Ten Young Writers Receive $35,000 Whiting Writer’s Award $35,000 Whiting Writer’s Award

November 1, 2003
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November 1-15, 2003 Edition

Ten Young Writers Receive

$35,000 Whiting Writer’s Award

New York, NY/10/30-/03—The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation has named ten recipients of the 2003 Whiting Writers’ Awards. The awards, which are $35,000 each, totaling $350,000, have been given annually since 1985 to emerging writers of exceptional talent and promise.

Now in its nineteenth year, the program has awarded more than $5 million to 190 poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, and playwrights. Among the past recipients who have later achieved prominence in their field are Andre Aciman, Michael Cunningham, Deborah Eisenberg, Jonathan Franzen, Jorie Graham, Cristina Garcia, Tony Kushner, Allegra Goodman, Li-Young Lee, Alice McDermott, Suzan-Lori Parks, Katha Pollit, and Colson Whitehead.

“Our dedicated selection committee has singled out these writers in early career – six fiction writers, two non-fiction writers, one poet and one playwright – not for a published or unpublished book alone, but for their distinct accomplishments and the potential the selectors saw for continued excellence,” said Barbara K. Bristol, Director of the Writers’ Program. “We hope this recognition will help them along their way.”

The 2003 recipients were announced at a ceremony at the New York Public Library in New York on Thursday, October 30. Dr. Robert L. Belknap, President of the Foundation, and trustee Peter Pennoyer presented the ten writers with their awards.

The keynote speaker of the evening was playwright John Guare. Mr. Guare’s outstanding body of work includes such highly acclaimed plays as House of Blue Leaves, Landscape of the Body, Bosoms and Neglect, Lydie Breeze, Six Degrees of Separation, Four Baboons Adoring the Sun, Chaucer in Rome and A

Few Stout Individuals. He has been awarded the New York Drama Critics Circle Prize on three occasions as well as the

Obie, the Tony, and London’s Olivier Award for Best Play. His adaptation of His Girl Friday is currently in production at London’s National Theatre.

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

Courtney Angela Brkic, fiction and nonfiction writer. She is the author of Stillness and Other Stories (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2003) and a nonfiction book, The Stone Fields, will be published next year. She teaches at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.

Alexander Chee, fiction writer. He is the author of Edinburgh (Picador, 2002). A graduate of Wesleyan University, where he now serves as a Visiting Writer, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he lives in New York City.

Christopher Cokinos, nonfiction writer. He is the author of Hope is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds (Tarcher/Putnam, 2000) and a book of poems. He lives in Utah.

Trudy Dittmar, nonfiction writer. This fall the University of Iowa Press will publish her first book, Fauna and Flora, Earth and Sky. She divides her time between her cabin in northwestern Wyoming and the family farm in New Jersey where she grew up.

Major Jackson, poet. His debut volume of poems, Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia Press), was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. He lives in South Burlington, Vermont and teaches at the University of Vermont.

Agymah Kamau, fiction writer. He is the author of two novels, Flickering Shadows (Coffee House Press, 1996) and Pictures of a Dying Man (Coffee House Press, 1999). He teaches at the University of Oklahoma and lives in Norman.

Ann Pancake, fiction writer. She is the author of a collection of stories, Given Ground (The University Press of New England, 2001). She has just moved from her native West Virginia to Seattle.

Lewis Robinson, fiction writer. His first collection of stories, Officer Friendly, was published by HarperCollins in 2003. He lives in Portland, Maine.

Jess Row, fiction writer. His first collection of stories, The Train to Lo Wu, will be published next year by Dial Press. He lives in New York City and teaches at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

Sarah Ruhl, playwright. Her plays include The Clean House, Eurydice, Late: A Cowboy Song, Passion Play, Orlando and Melancholy Play. She is originally from Chicago.

Whiting Writers’ Awards candidates are proposed by nominators from across the country whose experience and vocations bring them in contact with individuals of extraordinary talent. Winners are chosen by a selection committee consisting of a small anonymous group 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 can- didates for awards to the Foundation’s Trustees. The Foundation does not accept applications or unsolicited nominations.

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 their website at: www.whitingfoundation.org.

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