WMU News

Grad student writes stories of human relationships, gets published

Oct. 19, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- A collection of short stories dealing with human relationships has earned a WMU doctoral student his first book publication.

"The stories are about how people are with each other," says Christopher Torockio, a doctoral associate in the Department of English. "From leaving one's parents to starting their own family."

Torockio, who only began writing fiction at the end of his senior year at John Carroll University in Cleveland, says his just published book, "Presence," draws more from imagination and observation than personal experiences. The one-time journalism major's passion for creative fiction grew from a workshop of that genre that he attended "just for fun" during his final semester in college.

"Not a lot of what I write comes from my own life," he says. "The events are all made up but the motivation or emotions come from my experiences or what I have overheard or seen."

"Presence" is a collection of 12 independent stories with titles such as "These Things Go Away," "Doe," "Hepatitis," "Ice-Cream Headache" and "The Farther You Go." Although readers could pick up the book and read any one of the titles that catches their eye, Torockio says the stories have been arranged in such a way that there is a progression in the stages of life of the characters.

"You could read them in any order because the characters and events are different (but) there just happens to be a logic to the progression," Torockio says. "The opening stories are (about) younger people and by the time you get to the tenth or eleventh story, they are about people with their own kids."

A native of Pittsburgh, Torockio is in his second year at WMU, coming here after earning a master's degree in creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh. He is only one of about 40 master's and doctoral students studying in various genres of WMU's creative writing program.

Dr. Arnold "Arnie" Johnston, chairperson of WMU's Department of English, says he found Torockio's stories "confidently crafted, funny and moving."

"The amazing thing about publications like this is it's a wonderful testament of our creative writing program," Johnston says. "When you see graduate students publishing before they finish their degrees, that says we're attracting very fine students and we must be doing something right."

Although he's now a published author, Torockio says he still feels like an aspiring writer and is modest about his achievements. When asked to pass along advice for aspiring writers or writers who have yet to publish, he tells them to keep writing.

"When I look at my stories up against themselves, and not against anyone else because there are a lot of good writers out there, they hold up pretty well," he says. "I believe I got lucky. If (student writers) keep at it, they too, will get lucky."

"Presence" is published by St. Andrews College Press in Laurinburg, N.C., and is available at the WMU Bookstore for $12.95.

Media contact: Pauline Oo, 616 387-8400, pauline.oo@wmich.edu

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