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The Whiting Awards: Trendsetting with 10 Emerging Writers

Last night, Publishing Trends editor, Kim Lew, and I trotted accross Manhattan to attend the 27th annual Whiting Awards at TimesCenter. Actually for each of us, it was a first-time thing, but was certainly feel-good enough that I hope it becomes an annual tradition for me as well.

Whiting Award winners, 2011

The awards ceremony itself was low-key and not very long, but the key-note by Mark Doty (who himself won the prize in 1994) was pitch-perfect, in that he didn’t talk about himself, by and large. When he referred to himself, it was as part of his larger subject: writers who doubt themselves, even after they win awards (not an uncommon breed.)

The winners themselves presented lots of exciting ideas for new reading. I myself picked up Ryan Call’s The Weather Stations, as much for its arresting cover art as for its unprecedented protaganist: the weather, “a dominant, living, all-powerful force.”

Where other coverage has focused on the bios of the writers themselves, I’ll leave you with tantalizing tidbits about the winners’ books…

We Agreed to Meet Just Here

 

In Scott Blackwood‘s novel, the Whiting judges marveled at “marvelous compression, and the elegiac, ominous yearning, the fugue of loss and love and death that pervades the book.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Weather Stations

 

With his collection of short stories, Ryan Call has “created an entirely new¬†fabric, a parallel universe, slyly allegorical and unlike anything else being published.”

 

 

 

The Morning News is Exciting

 

 

Don Mee Choi‘s first collection of poetry is “a wildly surprising work describing the collapse of empire–bracing and invigorating. Its anger glows.”

 

 

Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant

 

In his nonfiction documentation of a Detroit automotive plant, Paul Clemens addresses “a subject that the world has largely ignored–the world of work, the lives of people who work with their hands and live from paycheck to paycheck.”

 

 

 

 

 

Slow Lightning

 

In Eduardo C. Corral‘s new collection, the poems “have flashes of surrealism and sometimes a lovely in extremis strangeness.”

 

 

 

 

 

In Amy Herzog‘s plays, people have heard “the voice of her generation, generous about, if somewhat skeptical of, the passionate political debate that fueled the meaning of her grandparents’ lives.”

 

Mule

 

Shane McCrae has debuted with a collection of poetry that has “the rhythms of the ocean. We follow him out to sea, and the poems become increasingly poignant the farther out you get. You find yourself washed up on a shoal where the words, like a rock, break your heart.”

 

 

Orientation

 

Daniel Orozco‘s short story collection exhibits his “gift for formal innovation, how he works the whole keyboard, not just a few notes, and is often funny but never at the expense of feeling.”

 

 

 

 

Kapitoil

 

Teddy Wayne‘s novel of post-9/11 life in New York exhibits “sleight of hand, intelligence behind the voice, perfect pitch.”

 

 

 

 

We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone

 

Kerri Webster‘s poetry collection is “a lovely, strong first book, mysterious, ineffable, Charles Olson-like on many levels.”

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