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University of Iowa News Release


June 14, 2011

Streams of June 27-30 readings includes UI writing alumni

Live streams of "Live from Prairie Lights" readings on the University of Iowa's Writing University website -- -- June 27-30 will include UI writing alumni Tom Montgomery Fate and Brent Spencer. The streams will originate in free events at 7 p.m. in Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

--UI Nonfiction Writing Program alumnus Montgomery-Fate will read from "Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father's Search for the Wild" on Monday, June 27.
--Jessica O'Dwyer will read from "Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir" on Tuesday, June 28.
--On Wednesday, June 29, Louis B. Jones will read from his new novel, "Radiance."
--Iowa Writers' Workshop alumnus Spencer will read from "Rattlesnake Daddy: A Son's Search for His Father" on Thursday, June 30.

Montgomery Fate, the author of four previous books and an essayist whose work appears on National Public Radio as well as in newspapers and magazines, debates his mentor, Henry David Thoreau, in a sequence of essays.

As Thoreau does in "Walden," Fate encapsulates a year's worth of experiences and reflections, but his musings are anchored to not only the cabin he builds in southwest Michigan but also the suburban Chicago home he shares with his wife and three children.

David Gessner, the author of "Sick of Nature," wrote, "This quietly marvelous book is really a mystery novel at heart. The mystery is How to live? Tom Montgomery Fate, a self-described 'slow and bumbling pilgrim,' sets out to answer this question, meandering, with Thoreau as his companion, toward the truth -- or more accurately, the truths. Thoreau has never been more relevant than he is today, and what a pleasure to follow the two of them sleuthing toward something solid in these fickle and shifting times."

O'Dwyer's "Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir" chronicles her journey to adopt a Guatemalan baby from unscrupulous "facilitators."

At only 32 years old, O'Dwyer experienced early menopause, seemingly ending her chances of becoming a mother. Years later, married but childless, she comes across a photo of a two-month-old girl on a Guatemalan adoption website and feels an instant connection. From the start, Jessica and her husband face numerous and maddening obstacles. Learn more at

Jones' "Radiance" tells the story of Mark Perdue, who has so many problems that when he starts feeling chest pains on the tarmac at LAX, it dawns on him that a heart attack might be an efficient way out.

Once an eminent physicist, he hasn't published or had a new idea in a decade. The younger professors at UC Berkeley pity him, and he's taken to using the back staircases to avoid their looks, which all seem to be labeling him dead weight.

At home, his wife has been inconsolable since the recent late-term abortion of their afflicted fetus. And he can't deny it any longer —- he is decidedly losing his mental faculties to chronic Lyme disease.

Now Mark is visiting Los Angeles with his ambitious daughter, Carlotta, so she can attend a "Celebrity Fantasy Vacation," in which she is promised three days and two nights of the rock star lifestyle (musical talent not required, promises the brochure). On stage, Carlotta sings her way to a new self-confidence, giving Mark a glimmer of joy in her sense of victory.

But then she disappears with her newly acquired paraplegic boyfriend to take an excursion to the Hollywood sign and gets them all arrested, Mark included. Mark now faces a night in jail —- and maybe a hint of what he really needs to be happy.

Jones is the author of three New York Times Notable Books -- "Ordinary Money," "Particles and Luck" and "California's Over." He is an National Endowment for the Arts fellow, a fellow of the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire and co-director for the Squaw Valley Community of Writers' Fiction Program. Learn more at

When Spencer's father died in a sailing accident in Key West, he had been out of his children's lives for more than 30 years. After three failed marriages, he was trying to start over.

In addition to retrieving Spencer's body and the body of his fiancée, the salvage company recovered enough paper to fill six garbage bags -- receipts, letters, journals, school assignments —- every scrap of paper accumulated throughout his 60 years.

Brent Spencer used those papers as clues in an effort to solve the mystery of his father's life and death, a journey that would take him along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

Spencer is the author of the novel "The Lost Son" and a collection of stories, "Are We Not Men?" which was chosen by the editors of the Village Voice Literary Supplement as one of the best books of the year. He teaches creative writing and film at Creighton University.

The Writers' Workshop and the Nonfiction Writing Program are units in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

UI arts events are searchable on the UI Master Calendar: Exhibitions are searchable at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click on the link "Subscribe or Unsubscribe" then follow the instructions.

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jan Weissmiller, Winston Barclay, University News Services,