Literary arts

Murphy awarded NEA Fellowship

Taos author hopes to use opportunity to work on new novel


Award-winning Taos author Sean W. Murphy is the recipient of a 2018 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Writing, according to a Thursday (April 12) press release.

Murphy is the author of four books with major publishers, including three novels and a book of nonfiction. His nonfiction book on "Zen in America, One Bird, One Stone," won the 2014 International Book Award in the Eastern Religions category. "The Time of New Weather" was named Best Novel in the 2009 National Press Women's Communication Awards, while his debut, "The Hope Valley Hubcap King," won the Hemingway Award for a First Novel.

His novel in progress, the basis for the NEA Fellowship, also won the 2018 William Faulkner Wisdom Award and the 2014 Dana Award in the Novel.

“I’m really delighted to receive this national honor,” Murphy said in a prepared statement. “It will give me the opportunity to work on my new novel, which was inspired by my lifelong love of jazz, as well as loosely influenced by the late jazz great alto saxophonist Frank Morgan, who lived in Taos for many years.”

The NEA Fellowship was given to 36 authors nationally this year out of nearly 1,700 qualified applicants. Past winners have included authors Sherman Alexie, Sandra Cisneros, Leslie Marmon Silko, Alice Walker, Annie Proulx, Mary Oliver, Maxine Hong Kingston, John Irving, Allen Ginsberg, Joyce Carol Oates, and Nobel Prize in Literature recipient Isaac Bashevis Singer.

According to the NEA website, since 1990, the majority of recipients of the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize have been previous NEA Fellows. Most received the NEA Fellowship before receiving these other honors.

A University of New Mexico-Taos faculty member for the last 20 years, Murphy teaches widely, including a number of online and in-person writing courses. Notable is his "Write to the Finish" course, taught with his wife, professional writer Tania Casselle, a distance course taught through online and teleconferencing which has had 12 years of helping writers working on book-length projects, whether fiction, memoir, creative nonfiction or poetry.  The course, which has had participants from as far away as Western Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Bhutan and Vietnam, as well as all over the U.S. and Canada, will start this year May 5 (information at

The NEA was an idea first championed by John F. Kennedy, who cited the importance of the arts to the culture and commerce of the United States, and finally signed into law in 1965 by Lyndon Johnson.

President Trump’s 2019 projected budget however, calls for the elimination of the NEA, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. According to the NEA website, a study by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found that the arts contributed more than 760 billion dollars to the US economy in 2015, more than agriculture or transportation, the press release states.