Four Playwrights Win Whiting Writers’ Awards

By Jason Boog Comment

The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation has given $50,000 to ten promising writers for the 2012 Whiting Writers’ Awards. In a new record for the awards, four playwrights received awards.

We’ve included the complete list of recipients below, along with the foundation’s short biography for each winner and links to free samples of some writers.  In addition, three fiction writers, two poets, and a nonfiction writer also won.  Follow this link to read the keynote address by Jeffrey Eugenides. Here’s an excerpt:

In his 1988 book of essays, “Prepared for the Worst,” Christopher Hitchens recalled a bit of advice given him by the South African Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. “A serious person should try to write posthumously,” Hitchens said, going on to explain: “By that I took her to mean that one should compose as if the usual constraints––of fashion, commerce, self-censorship, public and perhaps especially intellectual opinion––did not operate.” Hitchens’s untimely death last year, at the age of 62, has thrown this remark into relief, pressing upon those of us who persist in writing the uncomfortable truth that anything we’re working on has the potential to be published posthumously; that death might not be far off, and that, given this disturbing reality, we might pay attention to it.

Since the awards began in 1985, the foundation has given over $6 million to 280 poets, playwrights, fiction and nonfiction writers.

Ciaran Berry: 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: “She is author of Eclipsed and The ConvertBorn 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: “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: “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: “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 WestShe lives in Brooklyn.”

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

Meg Miroshnik: “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’sMoscowCheryomushki. She lives in Los Angeles.

Hanna Pylväinen: “Her debut novelWe Sinnerswas 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: “Her first bookHarlem 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: “His first book, Romey’s Orderwas 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.”