Interview With Peter E. Murphy, Founder of Murphy Writing of Stockton University 

Peter E. Murphy was born in Wales and grew up in New York City where he managed a night club, operated heavy equipment, and drove a taxi. He has been awarded six creative writing fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, which might be a record, and has published eleven books and chapbooks of nonfiction and poetry.

Peter has been a consultant to numerous organizations such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Educational Testing Service, and countless school districts from coast to coast. He has also been an educational advisor to three PBS television programs on poetry produced by Bill Moyers.

Fun Fact: After his second visit to the Rose Garden where he was recognized as a Distinguished Teacher by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars in the Arts, Bill and Hillary Clinton added Peter to their Christmas card list.

Retired from teaching English and creative writing, he is the founder of Murphy Writing of Stockton University in Atlantic City, NJ.

Thank you so much for joining us in this conversation. We would love to know your back story. What are some of your fondest writing and travel experiences as a child?

I was born in Wales and crossed the Atlantic several times on two great ocean liners in their heyday, the SS America and the SS United States, but I was too young to remember them. What I do remember is the New York City Subway and the Staten Island Ferry, a 20-minute cruise, which I still love to ride. I usually bring my notebook along and write down what I see, hear, and smell.

What inspired you to start Murphy Writing of Stockton University?

I didn’t mean to do it. I founded Murphy Writing by accident. After attending Yaddo and other artist colonies where I had weeks with no responsibilities except to write, I found it challenging to keep it up when I got home. So, I decided to rent a hotel room one weekend a month to get away to write. It worked. I became more productive and wrote and published more. When I told other writers about my hotel habit, they said, “I wish I could go with you.” Stupidly, I rented a block of rooms at a hotel in Cape May, New Jersey and that began the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway now in its 28th year. In 2014 Stockton University acquired Murphy Writing and hired me and my staff to run it. It’s been a good match, and I plan to keep teaching writers to write until I drop.

Where do you host the retreats? What do you find special about the getaway locations where the retreats are held?  

While we have hosted numerous writing retreats in the Atlantic City area, we also take writers to Sunapee, New Hampshire in the summer and New Smyrna Beach in Florida in winter. We also have been going to Europe each summer to write. Of course, we couldn’t hold these retreats during the pandemic, but we are eager to start them up again soon. In fact, we will be writing again in Florida this March.

We look for venues that are safe, clean, comfortable, and affordable. One of our venues is a posh spa in Spain where you look down from a mountain at the clouds. Another is on a lake at the foot of Mount Snowdon in Wales. Another is based at a University in Scotland, not far from the North Sea.

We include several excursions where we leave our retreat center to explore local features like fishing villages, historic markets, and castles that stimulate the imagination. 

Are there any special stories that you can share about a person that was impacted by attending your writing retreats?

After attending several of our retreats, a middle school teacher quit her job, went to graduate school to obtain an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Creative Writing. She has published three award-winning books of poems and is a full professor at a major university in Virginia. 

What do you find satisfying about the work you do now?

Poetry gave my life a purpose when I was young. It was the only thing that made sense to me, and it guided me as I stumbled into adulthood. Creative writing gives people of all ages a sense of purpose and accomplishment. I love seeing people come to our writing retreats, sometimes nervous and then going home confident that they can tell their stories. Not all will be prizewinning authors, but all leave better writers than when they arrived. 

How do you want people to remember their experience at the retreats you offer?

We pride ourselves on creating an ego-free community that welcomes and nurtures everyone. It doesn’t matter whether you have published widely and have won major awards or if you’re picking up a pen for the first time. When you write with us, we will challenge and support you to become a better writer and have a good time as well. 

What is your favorite life quote and how do you apply it to your life?

Outside the Imperial War Museum in London, is a large slab of concrete, twelve feet high by three feet wide, with “Change Your Life” graffitied on it. It’s a segment of The Berlin Wall. I think of these words every day, not just when I sit down to write, but when I lead workshops guiding others as they write.

You can learn more about Murphy Writing of Stockton University and Peter E. Murphy at: 


Murphy Writing ✍️ (@murphywriting) • Instagram

Murphy Writing of Stockton University | Facebook

Peter E. Murphy (peteremurphy.com)

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