piatkus, November 2011 (Mass market edition published August 2013)

Nonfiction (chapter)

Norris, S, (ed) Studying Creative Writing (Cambridge, The Higher Education Partnership), O’Reilly, S, ‘What Happens Next? How to Proceed after Graduation’, August 2013


The Value of Dead End Jobs in Raymond Carver’s ‘They’re Not Your Husband’, University of Chichester, Thresholds, 2012

Conference papers

O’Reilly, S. (2013) The Literary Journalist: can journalism inspire fiction?’ London, Great Writing conference, Imperial College, University of London

O’Reilly, S. (2012) ‘Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.’ Defamiliarization and historical fiction. Reflections on the uses and abuses of place and period in this genre with reference to my PhD novel Dark Aemilia. Other Voices, Other Times: Historical Writing symposium, Bath Spa University  

O’Reilly, S. (2012) ‘Inventing Shakespeare – is this relevant to 21st century writers? A short history of made-up Shakespeares and an examination of the challenge of re-inventing iconic historical characters’ Great Writing conference: Imperial College, University of London

O’Reilly, S. (2012) ‘Dark Amelia: linked readings from the story of Emilia Bassano: mistress; mother; poet; witch.’ London, Researching the Arts Fourth Annual Conference: Brunel University

O’Reilly, S. (2012)  ‘Dark Aemilia: reading and commentary’, Glasgow, Write Now conference: University of Strathclyde

O’Reilly, S. (2011) ‘The Researcher’s Aha! Moment’, London, NAWE Great Writing Conference, Imperial College, University of London

O’Reilly, S. (2011) ‘Inventing Shakespeare: imagined versions of Shakespeare in drama and fiction’ London, Researching the Arts Third Annual Conference: Brunel University

O’Reilly, S. (2010) ‘Post Graduate Study and Creative Writing: A Published Writer’s viewpoint’  Bangor, Great Writing conference: Bangor University 

Teaching interests

I am module team chair of A215 Creative Writing and a module team member of  A363 Advanced Creative Writing, and A803 MA Creative Writing Part 2.

Impact and engagement

I run workshops to help widen understanding of writing and publishing, based around my nonfiction guide How to be a Writer. So far these have taken place at the University of Roehampton, London’s CityLit and the Brighton festival. The remit of How to be a Writer is to help people foster and sustain a creative writing life. The guide was re-issued as a mass-market paperback in 2013, and is also published by Little, Brown in the US.

In autumn 2013 I ran a series of public workshops in Hampshire and Dorset, in which I helped participants to develop their writing using visual art as a creative cue. This was funded by Arts Council England and Hampshire County Council.


Inventing Shakespeare: re-imagining a national icon (2019)
O'Reilly, Sally
Writing in Practice, 5

Dark Aemilia (2015)
O'Reilly, Sally
ISBN : 978-1-908434-41-8 | Publisher : Myriad | Published : Brighton