Ten Writers Earn $50,000 Whiting Award

October 22, 2012
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Oct 22- Oct 28, 2012 Edition Ten Writers Earn $50,000 Whiting Award

New York, October 23 – The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation today named ten recipients of the 2012 Whiting Writers’ Awards. The awards of $50,000 each, totaling $500,000 have been given annually since 1985 to writers of exceptional talent and promise in early career.

The program has awarded more than $6 million to 280 poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, and playwrights. During the award’s 27-year history, it has time and again identified brilliant writers before they have achieved acclaim and prominence in their fields. Past recipients include Jonathan Franzen, Mark Doty, David Foster Wallace, Jo Ann Beard, Tony Kushner, Sarah Ruhl, Colson Whitehead, CD Wright, Margaret Talbot, Michael Cunningham, Bruce Norris, Tracy K. Smith, and John Jeremiah Sullivan.

The 2012 winners are four playwrights (the most ever in one year), three fiction writers, two poets, and a nonfiction writer. "We hope these ten marvelous writers will feel encouraged by Whiting's recognition at this critical early moment,” says Barbara Bristol, Director of the Writers’ Program. “Our judges have cast their votes not for a specific work, but for the abundant promise of future work they see there. Some of these writers have yet to publish a first book. Of particular note are the four playwrights, all taking on big questions with remarkable adeptness and maturity. That they are so generously represented here is an indication of how rich and vibrant the theatre is today — and will certainly be tomorrow." The 2012 recipients were announced at a ceremony at the Times Center on Tuesday, October 23.

The evening’s keynote address was given by one of America’s most exciting and original writers, Jeffrey Eugenides. He received a Whiting award in 1993, the same year that his first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was published. The Virgin Suicides was translated into 15 languages and made into a major motion picture. His subsequent novels, Middlesex and The Marriage Plot were published to great acclaim, and he won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Yale Review, The Paris Review and Best American Short Stories. Mr. Eugenides teaches creative writing at Princeton University.

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

Ciaran Berry, poetry. His first full-length collection, The Sphere of Birds, won the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition in 2007 and was published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2008. Born in Dublin, he lives in Hartford, Connecticut.

Danai Gurira, plays. She is author of Eclipsed and The Convert. Born in Iowa and raised in Zimbabwe, she is also an Obie Award-winning actor and divides her time between New York City and Los Angeles.

Alan Heathcock, fiction. His story collection, Volt, was published in 2011 by Graywolf, and was a finalist for the Barnes and Noble Discover Prize. A native of Chicago, he now lives in Idaho where he teaches at Boise State University.

Samuel D. Hunter, plays. His plays include A Bright New Boise, winner of an Obie, The Whale, which will have an upcoming production at Playwrights Horizon in New York, and his most recent play, The Few. A native of northern Idaho, he lives in New York City.

Mona Mansour, plays. She is the author of Urge for Going (Public Theater), The Hour of Feeling, which just received its world premiere in the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and her new play, The Way West. She lives in Brooklyn.

Anthony Marra, fiction. He will publish his debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, in 2013 and his story collection, The Tsar of Love and Techno, in 2014, both with Hogarth Press. Currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford, he lives in Oakland, California.

Meg Miroshnik, plays. Her work includes The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls, The Droll {Or, a Stage-Play about the END of Theatre}, The Tall Girls, and an adaptation of Shostakovich's Moscow, Cheryomushki. She lives in Los Angeles.

Hanna Pylväinen, fiction. Her debut novel, We Sinners, was published this summer by Henry Holt. In 2011 she was a fiction Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and since then has been completing her next novel, The End of Drum Time. She lives in Brooklyn.

Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, non-fiction. Her first book, Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America, published by Little, Brown in 2011, was named among 100 Notable Books of 2011 by the New York Times Book Review and nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Originally from Houston, she lives in New York City.

Atsuro Riley, poetry. His first book, Romey’s Order, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2010, and won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, The Believer Poetry Award, and the Witter Bynner Award from the Library of Congress. Born and raised in the South Carolina lowcountry, he lives in San Francisco.

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 writers in early career. Winners are chosen by a small anonymous selection committee of recognized writers and editors, appointed annually by the Foundation. At four meetings over the course of the year, the selectors discuss the candidates’ work and 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.

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