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Ten Writers of Exeptional Promise Each Receive $35,000 Whiting Writers' Award

NEW YORK, OCTOBER 31-The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation today named ten
recipients of the 2002 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 eighteenth year, the program has awarded more than $5 million to
180 poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, and playwrights. Among the past
recipients who have later achieved prominence in their field are Mona
Simpson, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Mary Karr, Tony Kushner,
Allegra Goodman, Katha Pollitt, Suzan-Lori Parks, Mark Doty, Andre Aciman,
Michael Cunningham, Jorie Graham, and Colson Whitehead.

This year, there are five fiction writers, three poets, and, for the first
time in several years, two playwrights. "Reading through the published and
unpublished work of more than 100 candidates, our selection committee has
presented us with a richly various group of Whiting winners, all of whom are
just beginning to come into their own," said Barbara K. Bristol, Director of
the Writers' Program. "We expect these writers will continue to produce
strong work in the future and we hope that this award will help make that
possible."

The 2002 recipients were announced at a ceremony at the Pierpont Morgan
Library in New York on Wednesday, October 30. 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 novelist William Styron. Born in
1925, Styron is the author of four novels, including Lie Down in Darkness,
the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Confessions of Nat Turner, and Sophie's
Choice
, which was made into an Academy Award-winning film. He is also the
author of two collections of short stories, a book of essays entitled The
Quiet Dust & Other Writings
, and his 1990 memoir, Darkness Visible: A Memoir
of Madness
.

 

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

Jeffrey Renard Allen, fiction writer and poet. Mr. Allen is the author of
Rails Under My Back (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000) which won the Chicago
Tribune Heartland Prize. He lives in New York City and teaches at Queens
College.

Elizabeth Arnold, poet. She is the author of The Reef (University of
Chicago, 1999), a sequence of poems about surviving cancer. She is
assistant professor of English at the University of Maryland and lives in
Washington, DC.

Justin Cronin, fiction writer. His debut work, Mary and O'Neil (Dial Press,
2001), is a novel-in-stories about familial love and loss which won a PEN
Hemingway award. He teaches at LaSalle University and lives in
Philadelphia.

Kim Edwards, fiction writer. The stories collected in her first book, The
Secrets of a Fire King
(W.W. Norton, 1997), have also appeared in Best
American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Lexington,
Kentucky.

David Gewanter, poet. Mr. Gewanter is the author of a collection of poetry,
In the Belly (University of Chicago Press, 1997). He is at work on a new
book of poems, The Sleep of Reason, and a collection of essays, Identity
Poetics
. He lives in Washington, D.C., and teaches at Georgetown
University.

Melissa James Gibson, playwright. Her plays, which include Given Fish and
[sic], winner of a 2001 Obie Award, have been produced at theaters around
the country. Her most recent work, Brooklyn Bridge, was commissioned by the
Children's Theater Company of Minneapolis. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Michelle Huneven, fiction writer. Her first novel, Round Rock (Knopf, 1997),
was a New York Times Notable Book. She is at work on a second novel,
Jamesland. She lives in Altadena and writes about food for the LA Times.

Danzy Senna, fiction writer. Her first novel, Caucasia (Riverhead Books,
1998), tells the story of a biracial family torn apart by the politics of
the seventies. She is at work on a second novel. She lives in New York
City.

Evan Smith, playwright. His plays include The Uneasy Chair and Psych, both
produced by Playwrights' Horizons, and Servicemen, produced by The New Group
and New York Stage and Film. Born and raised in Georgia, he lives in
Savannah.

Joshua Weiner, poet. His first collection of poetry, The World's Room, was
published by the University of Chicago Press in 2001. He teaches at the
University of Maryland and lives in Washington, D.C.

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 candidates 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.

2001 Whiting Writers' Awards


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