Whiting Awards

Since 1985, the Foundation has supported creative writing through the Whiting Awards, which are given annually to ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama.

News & Reviews

Daniel Alarcón on the origins of Radio Ambulante

In an excerpt from recent collection Reality Radio, Alarcón shares how a story lead in a boxing ring inspired the creation of Radio Ambulante, the Spanish-language narrative podcast that tells stories of Spanish speakers across the Americas.

The Literary Show Project reviews The Idiot by Elif Batuman

The Literary Show Project writes that Batuman’s novel about a Turkish-American freshman at Harvard is “probably the best campus novel since Zadie Smith’s On Beauty,” praising Batuman’s depiction of youth.  

Signature Reads reviews Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello

Signature Reads praises Passarello’s “careful detective work” in her latest collection of essays, writing that her revelations about animal life ultimately teach readers lessons about humanity. 

“Myō – yū1” by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs

In a new poem for Question of Will, Diggs declares, “my lineage be a slave trade/ be a fur trade be a horse trade be a dendê trade be a ivory trade be a 1492/ misdirection."

Two love poems

In The Florida Review, a love poem composed by Major Jackson accompanies by one written by his partner. In his work, “The View from Up Here,” Jackson observes, “Night gently offers its diamonds/ which we stash in silent mumblings.”

Layli Long Soldier on poetry as prayer

On The Creative Independent, Long Soldier discusses how the process of writing can become an act of prayer, explaining, “I’m always listening and collecting language.”

PerformInk reviews Unseen by Mona Mansour

The Chicago review writes that Mansour’s latest, about a photographer in the Middle East, teaches viewers “no one can escape their own humanity.”

The Manchester Review on Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

The Review praises Vuong’s depictions of the lasting effects of the Vietnam War, writing that Vuong is “a young poet already able to make phrases dance” and dubbing the collection “unputdownable.”


The New York Times reviews Yiyun Li’s Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life


The Times reflects on the sparing use of the personal in Li’s memoir, and declares that her “transformation into a writer is nothing short of astonishing.”


“Renga for Obama”

In the Harvard Review, Major Jackson leads over 200 poets in a project dedicated to the legacy of Barack Obama. Using a traditional Japanese form, the poets, working in pairs, write stanzas in celebration of the 44th President. 

Waxwing magazine reviews Cannibal by Safiya Sinclair

Waxwing praises that agency with which Sinclair depicts in black women in her poems, writing that the collection is "an act of resistance and survival."

BOMB magazine reviews The Correspondence by J.D. Daniels

BOMB praises the “sharp” writing in meditations on travel and identity, and writes, “Daniels moves so nimbly between topics and episodes that only athletic metaphors come to mind.”

Cannibal by Safiya Sinclair is longlisted for the 2017 Dylan Thomas Prize

The prize is awarded for the best published literary work in the England language, written by an author aged 39 or under.

Jericho Brown is the poet-in-residence for the American Men’s Studies Association

Brown will serve as poet-in-reseidence for the organization’s 25th annual meeting. Participants will work with Brown during conference sessions and read their work at a performance with him. 

"Notes on Banana Palace or Fourteen Ways of Looking at Dana Levin"

On the Kenyon Review blog, poet Dean Rader writes an ode, in list form, to Levin's latest collection. "Reading a Dana Levin poem," Rader writes, "is a bit like spelunking into a cave of golden light."

NPR interviews Tarell Alvin McCraney

McCraney talks about how the film Moonlight, based on McCraney's play about his childhood in Miami, has influenced his own memories of the past.

Meridian reviews My Private Property by Mary Ruefle

The UVA journal writes that Ruefle’s latest collection contains "wily logic" and "poetic intelligence."

Dael Orlandersmith on Until the Flood

In American Theatre magazine, Orlandersmith discusses the one-woman listening tour she undertook for her play Until the Flood, a response to Ferguson and the issues of race it raised. “My job as a writer, in a nutshell,” Orlandersmith explains, “is to look at different perspectives without judgment.”

Drizzle Review on Hyperboreal by Joan Kane

Drizzle praises the book of poetry about Kane’s ties to her ancestral land, writing that Hyperboreal is “a collection of survival, of singing.”

“Halo” by Rowan Ricardo Phillips is selected for Best American Poetry 2017

Phillips’s poem begins “We wander round ring after ring of life" and explores the meaning of existence. Best American Poetry 2017 is edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Tretheway. 

“Semi-Splendid” by Tracy K. Smith

“My/ Heart hammers at the ceiling, telling my tongue/ To turn it down. Too late,” writes Smith in a new poem about the challenges of love.

Poems to Read for Black History Month

Poets.org includes work by Terrance Hayes on their list of poems for Black History Month. Whiting winners Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Safiya Sinclair and Terrance Hayes contributed picks for the list and shared their thoughts on the impact, both personal and public, of black poetry. “To be a black woman alive in America and writing poetry is miraculous,” Sinclair reflects.

House of SpeakEasy interviews Mitchell S. Jackson

Jackson talks to House of SpeakEasy about the first time he read a book for pleasure and when writing makes him dance around his apartment. 

Diode interviews Dana Levin

Levin discusses why she has been “mourning” her changing relationship to social media, and says of her writing process, “My way has always been to see in the personal life, the life of the unconscious, the seeds of our collective experience.” 

Publications & Productions

Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello

Beginning with Yuka, a 39,000 year old mummified woolly mammoth, each of the essays in Animals Strike Curious Poses investigates a different famous animal named and immortalized by humans. "This book will leave little doubt that Passarello is one our country’s most gifted young prose writers," writes Héctor Tobar.

Late Arcade by Nathaniel Mackey

Nathaniel Mackey’s Late Arcade opens in Los Angeles and details Jazz musicians and artist invention. Bookforum calls the Jazz novel's lyricism "exquisite."

WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier

WHEREAS confronts the language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribe. Booklist writes that the collection is “searingly intelligent, masterfully crafted, and unarguably important." 

Vang by Mary Swander

Vang is based on Swander's research into recent Iowa immigrant farmers. Through interviews and photographs, Swander has created a play about the struggles, survival skills, and connection to the land of Hmong, Mexican, Sudanese and Dutch immigrants.

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li

Yiyun Li's memoir, written over two years while the author battled suicidal depression, is the account of Li's experiences reading her most significant literary influences. "Reading Yiyun Li feels like being inside a mind—a quietly forceful, unrelenting mind," writes Eula Biss.

Buck Studies by Douglas Kearney

Buck Studies explores an intersection of Greek and black stories through forms like gangsta rap and the murder ballad. "Kearney is at the other end of the century, using a multicultural voice inflected with the concerns of what it means to be a young black man at this time and at this place," writes The Los Angeles Times.

Milk Black Carbon by Joan Kane

Kane's latest collection explores motherhood, marriage, extended family and its geographical context in the rapidly changing arctic. "This is a twenty-first-century poetry, urgent, necessary, and of its time," says poet Carolyn Forché.

Enigma Variations by André Aciman

In Enigma Variations, Aciman charts the love life of a man named Paul, from adolescence in southern Italy where he falls for his parents' cabinetmaker, to his lust on tennis courts of New York. "Aciman has made a magnificent, living thing," writes The New York Times.

Skeleton Coast by Elizabeth Arnold

Arnold's collection explores the impact of encounters with evil. Fellow poet Jennifer Clarvoe describes each poem in the book as "a delicately fused mechanism, twisting around both still and moving parts, which the reader tracks silently on the way to inevitable, impeccable detonations."

The Correspondence by J. D. Daniels

In a series of six letters, Daniels takes the reader from Kentucky to Cambridge to Brazil, as he works as a janitor, a professor, and an exterminator. "Books like this are why I read," says Tom Bissell of Daniels's rumination on literature, psychology, and human existence. 

Hurricane Diane by Madeleine George

In Hurricane Diane, premiering at Two River Theater, Greek god Dionysus becomes Diane, a lesbian gardener from Vermont. George says of the play, “I was eager to write a play that offers people the chance to interrogate their own feelings about these climatic shifts that are happening whether we’re ready for them or not.”

Five Plays by Samuel D. Hunter

This collection of Hunter's work includes five plays all set in the playwright's home state of Idaho. Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times calls Samuel D. Hunter "a welcome theatrical voice from the American West."