Teaching

In 2014, Professor Troy won the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

In 2015, Professor Troy won the University President’s Award For Leadership.MaryTroy5

Courses Mary Troy Teaches:

Graduate Courses:
English 5110: Graduate Workshop in Fiction
English 5170: Techniques, Methods and Effects in Fiction
English 5190: Literary Journal Editing (Natural Bridge)
English 5200: MFA Readings
English 5970: Special Topics – Chekhov and His American Heirs
English 5970: Special Topics – The Contemporary Novella
English 6000: MFA Thesis

Undergraduate Courses
English 2040: Introduction to the writing of Fiction
English 3040: Fiction Writing Workshop: Narrative Techniques
English 4140: Advanced Fiction Writing Workshop
Honors College Special Topics – God In Fiction

Mary Troy on Teaching MFA Workshops

“Writing is an art, and each of us is trying to create something true and memorable and entertaining, something that moves and delights. Something that will live longer than we will. Each story and book is another attempt at this, and with that in mind, I approach each story that is put up for discussion with eagerness, with hope, with pride that others spend as much time in this pursuit as I do.  As I read the story, I try to decide what the story is meant to be, where the story is, what it is. I encourage the other students to tell the writer how they would describe the story. Is it a satire about finding true love, or is it a realist and mostly serious story about the difficulty of being 22 and adriftt? Are we meant to be distanced? Are we meant to cry? Are we meant to laugh? How can we tell what we are meant to do? What is the attitude of the author to his subject and characters? Then because each story is different, the discussion can go into characterization or point of view or pacing or voice. We can spend time on the beginning, or we can discuss why and how the ending is not quite right. We may suggest cutting characters or adding scenes.We may focus on details needed or on how well those we have work.  Our discussion focuses on technique, craft. I guide the discussion, allowing all to speak as much or as little as they wish. (I never force anyone to speak, as I find that demeaning and a silly way to treat adults!) I often compare the writer with others better published. I always allow the writer to ask questions or to comment on the comments, but not until the discussion is over. I provide a written summary of my remarks, one or two pages long, and I ask all the students to do so as well. But some stories will not go away, and I often find myself weeks after a piece has been discussed sending emails to the author, or stopping him in the hallways, calling him in for a conference, because I see another piece of the puzzle. It is an ongoing process, and schedules and summaries do not always work with art.

I believe everything a writer hears in workshop is valuable. Even the inane and truly stupid is valuable. The trick is in listening right. For example, if the consensus is a scene is needed on page 8 between the dancer and her pupil, the author may not agree. He may know this is not a true plot point or forward movement, but instead of deciding the workshop comments are wrong, he can go back to page one or two and discover the clues he put in that made his intelligent and good readers want a scene between the dancer and her pupil. If readers are misled, it is the writer who has done so.

Moreover, I believe workshops are not for the benefit of the specific story under discussion, but for the future, for that writer ten, twenty years later who will understand craft better, will write in isolation with more confidence.

And more than all that, I believe fiction should be true, much truer than facts.”

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