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Novel Success

When Mary Pauline Lowry graduates this spring, she’ll leave with more than a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She’ll walk away with a book contract for her novel, “The Roxy Letters.” Simon and Schuster are scheduled to publish it in 2020.

Mary Pauline Lowry

The novel arose from a writing assignment she gave to undergraduate students in her introduction to creative writing class. Lowry taught the class as part of her teaching assistantship.

“I had them make a list of the 10 characteristics of their quirkiest friend then write a letter from that friend to someone they were angry with,” she explained.

Lowry did the writing exercise along with her students, and her letter became the first page of “The Roxy Letters.” She wrote the comedic novel in epistolary, or letter, form.

Roxy is a 20-something woman who works in the deli of the original Whole Foods in Austin, Texas, which is Lowry’s hometown. Lowry set the novel in 2012, before the grocer became the behemoth of today. Roxy’s letters are written to a live-in ex-boyfriend, who is not paying his share of rent.

Fiction professor Brady Udall, who is Lowry’s thesis advisor, said everyone in the program is excited for Lowry, who had workshopped the novel-in-progress in her own graduate classes. Udall said it’s a big deal that her book has been bought by one of the largest, most important publishers in the country. Lowry had other offers to buy the book as well.

“The Roxy Letters” is Lowry’s second novel. Her first, “Wildfire,” was inspired by her experience as a wildland firefighter. The novel, published in 2014, is about a woman fighting fires on a hotshot crew.