About the Whiting Awards

Whiting Awards

Since 1985, the Foundation has supported creative writing through the Whiting Awards, given annually to ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. The awards, of $50,000 each, are based on early accomplishment and the promise of great work to come.

We hope to identify exceptional new writers whose work we believe has the power to impact literary culture (and beyond): the writers to watch. Though the writers may not necessarily be young (talent may emerge at any age), the grant ideally offers recipients a first opportunity to devote themselves fully to writing, and the recognition has a significant impact.  Whiting winners have gone on to win numerous prestigious awards and fellowships, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Obie Award, and MacArthur, Guggenheim, and Lannan fellowships, and their work has shaped and advanced literature in this country over the past three decades.  For a list of our previous winners, click here.

The Foundation does not accept applications or unsolicited nominations. Rather, we invite nominators from across the country whose work brings them in contact with individuals of extraordinary talent to propose a single candidate each. The pool of nominators changes annually, and has included writers, professors, editors, agents, critics, booksellers, artistic directors of theaters, dramaturgs, and directors of literary festivals or reading series. Winners are chosen by a selection committee, a small group of recognized writers, literary scholars, and editors appointed every year by the Foundation. 

We promise anonymity to our nominators and selectors so they will not be subject to pressure, and so they can speak candidly about the writers under consideration. We also ask our nominators not to reveal to their candidates that they are under consideration to avoid any potential anxiety about the selection process.


Click here to read some of the addresses delivered by our guest speakers, many of them Whiting winners.


The Whiting has undertaken a very difficult task, which is of discovering talent and promise in beginning writers.  This is much more anxious-making than acknowledging what others have discovered. 



Whiting Awards
Keynote Speaker, 1989

These awards are among the few that are large enough to give the gift of time as writers measure it, which is in very large chunks. 



Whiting Awards
Keynote Speaker, 1995

The writing of The End of Beauty  would simply not have been attempted had I not received both the sense of encouragement and the almost enforced time-off from teaching your award provided. 



Whiting Awards Winner, 1985

The Whiting Awards are a wonderful antidote to self-doubt. 



Whiting Awards
Keynote Speaker, 1998

This is the contest that we are looking at: on the one hand, a chaotic degeneration which affects so large a part of American society, the wild excitement and the need for super-stimulation, and on the other hand, the attempt to hold attention in a kind of stillness, which is what writers and poets do. 



Whiting Awards
Keynote Speaker, 1985