C.J. Hribal

C.J. Hribal
C.J. HribalMarquette University

Marquette Hall, 240

MilwaukeeWI53201United States of America
(414) 288-3471



Some say you can't teach writing, but I believe you can give students the tools and opportunities to become better writers. My courses in writing fiction are grounded in that belief. I respond to student writing the same way I respond to my own, with a combination of approaches. The organic approach is based on the idea that our work grows out of us without our being quite aware of what we're doing, and we need to prune judiciously (and semi-ruthlessly) if we're to give this wild thing its proper shape. The other approach, what I like to call the Lego-Block approach, assumes that the exposition and scenes we write are building blocks which can be moved about (even discarded and replaced) as the story requires. We build and shape, shape and build. I believe in close attention to text, and that the true work of writing is in revision. I'm as likely, though, to pose questions as make suggestions; it's important to step away from the work from time to time and see it in a larger context--an exercise in where are you going, where have you been?

I'm especially interested in voice, and in trying to extend the range of one's own narrative technique as a means of getting the story told best. This can be seen, certainly, in the range of voices found in my published work. I've inhabited the voice of everything from a 56-year-old female town clerk in Matty's Heart (New Rivers Press, 1984) to that of a 27-year-old woman looking back at her 17-year-old runaway self in American Beauty(Simon and Schuster, 1987). In The Clouds in Memphis (University of Massachusetts Press, 2000), I've told stories from the perspective of a mother coping with the loss of one of her children by a hit and run driver, from the perspective of a real estate developer trying to smooth over everyone's feelings after a drowning in one of his subdivisions, and from the perspective of a young woman trying to find out the real story behind her sister's death in an industrial accident. Most recently, I've explored the voice of a son trying to understand his parents' marriage and the mysteries of his own in The Company Car (Random House, 2005).

In addition, I have an interest in modern and contemporary fiction, in the novella and the short-story as forms, and in the literature of Central Europe (perhaps best evidenced by the anthology I edited, The Boundaries of Twilight: Czecho-Slovak Writing from the New World (New Rivers Press, 1991)).

Courses Taught

  • The Novella
  • Creative Writing — Fiction
  • Modern and Contemporary Fiction

Research Interests

  • Creative Writing


  • “Do I Look Sick to You? (Notes on How to Make Love to a Cancer Patient” [story]. Winner of the Goldenberg Prize in Fiction, chosen by Ha Jin. Bellevue Literary Review, 17.1 (Spring, 2017): 21-27.
  • “Weather—Blessing and Cursing the Weather” [reflective essay]. The Encyclopedia of Milwaukee (https://emke.uwm.edu, January, 2018 online; for print: Northern Illinois University Press, 2018).
  • “Ode to the Dive Bar” [essay]. Milwaukee Magazine (November, 2017, vol.43, no. 11).
  • “Root for the Home Team” [essay]. Milwaukee Magazine (June, 2017, vol. 43, no. 6).
  • “The One Constant” [essay]. Milwaukee Magazine (March, 2016, vol. 42, no. 3).
  • “Jackie Patch.” Winesburg, Indiana. Eds. Michael Martone and Bryan Furuness. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2015. 17-21. Print.
  • “Julie Patch.” Winesburg, Indiana. Eds. Michael Martone and Bryan Furuness. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2015. 22-26. Print.
  • “Summer Innocence: Buying Time”: Milwaukee Magazine, 15 June 2015: 61-62. Print and online.
  • “This Old House: Leaving the Empty Nest”: Milwaukee Magazine, 10 October 2015. (http://www.milwaukeemag.com/2015/10/19/this-old-house-leaving-the-empty-nest/) Print and online.
  • “The One Constant”: Milwaukee Magazine, March, 2016, Print and online.
  • Matty's Heart. New Rivers Press, 1984.
  • American Beauty. Simon & Schuster, 1987.
  • Boundaries of Twilight : Czecho-Slovak Writing from the New World. New Rivers Press, 1991. (Editor).
  • The Clouds in Memphis: Stories and Novellas. University of Massachusetts Press, 2000.
  • The Company Car. Random House, 2006.

Honors and Awards

  • The Goldenberg Prize for Fiction from the Bellevue Literary Review
  • The Anne Powers Book Award for The Company Car
  • Associated Writing Programs Award in Short Fiction, 1999 (for The Clouds in Memphis)
  • Guggenheim Fellowship
  • National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship
  • Bush Foundation Fellowship
  • Loft-Mentor Fellowship

Additional Information

Office Hours

Fall 2021

  • M 12:45-1:45 (in person)
  • Tu 2:00-4:00 (virtual)

    Teaching Schedule

Fall 2021

  • 4250/101 MW 2:00-3:15 Wehr Physics 150
    • Creative Writing: Fiction
  • 4954/101 MW 3:30-4:45 Wehr Physics 150
    • Seminar in Creative Writing: Fiction: Telling the Truth by Making Stuff Up

Faculty & Staff Directory


Department of English
Marquette Hall, 115
1217 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53233
(414) 288-7179

Contact Us


Facebook Twitter Instagram


Report an accessibility problem

To report another problem, please contact wendy.walsh@marquette.edu.