Skip to Main Site Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Back To Top
decorative edge

Chris Torockio - Professor, English

Ph.D., Western Michigan University


Chris Torockio

What is your favorite class to teach?

“‘Writing Fiction.’ It’s what I do and what’s led me to become a university professor. I love seeing my teaching approach change and grow as my own work — and my students’ work — changes and grows. Fiction writing is a truly solitary endeavor, and being able to share the challenges with a group of like-minded and similarly focused peers can make a world of difference.”

What are your creative interests?

“I’m a fiction writer. I’ve published four books — two novels and two collections of short stories — as well as stories in literary journals like Ploughshare, The Iowa Review, The Gettysburg Review, Colorado Review, West Branch, Cutbank, The Antioch Review, and others most people have never heard of. Currently I’m working on something a little more autobiographical than my past works, which is revealing some new, exciting (and scary) challenges.”

What do you like most about teaching at Eastern?

“The diverse student population. In every class there is a range of backgrounds and experiences, from first-generation college students to nontraditional students to students who could have gone to college anywhere they wanted but chose Eastern for one reason or another. Such diversity always injects a creative writing workshop with exciting opportunities for exploration and discovery. And, speaking of discovery, my favorite teaching moments are when a student who came to the class having no idea that they liked to write (“Fiction Writing”? that's an easy A, right?), discovers their voice and realizes that they have a passion for writing that they didn’t know they had. That's as rewarding for me as it gets.”

What is your teaching philosophy?

“From the start, my philosophy has been to try to give to my students the advice and guidance that either was helpful to me in my development as a young writer, and/or I wish I’d been given as a young writer. In other words, I try to pass along what worked for me. There are so many different philosophies and approaches to teaching writing. Sometimes I share ‘rules’ that I’ve developed over the years (rules that they are free to break, of course); but every young writer’s development is different, every student needs attention paid to different aspect of their work. In many ways I’ve come to think of myself as a ‘coach’ rather than a teacher, pushing students who need to be pushed, encouraging those who need encouragement. And always stressing the importance of reading as much as humanly possible.”

My favorite teaching moments are when a student who came to class having no idea that they liked to write discovers their voice and realizes that they have a passion for writing.

Chris Torockio posing with students

Memorable moments at Eastern?

“My fondest memories are from my time leading a study abroad course called Creative Writing Abroad, a 6-week residency in Florence, Italy, where students immerse themselves in Italian life and culture, and use that immersion to inform and inspire their writing. Some of the bravest, most innovative student stories of my teaching career have been written while in Florence. But what’s most satisfying is seeing all the relationships that are forged among the students, the way they look out for each other and support each other; lifelong friendships are made among students who seemingly have little in common and otherwise would never have met. Seeing the process of minds opening, lives changing, is an absolutely glorious experience for me each and every year. Not only is every trip memorable, they are my proudest moments as a writer and teacher.”

Career advice to students.

“If you want to be a writer, you have got to love the process. Writing fiction is a slow, meticulous, painstaking process, filled with infinite mistakes and false starts. Great writing never, ever, ever falls easily out of the writer fully formed, the way legend would have us believe. Often it’s messy and confusing and looks nothing like what it looked like in the writer’s mind. But if you stick with it, and power through the messiness, you’ll stumble onto something wonderful, discovering things you didn’t know you knew, and a beautiful story will emerge.”