5 Burning Questions with Tom McAllister

As well as feature our future readers, we also wanted to check in with folks who have read for us over the last 5 years. Tom McAllister read for us in 2017 – read what he has been up to below!

What have you been up to since reading with us at Writers & Words? How has the writing been going?

My W & W reading was the first time I ever read publicly from the manuscript that was published as How to Be Safe. It was, I think, available for pre-order at that point, but there had been absolutely no press for it yet, so it felt for me like passing a big test that people laughed at the parts where they were supposed to laugh, and generally responded positively. That book was published in April 2018 and I’m very lucky to have gotten some really good reviews. Washington Post and Kirkus both had it on their list of best books of the year.

Since then, I spent some time not writing, but got back to work in 2019 when I started writing a short essay for every year I’ve been alive. Some of them have been published now, and I’m submitting the rest. I’m tracking the publications, with links, on my blog.

What are you working on right now (writing or otherwise (nothing is a valid answer as well))?

Like a lot of people (I think?), I’ve struggled to focus the past few months. I finished a decent draft of a new novel just before things got crazy and now I’m letting it sit another month or so before I get back into it. Right now, I feel pretty good about it, but I’m mentally preparing myself for finding out that it is actually quite terrible when I revisit it.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

I just read a galley of Jeff Chon’s forthcoming novel, Hashtag Good Guy With a Gun, and it’s one of the best things I’ve read all year. I can’t wait till other people get to see it.

How would you describe the writing community where you live in just a few words?

I’m in South Jersey, just outside of Philly. It’s vibrant, eclectic, a little fractured, and full of incredible weirdos.

What would be a few words of advice you would give someone wanting to get into any writing community?

Show up. You don’t have to be the most energetic or gregarious person, but if you’re showing up and supporting other people’s work, they notice, and they will make space for you too. Just keep showing up, as much as you can. I’m bad at following my own advice sometimes, but it’s so important to let people know you’re trying to contribute by helping other artists get their work out, not just using them as a potential future audience.

Bonus question: what level of quarantine are you at? 1) relaxing with a book,  2) the dog clears her throat too loudly,  3) hot dog fries, 4) THE PRINTER IS BROKEN I DON’T NEED A PRINTER, 5) I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

I have been doing a lot of bickering with my dog recently. Let’s go with 2.


Tom McAllister is the author of the novels “How to Be Safe” and “The Young Widower’s Handbook,” as well as the memoir “Bury Me in My Jersey.” His short fiction and essays have been published widely, and have most recently appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, Hobart, The Rumpus, Buzzfeed, TheMillions, Juked, and Pithead Chapel. He is the co-host of the weekly podcast, Book Fight!, and nonfiction editor at Barrelhouse. He teaches at Temple University and lives in New Jersey. 

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