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Ten Writers Receive Whiting Writer’s Award For Exceptional Promise

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October 26 – November 2, 2006 Edition

Ten Writers Receive

Whiting Writer’s Award

For Exceptional Promise

NEW YORK, NY/10/25/06—The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation today named ten recipients of the 2006 Whiting Writers’ Awards. The awards, which are $40,000 each, totaling $400,000, have been given annually since 1985 to emerging writers of exceptional talent and promise.

Since its inception, the program has awarded more than $5 million to 220 poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, and playwrights. Among the past recipients who have achieved acclaim and prominence in their field are Jonathan Franzen, Sarah Ruhl, William T. Vollmann, Colson Whitehead, Jorie Graham, James McMichael, Mary Karr, Tobias Wolff, and Michael Cunningham.

This year’s winners come from widely divergent backgrounds and their writing is reflective of their heritage and different sensibilities. Among the 2006 recipients are a Navajo poet, a Chinese-born novelist, a Korean-American poet, an Armenian-American novelist, the daughter of an immigrant farm worker in California, and the son of an Irish dairy farmer. This year’s winners are three poets, five fiction writers, and two playwrights, both of whom are also well-regarded actors.

"The selection committee this year was struck by the daring virtuosity, the fearlessness of these writers," said Barbara Bristol, the Director of the Writers’ Program. "In their hands we can see, for example, how poetry has become a vibrant way to talk about culture, politics and history. And it is evident that the short story is as strong and vital as ever. We look forward to seeing what they will do next."

The 2006 recipients were announced at a ceremony at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York on Wednesday, October 25. Dr. Robert L. Belknap, President of the Foundation, and trustee Kate Douglas Torrey presented the ten writers with their awards.

The keynote speaker of the evening was Robert Stone, one of America’s most important fiction writers. The author of six novels and a collection of short stories, he is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Book Award in 1975 for Dog Soldiers, and a PEN/Faulkner Award for A Flag for Sunrise. His latest book, a memoir, Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties, will be published by Ecco Press in January 2007.

The ten writers recognized this year for their extraordinary talent and promise are:

Sherwin Bitsui, poetry. Born on the Navajo Reservation, he is the author of a collection of poems, Shapeshift, which was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2003. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Charles D’Ambrosio, fiction. His most recent collection of short stories is The Dead Fish Museum (Knopf, 2006). He teaches at University of Montana.

Stephen Adly Guirgis, plays. His new play, The Little Flower of East Orange, premieres at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 2007. He lives in New York City.

Tyehimba Jess, poetry. His first book, leadbelly, was published by Verse Press in 2005. He teaches at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Suji Kwock Kim, poetry. Her first book, Notes from the Divided Country: Poems, was published by LSU Press in 2003. She lives in New York City.

Yiyun Li, fiction. Her collection of short stories, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, was published by Random House in 2005. She teaches at Mills College and lives in Oakland, California.

Micheline Aharonian Marcom, fiction. Born in Saudi Arabia, her most recent novel is The Daydreaming Boy (Riverhead, 2004). She is a visiting writer at Mills College in Oakland, California.

Nina Marie Martínez, fiction. The daughter of a Mexican-American farm worker, she is the author of a novel, ¡Caramba! A Tale Told in Turns of the Card, which was published by Knopf in 2004. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA.

Bruce Norris, plays. His most recent play, The Pain and the Itch, opened this fall in New York at the Playwrights Horizon. He lives in Brooklyn.

Patrick O’Keeffe, fiction. Born in Ireland, he is the author of a collection of stories, The Hill Road, which was published by Viking in 2005.

More detailed biographies of the winners are attached.

Whiting Writers’ Awards candidates are proposed by about a hundred anonymous nominators from across the country whose experience and vocations give them knowledge about individuals of extraordinary talent. Winners are chosen by a small anonymous selection committee of recognized writers, literary scholars, and editors, appointed annually by the Foundation. At four meetings over the course of the year, the selectors discuss the candidates’ work and gradually winnow the list. They then recommend up to ten writers for awards to the Foundation’s Trustees. The Foundation accepts nominations only from the designated nominators.

The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation was established in 1963 by Flora E. Whiting. In 1972, her unrestricted bequest of over $10 million enabled the Foundation to establish the Whiting Fellowships in the Humanities for doctoral candidates in their dissertation year. In the years since, the Foundation has annually awarded grants to Bryn Mawr, University of Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale to fund these Fellowships, the recipients of which are selected by each institution. The Foundation created the Whiting Writers’ Awards in 1985 under the direction of Gerald Freund, who organized and led the program until his death in 1997.

To learn more about the Whiting Foundation visit the website at: www.whitingfoundation.org.