O’Connor is the recipient of the Cornell Woolrich Fellowship in Creative Writing from Columbia University, the Visiting Fellowship for Historical Research by Artists and Writers from the American Antiquarian Society, and the DeWitt Wallace/Reader's Digest Fellowship from the MacDowell Colony. He teaches in the writing MFA programs of Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence. For eight years he directed and taught in Teachers & Writers Collaborative’s flagship creative writing program at a public school in New York City. He has received a B.A. from Columbia University, and an M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, both in English literature. He lives with his wife and daughter in New York City.