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Release: Oct. 29, 1999

UI faculty member, two alumni are among winners of Whiting Writers’ Award

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa faculty member and two alumni are among the 10 winners of the 1999 Whiting Writers’ Awards, one of America’s most important honors for emerging writers. The UI winners are Naomi Iizuka, a visiting faculty member in the Iowa Playwrights’ Workshop of the UI department of theatre arts, and Iowa Writers’ Workshop alumni Ehud Havazelet and Z.Z. Packer.

Each award this year includes a $35,000 cash prize, making the Whiting Writers’ Award one of the most lucrative prizes in American literature. The 1999 winners were announced during an Oct. 28 ceremony at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City, where the keynote speaker was poet Lucille Clifton.

Iizuka’s plays include "Aloha Say the Pretty Girls," produced this year at the Humana Festival; "Polaroid Stories," winner of the 1998 PEN Center USA West Award for Drama; "Skin"; "Scheherazade"; and "Tattoo Girl." Her collaboration with Anne Bogart on a play about the life of Orson Welles was recently workshopped at the UI.

Havazelet, author of the short-story collections "What Is It Then Between Us?" and "Like Never Before," teaches at the University of Oregon and in the Warren Wilson College Master of Fine Arts Program for Writers.

Packer, who was recently published in Harper’s Magazine, has written numerous stories published in periodicals and anthologies. She lives in San Francisco, where she is currently at work on a novel.

The Whiting Writers’ Awards, now in its 15th year, invites nominations from those in contact with young writers of extraordinary talent. Winners are then chosen by the foundation’s trustees, on the recommendation of a selection committee.

The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation was established in 1963 by Flora E. Whiting with a $10 million bequest. The Whiting Writers’ Awards were established in 1985, and past winners include Tony Kushner, August Wilson, Stanley Crouch, Alice McDermott, Mona Simpson, Iowa native JoAnn Beard and Michael Cunningham, the UI Writers’ Workshop alumnus who won the 1999 Pulitizer Prize for fiction.