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Three MFA Alumnae Awarded NEA Creative Writing Fellowships

asako serizawa head shot
Asako Serizawa, MFA ’02. Photo/Matthew Modica

Alumnae LaTanya McQueen ‘06, MFA ’06, Asako Serizawa, MFA ’01, and Laura van den Berg, MFA ’08 were three of 35 authors awarded National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Creative Writing Fellowships for 2022.

The program awards grants of $25,000 to recipients to allow the time and space to create and further develop their writing projects. Fellowships alternate yearly between prose and poetry (it’s a prose year). The only judging criterion is “artistic excellence,” and every year sees new and diverse panel of judges .

Inheritors book cover. Paper dolls made from photograph of wartime rubble over salmon background

Asako Serizawa is the author of the short story collection Inheritors (Doubleday, 2020), which won both the PEN/Open Book Award and the Story Prize Spotlight Award, earned Massachusetts Book Awards Honors, and was long listed for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and two O. Henry Prizes.

Serizawa was granted previous fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the MacDowell Colony, and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. Born in Japan and raised in Singapore, Jakarta, and Tokyo, she moved to the United States for college, where she earned degrees from Tufts and Brown universities, as well as Emerson.

Serizawa is currently working on a loose tetralogy of works about Japanese imperialism and World War II, of which Inheritors was the first, according to her personal statement, published on the NEA website.

 “For myriad reasons, common and specific, my first book took over 12 years to write; at the frontier of the second book – a novel very much in its nascent phases – time, an old presence, is revealing a new face,” Serizawa wrote in her personal statement. “I’m full of gratitude for this fellowship; for its existence as an option; for the research and travel it will grant. Its arrival was utterly unexpected and propitious, bolstering the first passages forward.”

When the Reckoning Comes book jacket. Painting of lake shore with eagle perched on branch

LaTanya McQueen is the author of a novel, When the Reckoning Comes (Harper Perennial, 2021) and an essay collection, And It Begins Like This (Black Lawrence Pres, 2017). She was the 2017-2018 Robert P. Dana Emerging Writer Fellow at Cornell College, and received her PhD from the University of Missouri.

Her work has been published in New Ohio Review, the Arkansas International, the Florida Review, New Orleans Review, Ninth Letter, the North American Review, Fourteen Hills, Passages North, Black Warrior Review, Bennington Review, West Branch, TriQuarterly, and Pleaides.

According to her personal statement, she dedicates her craft to her mother.

“While my mother died long before I could ever show her the path I’d managed to carve out for myself, I still think of her with everything that I write. My mother lived a life of invisibility. I write for her, for other women like her, and for women like me—those who’ve felt invisible their whole lives, not counted, never seen,” McQueen writes.

“This award will let me continue to do this work, but for the first time in my entire life, I can do it with a little bit of freedom, and that means the world.”

I Hold a Wolf by the Ears book jacket. Graphic featuring a lamb in front of a stylized train track with train light in distance, over night sky and clouds

Laura van den Berg has previously received awards from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and theMacDowell Colony. She is the author of five works of fiction, including The Third Hotel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018), a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and I Hold a Wolf by the Ears (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020), which Time Magazine named one of the “10 Best Fiction Books of 2020.”

She is currently working on a novel titled Florida Diary, where she explores the process of returning to her childhood home in Central Florida, in the onset of the pandemic.

“The blank page is a constant in the lives of writers. No matter where we are in our practice it never gets any easier – for me at least – to confront. All the unknowns, the impossibility of knowing what is really out there until you’re, well, there. This powerful dose of encouragement arrived at a time when the scope of this project was feeling especially daunting,” she writes.

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