Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation

This Year’s Award Winners

Amanda Coplin

2013
fiction

Amanda Coplin’s first novel, The Orchardist, was published by HarperCollins in 2012. Set in the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the 20th century, the novel won the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and was named a best book of the year by National Public Radio, Publishers Weekly and The Washington Post. Ms. Coplin has a BA from the University of Oregon and an MFA from the University of Minnesota. She has had residencies at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts and the Omi International Arts Center at Ledig House in Ghent, New York. Recognized this year as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35,” she lives in Portland, Oregon, where she is at work on her second novel.

From The Selection Committee:

“The Orchardist is magical and uncannily atmospheric, deeply imagined and fully sustained. It is a complex, compelling, polyphonic, subtle and remarkably accomplished novel—a fully orchestrated work, from the microscopic elements of sentence rhythm and image to the macroscopic elements of character and plot. Though the book feels fresh and unexpected, Ms. Coplin has an uncanny maturity of voice and historical reach.”

Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams

2013
fiction/nonfiction

Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams’s novella, The Man Who Danced with Dolls, was published in 2012 by Madras Press. It is the portrait of a family’s legacy — the language of their memories, and the secrets of their buried past. She holds an MFA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she now teaches in the English Department. She is the recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award, a Hartshook Fellowship, and a Byington Award.  Born on Guam, Abrams is currently at work on her memoir, The Following Sea, about growing up on a cutter that made port throughout the South Pacific.

From The Selection Committee:

“The Man Who Danced with Dolls” is an enchanting, haunting, uncanny tale, bringing to mind the strange and unforgettable stories of Mavis Gallant. The voice is singular, the story a lyric meditation on loss that feels familiar yet wholly original in the telling, each sentence a feat of musicality, each moment in the narrative building a world that lodges in the reader’s memory. In her memoir-in-progress, The Following Sea, the powerful atmosphere of family secrets is evocative of Michael Ontdaatje’s memoir Running in the Family.”

Jennifer duBois

2013
fiction

Jennifer duBois’s debut novel, A Partial History of Lost Causes (Dial Press, 2012) won the California Book Award for First Fiction, the Northern California Book Award for Fiction, and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Prize for Debut Fiction. The novel follows a Russian chess champion turned political dissident and a terminally ill young woman as they seek answers to the same question: how does one proceed when facing a lost cause? Her second novel, Cartwheel, was published by Random House in 2013, and tells the story of an American foreign exchange student accused of murdering her roommate in Argentina. Born in Northampton, Massachusetts, Ms. duBois earned a BA in political science and philosophy from Tufts University and an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop before completing a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. Her writing has appeared in Playboy, The Wall Street Journal, The Missouri Review, Cosmopolitan, The Kenyon Review, The Florida Review, Narrative, ZYZZYVA and elsewhere, and she was honored by the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” program. A former Nancy Packer Lecturer at Stanford, Ms. duBois currently teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University-San Marcos. She is currently working on her third novel. Her twitter handle is @jennifer_dubois.

From The Selection Committee:

“A Partial History of Lost Causes is a fantastically self-assured debut. A novel of the Cold War, the book works from its own profound metaphors and preoccupations, and the result is enthralling and deeply intellectually engaging.  Ambitious and wide-ranging, its scenes in Russia are especially noteworthy, confidently and convincingly rendered. Ms. duBois wears a mix of erudition lightly, using chess, the ravages of disease, politics, and the provocatively intertwining narratives to create a graceful thematic and fluid structure.”

Virginia Grise

2013
plays

Virginia Grise is currently a Time Warner Fellow at the Women’s Project Lab. Her play blu premiered at Company of Angels in Los Angeles in 2011 and was published by Yale University Press that year. The Panza Monologues (co-written with Irma Mayorga) will be released in 2014 by University of Texas Press. Her other plays include Making Myth, rasgos asiaticos, and a farm for meme. She is a recipient of the Yale Drama Series Award, the Princess Grace Award in Theatre Directing, The Playwrights’ Center Jerome Fellowship, the Loft Literary Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship, and Pregones Theatre’s Asuncion Award for Queer Playwrighting. She is currently working with Ricardo A. Bracho on a theatrical retelling of a Jack London short story, “The Mexican,” titled The Mexican as Told by Us Mexicans. Ms. Grise holds an MFA in Writing for Performance from the California Institute of the Arts and lives in Brooklyn.

From The Selection Committee:

“Ms. Grise demonstrates power and ambition in stagecraft, wielding and keeping afloat several thematic strands. In Making Myth, she is searching for a voice with which to enter history, in a state of rage for the sake of justice. The oratorio quality of the writing allows direct historical and political commentary similar to what poetry can accomplish. Her play, blu, set in inner-city LA, crosses borders of custom, of laws, of spiritual realms, in incantatory, embodied language.”

Ishion Hutchinson

2013
poetry

Ishion Hutchinson’s first collection, Far District: Poems, was published by Peepal Tree Press Limited in 2010. It is a portrait of a landscape fraught with emblems of colonial history—people caught between cane fields, sugar factories, and the sea. Mr. Hutchinson has won an Academy of American Poets’ Levis Award, the 2011 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, and his works have appeared in anthologies and journals such as Ploughshares, Poetry Review (UK), Narrative, New Letters, Granta, Gulf Coast, The Huffington Post, The Wolf (UK) and Prairie Schooner. Born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, he has earned degrees from the University of the West Indies, New York University and the University of Utah. Currently he is an assistant professor of English at Cornell University and lives in Ithaca, New York. His website is www.ishionhutchinson.com.

From The Selection Committee:

“Far District is a reconstruction of history—the poet’s own orphaned past (never sentimentalized) and the indigenous history of Jamaica. At once biography and autobiography, generous with its thinking and observations, the telling enchants us. The poems are urgent, authentic, deeply felt, and beautifully shaped. It is rare to find such achievement in a first collection, where an author writes from a place of humility in the face of literary tradition. His work possesses high artistic merit; his love of world literature suffuses his lines and spurs his ambition. This collection is a true work of alchemy.”

Morgan Meis

2013
Non-Fiction

Essayist and critic Morgan Meis writes about art and culture for newspapers and magazines including Harper’s, n+1, Slate, Virginia Quarterly Review and The Believer, and is the critic-at-large for The Smart Set, an arts magazine at Drexel University.  A co-founder of the arts collective Flux Factory, he is also an editor at 3 Quarks Daily. He holds an MA and a PhD from the New School and a BA from Eugene Lang College, where he has also taught philosophy.  In 2010, he was the recipient of a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers grant. In Ruins (Fallen Bros. Press, 2012), his book of essays on art, literature, and contemporary life, he explores the idea that we only understand our experiences after we have already lost them. With his Whiting Award, he plans to write a book he has been researching for the last two years about the Blue Rider paintings of Franz Marc, who was killed by artillery fire at Verdun

From The Selection Committee:

“These essays are strikingly reminiscent of the capacious intelligence and range of John Berger. This apparently modest collection of short pieces weaves in enduring themes and returns us to the roots of the enterprise—to Montaigne and the absolute commitment to the authentic personal response without being chained to the autobiographical. They originate from a radical freedom of imagination, the freedom to think about what touches one’s imagination without any agenda other than exploration of thought and the process of understanding.”

C.E. Morgan

2013
fiction

C.E. Morgan’s first novel, All the Living, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2009 and earned her recognition as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” for 2010. She holds a BA from Berea College, and an MTS from Harvard Divinity School. Among her honors are a Lannan Literary Fellowship and Residency, a US Artist Fellowship, and a Cullman Fellowship from the New York Public Library. The New Yorker named her one of their “20 under 40” fiction writers to watch, and published an excerpt from her novel-in-progress on horse racing and race relations in the contemporary South and Ohio River Valley.  She lives in Berea, Kentucky.

From The Selection Committee:

“This is a visionary, luminous novel. Morgan’s prose has both biblical and Southern literary echoes, patient, idiosyncratic, unique. Rather than Gothic, the feel is of a Greek drama. The novel is a landscape, with a deep, loamy, fantastic sense of place — the roots go deep.  The writing is haunting and fabulously assured, the voice strong enough that one can almost imagine being able to pick up a book in the future and know from the first lines it is hers. She is a mature, wise, accomplished writer.”

Rowan Ricardo Phillips

2013
poetry

Rowan Ricardo Phillips is a poet, literary and art critic, and translator.  His poems have appeared in Granta, The Kenyon Review, The New Yorker, The New Republic and The Paris Review. In his first book of poems, The Ground, (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2012) he searches for the sublime in New York City and in the history of poetry.  His work has been awarded the 2013 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award and the 2013 Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award for Poetry. Dalkey Archive published a book of his criticism in 2010, When Blackness Rhymes with Blackness. He has a BA from Swarthmore and a PhD from Brown.  Currently he is Associate Professor of English at Stony Brook and Director of the Poetry Center, as well as a contributing writer for Artforum.  He lives in New York City and Barcelona. He is currently at work on his second collection of poems, Heaven, a book of criticism, Biographia Literaria, and translations from the Catalan.

From The Selection Committee:

“The Ground is a contemporary portrait of New York City with striking historical vignettes going all the way back to the Dutch 17th century. With rigor, whimsy, brilliance and metaphysical depth, Mr. Phillips extends the exploration of the city that we know in Hart Cane’s and Frank O’Hara’s work, but this is Mr. Phillips’s singular world, through and through. A superb collection, varied in range of reference, stunning in the power of its artistry and in the modulation of feeling and form.”

Clifford Thompson

2013
Non-Fiction

Clifford Thompson’s essays on books, film, jazz, and American identity have appeared in publications including The Threepenny Review, The Iowa Review, Commonweal, Film Quarterly, Cineaste, Oxford American, and Black Issues Book Review. Many were collected in Love for Sale and Other Essays, published in 2013 by Autumn House Press. Mr. Thompson graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in creative writing. He is now managing editor at the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, where he works on the Institute’s magazine Uncensored. His novel, Signifying Nothing, was published through iUniverse, and he has an arts blog, tellcliff.com, which includes his writing as well as his paintings. Mr. Thompson lives in Brooklyn and is at work on more essays, a memoir, and a novel.

From The Selection Committee:

“Mr. Thompson successfully creates a real sense of trajectory in this collection. Whether writing about jazz or film or his own experiences, his book is a chronicle of a writing life in time and history. What seems casual, veering, random is held together by a clear-eyed and terrifically smart inquiry, unflinching and not thwarted by foregone bias or rhetorical point-taking. These essays are reminiscent of Chekhov’s cold eye and warm heart.”

Stephanie Powell Watts

2013
fiction

Stephanie Powell Watts won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her debut story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need (BkMk Press, 2012), also named one of 2013’s Best Summer Reads by O magazine. Her short fiction has been honored with a Pushcart Prize and inclusion in two volumes of the Best New Stories from the South anthology. Ms. Powell Watts’s stories explore the lives of African Americans in fast food and factory jobs, working door to door as Jehovah’s Witness ministers, and pressing against the boundaries of the small town, post-integration South. Her current manuscript, a novel titled No One Is Coming to Save Us, follows the return of a successful native son to his home in North Carolina and his attempt to join the only family he ever wanted but never had. As Ms. Powell Watts describes it, “Imagine The Great Gatsby set in rural North Carolina, nine decades later, with desperate black people.” Born in the foothills of North Carolina, with a PhD from the University of Missouri and a BA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she now lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where she is an associate professor at Lehigh University.

From The Selection Committee:

“The full range of the human condition resides in these eleven stories set in North Carolina. Ms. Powell Watts manages to shift camera angles in relationships between characters — whether familial, platonic, or romantic — offering a fuller picture of the emotional stakes, and her characters are understood without judgment in a way that reminds one of William Trevor. It’s an accomplished tour de force, authentic, sure-footed, crackling with life and passion. A real pleasure — she is a writer to watch.”

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Goldberg McDuffie Communications
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