Loveland author Claire Boyles receives Whiting Award – Loveland Reporter-Herald

It might not have the name recognition of the Oscars, but in the publishing world, the annual Whiting Award is every bit as prestigious. Given annually to 10 emerging writers by the non-profit Whiting Foundation, the award includes a $50,000 cash prize and includes among its past winners such literary luminaries as Danai Gurira, David Foster Wallace, and Katha Pollitt.

Joining their rank in 2022 is Loveland resident Claire Boyles, author of “Site Fidelity,” a collection of 10 short stories that she called, “a love letter to Colorado.” Using her de ella adopted home state de ella as the connective tissue between the stories, Boyles explores themes related to economic inequality, climate change, and loss.

“It was absolutely a shock,” the first-time author said of her selection for the Whiting. “It wasn’t something I ever even thought to consider. It’s a really big award, and it was just not something I imagined would happen.”

The Whiting Foundation uses a selective nomination process to choose candidates for the award, and an even more selective evaluation process to narrow the pool to 10. None of the writers under consideration are notified of their nomination, and only the winners ever learn of their status . Boyles herself was embargoed from announcing the news publicly between her notification of her in January and the “very glamorous” award reception at the New York Historical Society on April 6, where she and her nine co-winners were introduced for the first time .

“I probably spent more time thinking about what to wear to that one event than I spent thinking about what to wear my whole life,” she said.

Boyles hasn’t been a full-time writer for long. Before landing a deal to publish “Site Fidelity,” she also had careers as an English teacher and as a sustainable farmer in Gill, Colorado, where she and her family spent five years, starting in 2008. She started pursuing her craft more seriously after returning to the Front Range, and eventually earned a master’s in creative writing from Colorado State University.

It was during this time that “Site Fidelity” started taking shape, and after nearly a decade of writing it, Boyles said she is still a little stunned by the book’s existence, never mind its success. Since its release in June 2021, the book has received wide critical acclaim, and has also been selected or nominated for numerous other awards, including the PEN/Robert Bingham, and the Colorado Book Award.

“It’s the kind of thing that feels impossible until it happened. Writing a book for nine years, and then, all of a sudden, the book is going to be real, and then the book comes out, and then the book gets a Whiting award. It still feels very strange.”

At home in Loveland, Boyles spends much of her time writing and teaching, but is also actively engaged in community initiatives, including the Warriors Write program at the nonprofit Heart-J Center at Sylvan Dale Ranch. There, she helps female veterans write about their combat experiences, a perspective that sometimes gets lost among the “war narratives” told by men, she said.

“It’s always a very diverse group of women who have had all sorts of different service experiences. It’s really rewarding to know them and listen to how fierce they are.”

Boyles was also recently elected to sit on the board of Poudre Valley Community Farms, a land cooperative located in Fort Collins, and a way to support the state’s agricultural community.

“I am very grateful for the years we had farming and I would not trade them, but I think we’ve done enough,” she said. “How I’m likely to stay involved in farming is by buying my food from local producers, and trying to stay involved in making sure the system supports small and medium sized farmers so that they have an easier road.”

The author is now embarked on a follow-up to “Site Fidelity,” and resisting the pressure to outperform her debut. She called the Whiting win a “vote of confidence” in her writing from her, but said the reception of her work from her is ultimately out of her hands from her.

“The only thing I can control is writing what matters to me and what I think is important… Honestly, I think the farm failing helped me realize that all you can control is the work that you do, and being a good member of the communities you’re in.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.