Tucson Festival of Books

The Festival Partners with the Whiting Foundation to Bring Author Ali Winston to Tucson

The Tucson Festival of Books is excited to partner for the first time in 2023 with the Whiting Foundation to bring author Ali Winston to Tucson! 

In 1973 the foundation was founded by Flora Ettinger Whiting, a philanthropical minded woman who had a great love and support of the arts and humanities. In 1985, the Whiting Awards were established to give ten emerging authors a $50,000 prize  -- then $25,000, now $50,000 -- to devote themselves fully to a writing project for one year. In 2016, the Foundation launched the Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant of $40,000 to help authors who are at a critical midway point to complete a deeply researched or reported work of literary nonfiction. Ali Winston and his co-author Darwin BondGraham won the prize in 2021 for their book “The Riders Come Out at Night: The Failure to End Police Brutality in Oakland.”   

We spoke to Courtney Hodell, the Director of Literary Programs for the Whiting Foundation, about the foundation and the forward-thinking approach they take to award the Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grants to deserving authors who may be running out of resources. “What is a moment of writing where these authors need help working through their projects; what can we do to make sure these projects are funded and completed?” asks Courtney. “The foundation awards this grant to authors for depth of research, excellence on the page and contribution to culture. We also take into great consideration what impact the grant will have on the project.” 

The foundation awards up to ten of the Creative Nonfiction Grants a year at $40,000 each. Winners are chosen through a two-tier process where each applicant submits three sample chapters, a project budget and plan for completion. A panel of expert readers reviews each project and identifies 15 finalists. Once the finalists are identified, four expert judges choose the winners. In 2022 the Foundation expanded eligibility to apply from the United States to include Canada and the United Kingdom and received 284 submissions. 

Ali Winston and David BondGraham received the prize for their project which became the book “The Riders Come Out at Night: The Failure to End Police Brutality in Oakland.” The judges selected by Courtney and the Whiting Foundation team were very impressed by these beat reporters who singled out systemic issues in the Oakland Police Department and were so dedicated to completion of this project. Both writers stayed with the story for 13 years, sifted through an abundance of research and information to explore contemporary policing culture in America. Through their reporting they also examined if reform is possible in this profession. This project displays what a great public service citizens can do with an involved investigation and the assistance of the Foundation and its grants. 

Past winners of the Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grants include National Book Ward Winner Sarah Broom, Pulitzer Prize Winner Andrea Elliott and Meghan O’Rourke who will also be at the 2023 Tucson Festival of Books. 

Winston will appear in two author sessions on both March 4 & 5. See the full schedule here.