The 2019 Whiting Award Winners Are 10 Writers You Really Need To Get Familiar With

Terese Marie Mailhot, courtesy of Mark Woodward; Nafissa Thompson-Spires, courtesy of Adrianne Mathiowetz; Lauren Yee, courtesy of Joey Yee

On Wednesday night, 10 new authors joined the star-studded pack of Whiting Award winners — an elite group of novelists, poets, playwrights, and researchers, each of whom was an emergent talent at the time of their nomination.

Since 1985, the Whiting Award has been one of the literary world's most coveted prizes. Each winner receives $50,000 to support their burgeoning career as a writer. Previous winners include Tracy K. Smith, ZZ Packer, Elif Batuman, and Yiyun Li. You can read all about last year's recipients, which include Patty Yumi Cottrell and Esmé Weijun Wang at Bustle.

The Whiting Award winners are nominated by an anonymous group of 100 "writers, professors, editors, agents, critics, booksellers, artistic directors of theaters, dramaturgs, and directors of literary festivals," according to a Wednesday press release. The nominators and judges change every year, but each one is specifically selected and invited by the Whiting Foundation.

The Whiting Award winners for 2019 were announced Wednesday evening during a ceremony at the New-York Historical Society. On Thursday evening, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel author and Whiting Award winner Alexander Chee will host a free reading with the winners at the Strand Bookstore of Manhattan. The event begins at 7 p.m., and is open to the public.

Here are this year's Whiting Award winners.

Fiction: Hernan Diaz

Jason Fulford

Hernan Diaz is an academic journal editor and the author of two books: a work of nonfiction, titled Borges: Between History and Eternity, and the novel In the Distance, which was a finalist for the 2018 Pultizer Prize for Fiction.

Fiction: Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Adrianne Mathiowetz

An Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Illinois, Nafissa Thompson-Spires just published her first collection of short fiction, Heads of the Colored People, which was in contention for a number of literary awards, including the National Book Award and the Kirkus Prize, and the winner of the PEN America Open Book award.

Fiction: Merritt Tierce

Kent Barker

Orange Is the New Black staff writer Merritt Tierce is an Iowa Writer's Workshop alum and one of the 2013 National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" Authors. Her current project is a book of autofiction about men, sex, writing, the internet, depression, being a woman, physicality, and television. She published her award-winning first novel, Love Me Back, in 2014.

Nonfiction: Terese Marie Mailhot

Mark Woodward

Author of the recent New York Times bestseller Heart Berries, Terese Marie Mailhot holds an MFA in fiction from the Institute of American Indian Arts is the current Tecumseh Postdoctoral Fellow at Purdue University.

Nonfiction: Nadia Owusu

Camarena Photo

An urban planner and Living Cities Associate Director, Nadia Owusu is the author of the 2018 chapbook So Devilish a Fire, which was a winner of the Atlas Review chapbook series. Her first book, Aftershocks, is forthcoming in 2020 from Simon & Schuster.

Poetry: Kayleb Rae Candrilli

Jack Papanier

Kayleb Rae Candrilli is a two-time Lambda Literary Emerging Fellow in Nonfiction (2015) and Poetry (2017). They are the author of the 2016 Pamet River Prize-winner, What Runs Over, and have a second book, the 2018 Saturnalia Prize-winning All the Gay Saints, forthcoming in 2020.

Poetry: Tyree Daye

Marc Hall

Tyree Daye is the author of a poetry collection, River Hymns, which won the 2017 APR/Honickman First Book Prize. His second book, Cardinal, is forthcoming in 2020. He is the winner of both the 2019 Palm Beach Poetry Festival Langston Hughes Fellowship and the 2019 Diana and Simon Raab Writers-In-Residence.

Poetry: Vanessa Angélica Villarreal

Vanessa Angélica Villareal

Vanessa Angélica Villareal's first collection, Beast Meridian, won the John A. Robertson Award for Best First Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters. A CantoMundo Fellow, Villareal is currently a doctoral candidate in UCLA's English Literature and Creative Writing program.

Drama: Michael R. Jackson

Joey Stocks

With an MFA in playwriting and musical theatre writing from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Michael R. Jackson collaborated with Anna K. Jacobs to adapt the 2007 horror film Teeth into a stage musical. Jackson has also written for the musicals White Girl in Danger and A Strange Loop, the latter of which will premiere at Playwrights Horizons in May 2019.

Drama: Lauren Yee

Joey Yee

Yale alum Lauren Yee holds an MFA in playwriting from UCSD. Her works include King of the Yees, The Great Leap, Cambodian Rock Band, Ching Chong Chinaman, and The Hatmaker’s Wife — an Outer Critics Circle nominee for the John Gassner Award for best play by a new American playwright — among others.