In 2006, Martha Cooley joined Adelphi, excited to teach fiction and nonfiction. Before Adelphi, she worked with residencies, which meant she didn't see students often.
At Adelphi, she’d get to work directly with undergraduate students as part of the Department of English, and with graduate students in the just-launched MFA in Creative Writing program.
This year she announced both her retirement and the release of her new novel, Buy Me Love.
“Teaching in the MFA program has been very rewarding,” said Cooley, now professor emeritus. “The remarkable energy, diversity and creativity of the students that I encountered over the course of the 15 years that I was at Adelphi is something that I will always remember with intense warmth and that I will miss.”
In 2020, she was promoted to director of the MFA program. As the University shifted to remote learning due to the pandemic, Cooley, with the help of Adelphi faculty, was able to convert the program to a virtual format that ensured the health and education of students.
“We talk about our classmates and professors reading our work with care, but I think Martha really showed me what that meant in her nonfiction class,” said Anurika Anosike, an MFA candidate. “She was able to see under the surface of the words on the page and pull what we were meaning to say. …She truly made me a better thinker and writer.”
About Her New Book
In June, Cooley published her novel Buy Me Love, which follows the story of Ellen Portinari, a New Yorker who wins a $100 million lottery ticket that she bought on a whim. With a month to redeem the ticket, she tells no one but her alcoholic brother about her preposterous good luck. As the clock ticks, Ellen experiences a range of emotions as she tries to reckon with the potential consequences of her win.
“I did not want to write a book about ‘Oh, she wins the lottery and she buys this and this happens and that happens.’ I wasn’t interested in the aftermath,” said Cooley. “I realized that [Ellen] would have a reaction that was her own and based on who she had been prior to this, which is someone with a lot of ambivalence about how to be happy, if she could be happy, or what it would mean to be happy.”
Buy Me Love is available now and can be bought through Red Hen Press, an American nonprofit press specializing in the publication of poetry, literary fiction and nonfiction since 1994.
The book is the first selected for the new Great Authors, Great Conversations series, which will feature Adelphi authors. The first event will take place online on Saturday, July 24, at 4:00 p.m.
A “Different Kind of Phase”
Along with Buy Me Love, Cooley has two other novels—The Archivist (Back Bay 1999), a national bestseller also published in a dozen foreign markets, and Thirty-Three Swoons (Back Bay 2006). Her memoir Guesswork: A Reckoning With Loss (Catapult) was published in 2017 and received rave reviews from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Cooley also co-translated Antonio Tabucchi’s story collection Time Ages in a Hurry (Archipelago 2015). Her essays, short fiction and co-translations have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books and numerous leading literary journals.
“One thing that I’ve discovered about teaching is that once students are in your life, they’re in your life,” said Cooley. “Whether it’s letters of reference or whatever, I remain in touch with students who want to remain in touch with me. In that sense, I never feel like it’s over; it just entered into a different kind of phase. That’s how it feels to me as a teacher who’s retiring.”