'The Future Of Literature': Whiting Awards Celebrate 10 Emerging Writers

"Every year, our corps of expert anonymous nominators point us to some of the most exciting and vital work happening today," Courtney Hodell, who oversees the awards, explained in a statement released Wednesday. "These names may be new to us, but they're writing the future of literature in this country."


The winners announced at a ceremony Wednesday night in New York City, listed in alphabetical order, are: poet Kayleb Rae Candrilli, poet Tyree Daye, novelist Hernan Diaz, playwright Michael R. Jackson, nonfiction writer Terese Marie Mailhot, nonfiction writer Nadia Owusu, short fiction writer Nafissa Thompson-Spires, novelist Merritt Tierce, poet Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, and playwright Lauren Yee.

Read more.

WGA Panel Explores Challenges of Writing Women's Reproductive Issues

One of the most disturbing problems, said panelists, is that television can misrepresent womens' experiences and perpetuate misconceptions. For example, though one in three women will experience an abortion in her lifetime – or 60% of the female population – television tends to portray terminating a pregnancy as a life-shattering anomaly rather than a common experience.

“It’s a simple procedure, not as medicalized as we see it depicted on television and in film,” said Orange is the New Black writer Merritt Tierce. “I’d like to see that story depicted.” [continue]

Panelists (L-R): Moderator Dr. Zoanne Clack ( Grey’s Anatomy ), Sascha Rothchild ( GLOW ), Dr. Raegen McDonald-Mosley (Planned Parenthood), Merritt Tierce ( Orange is the New Black ), Chai Chai Sun (menopause expert), and Bruce Miller ( The Handmaid’s Tale ).  photograph by Mai Tran-Lanza

Panelists (L-R): Moderator Dr. Zoanne Clack (Grey’s Anatomy), Sascha Rothchild (GLOW), Dr. Raegen McDonald-Mosley (Planned Parenthood), Merritt Tierce (Orange is the New Black), Chai Chai Sun (menopause expert), and Bruce Miller (The Handmaid’s Tale).

photograph by Mai Tran-Lanza

Interview for Tentaciones in El País

Confieso que una de las cosas que más me llamó la atención del libro es su total ausencia de moralina: las drogas no llevan a la protagonista a un final terrible y su adicción al sexo no culmina con una epifanía estúpida. Es imposible encontrar en tu libro una sola línea donde adviertas sobre el consumo de drogas, recomiendes el uso de anticonceptivos o en la que digas que hay que ser más selectivo con tus amantes. ¿Por qué elegiste algo tan inusual como no tomar partido y no incluir moralejas en tu libro?

Maybe the only idea I feel any certainty about is uncertainty. I am rarely certain about anything, because I understand how hard it is to ever know the whole truth about anything. New information arises, old information proves false, or at some point a different perspective makes sense. I'm not saying one can categorically never be certain about anything; for example I am certain that abortion ought to be a human right. Regarding drug addiction, I think that often people arrive at a greater, truer, fuller understanding of life after making what are thought of as 'bad' decisions, and then living through the consequences of those decisions. So it's not for me to say what someone else should or shouldn't do, because I can't know any other person's entire history or potential. I think this is the fundamental difference that defines the political divide in America, and almost anywhere else there is a cultural divide that falls out as conservatism vs. liberalism: conservatives typically believe they can know what is best for everyone, what is best for an individual they don't know anything about; liberals typically believe that everyone ought to have the freedom to make their own decisions as long as they aren't harming or impeding anyone else. That is, in my opinion, perhaps the only logically sound moral stance one can take, given the reality of individuated consciousness.

Leer más en español.

Read more in English.

An Avatar of Myself

Superstition Review

by Crawford Pederson

MT: And no, I was never uncomfortable with the subject matter. Whatever is hard or dangerous or painful in life contains some truth about the darkness of life; I am uncomfortable with the idea that I might pretend the darkness isn’t there. I am uncomfortable with the reality that women are still not considered fully human, so there is hardly a subject more worth writing about than the subjugation of women. [continue]

On The Struggle To Write and Make Money

KERA's Friday Conversation

by Rick Holter

MT: I actually loved delivering the mail. I wanted to do it because I thought this is a job that’s physical and you don’t have to talk to anyone and someone will give you money for walking around all day, not talking to people and putting letters in mailboxes. It sounded beautiful to me and it really was exactly what I expected. [continue]

On Art & Commerce

0s&1s Reads

by Andrew Lipstein

AL: The time it took to write Love Me Back, as well as your own block, seem to be in pretty stark contrast to the prose of the novel, which resembles a roaring faucet left on from cover to cover. But I guess that's why it's called fiction, and not all-of-your-anxieties-and-neuroses-in-a-book. How do you mean when you say you've always been superstitious about the issue?

MT: I'm glad to hear the novel feels that way—and I think it does because each chapter was written when two important forces aligned, and not before: the force inherent in a story worth telling and the force of a strong urge to tell it. I would distinguish between waiting for the emergence/alignment of these forces and "waiting for inspiration," which writers are exhorted not to do. I have a deep fear that forcing myself to write, if I'm telling a story that really doesn't bear telling, or if I'm telling it with only a limp, out-of-duty urge to tell it, will result in a story that naturally sucks. [continue]

On Writing and Restaurant Labor

Public Books

by Patrick Abatiell

First things first: Tierce is a staggeringly good prose writer. Her novel is successful in large part due to the capacious, rambunctious intelligence she lends to her narrator, who is, as a character, a marvel of self-awareness and self-exposure. She muses, for instance, on a lover: “The strength in him was panther-dark and menacing and in spite of the ordinary green lines across the toes of his dress socks I was too scared of him to get wet.” It is possible, of course, to disappoint without surprising, and in this way critics have tended to refer to these evocations of female sexuality as “shocking,” or to use them as evidence of the novel’s “grittiness.” Love Me Back is not, however, a novel that invests much in shock value. It is impelled, instead, by a shrewd understanding of the world it inhabits. Its attention is unflinching, certainly, but it is also diagnostic, analytical, and wise. [continue]

10 Writers to Watch (and Read)

Texas Monthly

by Skip Hollandsworth

One thing that has impressed many readers is that Tierce didn’t come up with a sugarcoated ending. Toward the end of the book, when Marie is asked about her philosophy of life, she says, “Don’t bitch. Just adapt. Nothing is going to go right and everything is going to be hard.” [continue]


photograph by Leann Mueller

photograph by Leann Mueller

MIXED MEDIA Inaugural Podcast

Dallas Morning News

by Christopher Wynn

The first episode of a new weekly conversation about what's hot and what's not in local and national culture, hosted by Dallas Morning News culture critic Chris Vognar with FD magazine deputy editor Christopher Wynn and guest host Lauren Smart, arts and culture editor for the Dallas Observer.

Merritt talks about her profile in the May issue of FD magazine of transgender artist and engineer Liz Larsen; Dallas artist and designer Rob Wilson on Welcome to Night Vale and Dirty Weekend.

Listen to the podcast via iTunes or AudioBoom

The Subversive Brilliance of A LITTLE LIFE

The New Yorker

by Jon Michaud

One of the few recent novels that’s comparable to “A Little Life” in this respect is Merritt Tierce’s “Love Me Back,” a fierce book about a self-destructive Texas waitress who cuts and burns herself, abuses drugs, and submits herself to debasing sexual encounters. But that novel, at a mere two hundred pages, is a slim silver dagger, not the broadsword that Yanagihara wields. And unlike Tierce’s book, in which there is little reprieve for the reader, Yanagihara balances the chapters about Jude’s suffering with extended sections portraying his friendships and his successful career as a corporate litigator. [continue]

Show Me Something Beautiful

Nat. Brut

by Kayla AE

MT: [Religion] was everything. Now it’s nothing, and that is my gift to myself every day. For evangelical righteousness to work you have to have a bedrock conception of yourself as fucked. Otherwise you don’t need saving. When I walked away from the practice of religion I let myself just be a person. A bipedal mammal with no god to serve or disappoint. Just a being with an unknown, unnumbered store of days ahead before it’s over, before I’ve found all the beauty I’ll ever find, which is the closest thing to a spiritual pursuit I need. Show me something beautiful, play me something beautiful, that’s why I’m here. No purpose and no reason beyond that. Just a human animal with kids to raise and stories to tell. [continue]

Pixelated Episode 1

0s & 1s Reads

by Andrew Lipstein

Andrew: How have children affected your art intake? 

Merritt: i loathed spongebob when my kids were little because it is insanely annoying as background noise. but apparently there are gems of existential profundity i totally missed.

Sarah Gerard: I can see that.

Merritt: i'm not sure how they've affected it—i like what i like, and have always been appalled by the way some people turn themselves into children when they have kids. kids' music, kids' movies, kids' everything all the time.
even the youngest kids can appreciate really complex art if it's good

Sarah: Did you notice that they were disinterested if it was bad?
I'm almost afraid to ask this, but what is bad art?
Or do you mean that if you bring them to where art is and then guide them into an appreciation, perhaps?

Merritt: yeah...i don't know if i could say. but there is definitely art my son is totally disinterested in. a lot of modern art, like video installations and conceptual pieces, he sort of scoffs at.

Sarah: What is his taste, would you say? 

Merritt:  i took him to the art institute in chicago and there was a piece i really loved—a neon sign—and he seemed personally offended that someone might have been paid money for it, as art
he's a practical person. he likes tangible, representational.

Sarah: I'm interested in how that moment played out. Did you talk to him about why it's considered art, and do you remember what you said, he said?
I don't mean to put you on the spot, I just think kids are interesting people.

Merritt: i wish i remembered. i loved the fact that he didn't care that so many people obviously did think it was art.

Sarah: Haha

Merritt: that he still felt free to think it was lame.

Sarah: Good! That is everyone's right.
I love it.


A Writer Grows Up

Dallas Observer 

by Lauren Smart

The Dallas Observer's annual Masterminds awards recognize local arts & culture visionaries with a cash prize presented at Artopia, a party with a fashion show, live music, artists' booths, and installations by each Mastermind.

MT: I think like a lot of writers early in their careers, you just expect that it will never happen because that seems like the most logical thing, Tierce says. It's been fucking fantastic. Just to have strangers read your book and think about it so hard and appreciate the things you love about it is amazing. [continue]

photograph by  Can Turkyilmaz

photograph by Can Turkyilmaz

On Her Path to Becoming a Writer

The Advocate

by Rachel Stone

MT: I just wanted to write what I wanted to write. I didn’t want to write for anyone else. So instead of doing things to make it as a writer, I tried to make money. I’m really glad I did it that way now. I wasn’t writing toward anything for a long time. I just was living, really. [continue]

photograph by  Danny Fulgencio

photograph by Danny Fulgencio