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University of Iowa News Release

June 30, 2004

Three UI Alumni Read On WSUI, July 12, 13 and 16

The "Live from Prairie Lights" reading series, hosted by Julie Englander on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910 will feature three alumni of the UI Writers' Workshop in mid-July:

-- fiction writer and cookbook author Jeremy Jackson at 8 p.m. Monday, July 12;
-- novelist John McNally at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 13; and
-- fiction writer Wayne Johnson at 8 p.m. Friday, July 16.

Each reading will be a free event in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

Jackson, who lives in Iowa City, will read from his new coming of age novel, "In Summer." Dan Pope, author of "In the Cherry Tree," wrote, "'In Summer' made me yearn to be young again."

Jackson was raised on a cattle farm in the Ozark borderlands of Missouri and attended Vassar College before coming to the Iowa Writer's Workshop, where he was a Teaching-Writing Fellow. In addition to fiction, he is the author of "Cornbread Book" and "Desserts That Have Killed Better Men Than Me."

He taught for a time at Vassar, but reports, "I quit that job and started being a writer full time, which was very much like being a writer part time except that it took a lot more time and I felt much more guilty when I didn't write anything. I moved from Poughkeepsie back to Iowa, which is kind of like moving from the outer circles of hell to the Garden of Eden."

John McNally has been described by Richard Russo as, "an electrifying writer whose stories burrow under the skin. His world becomes our world, his way of seeing, ours. Resistance is futile."

McNally will read from his new novel, "The Book of Ralph," set mostly in the junior culture of late-'70s suburban Chicago." A review in the Chicago Tribune observed, "Turn to nearly any page in 'The Book of Ralph' and you will find a funny, moving or outrageous set piece, usually with the hapless narrator, Hank, participating in some juvenile rite... 'The Book of Ralph' should earn John McNally the wider audience that his talent and wit deserve."

Mitch Albom, author of "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" and "Tuesdays With Morrie" wrote, "This book is charming, sensitive, and at times flat out hysterical... I hated to say goodbye at the end of the book." And Michael Anft wrote for the Washington Post Book World, "Sometimes hazy, occasionally wistful, often picaresque chapters are delivered with a satirist's perfect understated pitch and announce John McNally -- also the author of 'Troublemakers,' a collection of stories -- as a gifted meta-memoirist."

McNally, the winner of both the John Simmons Short Fiction Award and the Nebraska Book Award, has edited four anthologies, most recently "Bottom of the Ninth: Great Contemporary Baseball Short Stories." He is an English faculty member at Wake Forest University.

Wayne Johnson returned to Iowa City to teach in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. He will read from "The Devil You Know," his new thriller, set in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.

A Publishers Weekly preview called the book, "a riveting, character-driven tale of action and loss set in a beautiful and remote corner of wild America."

Bill Ott wrote for the American Library Association's Booklist, "Johnson manages the dazzling feat of surrounding his mythic confrontation with a human drama, the coming-of-age of a troubled teenager, that is as subtly realistic as the battle with evil is archetypally grand."

Johnson has been the recipient of an O. Henry Award, a Transatlantic Review award, a Teaching-Writing Fellowship from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. His stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Ploughshares, Story and other magazines, as well as in various anthologies, among them "Norton's New World of Literature," "The Ploughshares Reader: Other Sides of Silence" and a Vietnam anthology, "The Perimeter of Light." He was awarded a Michener Grant for his first novel, The Snake Game," which was a London Times Bestseller. His 1999 novel, "Don't Think Twice," was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and "Six Crooked Highway" was chosen as a "Booksellers Summer Bestseller."

The Writers' Workshop is an academic unit of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

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