Professor’s short story book comes out in May

English instructor Molly McCaffrey recently published a book of short stories called “How to Survive Graduate School.” McCaffrey has been working on the book for 16 years. “I’m really happy, I’m thrilled,” she said.

Alexis Custard

From Girl Scouts to graduate school, English instructor Molly McCaffrey writes about women struggling against dysfunctional and unhealthy situations in her book, “How to Survive Graduate School.”

Her book of short stories comes out May 17. She’s been writing it for 16 years.

McCaffrey, who is also an undergraduate adviser for creative and professional writing, went to graduate school for creative writing and wondered if she would ever publish any of her short stories in a collection.

She tried to sell a novel for about four years before she gave up.

Every creative writer she knows has had many books turned down, she said.

“Part of being a writer is rejection,” McCaffrey said. “If you can’t handle it, you can’t be a writer.”

McCaffrey knows people who collect their rejection letters and use them as wallpaper. She says it’s normal for it to take a long time for a book to get published.

She wasn’t able to publish her novel because it was 600 pages, which publishers told her was too long.

“So I thought, ‘What about a collection of short stories?’ and the publisher said OK,” McCaffrey said. “That was the first time I thought about putting my short stories in book form.”

McCaffrey said she’s loved the process of writing the book.

If she isn’t writing every day, she isn’t happy, she said.

S. Craig Renfroe Jr., an editor and assistant professor of creative writing in Charlotte, N.C., said he has been editing McCaffrey’s book for a few weeks off and on.

“I enjoyed Dr. McCaffrey’s writing,” he said. “The joy of editing her book was getting to find writing that I was passionate about, taking that writing so seriously that I could help the writer make it the best it could be and then bringing that amazing writing to readers.”

Associate English professor Tom Hunley said McCaffrey’s writing will appeal to everyone, especially smart, young people.

“She writes a lot about young women and their body images,” Hunley said. “I think any woman concerned about her body image will be interested.”

The characters in the book were inspired by stories that people told McCaffrey, and she turned them into fiction.

“Almost every story is inspired by a little kernel of a real event,” McCaffrey said. “Take one little piece and create a whole fictional world around it.”

Some characters are based on people she knows.

The last story in the book, “The Other Man,” is about a woman in graduate school and her homosexual best friend.

That woman is a combination of three different women that McCaffrey knows.

“I took all of the characteristics that were interesting and put them together,” she said. “Sometimes one person may not be interesting enough to write a short story about.”

Renfroe Jr. said he enjoyed working with McCaffrey, who he also called an evocative writer.

“Her book is, and I mean this in the best way, like candy,” Renfroe Jr. said. “I couldn’t stop reading the stories and was sad once I’d finished. Luckily I got to reread them all again, and I look forward to going back to it.”