Columbus-born writer Elisa Gonzalez wins $50K Whiting Award

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Columbus native Elisa Gonzalez has been a storyteller since before she could read, dictating tales for her mother to jot down. Now, she’s a published author and Fulbright Scholar who was recently named a winner of a prestigious writing award.

Gonzalez has been chosen as a recipient of the Whiting Award, given annually to 10 exceptional emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama.

“It’s an honor and it’s kind of surreal. Writing is so much about doing things alone, at least for me, and persevering with the conviction that what you’re making matters,” said Gonzalez, 35, who was raised on Columbus’ southeast side and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. “Any sort of outside validation means a lot.”

Whiting Award

Whiting Award candidates are nominated by an anonymous pool of writers, professors, editors, agents, critics, booksellers, artistic directors of theaters, dramaturgs and literary festival directors.

Winners are selected by a small group of recognized writers, literary scholars and editors who meet four times a year to debate the works and choose the final 10.

Sponsored by the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, Gonzalez said the $50,000 award would relieve financial pressure while she worked.

“In the literary world, the award is quite well-known and winning it suggests some confidence in my future work and that’s wonderful,” she said.

A graduate of Yale and New York universities, Gonzalez has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review and other publications.

Her debut poetry collection, “Grand Tour,” published last year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (FSG), has been well-received by the literary community.

Louise Glück, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in literature, as well as Gonzalez’s teacher and mentor, said of her protégé’s work, “These poems make me feel as if poems have never before been written.”

Next on Gonzalez’s to-do list are the nonfictional “Strangers on Earth,” and “The Awakenings,” a novel in which a murder rocks a fictional Ohio small town. Both are forthcoming from FSG.