UA English Faculty Member Earns Emerging Writer Award

UA English Faculty Member Earns Emerging Writer Award

By La Monica Everett-HaynesUniversity Communications
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Manuel Muñoz, a UA assistant professor of English and a fiction writer, is one of 10 writers across the nation to receive an award from the Whiting Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Helena María Viramontes)
Manuel Muñoz, a UA assistant professor of English and a fiction writer, is one of 10 writers across the nation to receive an award from the Whiting Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Helena María Viramontes)

Manuel Muñoz was well aware of the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation prior to receiving a recent phone call from the New York-based organization.

When the call came, it was to inform Muñoz – a University of Arizona assistant professor of English and a fiction writer – that he would receive the foundation's Whiting Writers' Award, which comes with a $50,000 prize.

"I didn't know I was considered for it but as soon as I heard it, I knew exactly what it was and what it meant," said Muñoz, one of only 10 writers across the nation to be nominated for the foundation's honor this year.

"The foundation has such a prestige and reputation. It meant that there were people out there who were paying attention to my work – people I hadn't anticipated reading my work."

Whiting Foundation winners have typically published at least one book and are regarded in the literary world as emerging writers.

Since the award was created in 1985, it has gone to writers such as David Foster Wallace, Colson Whitehead, New York Times bestselling author Kim Edwards and Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides.

The award goes to writers who have "extraordinary talent and promise," the foundation noted in a release announcing the award winners.

"It's a great pleasure to see what fine work is coming out of this year's group of award recipients, in all its variousness and vigor," Barbara Bristol, the foundation's Writers' Program director, said in a statement.

"These writers are strikingly well-traveled in imagination if not in fact. We expect we will hear from them again and again in the years to come."

Each year "about 100 anonymous nominators from across the country whose experience and vocations give them knowledge about individuals of extraordinary talent" suggest names for the award, a release from the foundation noted. The foundation only receives recommendations from individuals who have been designated nominators.

"It's for those who, just at that point in their career, may not have received a whole lot of attention, but this it the foundation's way of telling the rest of the literary world to recognize them," Muñoz said.

To date, he has authored two collections of short stories and is working on another book – a novel that he expects will be published in 2010. His first collection of short stories, "Zigzagger: Stories," was published in 2003. His second, "The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue," was published last year.

He attended the awards banquet in New York last month. "It was really a special moment for me," said Muñoz, who lived and worked in New York prior to taking a position at the UA.

Muñoz also has earned awards and honors from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. His work has appeared in The New York Times and the Boston Review as well as on National Public Radio.

"I had never seen myself being fortunate enough to have this job where my writing would be the thing that drove my career," said Muñoz, who teaches graduate and undergraduate creative writing courses at the UA.

"But to be here and to produce work that the universities views as very valuable, I feel privileged," he added. "The University sees my work as scholarship, and that 's a wonderful feeling to have as a writer."

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