Two UT alumni will be returning to Austin this week to read from their works, but two more thematically divergent works it would be hard to imagine. Christian McLaughlin, a Los Angeles-based television writer formerly of Married... With Children, will be reading from Sex Toys of the Gods, his second work of gay fiction following 1994's Glamourpuss, an outrageous but deadpan novel set mostly in Austin. As an RTF major, McLaughlin involved himself in TV production; his senior year he produced The Boys of Cell Block Q at Capitol City Playhouse before he had even graduated. He made a deal with his best friend and fellow Clueless writer Valerie Ahern that, after they graduated from UT, if she could go to Los Angeles and obtain an agent for their writing within three months, he would follow her there and entirely forsake his enrollment at UT Law School. Ahern amazingly got an agent, who later turned out to be a true dud, so three difficult years still lay ahead for the team before they really broke into television writing. McLaughlin's novels read quickly with plot point after plot point racing past the reader, much like a soap opera. I spoke with McLaughlin when he was last in town for the Austin Heart of Film Conference, appearing there as a panelist; from what he told me then about his Friday November7, 7pm reading at Book People, suffice it to say that Christian McLaughlin puts much more energy into his readings than most authors.

Be assured as well that Joseph Skibell puts plenty of energy into his readings, but of a different sort. A member of the first graduating class of the Texas Center for Writers, Skibell has recently published A Blessing on the Moon with Algonquin Books. Only two months after he finished writing the book, the manuscript was in Algonquin's hands. That rather amazing process worked something like this: Texas Center for Writers director Jim Magnuson displayed his enthusiasm for the work by helping Skibell find an agent in New York's Wendy Weil, who immediately decided to represent Skibell and began to put the manuscript up for auction, which in the publishing world means that an agent makes it known to publishing houses that he or she has a manuscript that the houses can make an offer on. Algonquin purposefully preempted Weil's auction of the book by making an offer that Skibell says he and his wife couldn't refuse since it was a nice offer and Algonquin clearly seemed enthused by the work. Moon has garnered excellent reviews nationwide and is one in a line of works of recent fiction that have brought attention to the quality of the Texas Center for Writers program. Skibell particularly credits the program's interdisciplinary nature for coercing him to realize that he could in fact write fiction when all along he entered the program with an intention to focus on playwriting. But he also credits James Michener's "stunning example of generosity," calling him a writer whose works will be read for "hundreds of years." Skibell will be reading Tuesday, November 11, 7:30pm, in the fourth floor auditorium of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, 21st and Guadalupe on the UT

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More Postscripts
The last time we heard about Karla Faye Tucker, she was being executed; now, almost four years later, there's a new novel about her. Or about someone very like her. And Beverly Lowry's classic Crossed Over, a memoir about getting to know Karla Faye Tucker, gets a reissue.

Clay Smith, Jan. 18, 2002

Not one day back from vacation and the growing list of noble souls who need to be congratulated is making Books Editor Clay Smith uneasy.

Clay Smith, Jan. 11, 2002

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