Over the last three decades an extraordinary roster of authors has delivered keynotes at the annual Whiting Awards ceremony, sharing stories both rueful and celebratory of their early creative life and offering advice to emerging writers. Below you’ll find some of our favorites.
People consume a diet of novelty that would have driven their ancestors into the madhouse.
Pleasure is not another word for a book’s content. Pleasure, whatever its source, has to be made. It comes from the act itself of creating.
To lay words in true and beautiful order takes a heightened intensity that will allow one to break through inhibitions.
Writing, this loathsome, sedentary work, is, of course, violently active.
I think writers can, for better or worse, do things to their audience that other kinds of artists for the most part can’t.
There are so many who applaud you without envy, not for who you appear to become by this recognition, but for a more lasting investment.
Underneath your efforts you’re helping this country discover a fuller sense of itself as it goes about making its founders’ dream a reality.
Great books are often ahead of their time. The trick is how to keep them—and their authors—afloat until the times catch up.
What we do, is work. What we do, is write. Whatever the distractions, we stick to it, come what may.
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.
The literary community lives on, most importantly of all, in the personal and enabling relationships between and among writers.
No commendation quite substitutes for the commendation of the respected practitioner. That laying on of the hands marks the soul for the better.
So one has to have courage to do this thing that we have committed ourselves to doing. It is not about being celebrated writers. It is about writing.
Painters, musicians, dancers, and actors, are all encouraged to study all along their careers. There is no master class in America for the writer.
The mind lives by its contradictions, and the poetic imagination must oppose any form of oppression, including oppression of the mind by a single idea.
It is difficult, if not impossible, for a writer in his early 20s to be entirely original, to acquire that voice, but I had to make the attempt.
In Shakespeare’s day, seeing emotions carried to the extreme helped audiences find the proper limits for their own lives.
Art is useless against history, but a great consolation to the individual. And which of us would want to forfeit that great, private consolation?
You're a lucky girl, you know, that these books are in the living room, more on the table than on the shelf like in some people's houses.
Language is language, and life is life. And this constant game of hide-and-seek that we play continues to be a very mysterious process.
Each of you has a vision. We hope you all will nurture and protect that vision, and remember that we, too, have dreams and a fate when we read you.
It’s not a profession, this track you’re on. It’s a vocation – a calling. There’s no pension plan, there are no guarantees, and there’s no magic potion.
You keep the challenges new, you solve the problems a new way, you do what you don’t know how to do yet, and you’ll stay awake in your spirit.
There’s something about writing that demands a leave-taking, an abandonment of the world, paradoxically, in order to see it clearly.
We write to negotiate our own relationships with momentariness and permanence, to speak with the dead, to bring them back to life, or try to.
Experience poses the questions we are asked to live, and our writing is the mere shadow of an answer.
I might like to think that my life is one book lined up tidily next to another; so speaks literary ambition. But really, it is a jagged path.
Beauty, in all its myriad forms, can only be created in opposition to numbness.