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University of Iowa News Release


March 4, 2010

UI alumnus McNally will read from his new comic novel set in Iowa City

John McNally will read from his new novel "After The Workshop" at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, in Prairie Lights Books at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. The free "Live from Prairie Lights" event will be streamed live and archived on the Writing University Web site,

The workshop of the title is the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, where McNally earned his Master of Fine Arts degree. A past faculty member of the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and a current faculty member at Wake Forest University, McNally has become a prolific writer and editor, unlike the protagonist of "After the Workshop."

Twelve years after graduating, Jack Hercules Sheahan suffers from chronic self-doubt and a decade-long case of writer's block. He keeps an unfinished novel in a box and earns his living as an escort for literati invited to read in Iowa City, which Kirkus Reviews describes as "the Midwest's most literary town." In the midst of a frigid Iowa winter, he loses track of a writer who may be suffering from post partum psychosis and events spiral downward from there.

"My novel 'After the Workshop' was inspired by the years I spent in the late '90s working as an author escort in Iowa City -- picking writers up at the airport and bringing them to town for their readings," McNally says. "Iowa City itself is most definitely a character in the novel. As for the various writers who appear in the book ... I'll leave that to the reader's imagination."

A review in Publishers Weekly observed, "McNally, an Iowa graduate and former media escort, clearly knows the world he admires yet takes down. His wacky literary archetypes, naked humor and sharp observations offer up an entertaining look at the writing life and the people who prop it up."

Kevin Canty, author of "Where the Money Went," wrote, "A swift, wicked and very funny book about what writers do when they're not writing. They're gossiping, scheming, pining, teaching, going on book tours and -- in the case of McNally's blocked and shopworn hero, Jack -- babysitting more famous writers on tour and trying to think of a reason to live. The pace is brisk, the prose is buoyant, the vision clear and sharp and the outcome unexpectedly moving."

McNally is the author of the short-story collections "Ghosts of Chicago" and "Troublemakers" -- winner of the 2000 John Simmons Short Fiction Prize -- and the novels "America's Report Card" and "The Book of Ralph." He has also edited several anthologies of stories. His "The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice from an Unrepentant Novelist" will be published next fall by the UI Press.

Visit his Web site:

The Writers' Workshop is a graduate program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: John McNally, Winston Barclay, University of Iowa News Services, 319-430-1013,