Alumni recognized with prestigious writing award

Creativity from the heart and a love for words paid off for a Linfield College graduate.

He was awarded with the 2011 Whiting Writer’s Award on Oct. 25 at a ceremony in New York.

The award, established in 1985, is a $50,000 prize that is given annually to 10 emerging young writers in all genres.

Shane McCrae, class of ’02, has been writing poetry since he was a teenager.

“I started writing poetry when I was 15, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I really got into it during college,” he said.

McCrae studied creative writing at Linfield. He has also studied at Harvard Law School and is currently working on a Ph.D in English at the University of Iowa.

Writing poetry is something that comes naturally to McCrae. He writes about things that have importance to him and his life. He writes about experiences and observations.

Some of his poems have been about his family, his personal struggles and his own racial identity.

“In a general sense, they’re usually about things that have happened in my life or maybe some of them are about religious issues or have to do with history,” he said.

His work is described as lyrical, personal and autobiographical.

Previous winners of this award include authors, such as Kim Edwards, Mary Karr, Michael Cunningham and Tobias Wolff. They were all emerging writers when they received the award, and are all now bestselling authors.

McCrae hopes to be as successful, but still enjoy writing.

“Success, I guess, is kind of hard to define. For me, I can be successful if my poems are reaching out to people or if people are finding them helpful. I guess it would be nice if  I could find a job I love through my work. The kind of success I want is to work with other people and still love it,” McCrae said.

McCrae has published multiple works, including a full length collection that came out earlier this year called “Mule.”

His poems have appeared in publications like “The Best American Poetry 2010,” “The American Poetry Review” and other journals.

He describes writing as a kind of self-reflection.

“What I love about writing is probably just the act of writing, itself,” McCrae said. “You feel like all your senses are working together to create something new. It’s a very personal experience, and it’s a good feeling.”

The award will further propel his success and make him more well-known.

McCrae is looking for a teaching job and plans to continue writing.

Kelsey Sutton/
Copy chief
Kelsey Sutton can be reached at

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