Sarah Shun-lien Bynum’s first novel, Madeleine is Sleeping, was published by Harcourt in 2004 and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her short stories have appeared in Triquarterly, The Georgia Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and in Best American Short Stories. The Whiting Selection Committee admired her "acute writerly intelligence" and agreed that she was "full of inventive promise and daring." Earlier this year, she moved to Los Angeles, had her first baby and began teaching at UC San Diego. Ms. Bynum is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.
Thomas Sayers Ellis is a poet whose first book, The Maverick Room, was published this year by Graywolf Press. That collection takes as its subject the social, geographical and historical neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., (where he was born and raised) bringing different tones of voice to bear on the various quadrants of the city. It is a book, the committee agreed, written by a "sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued" poet, "full of passion and fury," and they concurred that he is an "innovator and a complete original." Mr. Ellis is known in the poetry community as a literary activist and the co-founder of The Dark Room Collective, an organization that from 1988 to 1998 celebrated and gave greater visibility to emerging and established writers of color. His poems have appeared in magazines such as Agni, Callaloo, Grand Street, Tin House and in Best American Poetry (1997 and 2001). He is associate professor of English at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a core faculty member of the Leslie University Low Residency MFA Program.
Nell Freudenberger’s first book, a story collection entitled Lucky Girls, was published by Ecco/HarperCollins in 2003 and won the PEN/Malamud Award. The committee commented on how formally mature her writing is and added that her "control of tone and level of wise, ironic detachment should serve her very well if she can see this much about the self at this age, what will she do in 20 years?" The committee observed that the stories in this collection, which are all set in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, "do not revisit the well-worn territory of Americans abroad, but create whole worlds and fully rounded characters." Ms. Freudenberger graduated from Harvard and has traveled extensively in Asia. Her travel writing has been published in Travel & Leisure and The Telegraph Magazine. She has written book reviews for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vogue and The Nation. She lives in New York City.
Playwright and performer Rinne Groff is the author of Jimmy Carter was a Democrat (produced at Clubbed Thumb and PS 122), Orange Lemon Egg Canary (Actors Theater of Louisville), Inky (Clubbed Thumb and Salt Theater), Moliere Impromptu (Trinity Rep), and co-writer with Charles Strouse of You Never Know, a new musical. A founding member of Elevator Repair Service Theater Company, she has been a part of the writing, staging, and performing of their shows since the company’s inception in 1991. She was trained at Yale University and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she currently teaches. The committee felt that Ms. Groff is already in full command of her material and that she promises to become an important force in the theater. She is at work on a commission from The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Her play, The Ruby Sunrise, will open November 1st at the Public Theater, directed by Oskar Eustis, and What Then (produced by Clubbed Thumb) will open in January.
Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa and came to the United States in 1993 when his family was granted asylum by the American government. A chapbook, Musica Humana, was published by Chapiteau Press and his first full-length book, Dancing in Odessa, was published this year by Tupelo Press. The selectors were impressed that although Mr. Kaminsky "writes out of a place of sincerity and joy, he never gives way to sentiment. He believes in beauty. He sings out the world." Mr. Kaminsky received his B.A. from Georgetown and has recently graduated from law school. He lives in Berkeley, where he works as a law clerk for the National Immigration Law Center and Bay Area Legal Aid assisting immigrants and the homeless. In the late 1990’s he co-founded Poets for Peace, organizing readings across the country to support relief organizations.
Seth Kantner is the author of Ordinary Wolves, published by Milkweed Editions in 2004 and winner of a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. His book tells the story of Cutuk, a boy who, like the author, was raised and home-schooled in a sod igloo on the Alaskan tundra. Mr. Kantner left the wilderness to attend the University of Alaska and study journalism at the University of Montana. He has worked as a photographer, trapper, fisherman, mechanic and igloo-builder and now lives in Kotzebue. The selection committee observed how well he weaves words from the Inuit language into the narrative, "with no false notes." One committee member said, "I had huge hopes when I began reading this book, and it stole my heart."
John Keene is Associate Professor of English and African American Studies at Northwestern University, where he teaches fiction, cross-genre writing, African-American and diasporic writing, and translation (he reads five languages.) He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Artists Foundation of Massachusetts, The New Jersey State Council of the Arts, the New York Times Foundation, Yaddo and the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference. Mr. Keene, who has a B.A. from Harvard and an M.F.A. from New York University, is a longtime member of the Dark Room Collective and a graduate fellow of Cave Canem. His first novel, Annotations, was published by New Directions in 1995. The selection committee agreed that he "doesn’t sound like anyone else" and remarked on his dense poetic prose which they likened to Jean Toomer’s Cane. A new collection of poems entitled Seismosis is forthcoming from1913 Press. He is working on another volume of poems, a collection of short stories, and a novel.
Dana Levin’s first book, In the Surgical Theatre, was published by American Poetry Review/Copper Canyon Press in 1999, and Copper Canyon brought out her second book, Wedding Day, this year. She has a B.A. from Pitzer College, an MFA in English and Creative Writing from NYU, and is Chair of Creative Writing, Humanities, and Interdisciplinary Studies and Associate Professor at the College of Santa Fe. Ms. Levin has been awarded an NEA fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Writer-in-Residency, PEN’s Joyce Osterweil Award, a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award. Her work has appeared in many anthologies including The Poet’s Child, This Art, American Poetry: The Next Generation, and in magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry and Volt. Ms. Levin is at work on a new collection of poems. The selection committee found her work to be "deft," "intelligent" as well as "full-throated and confident."
Spencer Reece is a poet whose book, The Clerk’s Tale, was published by Mariner Books in 2004. Fifteen years in the writing, this book, the selectors unanimously agreed, was by a poet "completely accomplished, ready for prime time." They found the work "finished, deep and varied" and "elegant, resonant and moving." Mr. Reece has worked for many years as a sales associate at Brooks Brothers, and the title poem describes a day in the life at the store in the Mall of America. His work has also appeared in Boulevard and The New Yorker. He is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize and an NEA poetry fellowship. A graduate of Wesleyan University, he received a M.A. from the University of York (U.K.), and a M.T.S. from the Harvard Divinity School. Mr. Reece lives now in Juno Beach, Florida.
Tracy K. Smith’s first collection of poems, The Body’s Question, won the 2002 Cave Canem Prize for the best first book by an African American poet and was published by Graywolf in 2003. She has a B.A. from Harvard, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Columbia, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University. She has been a recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award. She lives in Brooklyn, and is currently a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Princeton University and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at Columbia University. The committee was delighted by Ms. Smith’s book and about her work-in-progress, Duende, they remarked on its "historical intelligence", its "almost Whitmanesque public voice." "She writes about the emotional life of the intellect," said one member, likening her to "Elizabeth Bishop, moving through the world cerebrally."
Copyright ©2010 Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation