Bernard wins NEA grant for fiction writing

Karlie Bettencourt
Staff Writer

University of La Verne’s own Associate Professor of Writing Sean Bernard won a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the organization announced last month.

Bernard, whose work was selected among 1,179 submissions nationwide, was one of only 40 individual grant recipients and the only winner in  Southern California.

“The College considers Professor Bernard’s award a great honor, and is indicative of the quality faculty we have across the departments,” said Jonathan Reed, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Bernard applied for the NEA grant in February, and learned that he won the grant just a few weeks before the official announcement was made.

“I think it is something most writers do if they are qualified,” Bernard said of applying. “It is like being encouraged to eat lunch each day, you just do it.”

Along with his application, Bernard submitted two stories: “California,” a story about stalking Huell Howser; and “in the days of butchers,” about the fraughtness of adolescence and cross-country running.

“Professor Bernard’s an excellent professor, and his writing is crisp, witty, and inviting,” Reed said.

In addition to the NEA grant Bernard has also won other awards, such as the 2010 Poets and Writers California Writers Exchange Award for his fiction writing.

Bernard has been teaching at the University of La Verne for six years.

Some classes that Bernard teaches include fiction writing, introduction to creative writing, freshman composition classes and an honors hybrid class in art and poetry, which he teaches with Associate Professor of Art History Jon Leaver.

“I’m extremely happy for him because he deserves it, but honestly I’m not surprised because he is a great writer,” said senior art history major Margo Cash. “I think he was more surprised than his students were.”

Bernard earned his bachelor’s degree in creative writing at the University of Arizona.

He earned his master of arts in English literature at Oregon State University, and he earned his master of fine arts in fiction at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop.

“It wasn’t a conscious decision (to write),” Bernard said. “And no one told me to stop.”

Good books are what inspire him to write, he said. His favorite writer is Vladimir Nabokov, a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer.

Bernard has advice for aspiring writers.

“If they are a student at La Verne, they should study with me,” Bernard said. “In general, love to read good books.”

As for the $25,000 award money that does not have any stipulations tied to it, Bernard said he is not sure exactly how he will spend it.

Karlie Bettencourt can be reached at

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