The winners of the second annual Whiting Literary Magazine Prizes have been announced, with two more prizes in place after the inaugural year. In their first year, the prizes, which are conferred by the Whiting Foundation, recognized two print magazines and one digital publication; this year, development grants, awarded exclusively to magazines with small budgets, have been added to each of those categories, for a total of five awards per year totaling $144,000.
"We decided to expand the prize from three to five categories so we could offer a development grant for digital and print magazines with very small budgets," Courtney Hodell, director of literary programs at the Whiting Foundation, told PW. "Last year we were astounded by how strong some of the publications in this category were, and how much they clearly matter to emerging writers. This is where they get a chance to be read for the first time by a wider audience, develop some important editorial relationships, and gain in confidence and craft. The magazines deserve the same kind of attention and support they're lavishing on their writers. The work the best of these do will in time benefit more established magazines and eventually book publishers, so we should all be encouraging them and watching them with interest."
This year's print award winners are The Common, based in Amherst, Mass., in the $150,000-$500,000 budget category, which received a $60,000 purse; American Short Fiction, based in Austin, Tex., in the under $150,000 budget category, which received a $30,000 purse; and the Black Warrior Review, based in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the print development grantee, which received a $15,000 purse. This year's digital winners are The Margins, A Publication of Asian American Writers’ Workshop, based in New York, N.Y., which receives a $30,000 purse; and The Offing, based in Seattle, Wash., the digital development grantee, which receives a $9,000 purse. The funding for all prize winners unfolds over three years, and the awards in the second and third years are made as matching grants.
"We and the judges were astounded by the creativity on display in this year’s applications—not simply in the writing they discovered and the careers they fostered, but in the conception and concerns of the magazines themselves, which are so much more than the sum of their parts," Hodell said. "There is no question that these publications are the incubators of much that is exciting and vital in American literature."
Prizes like the Whitings are often world-changing for literary magazines which, as a whole, operate on a strapped budget in a massive ecosystem with more competition than opportunities for income. Some of the recipients of the prizes, both this year's and last year's, told PW exactly how the prizes have helped, or will help, their publications prosper.
"We have always paid our print contributors, but as our web platform has expanded in recent years, we’ve made a commitment to provide honoraria to all our writers, across both print and digital platforms," Jennifer Acker, editor in chief of The Common, said. "Whiting funds will make this practice sustainable and will support our ongoing efforts to publish writers well—that is, to ensure their writing reaches as many readers as possible. This means reducing barriers to access and devoting resources to the unsexy work of promotion—newsletters, social media, public events, etc.—to carve out a quiet space for our writers’ work in our noisy world."
Jyothi Natarajan, editorial director of The Margins, said the funds received from the prize will be used to "continue investing in writers of color who are imagining a world beyond segregation, immigrant exclusion, and Islamophobia," while Mimi Wong, editor in chief of The Offing, said the funds will allow the publication to "increase contributor honoraria, offer a stipend to our entirely volunteer staff, and holistically envision, develop, and execute long-term community-building strategies that extend beyond the page to nurture and sustain the next generation of artists."
Brigid Hughes, the founding editor of one of last year's recipients, A Public Space, said the Whiting funding "went both toward strengthening our infrastructure and supporting writers and translators "This year, she added, A Public Space will launch a fellowship program for aspiring editors funded by the prize. At Words without Borders, executive director Karen Phillips said, the funding was used to "invest in its future as we seek to scale up our efforts to get more people engaged with international writing."
The call for applications for the 2020 Literary Magazine Prizes will be announced in mid-September on the Whiting Foundation’s website, with a deadline of December 2.