Bernadette Murphy, MFA

Associate Professor, Creative Nonfiction
MFA in Creative Writing


(310) 578-1080 ext. 228

MFA in Creative Writing, Antioch University, Los Angeles
BA in Journalism, minor English literature, California State University, Northridge

Bernadette Murphy‘s (creative nonfiction) newest book, Harley and Me: Embracing Risk on the Road to a More Authentic Life (to be published by Counterpoint Press, May 2016) explores female risk taking through the lens of her own experience learning to ride a motorcycle at age 48, and weaves together memoir with psychology and neuroscience.  She has published three additional books of creative nonfiction: The Tao Gals’ Guide to Real Estate (with LA novelist Michelle Huneven), following the lives of six women (herself included) as they put Tao principles to work navigating the red-hot real estate market (Bloomsbury USA, 2007); The Knitter’s Gift (2004), an anthology of creative nonfiction, poetry and fiction; and the bestselling Zen and the Art of Knitting (2002) in which she uses memoir and reportage to explore the connection between fiber arts, creativity, and spirituality.  She is now completing a first novel about music, motherhood and madness titled Grace Notes, an early version of which was a finalist for the Heekin Group Foundation’s James Jones Novel-In-Progress award.

She has been a contributing book critic for the Los Angeles Times and has published hundreds of reviews there. Her personal narratives and essays on literature have appeared in BOOK MagazineMs. Magazine, LA WeeklySan Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times Magazine and elsewhere.

She has taught at the UCLA Extension Writers Program and National University’s MFA program, as well as in private writing workshops. A proud graduate of the Antioch Los Angeles MFA program, she was a member of the inaugural year’s class, graduating with the Orange cohort. Her website is

Current publication list:
Look, Lean, Roll (forthcoming, spring 2016)
Zen and the Art of Knitting
The Tao Gals’ Guide to Real Estate
 (with Michelle Huneven)
The Knitter’s Gift

As a mentor, I’m most interested in helping you discover as many different narrative tools as possible, so that when you undertake a work of creative nonfiction, you’ll have more than one way to tell your tale. I want you to have the knowledge and freedom to choose from the writer’s extensive toolbox the most effective tool possible for each piece, including the use of dialogue, scene setting, characterization, metaphorical language, etc. To do this, I’m a firm believer in reading, reading and more reading. I will encourage you to spend a great deal of time reading works similar to what you’re undertaking, to analyze and think about how the writer succeeded (or failed) based on craft, and to realize that much of the writer’s job may be learned through osmosis, if that writer is reading regularly and critically. But reading, obviously, is not going to do the trick if you’re not actively writing and putting into daily practice the elements you encounter.

Each month, I expect to receive about 20 pages of new creative work, or 30 pages of revised work from you (in addition to your detailed annotations.) I will read these pages with an eye toward structure, narrative arc, and large organizational issues. I will also do extensive line edits, perhaps questioning word choices, pointing out the need for a scene when you may have used exposition (and visa versa), and generally trying to help you as an editor might, to tighten and fully realize that month’s piece of writing. I will never try to instill my own personal aesthetic in you, but will encourage you to discover your own aesthetic — assuming the result is clear writing that’s compelling and engaging. I believe strongly in the revision process and hope you will find enough meat in my notes to allow for vigorous re-writes.

I will work with you either in hard copy or online. If you submit hard copy, I’ll send hard copy back. If you submit electronically, my notes will be embedded in
the text using Word’s Track Changes function and returned to you electronically. I will also make myself available by phone to discuss any of my comments that may confuse or concern you. My job, as I see it, is to make sure you finish this program with the tools you’ll need, not only to complete a strong final manuscript, but to enter the larger world with a full working knowledge of all aspects of the writer’s craft, ready to go, at your fingertips.

James Novel-In-Progress, Heekin Group, Finalist 1999

  • Grace Notes: A Novel
  • Artane: A Novel
  • The Tao Gals’ Guide to Real Estate: Narrative Nonfiction
  • Zen and the Art of Knitting: Narrative Nonfiction
  • The Knitter’s Gift: Anthology


Book Length Nonfiction
The Tao Gals’ Guide to Real Estate (with Michelle Huneven), January 2006, Bloomsbury USA
The Knitter’s Gift, (editor) 2004, Adams Media Corporation Zen and the Art of Knitting, September 2002, Adams Media Corporation

Book Length Fiction
Grace Notes: A Novel forthcoming

Book Reviews
Hundreds of book reviews published in Los Angeles Times.
Other book reviews have appeared in: Ms. Magazine BOOK Magazine LA Weekly Newsday San Francisco Chronicle San Jose Mercury News The Oregonian Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Los Angeles Daily News Bloomsbury

Review Literary Journals/Anthologies
“My Second First Period” in My Little Red Book, edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, and featured in New Yorker Books blog
“The Things I Carry” in Mother-As-Writer: A Delicate Balance, edited by Elizabeth Anderson, October 2002 Our Working Lives: Short Stories of People and Work, anthology of short fiction, Larry Smith and Bonnie Jo Campbell, editors; Bottom Dog Press, Fall 2000
“Clack, Clack, Clack,” short fiction, Eclipse Literary Journal, August, 2000
“August 17, 1974,” a tone poem, 4th Street literary review, January/February 2001

Author Profiles
“She Writes of Teens, Jeans, and We’re Riveted,” profile of author Ann Brashares and her series, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” Los Angeles Times, February 28, 2005
“Addict’s Memoir: Loathe It or Love It,” profile of author James Frey, exploring the question of sensationalism and irony in contemporary memoir, Los Angeles Times, May 20, 2003
“Word Freak” profile of scrabble champion and author Stefan Fatsis in which I played him scrabble (and lost badly) as the structure of the profile, Los Angeles Times, July 2001
“Chang’s Latest: Not What Readers Expect” profile of novelist Leonard Chang, LA Daily News, February 20, 2001
“Living Your Life to its Fullest, Whoever You Are” profile of author Bernard Cooper, LA Daily News, November 21, 2000
“Robbins: Man of Mystery” profile of Tom Robbins, LA Daily News, May 23, 2000
“Success Breeds Success” profile of Jonathan Kellerman, LA Daily News, March 12, 2000
“Novelist or Screenwriter?” profile of John Irving, LA Daily News, Jan.23, 2000
“Not Quite A Man’s World” profile of Susan Faludi, LA Daily News, October 13, 1999
“A Dino Does the Detective Work” profile of novelist Eric Garcia, LA Daily News, Sept. 29, 1999
“Shadow Boxing” profile of novelist Yxta Maya Murray, LA Daily News, August 5, 1999

Essays on Literature
“Life’s Answers: Is Religion in the Mix?,” profile of books addressing contemporary religious issues, Los Angeles Times, September 21, 2003
“Will Irish Literature Survive Prosperity?,” an inquiry as to how a new-found affluence is impacting Irish writing, a body of literature that has been built, historically, on tales of poverty and suffering, Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2001
“Radio Series Ends Tonight With ‘Twilight,’” profile of playwright Anna Deavere Smith’s, “Twilight Los Angeles, 1992,” a work of documentary theater about the Los Angeles riots, LA Daily News, Dec. 26, 1999
“’Pocho’ Tells Of A Family Straddling Two Worlds,” profile of literary work “Pocho” by José Antonio Villarreal, one of the first Mexican-American immigration narratives ever written, LA Daily News, Dec. 19, 1999
“Words of ‘Warrior’ Up For Discussion,” profile of author Maxine Hong Kingston’s “The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts,” her story of growing up as a first-generation Chinese-American living in California, LA Daily News, Dec. 12, 1999
“Didion Shows Changing Face Of ‘60s,” profile of Joan Didion’s many works of literature about California, LA Daily News, Dec. 5, 1999
“Beat’s ‘On The Road’ Takes To The Airwaves,” profile of Jack Kerouac, the beat generation, and “On The Road,” LA Daily News, Nov. 28, 1999
“Philip Marlowe, A True L.A. Urban Legend,” profile of Raymond Chandler’s work, LA Daily News, Nov. 21, 1999
“West’s ‘Day of the Locust’ Shows Dark Side Of Hollywood Dream,” profile of Nathanael West’s “The Day of the Locust” and its impact on the noir image of Los Angeles, LA Daily News, Nov. 14, 1999
“Steinbeck To Grace StoryLines With ‘Grapes,’” profile of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” LA Daily News, Nov. 7, 1999
“’Octopus’ Reaches Through A Century To Touch Present-Day Readers,” profile of Frank Norris’ novel “The Octopus” which depicts California of the last century, with wheat farmers pitted against the railroad, and corporations against the individual, LA Daily News, Oct. 31, 1999
“In ‘Angle of Repose’ Stegner Looks West,” profile of Wallace Stegner’s “The Angle of Repose” and its place in the canon of California literature, LA Daily News, Oct. 24, 1999
“Literature Of Southern California Begins With Jackson’s ‘Ramona,’” profile of the origins of California literature, starting with Helen Hunt Jackson’s “Ramona,” LA Daily News, Oct. 10, 1999
“Discuss, Debate California Literature On Public Radio,” profile of weekly radio series examining works of seminal Southern California literature, LA Daily News, Oct. 3, 1999
“’StoryLines’ Leads Off With Kroeber’s ‘Ishi,’” profile of ethnographic work of literature, “Ishi in Two Worlds” by Theodora Kroeber and the book’s role in shaping the literature of California, LA Daily News, Oct. 3, 1999
“Fictional L.A.,” profile of noir Los Angeles and how it became to be perceived as such, LA Daily News, May 23, 1999
“Shangri-LA,” profile of the origins of the noir image of Los Angeles, looking at the books of 1939, particularly Nathanael West’s “The Year of the Locust,” Raymond Chandler’s “Goodbye My Lovely” and John Fante’s “Ask The Dust,” BOOK Magazine, May/June 1999

Personal Essays
“Our Kids Need a Ticket To Ride,” op/ed about MTA and Metrolink, LA Times Current section, March 26, 2006.
“‘We’ll Do Whitney, Right?’,” backpacking with my 16-year-old son, LA Times Outdoors section, October 11, 2005
“After Some Firm Prodding, She’s Back On Course,” my search for alternative treatments when shoulder pain could not be solved by traditional medicine. Los Angeles Times Health Section, May 3, 2004
“You Can’t Get There From Here,” the frustrations of my son’s bus commute, Los Angeles Times Magazine, November 30, 2003
“When A Kid Wants to Toot His Own Horn, What’s Mom to Do?,” my 12-year-old son’s efforts at becoming a street performer, Los Angeles Times Calendar section, January 7, 2002
“Olympic Diving,” the after-effects of my son’s near-drowning, LA Parent and its 20+ syndicate publications, including Bay Area Parent, New York Family, Colorado Parent, Parents Monthly, Our Kids Atlanta, Seattle’s Child and more, July 2000
“Doing Lent Cold Turkey,” giving up alcohol for Lent, Catholic Digest, February, 1999
“Not Just A Teen Thing,” personal woes of orthodontic treatment for my kids, LA Parent, July 1998
“The Birds and The Bees – 90s Style,” explaining sex to young children, LA Parent, June 1998
“A Time To Face Our Addictions,” alcoholism in the realm of Catholicism, St. Anthony Messenger, Feb.1998
“Surviving the Recession,” losing financially but gaining self-awareness, St. Anthony Messenger, February 1994