Skip to main content

Mary Troy

mary troyMary Troy is the author of the novel Beauties, winner of the USA Book Award, and finalist for Forewords Book of the Year Award. Her previous three books are collections of short stories. Cookie Lily won the Devil’s Kitchen Award for best book of prose published in 2004; The Alibi Café and other stories earned a glowing review in the New York Times; and Joe Baker Is Dead was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner and other awards. A short story, “Do You Believe In The Chicken Hanger?," won a Nelson Algren award, and her stories and essays have appeared in many anthologies. Mary’s MFA degree is from the University of Arkansas Program in Creative Writing.

Book Publications
Beauties, a novel (BkMk, 2010); Cookie Lily, a collection of short stories (SMU Press, 2004); The Alibi Café and other stories, a collection of short stories (BkMk Press, 2003); Joe Baker is Dead, a collection of short stories (U of MO Press, 1998)

Journal Publications
Many dozens in such journals as New Letters, Arkansas Review, North American Review, River Styx, Echo Ink, Sou'wester, Boulevard, American Literary Review, American Fiction, Chicago Tribune.

Anthology Publications
Under the Arch, St. Louis Writers; Honolulu Stories, Two Centuries of Writing, American Fiction, number 2 and number 3, In The Middle of the Middle West

Non-Fiction Publications
Riverfront Times, Echo Ink, Center For Literary Studies, In The Middle of the Middle West


beauties cookie lily alibi cafe joe baker is dead

Mary Troy Online: 

Read an interview with Mary about Beauties:
Read a Review Review of Beauties
Read an excerpt from Cookie Lily
Read an article about Mary Troy from the Kansas City Star segment on Midwest Writers to Watch: Honk If You Like Driven Writing
Read a review of Cookie Lily: Hard Knocks
Read an essay about creating character: Some Folks
Read an interview with Mary about The Alibi Café
Hear an Interview with Mary Troy from New Letters On The Air
Read about Joe Baker Is Dead

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."

Recommended Novels and Story Collections

Mary's list of recommended contemporary books: 

Short Story Collections and Novellas

  • Wives & Lovers - Richard Bausch
  • The Usual Mistakes - Erin Flanagan
  • The Poachers - Tom Franklin
  • A Multitude of Sins - Richard Ford
  • The Beast God Forgot to Invent - Jim Harrison
  • Dying Light and Other Stories - Donald Hays
  • Jesus' Son - Denis Johnson
  • Walk the Blue Fields - Claire Keegan
  • But Come Ye Back - Beth Lordan
  • The Homicide Survivor's Picnic - Lorraine Lopez
  • Lies of the Saints - Erin McGraw
  • Runaway - Alice Munro
  • Orientation and Other Stories - Daniel Orozco
  • My People's Waltz - Dale Ray Phillips
  • Pastoralia - George Saunders
  • The Hill Bachelors - William Trevor
  • The Advancement of Ignorance - William Van Wert
  • We Are Taking Only What We Need - Stephanie Powell Watts


  • A Country Called Home - Kim Barnes
  • The Weight of All Things - Sandra Benitez
  • Diary of a Bad Year - J.M. Coetzee
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
  • Requiem Mass - John Dufresne
  • More Than Enough - John Fulton
  • The Pick Up - Nadine Gordimer
  • The Road Home - Jim Harrison
  • Elegies for the Brokenhearted - Christy Hodges
  • The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsoliver
  • The River - Lee Martin
  • Duane's Depressed - Larry McMurtry
  • We Were the Mulvaneys - Joyce Carol Oates
  • Belle Canto - Ann Patchett
  • Model Home - Eric Puchner
  • Home - Marilynne Robinson
  • Hotel Honolulu - Paul Theroux
  • Brooklyn - Colm Toibin
  • News From Paraguay - Lily Tuck
  • Motel Life - Willy Vlautin
  • The Quick and The Dead - Joy Williams
  • Safe from The Neighbors - Steve Yarbough
  • The Last Studebaker - Robin Hemley

Mary's list of favorite books a bit older:

Short Stories and Novellas

  • Trout Fishing in America - Richard Brautigan
  • Cathedral - Raymond Carver
  • The Quiet Enemy - Cecil Dawkins
  • Finding a Girl in America - Andre Dubus
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country - William H. Gass
  • Elbow Room - James Alan McPherson
  • A Good Man Is Hard To Find - Flannery O'Connor
  • Welcome To The Monkey House - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Eleven Kinds of Loneliness - Richard Yates


  • The Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
  • As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
  • Madame Bovary - Gustave Faubert
  • Burton and Speke - William Harrison
  • Ulysses - James Joyce
  • Sula - Toni Morrison
  • Music of The Swamp - Lewis Nordan
  • Postcards - Annie Proulx
  • After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie - Jean Rhys
  • Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
  • A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
  • Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Wolfe