Amanda Coplin’s first novel, The Orchardist (Harper, 2012), set in the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the 20th century, was a Barnes & Noble Discover Award winner and was named a best book of the year by National Public Radio, Publishers Weekly and The Washington Post. Born in Wenatchee, Washington, she was close to her grandfather, on whom she modeled her central character. 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. Ms. Coplin plans to use the Whiting Award money to research and write her second novel.
Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams’ 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, the secrets of their buried past, and the subway busker whose wordless dancing punctuates their lives. 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. About winning a Whiting, she says, “Not only does it make time and solitude and quiet possible, but it rekindles a sometimes flickering faith in the work itself.”
Jennifer duBois’s debut novel, A Partial History of Lost Causes (Dial, 2012), was the winner of the California Book Award for First Fiction, the Northern California Book Award for Fiction, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Prize for Debut Fiction, and was honored by the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” program. 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 just-published second novel, Cartwheel (Random House), 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. A former Nancy Packer Lecturer at Stanford, Ms. duBois currently teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University-San Marcos. Winning the Whiting Award will enable her “to keep writing at the center of my life as I work on my third novel.”
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, NY. On winning the Whiting, she said, “This means I have time, space, and the resources to both breathe and dream. So much of my life as an artist is about surviving – I now have the opportunity to invest in my work and myself without fear, to do the work that makes me a deeper thinker and a better artist.”
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, NY. Mr. Hutchinson said that winning a Whiting “proves the meaning of what the late Seamus Heaney said: ‘our very solitudes and distresses are creditable.’ It is a credit I hope to return with hard work, even harder work, on my writing.”
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 an editor at 3 Quarks Daily. He has 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.), 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. According to Mr. Meis, “Marc’s last letters to his wife from the battlefield are as heartbreaking as his final paintings.”
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, a tuition free college for low-income students, and an MTS from Harvard Divinity School. Her many jobs have included work as a singer, a maid, a factory worker, a waitress, and a baker. Among her honors are a Lannan Literary Fellowship and Residency, a US Artist Fellowship, and a Cullman Fellowship from the NYPL. The New Yorker named her one of their “20 under 40” and published an excerpt from her novel-in-progress. She will be using her Whiting Award to finish her current novel about horse racing and race relations in the contemporary South and Ohio River Valley. She lives in Berea, Kentucky.
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. With the Whiting Award, he will dedicate his time to working on his second collection of poems, Heaven, his second book-length critical project, Biographia Literaria, and his translation, from the Catalan, of the selected poems of Melcion Mateu.
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, published earlier this year by Autumn House Press. Mr. Thompson graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in creative writing. He once taught English in Spain, and for over a decade he was editor-in-chief of the reference publication Current Biography. Now managing editor at the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, he edits research reports and works on their 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, New York. He will use the Whiting Award to finish another essay collection and a memoir and a novel.
Stephanie Powell Watts won the 2012 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her debut story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need (BkMk Press), 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’ 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.” With her Whiting Award, she will complete this novel in early 2014. 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.
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Nothing can repay the pleasure you give to a single reader, but we are all happy when a foundation such as this one tries to match it.
Speaker, Whiting Writers’ Awards, 1991