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Author talks latest project

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | NOVEMBER 21, 2013 5:00 AM

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Patrick Irelan has written a little bit of everything — instructional material, family memoirs, nonfiction, and fiction. Now, the University of Iowa graduate will read from his latest project, a collection of short stories titled The Miracle Boy, at 7 p.m. today at Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St.

Daily Iowan: You wrote and edited instructional materials before beginning creative nonfiction. How did you become involved in that work?

Irelan: The instructional material refers to jobs that I held for a long period of time. In one case for school children, in another case for college students or students taking continuing-educational courses, and I developed material for them. It all goes back to the first job I had after college, which was as a teacher.

DI: Why  did you branch into creative writing?

Irelan: That’s something I’ve been doing for a long time. I started in high school. I wasn’t really caught up in writing at that time, it just seemed interesting. I wasn’t very motivated, because I didn’t think this was something I could do. The idea that I might be a writer, at the time, was pretty remote.

Over the years I got more involved in reading and writing — Mark Twain is my favorite author — and I got more involved in college. As I got older, I started getting more serious. I’ve always loved fiction, and comic fiction is a favorite of mine. This was, of course, a secret sort of thing. You don’t tell people you’re going to become a writer.

DI: Did you come to the UI as an English major or planning to study creative writing?

Irelan: Not as a student, no. I came in as a history major. When I graduated, I taught school for a while, and then I came back for my M.A. At the time that I graduated with an M.A., there were no jobs as a teacher, so my attempt to improve myself proved that I should never attempt to improve myself.

DI: Can you describe The Miracle Boy, which you will read at Prairie Lights?

Irelan: It’s a book of short stories. Most of the stories are comical, there are a few that are entirely serious throughout — they’re in there for variety’s sake. The comic stories are the ones that I like the best. I write stories that have some sort of meaning beyond just making people laugh. I use a lot of satire. Some of my favorite topics are popular culture, greed, criminal behavior, all of the sort of things that go on around us all the time. The story I like best is the first in the book, which is “The Miracle Boy,” and gave the title to the book.

DI: How long did you spend working on these short stories?

Irelan: My first book of short stories I wrote over a long period of time, maybe 30 years. I sent them to some magazines, got some published, and eventually published my first book, Reruns.  If we figure in time spent recovering from various medical ailments, it would be about four years to finish The Miracle Boy.

DI: Why did you decide to do a reading at Prairie Lights?

Irelan: I live just a few miles from Iowa City and Prairie Lights is a great place to give a new reading of a book when it comes out, because people in Iowa City are interested in the work and what’s been done with fiction and nonfiction. It’s a good place to be.


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