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ISBN 978-1-909585-38-6
First published April 2021; 108pp
paperback with endpapers; 180 x 120 mm

Click here to read a pdf excerpt.
Dan O’Brien is an internationally produced and published playwright and poet whose recognition includes a Guggenheim Fellowship in Drama, the Horton Foote Prize, the Edward M. Kennedy Prize, two PEN America Awards, and a shortlisting for an Evening Standard Drama Award. His three poetry collections published in the UK by CBe are War Reporter (Fenton Aldeburgh Prize; Forward shortlisted), New Life, and Scarsdale. He lives in Los Angeles.
Dan O’Brien  A Story that Happens:
                        On playwriting, childhood, & other traumas


When the cataclysm, when the calamity, when the catastrophe – we couldn’t breathe. We said their names. We reckoned, demanded recompense. We took to the streets, Pentecostal, with our tongues of fire. We toppled the statues of historical characters we barely remembered because we could not forget. We were reminded that every story happens before it can be told.
– July 2020

Drawing on O’Brien’s experience of cancer and of childhood abuse, and on his ongoing collaboration with a war reporter, the four essays in A Story that Happens – first written as craft lectures for the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the US Air Force Academy – offer hard-won insights into what stories are for and the reasons why, ‘afraid and hopeful’, we begin to tell them.

‘This book is packed with beautiful bracing searching honesty, teeming with wisdom and inspiration.’
     – Bill Rauch, Artistic Director, Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center

‘All the essays were written during the tumultuous Trump years, a period of bombastic rage, where the truth was not only clouded but disrespected … O'Brien does an unforgettable job accompanying the reader through the prism of his life experiences, offering more than mere lessons.’
     – Jonas Schwartz-Owen, Broadway World

‘Part memoir, part philosophy, part pragmatic advice for young writers, [these essays] read like a master class in surviving through art.’
     – Los Angeles Times

‘This is a book for our times. It reminds us that theatre is “fractured and failing yet struggling towards the mouth’s translation of the heart’s tongue”. Like [O’Brien], we buzz with the desire for the “chance for more life, and for that most valued of theatrical currencies – change”.’
     – Alice Jolly, Times Literary Supplement

A Story That Happens is filled with exquisitely observed insights into the writing process as well as how we make sense of our lives. Like Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life and Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, this is a book that grapples with big, existential questions while imparting valuable information about the craft of writing. It is also a guide to surviving catastrophe, be it cancer or family trauma, and living to tell the tale.’
     – Naomi Iizuka

Praise for War Reporter:
‘I commend this work for its great originality, courage and humanity.’
     – Fergal Keane

‘A masterpiece of truthfulness and feeling, and a completely sui generis addition not just to writing about war but to contemporary poetry.’
     – Patrick McGuinness, Guardian

Also by Dan O’Brien: