This Week in Essays: Whiting Awards Edition


The 2017 Whiting Award winners were announced today. The award gives ten emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry a significant cash infusion ($50,000). Previous award winners include Jeffrey Eugenides, David Foster Wallace, Denis Johnson, Mary Karr, and Elif Batuman.  For this edition of This Week in Essays, we are linking to work by the 2017 award winners. Congratulations to each of them!

Francisco Cantú was as a Border Patrol Agent for the United States Border Patrol from 2008-2012, a former Fulbright fellow, and a contributing editor at, where he curates the “El Mirador” series. His book The Line Becomes a River will be published by Riverhead Books in February 2018. Read his 2014 piece for Guernica on the journalist Charles Bowden’s moral crisis around his work in Ciudad Juarez.

Simone White was the featured writer for the Harriet blog at the Poetry Foundation, has received fellowships from Cave Canem, and was selected as a New American Poet for the Poetry Society of America. She has several full-length collections including, most recently, Unrest with Ugly Duckling Presse. Read her poem “Kettle to Pot” up at the Poetry Foundation.

Phillip B. Williams is a Cave Canem graduate and has received scholarships from Bread Loaf Writers Conference and a 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellowship. He is the Poetry Editor of the online journal Vinyl Poetry and his full-length collection Thief in the Interior came out last year. Read his poem “Declaration” commissioned by Chicago magazine.

Jen Beagin is the author of the novel Pretend I’m Dead (Triquarterly). She has published stories in Juked and Faultline, among other journals and literary magazines. Read her story “The Blind Pig” at Juked.

Kaitlyn Greenidge is the author of the novel We Love You, Charlie Freeman (Algonquin). Her work has appeared in The Believer, American Short Fiction, Guernica, Kweli Journal, The Feminist Wire, and others. She is the recipient of fellowships from Lower Manhattan Community Council’s Work-Space Program and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Read her story “I Love Betty” over at Lenny and check out our interview with her here.

Lisa Halliday’s novel Asymmetry will be published by Simon & Schuster in February 2018. She previously worked at The Wylie Agency and is a freelance editor and translator in Milan. Read her story “Stump Louie” at the Paris Review.

Tony Tulathimutte is the author of Private Citizens and has written for the New York Times, VICE, the New Yorker, and the New Republic. He’s received an O. Henry Award and a MacDowell Fellowship. Read his piece for the By Heart series at the Atlantic.

Clare Barron is a playwright and actor whose plays have been produced and developed at the Atlantic Theatre Company, New York Stage & Film, and others. She was the recipient of a 2014 Paula Vogel Playwriting Award and was a 2014 P73 Playwriting Fellow. For her play Dance Nation, Barron was the co-winner of the inaugural 2015 Relentless Award and the recipient of the 2017 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Read about her process and her latest play Baby Screams Miracle in an interview with

Clarence Coo received the 2012 Yale Drama Series Prize for Beautiful Province (Belle Province). Clarence’s honors include an Arena Stage Allen Lee Hughes Fellowship, an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence Grant, a Kennedy Center commission, a Larry Neal Writers’ Award, and a 2016 NYFA Fellowship. He is a resident playwright at New Dramatists, a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and a 2012-2013 Dramatists Guild fellow. Listen to him discuss his Yale Drama Series Prize-winning play on YouTube.

James Ijames is an actor and playwright currently the Assistant Professor of Theatre at Villanova University. He received the F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Artist, the Terrence McNally New Play Award for WHITE, and the 2015 Kesselring Honorable Mention Prize for The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trail of Miz Martha Washington, and is an Independence Foundation Fellow and a 2015 Pew Fellow. Read about his work Moon Man Walk at Broadway Black.


Logo art by Max Winter.

Tamara Matthews is a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor. Visit or find her on Twitter: @writingtoatee. More from this author →