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University of La Verne professor of writing Sean Bernard was the lone NEA Grant winner from Southern California higher institutions of learning.

University of La Verne professor of writing Sean Bernard was the lone NEA Grant winner from Southern California higher institutions of learning.

Quite A Story

University of La Verne Professor of Writing Sean Bernard’s fiction is rewarded with a $25,000 Literary Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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  • December 2, 2011

When University of La Verne Associate Professor of Writing Sean Bernard submitted his fiction for a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Literary Fellowship in February of 2011, he wasn’t sure what to expect. Nine months later, when he received word that his writing would be honored with a $25,000 grant, he admitted that he wasn’t sure what to say.

“They called me in my office, in the middle of student conferences,” he says. “I feel happy and grateful about the honor, but it’s a lot to take in.”

A native of Tucson, Bernard has taught at La Verne for more than five years. When he is not teaching creative writing to his students, he’s studying and practicing the craft at home.  His was one of 40 individual grants awarded nationwide out of 1,179 submissions, and was the only in southern California.

Bernard said he believes the benefits of the recognition go well beyond his own writing. He hopes the award sparks additional attention for La Verne’s still-fledgling creative writing major. “This should add an even greater sense of legitimacy and appeal to the major and our curriculum,” he said.

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector.

Below is an excerpt from Sean Bernard’s NEA Grant-winning fiction piece:

“Cynthia blocks my number. Don gets tenure. Everyone sort of tolerates me but they don’t hide it well. I move out of the city, to an apartment in Eagle Rock. We don’t see each other anymore, them, me, you, us. We were part of the group of smart people, so smart, our group of smart clever smart people, and then you and me baby we split and sure we tried to make up, but we split again and they all chose you. No, no, that’s not exactly what happened but it’s close. I call Don late the way I used to, drunkenly smoking on our porches, but he’s married now, has to sleep, notes for tomorrow’s lecture. “Those were some strange days,” I tell him, my voice thick, I can’t help it. He’s polite. “Yes, indeed. Strange days. Like in that The Doors song,” he says. That the. Always smart, Don. “Gotta tuck up, bud,” he tells me. “We’ll get together soon.”

Some days I sit watching re-runs of the host’s television show. How cheery he is! How sated! I know that TV-him isn’t real-him, that he’s a different man with his own fears, his own struggles, I know I need to stop need to let go of Cynthia/her the kids/them you/you so I/me can move on but the words trip me up every time, “move on,” isn’t moving on just moving back? Yielding? A surrender? I’ve never liked this state, it’s always felt uneasy to me, trembly, on the verge of explode, it’s the air, the winds, the fires, tides under ocean, deserts, I don’t know, such foreboding, just a sense is all. You can come to the west what you can do is you can come to this land of grand scale and learn to think in shadows, in shadows men will pan for gold backroom deals buy all the land steal the water forces align, it’s obvious, look around, such tremendous forces after all. Look, that dome, that volcano, that geyser. That beach. That bear. Eagle. Whale. Ronald Reagan. Woolly mammoth. Joshua tree. Death Valley. Donner Party. Neverland Ranch. John Muir. Manson. To think no forces are conspiring would be to be a fool! Sometimes I think I could learn a bit by reading up on Manson but what good would that do? It’d only make me obsessive and it’s bad to obsess over crazies. Obsess over normal things. It’s healthier.”

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