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

NEW YORK, OCTOBER 27, 2000- The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation today named ten recipients of the 2000 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.

The ten recipients come from across the country, from Vermont to Mississippi, Virginia to California. Among them are five fiction writers, three poets, one nonfiction writer and one playwright. Included in their recent works are a memoir by a Vietnamese American who searched on bicycle for his family and lost homeland; poems springing from the Southern rural landscape; a novel about an elevator inspector; poems that draw upon Native American languages; a comic novel about a secular Jew drawn to a Hassidic couple; novels set in Papua New Guinea and Paris. "Each of these writers seems at an important turning point," said Barbara Bristol, Director of the Writers' Program. "All are embarked on new work, and we hope that the Whiting Award will bring wider recognition to their wonderfully varied talents."

Now in its sixteenth year, the program has awarded more than $4.5 million to 160 poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, and playwrights. Among the past recipients who have achieved prominence in their field are Michael Cunningham, Mary Karr, Kent Haruf, Alice McDermott, Stanley Crouch, David Foster Wallace, Mona Simpson, Tony Kushner, Dennis Johnson, and Jorie Graham.

The 2000 recipients were announced at a ceremony at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York on Thursday, October 26. Robert M. Pennoyer, President of the Foundation, and Kate Douglas Torrey, a trustee, presented the ten writers with their awards.

The keynote speaker of the evening was the distinguished poet, teacher and editor Robert Phillips, author of six books of poetry. He is poetry editor of the Texas Review and a councilor of the Texas Institute of Letters. He teaches at the University of Houston, where he for many years lead the prestigious Creative Writing Program and is now the John and Rebecca Moores Scholar and Professor of English.

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

Robert Cohen, fiction writer. He is the author of two novels, The Organ Builder (Harper & Row, 1988), and The Here and Now (Scribners, 1996). His new novel, Inspired Sleep, will be published by Scribners next year. He teaches at Middlebury College and lives in Vermont.

Samantha Gillison, fiction writer. Her first novel, The Undiscovered Country, was published in 1998 by Grove Press. She lives in New York City.


Lily King, fiction writer. Her first novel, The Pleasing Hour, was published by Atlantic Monthly Press in 1999. She lives in Cambridge, Mass.

John McManus, fiction writer. His collection of short stories, Stop Breakin' Down, was published earlier this year by Picador. He is now enrolled in the graduate writing program at Hollins University in Roanoke.

Albert Mobilio, poet. He is the author of a chapbook of poems, Bendable Siege (Red Dust, 1991) and a collection published by Hard Press in 1995 entitled The Geographics. He lives in New York City.

Andrew X. Pham, nonfiction writer. His first book, Catfish and Mandala : A Two-Wheeled Voyage through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1999. Born in Vietnam, he lives in Portland, Oregon.

James Thomas Stevens/Aronhiotas, poet. He is the author of Tokinish (First Intensity Press, 1994) and Combing the Snakes from His Hair: Poems, which will be published next year by Michigan State University Press. He teaches English at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.

Kelly Stuart, playwright. She is the author of several works, including A Shoe is Not a Question, The Life of Spiders, The Square Root of Terrible, and Demonology. She lives in Los Angeles.

Colson Whitehead, fiction writer. He is the author of The Intuitionist (Doubleday), and the forthcoming John Henry Days. He lives in Brooklyn.

Claude Wilkinson, poet. His first collection of poems, Reading the Earth, was published by Michigan State University Press in 1998. He is from Nesbit, Mississippi.

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, 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.

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