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SMC professor to retire

Kelly Konya | Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Saint Mary’s English professor Frances Hwang will retire from teaching after this year to pursue a writing career in California.

Hwang teaches two courses for English Writing majors, literary non-fiction writing and fiction writing.

Sophomore Lauren Coppinger said the fiction writing class has been one of her favorite classes this semester. “Professor Hwang is an amazing person and teacher,” Coppinger said. “She is always so supportive of the class’s creative pieces and provides helpful insight to improve our writing.” Hwang said she instructs her courses in a discussion-based manner and teaches students literary techniques like how to master the use of flashbacks or how to create memorable symbols.

Hwang said it wasn’t an easy decision to leave the English department and the gifted writers in her classes, but she thinks the College deserves a full-time writing professor as opposed to her part-time efforts.

“This arrangement was ideal for me and worked for four years, but more and more I felt an emotional tug to move back and settle down in California,” Hwang said.
In California, Hwang said she plans to dedicate her time to her writing career. She has already received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the MacDowell Colony, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and Colgate University.

Hwang has published a collection of short stories titled “Transparency,” which won two awards, and her work has appeared in “Best New American Voices,” “Glimmer Train,” “Tin House” and “The New Yorker.”

“I read her piece from 2010 in ‘The New Yorker’ titled ‘Blue Roses’ and was amazed,” Coppinger said.  “She is such a talented writer and brings such emotion and detail through in her narrative voice.”

Hwang said teaching her courses always helps her discover new things about herself, like making sure to emphasize positive feedback.

“Working with students makes me realize that I need to take this more gentle, humane approach with them and with myself,” Hwang said. “I need to remember to quiet my internal critic so that I, too, can move forward in my work.”

Junior Landess Kearns, another student in the fiction writing course, said Hwang inspires her to write in ways she never considered.

“I have been so inspired this semester by the material of our course,” Kearns said.  “From reading Saul Bellow’s ‘Seize the Day’ to listening to my peers’ work, it’s been incredibly valuable to me as a writer.”

The class is currently completing their own novellas, which have been the focus of most of the semester, according to Hwang.

She said in the past,  students’ novellas have  inspired her, and she finds it rewarding to be able to teach the form and discover why it continually succeeds as an art.

“I will miss her next year, but I know that she will produce some amazing pieces that will benefit all of literature,” Kearns said.  “I look forward to seeing her next publications.”

To aspiring writers, Hwang said it is important to remain confident in the face in rejection and to keep reading and writing as much as possible.

“All writers have bad days, and sometimes you have to give yourself permission to write badly in order to get anywhere at all,” Hwang said.  “Lose your self-consciousness so you can get deep into your writing.  You can always go back and make it better.”

Contact Kelly Konya at kkonya01@saintmarys.edu