November 11, 2008

University MFA Alum Wins $50K Award for ‘Exceptional Writers’

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Cornell graduate and fiction writer Manuel Muñoz M.F.A. ’98 was recently awarded a Whiting Writers Awards for his fiction writing.
The annual award is given to 10 exemplary writers. It has existed since 1985, rewarding writers with $50,000 for their work in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and plays. Recipients of the award are selected by a nomination process and do not apply themselves.
The awards are given “to writers of exceptional promise and talent in early career,” Barry Lopez, the keynote speaker at the Whiting Awards Ceremony, said.
He is the author of The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue and Zigzagger two collections of short stories relating to his upbringing in rural California. “Tell Him About Brother John,” from Zigzagger, appeared in a 2007 issue Cornell’s literary magazine, Epoch.
Muñoz’s work strongly reflects his upbringing. He was born in Dinuba, California, a small agrarian town in California’s central valley, before attending Harvard as an undergraduate. Muñoz described his upbringing in this area on his website, “My relationship with the Valley is a complicated one. It’s a place of extraordinary paradox … Though our family struggled, my siblings — once they were able to work on their own — were never expected to contribute all of their earnings into a pool. We were each as self-supporting as possible and were expected to begin working wherever we could as soon as we could.”
At Cornell, Muñoz found a great mentor and “literary godmother.” He said, “Helena María Viramontes, above all others, has been the single most important person in my writing life.”
Muñoz’s work has been published in various magazines and he has received numerous accolades. He is the recipient of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and has been published in The New York Times, the Boston Review and Edinburgh Review.
“It’s a great pleasure to see what fine work is coming out of this year’s award recipients, in all its variousness and vigor,” Director of the Writer’s Program for the Whiting Awards, Barbara Bristol, said. “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.”