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University of Iowa News Release


April 13, 2011

Writing University April 18-20 streams begin with Stuckey-French

Live streams on the University of Iowa's Writing University website -- -- April 18-20 will feature Iowa Writers' Workshop alumnae Elizabeth Stuckey-French and Wendy McClure and UI ESL instructor Kate Kasten. The streams will originate in free events in Prairie Lights Books:

  • Stuckey-French will read from "The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady," her new novel, at 7 p.m. Monday, April 18.
  • At 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, McClure will read from "The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie."
  • And Kasten will read from her novel, "The De-Conversion of Kit Lamb," at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 20.

stuckey-frenchA starred review in Publisher's Weekly summarized the plot of "The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady": Glowing with dark humor, Stuckey-French's fabulously quirky second novel (after Mermaids on the Moon) spotlights a wild would-be killer: Marylou Ahearn, a 77-year-old retired teacher in Memphis, Tenn. She's obsessed with killing Dr. Wilson Spriggs, who gave pregnant Marylou a radioactive cocktail in 1953 during a secret government study. Helen, the daughter Marylou gave birth to, died in 1963 from cancer.

"Accompanied by her Welsh corgi, Buster, and as "Nancy Archer" (the heroine of the 1958 movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman), Marylou moves in 2006 to Tallahassee, Fla., where Wilson lives with his daughter, menopausal Caroline; her husband, Vic Witherspoon, who's contemplating an affair, and their children: 18-year-old Elvis-obsessed beauty Ava; 16-year-old science geek Otis, who's secretly building a nuclear breeder reactor; and overachieving, attention-deprived 13-year-old Suzi.

"As 'Radioactive Lady,' Nance creates mucho mischief for Wilson, but her revenge plans mutate after discovering the old doc has Alzheimer's, and dang it, she really likes his kinfolk."

A review in the Boston Globe described the book as "the best kind of page-turner -- one with heart."

Stuckey-French is also the author of "Mermaids on the Moon" and "The First Paper Girl in Red Oak, Iowa: Stories." With Janet Burroway and Ned Stuckey-French she produced "Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft." Visit

mcclureMcClure ( is on a quest to find the world of beloved "Little House on the Prairie" author Laura Ingalls Wilder. She retraces the pioneer journey of the Ingalls family -- looking for the Big Woods among the medium trees in Wisconsin, wading in Plum Creek and enduring a prairie hailstorm in South Dakota.

She immerses herself in all things "Little House," and explores the story from fact to fiction, and from the TV shows to the annual summer pageants in Laura's hometowns. Whether she's churning butter in her apartment or sitting in a replica log cabin, McClure is always in pursuit of "the Laura experience." Along the way she comes to understand how Wilder's life and work have shaped our ideas about girlhood and the American West.

Actress Alison Arngrim, author of "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch," called the book "Mandatory reading for all 'boneheads' -- and the people who love them!"

McClure has been writing about her obsessions online and in print for nearly a decade. In addition to her 2005 memoir, "I'm Not the New Me," she is a columnist for BUST magazine and has contributed to the New York Times Magazine. She is a senior editor at the children's book publisher Albert Whitman & Company.

Kasten wrote the novels "Ten Small Beds" and "Intensive English," and her short fiction has been published in Glimmer Train, American Literary Review, Northwest Review and fiction anthologies. Her story, "True Feelings," was awarded the American Literary Review's short fiction prize. Another story, "The Teaching Test," won first place and publication in Somersault Press's Sideshow anthology.

Her short fiction collection, "The Teaching Test," was a finalist in the Helicon Nine Editions Willa Cather Fiction Contest, and her short story, "Home Fires," before publication in Glimmer Train, was a publisher's finalist for the Heekin Group Foundation Tara Fellowship for Short Fiction.

She has published poetry in 100 Words, which was a journal of the UI International Writing Program, and co-wrote a musical satire of the Nancy Drew mystery genre, "The Clue in the Old Birdbath," which has been produced by theater companies in Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland. Visit

The protagonist of "De-Conversion" had been drawn into a charismatic church as a troubled teenager, but when he travels in 1983 to Guatemala, ruled by a born-again theocrat who is also a ruthless, genocidal tyrant, he must confront the conflict between his fundamentalism and his experience.

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

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, University News Services, 319-430-1013,