IU professor Samrat Upadhyay awarded NEA fellowship in creative writing

  • Dec. 22, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington professor Samrat Upadhyay has won a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Upadhyay, the Martha C. Kraft Professor of Humanities in the Creative Writing Program of the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of English, is the only writer from Indiana to receive one of the $25,000 awards this year. He is one of 37 writers of fiction and creative nonfiction from 17 states selected to receive the fellowships. For the 2016 awards, the National Endowment for the Arts assembled a team of 23 panelists and readers, who selected the winners a field of 1,763 eligible applicants.

"These 37 extraordinary new fellows provide more evidence of the NEA’s track record of discovering and supporting excellent writers," said Amy Stolls, the director of literature programs at the National Endowment for the Arts.

Since its inception, the creative writing fellowship program has awarded more than $45 million to more than 3,000 writers. The NEA program is designed to give writers the time and space to create, revise, conduct research and connect with readers.

"I am thrilled to receive this fellowship," Upadhyay said. "The judges review the applicants on the basis of the writing sample, nothing else, so it feels good to be recognized solely for my fiction. I had sent the opening chapters of my latest novel, 'The City Son,' which was also a finalist for the 2015 PEN Open Award."

A voice from Nepal

Upadhyay was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, and came to the United States at the age of 21. He is the first Nepali-born fiction author writing in English to be published in the West.

He joined Indiana University as an assistant professor in 2003 and served as director of the creative writing program from 2008 to 2010, before becoming a full professor in 2011 and being named the Martha C. Kraft Professor in 2013.

In recent years, grants from IU's College Arts and Humanities Institute and Office of the Vice President for International Affairs have made it possible for Upadhyay to take some of his MFA students to Nepal on cultural and literary trips that he said are among his most prized teaching experiences at Indiana University.

In his novels and collections of short stories, Upadhyay also returns to the familiar country of his birth to explore universal themes. His collection "Arresting God in Kathmandu" received the Whiting Writers' Award and was a pick for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great Writers Program. In 2003, "The Guru of Love" was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His other books are "Buddha's Orphans," "The Royal Ghosts" and "Secret Places."

Upadhyay has just finished a story collection, which now is in the hands of his literary agent, and he is working on a new novel.

"The novel is shifting shapes even as I write, which is difficult and challenging but also quite exciting," he said. "I feel quite fortunate that the ideas and the drive for telling stories have kept coming at me without interruption all these years. And Indiana University has been a great place for me to continue my writing career: I teach in a top-ranked creative writing program, and I feel valued as an artist by IU."

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support give Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts, and the agency is celebrating this milestone with events and activities through September 2016.

Related Links

Samrat Upadhyay

Samrat Upadhyay

Print-Quality Photo

Samrat Upadhyay has taken his IU students to Kathmandu, Nepal. Kasthamandap Temple in Durbar Square, pictured, was destroyed in the April 2015 earthquake.

Samrat Upadhyay has taken his IU students to Kathmandu, Nepal. Kasthamandap Temple in Durbar Square, pictured, was destroyed in the April 2015 earthquake.

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Karen Land

  • IU Communications
  • Office 812-856-1442