The winners of this year’s fifty-thousand-dollar Whiting Writers' Awards, given to promising writers nominated by established authors and literary professionals across the United States, were announced last night at a ceremony in New York City. This marks the twenty-fifth year of the prizes, which have bolstered the early careers of luminaries including Jorie Graham, Denis Johnson, Alice McDermott, David Foster Wallace, and C. D. Wright.
The winning poets are Matt Donovan, author of the collection Vellum (Mariner Books, 2007); Jane Springer, author of Dear Blackbird (University of Utah Press, 2007); and L. B. Thompson, whose chapbook is Tendered Notes (Center for Book Arts, 2003). The fiction winners are Michael Dahlie, author of the novel A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living (Norton, 2008); Rattawut Lapcharoensap, author of the short story collection Sightseeing (Grove Press, 2004); and Lydia Peelle, author of the story collection Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing (Harper Perennial, 2009). The nonfiction winners are Elif Batuman, author of The Possessed, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux last February; Amy Leach, whose essay collection about animals, plants, and stars is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2012; and Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, author of the memoir When Skateboards Will Be Free (The Dial Press, 2009).
Six of the winners hold MFAs—from New York University, University of Iowa’s nonfiction program, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, and Washington University—and two hold doctorate degrees. Among the magazines that have published multiple winners’ works are Granta, the New Yorker, and Orion. Full biographies on the winners are posted on the Web site of the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, sponsor of the awards.
In the video below, creative nonfiction winner Sayrafiezadeh reveals a dirty little literary secret.