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Drexel Writer Wins $50,000 Literary Award

December 2, 2013

Morgan Meis

Morgan Meis, a staff writer for the Center for Cultural Outreach in the Pennoni Honors College, joined the likes of Jeffrey Eugenides, David Foster Wallace, Tony Kushner and other talented writers when he won the Whiting Writer’s Award this fall.

Meis was one of the ten emerging writers to be awarded the $50,000 prize from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting artists in the early stages of their careers. The annual award is given to writers in nonfiction, fiction, poetry and playwriting for “exceptional talent and promise in early career,” according to the Whiting Foundation. Meis won for his nonfiction work published in The Smart Set, an online cultural magazine supported by Pennoni College.

“There is pressure in being on that list. I think it could make a writer do something foolish, like attempt to be something he or she is not,” Meis said. “So, I try not to think about it too much.”

Fortunately, he’ll have a lot to take his mind off of the pressure. A longtime contributor to Drexel publications including The Smart Set and Art Attack, a local arts journalism project funded by the Knight Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, Meis recently became a staff writer for Drexel. He will continue writing and editing for both publications in his new position, and he’ll also work with Drexel students interested in writing about local art and culture as an editor and a teacher. As a critic-in-residence in the fall of 2012, Meis previously taught an honors class on arts criticism. He plans to teach during the winter and spring terms this year.

Meis has his personal writing projects as well. He wrote an e-book on art history that will soon be published by Smart Set Press, the center’s e-book publishing platform. Another upcoming book deals with Nietzsche and a Rubens painting called “The Drunken Silenus.”

The monetary award he received from the foundation will help with future writing projects as well, as Meis plans on spending his prize money on “nothing too romantic.”

“The main thing is to be able to focus on writing without so many other financial worries for a little while,” he said.

The check was tucked into the pages of a book chosen for each writer that they received at the ceremony, which was held Oct. 21 in the New York Times building in New York City. Meis received a volume of essays by 20th-century American philosopher and writer William James from the Library of America.

“The anonymous committee that chose the winners also chose a specific volume from the Library to go to each winner,” he said of his “most treasured memento from the ceremony.”

Meis, who earned a PhD in philosophy from The New School, previously received $30,000 from the Andy Warhol Foundation Award for his work published in The Smart Set. He has also written for The Believer and Harper’s and authored "Ruins" (Fallen Bros. Press), a collection of essays on art, culture and politics that was published this year.