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Creative writing alum Muñoz wins Whiting Award

Fiction writer Manuel Muñoz, MFA '98, is one of 10 writers selected for the prestigious 2008 Whiting Writers' Awards.

Presented by the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation Oct. 29 at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York, the awards are worth $50,000 each and honor poets, fiction and nonfiction writers and playwrights who show exceptional talent and promise in their early career.

Muñoz is the author of two collections of short stories, "Zigzagger" (Northwestern University Press, 2003) and "The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue" (Algonquin Books, 2007), a finalist for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. His story "Tell Him About Brother John" appeared in a 2007 issue of Epoch, Cornell's literary magazine, and will be included in the anthology "The O. Henry Prize Stories: 2009."

He grew up in Dinuba, a small town in California's Central Valley, much like the setting for his stories; and graduated from Harvard University before enrolling in Cornell's Creative Writing Program. He is now an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Arizona.

"I wound up at Cornell and ... the woman I now consider my literary godmother stepped in and helped me shape what has become my work," Muñoz writes on his Web site. "[Cornell professor of English] Helena María Viramontes, above all others, has been the single most important person in my writing life and I count myself lucky that her presence at Cornell kept me confident and calm. ... You'll have to come to a reading to hear how she phoned my mom (¡!) after I dragged on about accepting the offer to attend Cornell in the first place."

His work has been published in The New York Times, the Boston Review and Edinburgh Review, among others, and has aired on National Public Radio's "Selected Shorts." Muñoz has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Since its inception in 1985, the Whiting Foundation Writers' Program has awarded more than $6 million to 240 writers. "These writers are strikingly well-traveled in imagination if not in fact," Barbara Bristol, director of the Writers' Program, said in reference to this year's winners. "We expect we will hear from them again and again in the years to come."

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Daniel Aloi