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

New York, October 28 - The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation today named ten recipients of the 2004 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 twentieth year, the program has awarded more than $5 million to 200 poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, and playwrights.  Among the past recipients who have later achieved prominence in their field are Michael Cunningham, Deborah Eisenberg, Jonathan Franzen, Jorie Graham, Cristina Garcia, Tony Kushner, Allegra Goodman, Li-Young Lee, Alice McDermott, Suzan-Lori Parks, C.D. Wright, Katha Pollit, Jeffrey Eugenides,  Mary Karr, and Colson Whitehead.

“For twenty years, nominators all over the country have been bringing to our attention the work of marvelously gifted writers in early career, sometimes even before a publisher has discovered them,” said Barbara K. Bristol, Director of the Writers’ Program.  “This year, our selection committee is recognizing the vibrant talent, originality and promise of three fiction writers, three poets, two non-fiction writers and two playwrights.  As always, we hope that a Whiting Award will provide important encouragement and validation to these writers at a critical moment, allowing them to devote more time to fulfilling that promise.”

The 2004 recipients were announced at a ceremony at the New York Public Library in New York on Thursday, October 28.  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 Edna O’Brien.  The author of more than thirty works of fiction, nonfiction, and plays, Ms. O’Brien is one of Ireland’s most widely acclaimed and beloved writers.   She is best known for her novels and short stories, including The Country Girls Trilogy, A Fanatic Heart, and, most recently, In The Forest. She is also a playwright whose play Triptych is enjoying a run at New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre.


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

Daniel Alarcon, fiction.  Born in Peru and raised in Alabama, he is the author of a forthcoming collection of short stories, War by Candlelight (HarperCollins, April 2005).

Kirsten Bakis, fiction.  Her first novel, Lives of the Monster Dogs, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1997.  She lives in southern Vermont.

Catherine Barnett, poetry.  Her first collection of poems, Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes are Pierced, was published this year by Alice James Books.  She lives in New York City.

Dan Chiasson, poetry.  His first collection of poems is The Afterlife of Objects (University of Chicago Press, 2002).  He is Director of the Poetry Center at SUNY Stony Brook.

Allison Glock, nonfiction.  In 2003, Knopf published Beauty Before Comfort, her memoir about her grandmother’s life in a West Virginia factory town.  She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Elana Greenfield, plays.  Her collection of short fiction and drama, Damascus Gate:  Short Hallucinations, was published last year by Green Integer Press.  She lives in New York City.

A.Van Jordan, poetry.  He is the author of M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A (Norton, 2004), a cycle of poems about the first African-American teenager to advance to the finals of the National Spelling Bee in 1936. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Victor LaValle, fiction.  He is the author of a short story collection, Slapboxing with Jesus (Vintage, 1999) and the novel, The Ecstatic (Crown, 2002).  He lives in Brooklyn and is teaching this year in Oakland, California.

John Jeremiah Sullivan, nonfiction.  He is the author of Blood Horses:  Notes of a Sportswriter’s Son (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2004). Born in Louisville, Kentucky, he now divides his time between Wilmington, North Carolina and New York City.

Tracey Scott Wilson, plays.  Productions of her plays include “Order My Steps” at the Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles and “The Story” at the Joseph Papp Public Theater.  She lives in Newark, New Jersey.

More detailed biographies of the winners are attached.

Whiting Writers’ Awards candidates are proposed by about a hundred 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 can- didates 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. 

2003 Whiting Writers' Awards