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MFACW Director Deborah Jackson Taffa Receives National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship

Jan 26, 2024

Director Deborah Jackson Taffa (Kwatsaán and Laguna Pueblo)

On January 24, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced that Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) MFA in Creative Writing Director Deborah Jackson Taffa (Kwatsaán and Laguna Pueblo) is one of 35 writers selected to receive an FY (Fiscal Year) 2024 Creative Writing Fellowship of $25,000. This year’s fellowships are in fiction and creative nonfiction and enable the recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel, and general career development. Fellows are selected through an anonymous review process and are judged based on the artistic excellence of the work sample they provided. These fellowships are highly competitive, with more than 2,100 eligible applications received for FY 2024.

Of receiving the grant, Taffa said, “It gives me freedom to slow down, witness, and react to the world one word at a time. Most importantly, it reminds me that shaping sentences is my own small way of adding beauty and peace to our existence on this planet. It’s easy for an Indigenous woman to feel that her voice is irrelevant. But today, as I look out at Santa Fe’s cold winter sky, I feel humbled by this recognition and grateful that my ancestors’ stories are being heard.”

NEA Director of Literary Arts Amy Stolls said, “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to continue its longstanding investment in our nation’s writers. It is through their creativity and dedication that our nation’s literary landscape continues to be enriched with stories, perspectives, and ideas that reflect the rich diversity of cultures and strengthens our democracy.”

Deborah Jackson Taffa’s debut book, Whiskey Tender, forthcoming from HarperCollins on February 27, 2024, has received advanced praise from the following outlets: Zibby Mag, “Most Anticipated Book”; San Francisco Chronicle, “New Book to Cozy Up With”; Publishers Weekly, “Memoirs & Biographies: Top 10”; The Millions, “Most Anticipated”; and Electric Lit, “Books by Women of Color to Read.” With fellowships from the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, PEN America, MacDowell, Rona Jaffe, and the NY State Summer Writer’s Institute, Deborah received her MFA from the University of Iowa. She is the director of the MFA in Creative Writing program at the Institute of American Indian Arts and splits her time between Saint Louis, MO, and Santa Fe, NM.

Since 1967, the NEA has awarded more than 3,700 Creative Writing Fellowships totaling over $58 million. Many American recipients of the National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and Fiction were recipients of National Endowment for the Arts fellowships early in their careers.

Visit to browse bios and artist statements from the 2024 recipients and past Creative Writing Fellows.