John McNally
Hi Everyone,
I know it’s been a while since my last post but you know how life goes by…especially during the pandemic.
It feels like one day has passed but it’s been three months.
Or is it that three months have passed in the space of a day?
Or is that a different way of saying the same thing?
If you, like me, are having trouble grasping paradoxes that would not have troubled your pre-Covid-era brain, then I’m sorry, but I am sending one more your way, and I hope it doesn’t cause your brain to implode.
“The Phone Call” by John McNally, is a story that will deposit you deep in a closed timeline curve and though it is quite a trip, I have faith that you will make it back to reality in one piece.
In fact, I think you will find it quite enjoyable.
As a bonus, after you’ve read John’s story and watched our video, please loopback (!) and check out this video on time travel/time loops that I happened on by Vi Hart, which completely blew my already addled mind.
Here’s a refresher on #letsdeconstructastory because I have not posted anything new since December 1st:
#letsdeconstructastory is all about unpacking short stories to see how they work on a cellular level. It’s a place for writers to geek out about the work of other writers and hopefully add some new tools to their own toolbox.
Here’s how it works:
1.  Please read the story here first.
2. Listen to our discussion


John McNally is the author or editor of eighteen books, including The Fear of Everything: Stories, The Book of Ralph: A Novel, and The Boy Who Really, Really Wanted to Have Sex: The Memoir of a Fat Kid. His craft book Vivid and Continuous has been adopted in many college creative writing courses. He has also had screenplays optioned and in-development and his work for a Norwegian film company in 2019 took him to Norway’s Arctic Circle for research. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, John is Writer-in-Residence and the Dr. Doris Meriwether/BORSF Professor in English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He is presently writing a thriller set in Thailand, where he plans to retire.
Buy the book:
John’s book is available for purchase: On Bookshop here or The University of Louisiana Press here or Amazon here.
Also! George Saunders has a new book out about deconstructing stories called “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain“:

“One of the ideas in the book is that, when we read a story, we read with the same mind we use to read the world. So, concentrating on a story and the way we’re responding to it can tell us a lot about ourselves. I’ve found it so pleasurable and clarifying to tune out everything but that one story, those specific lines. Reading a story is, really, an exercise in believing that other people exist and are valid—the writer of the story, but also those fictive people. We get to practice caring about some people we don’t know—good practice for real life.”

—George Saunders


harris picture

Bill Harris, Art by Nicole Macdonald from her Detroit Portrait Series

Today on the blog, Bill Harris and I will be talking about his story, “That First Year the Business Was Wood,” from his award-winning Wayne State University Press collection, I Got to Keep Moving.

Bill Harris is a Wayne State University emeritus professor of English. He is a playwright, poet, and arts critic. His plays have been produced nationwide and he has published books of plays, poetry, and reappraisals of American history. He received the 2011 Kresge Foundation Eminent Artist award. http://www.billharriswrites.com.

It’s best to read the story before listening to our discussion so we don’t spoil the ending for you. Just click on this link below:

That First Year the Business Was Wood from I GOT TO KEEP MOVING







“I Got to Keep Moving” is available from Pages Bookshop here or Wayne State University Press here or Bookshop here or Amazon here.


I plan to continue discussing stories through the fall. Please let me know if you have a new book of short stories out so we can talk about it!



I Have the Answer has been out since April 11th. It was hard to market or even think about a new book this past spring, and if you are so inclined, I would love your help.

There are two main ways:

  1. Write a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews at these places make a big difference and help drive sales. My hope is that people read the reviews and then purchase the book from their local indie bookstore like Pages Bookshop in Detroit!
  2. If you have already read and enjoyed the book, please let your friends know on social media with either a picture or just a suggestion that they might want to buy the book. Here’s a link to WSUPress for more information: https://www.wsupress.wayne.edu/books/detail/i-have-answer Please use the hashtag with #IHAVETHEANSWER and please tag @WSUPress and @kfor24. 


I recorded a podcast last week for Without Books and if you haven’t heard of them, I highly recommend the short messages they record by authors reminding us all about the importance of books.

Stay safe and well.




Second Audio Clip: I HAVE THE ANSWER

When I have the Answer but

Hi Everyone,

I’m happy to share my second audio clip from I Have the Answer, recorded by the phenomenal audiobook narrator, Denice Stradling. Here’s a link to her website for more information. I highly recommend her services to any other writers out there!

The story Denice is reading from is called “The Devil’s Proof” and is a fictional story about a sexual assault that takes place in Washington, D.C. during the 1980s. I wrote about the true story of what happened to me in River Teeth and that essay is coming out next month. This story is quite different from the true story, but features the same basic elements of fear and shame, which have dogged me ever since.

Also, the story features many of the same locations from my youth, chief among them Georgetown, where I lived, Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School where I attended high school, and Georgetown University, which was a frequent destination.

The other aspect of this fictional story that is technically true is that my father graduated from Georgetown University in 1949 and Bill Blatty, who wrote The Exorcist graduated in 1950. According to my father (and many other sources) Bill Blatty based “The Exorcist” on a story one of his religion professors told him about a supposedly “real-life” exorcism. My father was in Billy Blatty’s religion class and heard the story first-hand as well.

Here’s a link to the true story

And now without further adieu, Denice Stradling reading from “The Devil’s Proof”:


Tomorrow night, Wednesday, April 22nd, I will be reading online and answering questions at an online book launch via the Grosse Pointe Library. It’s free and you can register here.

This week, I posted a list of recommended reading via Electric Literature. They thought I lived in a flyover state, and, quite frankly, until I researched it, so did I 🙂 

You can buy a copy of I Have the Answer from Pages Bookshop in Detroit or Wayne State University Press or Bookshop(if you want to support local bookstores) or Amazon.

Stay safe and well, everyone! Thank you for reading!