Whiting Award Winners

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

"Back Draft: Catherine Barnett"

Catherine Barnett breaks down the process behind a poem in her latest collection, Human Hours. Of her process, Barnett explains, "Revising is about the hope of finding or making a poem that has an emotional charge of its own, outside of my control and even outside of my knowing."

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden is one of the Chicago Tribune's best books of 2018

Denis Johnson's short story collection about the ghosts of the past and the mysteries of the universe is one of ten books named by the Chicago Tribune as the year's best.

Three Whiting winners featured on Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2018 list

The list of the ten best titles of 2018 includes How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee, Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday, and The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson.

Columbia Journal interviews Jericho Brown

Brown discusses his literary touchstones, the best advice he's ever received, and the importance of discipline.

"A Facet’s Gleam: Ai and the Believable 'I'" by Phillip B. Williams

Phillip B. Williams reflects on the life and work of poet Ai in Poetry magazine, writing that "Ai wears masks to unveil a truer, darker, more visceral version of the world and from that darkness we discover the effacement of our own masks." 

"Radical Sufficiency" by Jess Row

"These towns are nothing but petri dishes, and we’re nothing but flowers of exotic mold. Endlessly customized achievement modules," writes Jess Row, in a new story for Granta about robots and capitalism. "We’re the event horizon of commodified childhood."

"The Ghost in the Dirt" by Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Phillips explores the history of the Gougoltz, hotelier who helped birth clay-court tennis, in the Paris Review, writing that "everything Gougoltz had done in Cannes was synchronized with the birth and rise of tennis. He just hadn’t known it." 

"Sylvia Plath's Last Letters" by Dan Chiasson

In the New Yorker, Chiasson writes of Plath's letter to her former psychiatrist. He notes that "as her letters, more than any other documents, reveal, Plath monitored life from behind a façade of chipper enthusiasm. Her genius took shape hidden by this screen." 

Terrance Hayes and Tracy K. Smith shortlisted for the 2018 T. S. Eliot Prize

Hayes and Smith are the two Americans on the shortlist, whose collections Chair Sinéad Morrissey said "offer an invigorated language, confident mastery of form, and fresh, sophisticated perspectives on our uncertain times." 

The Manchester Review on American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes

"He has a good memory, but a better imagination," the reviewer writes of Hayes, "and that allows him to imagine a better future, despite what he remembers of the past." The piece praises the strength of the language used in the collection.

Two poems from Dissolve

In the Kenyon Review, Sherwin Bitsui shares two poems from his new collection. "Bluing under a dimming North Star,/ the Reservation’s ghost/ paws cartilage pincered from a digital cloud," he writes.

The New York Times reviews Godsend by John Wray

The New York Times calls Wray's new novel, about a Californian teen girl who becomes embroiled in the frontlines of war in Afghanistan, " a significant literary performance."

The Library of Congress interviews Joan Kane

"I think the mind is more flexible and responsive to a word’s textures and potential when you can step away from monolingualism," muses Kane in an interview about the Inupiaq community, myth, and what makes a poem seem personal.

"Assuming the Mask: Persona and Identity in Ai’s Poetry"

On Poets.org, Major Jackson writes about poet Ai's "dedication to both her aesthetic and ethical vision," and how she inspired a generation of poets.

"The Water Lillies" by Jericho Brown

"If you ask me, I’ll say no, Thank you, I don’t need to watch what goes/ Only imagining itself seen," writes Jericho Brown, in a poem published by The New Republic

Do Some Damage interviews Chris Offutt

Offutt delves into his writing process, Appalachian culture, and why  "writing fiction is the best way I’ve found to quell the restlessness of my mind."

"Southern Discomfort" by Catherine Lacey

Lacey remarks on returning home to Mississippi and, with it, the white women who wear heels to football games and a "particular brand of Southern femininity," for The Believer. " I do not love," she writes, "the place I am obliged to call home." 

Esmé Weijun Wang is featured in The Best American Short Stories 2018

Wang's story "What Terrible Thing It Was" is featured in the anthology, edited by Roxane Gay, alongside work by Emma Cline, Curtis Sittenfeld, and more.

Tracy K. Smith's cultural highlights

In the Guardian, Smith talks about why she "can't stop thinking about" Deana Lawson's photography, the McCarthy-era opera that is a "a powerful vehicle for these feelings of being found and seen and ratified by love," and other works of art she's been inspired by.

"The Same Reality" by Shane McCrae

In a new essay for McSweeney's, Shane McCrae discusses Donald Trump, narcissism, and the power of common language, arguing, "As far as I know, we still agree on what up and down mean, but I suspect this fragile concord will be the next thing to go." 

Ploughshares reviews A Handbook of Disappointed Fates by Anne Boyer

Ploughshares praises Boyer's "calculated prose" and writes that "A Handbook is emphatically grounded in the realities of modern life, and seasoned with a generous dose of wit." 

"Decolonizing Poetic Form"

In Ploughshares, an essay on the use of form in Terrance Hayes's American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins argues, "Tonally dynamic and sonically pleasing, these poems insist there’s no difference between high and low diction/culture/art, especially when you’re writing for your life." 

Pacific Standard interviews Rickey Laurentiis

Laurentiis shares his recommendations for Frank Bidart's "Ellen West," mixed media artist Devan Shimoyama, television show "Feud: Bette and Joan," and more.

"Tracy K. Smith Explores Christianity’s Connection to Poetry"

Tracy K. Smith discusses parallels between poetry and the Bible, such as metaphor, and says that "poetry is one of the languages that puts us in touch with our higher selves." 

New Work

The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey by Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Rowan Ricardo Phillips chronicles 2017 as seen through the unique prism of its pivotal, revelatory, and historic tennis season, painting a vibrant portrait of tennis that captures the emotions, nerves, and ruthless tactics of the game and places them in a broader cultural and social context. The New York Times Book Review says The Circuit is "a joy to read" and calls it "a poet’s love song to the game of tennis."

Dissolve by Sherwin Bitsui

Drawing upon Navajo history and enduring tradition, Sherwin Bitsui uses language that functions like a moving camera to depict urban and rural, past and present in the haze of the reservation. Poet Arthur Sze says of the collection, "[Bitsui's] poems and prose poems enact a personal ceremony."

Godsend by John Wray

Eighteen-year-old Aden Sawyer wants to escape her hometown. Her dream, however, is far from conventional fantasies of teen rebellion: she disguises herself as a young man named Suleyman and goes to study in Pakistan. Once she is on the ground, she finds herself in greater danger than she could possibly have imagined. The New York Times calls Godsend "a significant literary performance."

Human Hours by Catherine Barnett

In her tragicomic third collection, Barnett speaks carries philosophy into the everyday and asks, what are we to do with the endangered human hours that remain to us? Human Hours measures time with quiet bravura: by counting a lover’s breaths; by remembering a father’s space-age watch. "These unforgettable poems," writes Claudia Rankine, "draw us into the precarious nature of being human."

Certain American States by Catherine Lacey

In her first short story collection, Lacey explores characters coming to terms with breakups, abandonment, and strained family ties. A woman leaves her dead husband’s clothing on the street, only for it to reappear on the body of a stranger; a man reads his ex-wife’s short story and neurotically contemplates whether it is about him. The Chicago Tribune says the collection is full of "devastating epiphanies."

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes

In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, the country's past and future eras and errors, and its dreams and nightmares. The Los Angeles Times calls the latest book by Hayes "the right poetry collection for right now."

Fire in Dreamland by Rinne Groff

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a disillusioned do-gooder named Kate meets Jaap, a charismatic European making a film about the 1911 fire that burned Coney Island’s Dreamland amusement park to ashes. Desperate for something to live for, Kate buys a ticket on the thrill ride of Jaap’s passion. The only trick is to keep the roller coaster from running off the rails before it destroys them all.

Country Dark by Chris Offutt

Tucker, a young veteran, returns from war to work for a bootlegger. He falls in love and starts a family, but when his family is threatened, Tucker is pushed into violence, which changes everything. The story of people living off the in a backwoods Kentucky world of shine-runners and laborers, Country Dark is a novel about a man who just wants to protect those he loves. 

The Vagrant Trilogy by Mona Mansour

When Arab scholar Adham goes to London in 1967 with his new wife to give a talk, he has no idea his trip will end on a life-changing pivot point. After war suddenly breaks out in his homeland, what should he do? The Vagrant Trilogy follows each fork in that road, allowing the audience to experience his parallel lives, love and losses. Seen together in one epic showing, the plays speak to the psychic effects of displacement not just for Palestinians, but for all of us.

Camp Marmalade by Wayne Koestenbaum

Part diary, part collage, part textbook for a new School of Impulse, Camp Marmalade assembles a perverse and giddy cultural archive, a Ferris wheel of aphorisms, depicting a queer body amidst a dizzying flow of sensations, dreams, and distillations. "This book presents a hallucinatory glimmer of what that life might be without granting precedence to any single method," declares Bookforum

Junk by Tommy Pico

In Junk, a narrator ponders illusions of security, sense of self, and indigenous identity. Pico explores the anxiety of utility, the loss of a boyfriend, plus Janet Jackson and Chili Cheese Fritos. "Junk," says writer Jenny Zhang, "is a true American odyssey."

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is Chee’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history. BuzzFeed's Isaac Fitzgerald says "Alexander Chee is one of the best living writers of today. If he’s not already a household name, he needs to be."