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University of Iowa News Release


Dec. 7, 2006

Li, Kim And D'Ambrosio Continue Success Of UI Writers In Whiting Awards

Three authors who graduated from writing programs at the University of Iowa won 2006 Whiting Writers Awards, continuing a distinguished record by UI alumni in one of the most highly recognized award competitions for young writers.

Charles D'Ambrosio, a graduate and recent faculty member of the UI Writers' Workshop; workshop poetry alumna Suji Kwock Kim; and Yiyun Li, who holds Master of Fine Arts degrees from both the workshop and UI Nonfiction Writing Program, were among the 10 recipients of the 2006 awards, announced in late October.

D'Ambrosio's most recent collection of short stories is "The Dead Fish Museum," Kim's first collection was "Notes from the Divided Country: Poems," and Li is the author of the short-story collection "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers."

The $40,000 awards from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation are intended to honor and encourage young writers of significant promise in poetry, fiction, nonfiction and drama. And while the Whiting Awards are not as well known to the general public as the Pulitzer Prize or the National Book Award -- and they do not honor specific books -- they have become predictors of future winners of the literary world's most prestigious prizes, and they have been a landmark of solid writing careers since their inception in 1985.

"The Whiting is one of the most selective and prestigious achievement awards for young writers," said Lan Samantha Chang, director of the Writers' Workshop.

Among the past Whiting Award recipients are National Book Award winners Jonathan Franzen, William T. Vollmann and Alice McDermott; Pulitzer Prize winners Jeffrey Eugenides, August Wilson, Tony Kushner and Suzan-Lori Parks; McArthur "Genius Grant" recipients Sarah Ruhl, Colson Whitehead and David Foster Wallace; National Book Critics Circle Award winners Mark Doty and Gerald Early; famed columnist/critic Stanley Crouch; Olivier Award winner Timberlake Wertenbaker; three-time O. Henry Award winner Tobias Wolff; and bestselling author Mary Karr ("The Liars Club").

Of the 220 Whiting winners, nearly 15 percent have been graduates of UI writing programs -- the Writers' Workshop, the Nonfiction Writing Program and Iowa Playwrights Workshop.

Among the UI alumni with a Whiting Award on their resume are current Writers' Workshop faculty members Mark Levine and Chris Offutt; Pulitzer Prize winners Jorie Graham and Michael Cunningham; Obie Award winner W. David Hancock; PEN/Hemingway Award winner Justin Cronin; O. Henry Award winners Stuart Dybek and Suketu Mehta; and bestselling authors Denis Johnson, ZZ Packer, Kim Edwards and Kent Haruf.

"We at the Iowa Writers' Workshop are very pleased to again find three workshop graduates among Whiting Award winners," Chang said. "We are very proud of them."

All three creative writing programs are units of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073; cell: 310-430-1013;