After the Workshop by John McNally
Published by CounterPoint
Have you ever wondered how authors get from the airport, to the hotel, to the bookstore in an unknown town when their publisher sends them on tour? In some cases, at least, they are sent with a media escort like Jack Hercules Sheahan. Sheahan is himself an aspiring author, having graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop some twenty years ago. Back then, Jack’s life was very promising, he even had a story published in the New Yorker. After graduating, he took a job as a media escort and subsequently failed to finish his novel or do really anything in publishing besides drive authors around Iowa. Suddenly, though, the failures in Sheahan’s life seem to be coming back to haunt him. He is trying to escort two authors in the same weekend when one of them disappears with her baby, causing her slightly crazy publicist to all but stalk Jack, while the other reminds Jack of all he despises yet somewhat wants to be as well. Just as he is confronting his professional failures, Sheahan’s personal failures – largely through the person of his ex-fiancee – reappear as well.
“After the Workshop” is a highly entertaining account of a side of publishing about which I had never before thought. Media escorts! It makes so much sense, but it really never occurred to me. It sounds like a really fun job, actually, until you start reading “After the Workshop.” Authors sending you on embarrassing errands, crazy people, authors who lord their success over you…makes me feel very lucky about the personalities of all of the authors I have met!
McNally’s book is very entertaining, I really enjoyed his wry humor. I wouldn’t hand this to every reader, though. There is a very ‘inside baseball‘ feel to the book, so that I would really recommend it more to people who are interested in the ins and outs of publishing and book marketing. If you are happy to just have books show up at your door or on the shelves of your local store, this book might not really interest you. If, however, you like hearing about the politics of publishing, the little details of getting books published and making book tours work, you might very well really enjoy this book.
John McNally’s website
Other Books by John McNally:
“Ghosts of Chicago”
“America’s Report Card”
“The Book of Ralph”
“The Creative Writer’s Survival Guide”
“Who Can Save us Now?” (coedited)
“When I Was a Loser”
“Bottom of the Ninth”
“The Student Body”
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