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The Whiting Writers' Awards are annual prizes given to ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and plays. Sponsored by the Whiting Foundation, a charitable organization that supports writers and Humanities scholars, the intent of the award is to give burgeoning writers the opportunity to fully devote themselves to their craft for a full year. To this end, each writer is awarded $50,000.

There are no applications. Rather, candidates are proposed by nominators from across the country. Award winners are chosen by an annual selection committee composed of recognized writers, literary scholars, and editors. Past recipients include David Foster Wallace, Tracy K. Smith, Jonathan Franzen, Amy Herzog, Colson Whitehead, and Jeffrey Eugenides, to name a few.

Now to the exciting part—the winners! Below are brief biographies of the 2012 prizewinners (taken from the Whiting Writers' Award website).

Ciaran Berry (Poetry): Dublin-born Ciaran Berry grew up in County Galway and County Donegal, but has spent the last fifteen years living, writing, and teaching in the United States. He is an Assistant Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he lives. He received his MFA from New York University and was awarded a New York Times Fellowship. His work has appeared inAGNI, The Threepenny Review, Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, and The New Republic. Mr. Berry’s first full-length collection, The Sphere of Birds, won the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition in 2007 and was published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2008. He is at work on his next collection, The Dead Zoo.

Danai Gurira (Plays): Playwright Danai Gurira is the author of Eclipsed, about Liberian women during wartime (produced at the Woolly Mammoth, CTG’s Kirk Douglas, and Yale Rep theaters), and the historical drama The Convert (Goodman, McCarter, Central Theatre Group), the first in a trilogy about Zimbabwe. As an actress, she won an Obie, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Helen Hayes Award for Best Lead Actress for In the Continuum, which she co-wrote with Nikkole Salter. She has also appeared on Broadway in August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and in the television showsTreme and The Walking Dead. Ms. Gurira was born in Grinnell, Iowa, to Zimbabwean parents and raised in Zimbabwe. She received her MFA from NYU and divides her time between New York and Los Angeles.

Alan Heathcock (Fiction): Alan Heathcock’s stories have been published in Zoetrope, Kenyon Review, Virginia Quarterly, Storyville, and The Harvard Review. He has won a National Magazine Award in fiction, the GLCA New Writers Award, and has been included in Best American Mystery Stories. His collection, Volt, set in the fictional town of Krafton, was published in 2011 by Graywolf and was a finalist for the Barnes and Noble Discover Prize. A native of Chicago’s South Side, he has a BA from the University of Iowa and Masters degrees from Bowling Green State University and Boise State University, where he now teaches. Mr. Heathcock has had fellowships from the NEA, the Sewanee and Breadloaf Writers’ Conferences, and is currently a Literature Fellow for the State of Idaho.

Samuel D. Hunter (Plays): Samuel D. Hunter’s plays include A Bright New Boise (which earned him a 2011 Obie Award for Playwriting and a 2011 Drama Desk Nomination for Best Play), The Whale(recently seen at the Denver Center, with an upcoming production at Playwrights Horizons in New York), A Permanent Image, Jack’s Precious Moment, Five Genocides,and his most recent play, The Few. He has active commissions from Seattle Rep, South Coast Rep, Manhattan Theater Club, and Lincoln Center. In 2013, he will be a resident playwright at Arena Stage. He is a graduate of NYU, the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, and Julliard. A native of northern Idaho, Mr. Hunter lives in New York City.

Mona Mansour (Plays): Mona Mansour’s play, The Hour of Feeling, received its world premiere in the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Urge for Goingreceived a LAB production in the Public Theater’s 2011 season. Ms. Mansour was a Public Theater Emerging Writer, a Playwright Fellow at the Lark Play Development Center and is a Core Writer at the Playwrights Center. Her other plays include Across the Water, Girl Scouts of America, and Broadcast Yourself (part of the Headlong Theatre’s Decade). Her work has been developed at the Cape Cod Theater Project, Williamstown Theater Festival, and NY Stage and Film. The Way West will receive a workshop at the Lark this fall. Ms. Mansour was named one of 50 to Watch by the Dramatists Guild and received an Honorable mention, 2010 Middle East America Playwright Award. She lives in Brooklyn.

Anthony Marra (Fiction): Anthony Marra will publish his debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, in 2013 and his story collection, The Tsar of Love and Techno, in 2014, both with Hogarth. He has studied at Charles University in Prague, at St. Petersburg State University in St. Petersburg, Russia, and has a BA from the University of Southern California and an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop. He is presently a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Narrative magazine, the 2011 Pushcart Prize anthology, and the Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. He now lives in Oakland, California.

Meg Miroshnik (Plays): Meg Miroshnik’s plays include The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls (Alliance Theatre),The Droll {a Stage-Play about the END of Theatre} (Pacific Playwrights Festival), The Tall Girls (O’Neill National Playwrights Conference), and an adaptation of Shostakovich’s Moscow, Cheryomushki (Chicago Opera Theater). She was a finalist for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the winner of the 2011-2012 Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Award. Her work has also been developed or produced by the Kennedy Center, the McCarter (as part of a Sallie B. Goodman Fellowship), Lark New Play Development Center, Yale Cabaret, the Carlotta Festival at Yale, Perishable Theatre, WordBRIDGE Playwrights Laboratory, One Coast Collaboration, and published in Best American Short Plays, 2008-2009 (Applause, 2010). Upcoming projects include work for the 2012-2013 Writers’ Workshop at Center Theatre Group and a commission for a new play at South Coast Rep. She holds an MFA in Playwriting from the Yale School of Drama and lives in Los Angeles, California.

Hanna Pylväinen (Fiction): Hanna Pylväinen’s debut novel, We Sinners, was just published this summer by Henry Holt. She graduated summa cum laude from Mount Holyoke College and received herMFA from the University of Michigan, where she was also a Zell Postgraduate Fellow in Fiction. Her novel, loosely inspired by her own childhood, follows the members of a mid-western family that belong to an orthodox sect of Finnish Lutheranism. Ms. Pylväinen has been the recipient of several residencies including ones at MacDowell, Yaddo, and Djerassi, and in 2011 she was a fiction Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She is currently completing her next novel, The End of Drum Time.

Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts (Non-Fiction): Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts’s first book, Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America, is an intellectual journey in search of a place both real and imaginary — not just her neighborhood of Harlem, but also the idea of Harlem. It was published by Little, Brown & Co. and named among 100 Notable Books of 2011 by the New York Times Book Review and nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Her work has appeared in Transition, The New York Times, Harper’s, Vogue, and Essence,among others. She has received awards from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Originally from Houston, she graduated from Harvard University and was a Fulbright Scholar in the UK. Ms. Rhodes-Pitts is writing a trilogy on African-Americans and their utopias that will include Haiti and the American South’s Black Belt.

Atsuro Riley (Poetry):  Atsuro Riley is the author of Romey’s Order (University of Chicago Press, 2010), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, The Believer Poetry Award, and the Witter Bynner Award from the Library of Congress. His poetry has been honored with a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and the Wood Prize given by Poetry magazine. Mr. Riley’s poem “Hutch” was chosen for The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine, an anthology published in October 2012 in celebration of the magazine’s centennial. His work has also appeared in The Kenyon Review, McSweeney’s, The Threepenny Review, and The New Republic. Born and raised in the South Carolina Low Country, Mr. Riley lives in San Francisco.


2012 Whiting Award winners announced
Whiting Writers Awards