Ten Writers Receive $50,000 at 2010 Whiting Writers’ Awards

By Jason Boog 

Last night The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation gave ten writers $50,000 each for the  2010 Whiting Writers’ Awards–celebrating “exceptional talent and promise in early career.” The complete list (and bios) of the authors follows below.

During the ceremony at the Morgan Library & Museum Foundation president Dr. Robert L. Belknap told the winners not to worry about finding blockbuster audiences. “Perhaps they will become incredibly important to a readership that hasn’t even been born yet,” he explained.

Keynote speaker Peter Matthiessen reassured the nominees with tales of his own successes and failures. The great writer shared a rejection note with the recepients: “Dear Peter, James Fenimore Cooper wrote this book 150 years ago, but he wrote it better.” Matthiessen (pictured)  laughed as he recited the note from memory: “Right then, I could have used a Whiting.” Stay tuned for video coverage from the ceremony over the next few days.

So far, the annual award has given $6 million to 260 poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, and playwrights, including Jonathan Franzen, Sarah Ruhl, Michael Cunningham, Nell Freudenberger,  and Colson Whitehead.

2010 Whiting Writers’ Award Winners

David Adjmi, plays.  His productions include Stunning, which premiered at Lincoln Center Theater.  He is at work on a book for HarperCollins and lives in Brooklyn.

Elif Batuman, nonfiction.  Her collection of essays, Possessed:  Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, was published this year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  She is spending this year in Istanbul.

Michael Dahlie, fiction.  His first novel, A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living, was published in 2008 by W.W. Norton.  He lives in Indianapolis.

Matt Donovan, poetry.  His first collection, Vellum, was published by Mariner/Houghton Mifflin in 2006.  He lives in Santa Fe.

Rattawut Lapcharoensap, fiction.  His collection of short stories, Sightseeing, was published by Grove in 2004, and he has a first novel under contract with Grove.  He lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

Amy Leach, nonfiction.  She is at work on a book of essays about animals, plants and stars for Milkweed Editions.   She lives in Chicago.

Lydia Peelle, fiction.  Her collection of stories, Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, was published by Harper Perennial in 2009.   She lives in Nashville.

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, nonfiction. His memoir, When Skateboards Will Be Free, was published in 2009 by the Dial Press.  He lives in New York City and is at work on a novel.

Jane Springer, poetry.  Her first poetry collection, Dear Blackbird, was published by University of Utah Press in 2007.  She lives in Clinton, New York.

LB Thompson, poetry.  Her poetry chapbook is entitled Tendered Notes:  Poems of Love and Money.  She lives on the North Fork of Long Island, has completed a poetry collection, and is at work on a book of essays and a novel.