Tag Archives: A.J.K O’Donnell

Tour de Force

April 19, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

At 21 years old, wordsmith a.j.k. o’donnell (who does not capitalize her name) is a literary force to be reckoned with. In 2018, she published her second book, This Void Beckons, and embarked on a nationwide tour in support of the tome, which features evocative prose structured as poetry.

“My goal in life is to put out 24 works, whatever that looks like—books, screenplays, poetry collections, anything literary project-wise,” says o’donnell, who published her first book, Nicoteane and Other Foolish Mistakes, in 2015 when she was still in high school. “Twenty-four is an important number to me; it’s the day I was born…I’m two books in, which means I have 22 pieces to go. So, about every two years.”

This Void Beckons came out under o’donnell’s own Cracked Jar Press, which she says she started with the intent to publish works from underrepresented writers. Using the publishing and tour process of her own book as a prototype, o’donnell says she learned a lot about the overall “literary atmosphere,” booking and marketing tours, formatting and publishing, and more.

The tour, which included stops in New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Omaha, Lincoln, and Iowa City, was supported throughout by the Colin Higgins Foundation and regionally by the Nebraska Writers Collective. A 2016 recipient of the Colin Higgins Foundation’s Youth Courage Award, o’donnell is grateful for their support and says they allowed her lots of range to steer the tour and choose venues.        

a.j.k. o'donnell

a.j.k. o’donnell

“As much as the last year has been about me growing as a writer, it’s also been about me growing as a young professional and learning how to navigate my circles to get the support I need,” o’donnell says. She recently started a full-time position as national communications manager for the nonprofit organization Black and Pink Inc., a prison abolitionist organization supporting LGBTQ and HIV-positive prisoners. 

Traveling was also beneficial to o’donnell’s personal growth. She relished experiences such as popping into bodegas and writing poetry on the subway in New York and exploring the Mission District in San Francisco. As she left copies of her book scattered across the nation, she also left little pieces of her heart in the places she fell in love with.

“I like to balance the physical around me with the emotional inside of me. So, just seeing where that equilibrium is in different environments is really empowering and brings lots of artistic energy for me,” o’donnell says. “I also think for me as a young trans writer in Omaha, this tour was really vital for my ability to stay focused and grounded, because when I go to big cities like New York, L.A., and San Francisco, there are entire populations of LGBTQ people walking around and it’s very empowering for me.”

In addition to her writing, o’donnell has been a voracious reader since childhood. She says she’s “always kind of in a world between writing and reading.” If ever she felt nervous to stand in front of a crowd and speak while on tour, she conjured her childhood self, which she describes as “very much a monkey-bars-in-the-summer kind of kid, sprawled with a book under a tree.”

“My first thought to calm myself down was to go back to that little kid in the backyard reading Harry Potter or Percy Jackson and just remember: ‘You get to do this. You got to write your own book,’” she says.

In true tour-de-force fashion, o’donnell has plenty more in the pipeline as she continues her “sacred experience” with writing and pursues her goal of 24 works. This literary dynamo is working on a novel (the working title is What the Crevice Holds), a screenplay, and another poetry collection, as well as taking classes at Metropolitan Community College, with the ultimate goal to one day earn her Ph.D.

Visit ajkodonnell.com for more information.

This article was printed in the May edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

a.j.k. o'donnell

a.j.k. o’donnell

It’s a Makers Weekend

November 15, 2018 by

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Pick of the WeekFriday, Nov. 16:  This Friday is full of good things, thanks to the OEAA Showcases happening at some of your favorite, local music joints in Benson. You can check out full lineups at Burke’s Pub, The B Side, and Barley Street Tavern, or bounce around to catch your favorites. For only $10, your wristband will get you in to see over 15 performances featuring bands, DJs, hip-hop artists, and comedians. Why would you spend your night anywhere else? Get the whole setlist here.

Thursday, Nov. 15:  It’s a magical night at Bayliss Park as they celebrate Winterfest. This free event marks the kickoff of a festive winter wonderland in the park. With Santa, hot cocoa, reindeer, and carolers, tonight will definitely get you in the mood for some holiday fun. Don’t miss the lighting ceremony and a showing of Frosty the Snowman. For the full rundown, click here.

Friday, Nov. 16 to Sunday, Nov. 18: Shopping for the perfect gift for your loved ones? Be sure to check out Junktoberfest at the Southroads Mall in Bellevue where you can choose from collectibles, crafts, handmade pieces, and more. There will also be food and entertainment available for when you need a break from all the mall walking. You have the whole weekend to check it out, but don’t wait until the last day if you want to get the good stuff. Head here for more information.

Saturday, Nov. 17: It’s part Santa’s workshop, part science fair at SAC Museum this Saturday. Their Makers Market celebrates invention, creativity, and resourcefulness, with everyone from engineers to hobbyists to craft brewers in attendance. This is an event for the whole family to experience new forms of arts and technologies. Be sure to check out the puppet shows, yoga workshops, and musical performances throughout the day. Did I mention the duct tape Transformers? (Yes, that’s all duct tape!) Get the full list of all the many ways they’ll have to entertain and educate here.

Sunday, Nov. 18: Spend your lazy, Sunday afternoon supporting local talent at OutrSpaces with poet A.J.K O’Donnell. An Afternoon with A.J.K. O’Donnell will help fund an extension of her book tour, so let’s make it work. Pre-sale tickets include a signed copy of her latest book, This Void Beckons. They will also include early entrance & seating, appetizers, an open bar, and several other perks. There will also be time for dialogue and questions for the author. To learn more, just tap here.