The College of New Jersey
Online Magazine

Autumn 2007



Alumna wins 2007 Whiting Writers' Award

photo of sheila callaghan
Sheila Callaghan '95

When Sheila Callaghan ’95 sits at her desk to start writing a new piece, she isn’t thinking of receiving a surprise phone call announcing she has won a huge cash prize for emerging writers—but it is a nice surprise when such a call does come.

Sheila was one of 10 recipients of the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation’s 2007 Whiting Writers' Awards. According to the foundation’s Web site, the awards “are intended for emerging writers…. who have yet to make their mark in the literary culture…. The award is highly competitive. Up to 10 awards will be made from approximately 90 to 100 nominations.”

Sheila and her fellow award winners were nominated by “literary professionals across the country representing all literary genres,” the Web site indicates. The recipients were announced at a ceremony at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York on Wednesday, October 24. Robert L. Belknap, president of the Whiting Foundation, and trustee Kate Douglas Torrey presented the 10 writers with their $50,000 award.

“Receiving the Whiting is huge and unexpected,” said Sheila. “It’s like hitting the lottery in a way, but it’s also an enormous vote of confidence. Apparently the people who decide such things are interested in supporting the careers of writers whom they believe will contribute significantly in the field for years to come, and I can’t tell you how touching the idea of this is for me.... Knowing this makes me want to hug those anonymous people and promise them that I will live up to all their hopes and investment.”

After the ceremony last month, it was right back to work for Sheila. She is working on numerous projects, including a play called Roadkill Confidential, which is a meditation on brutality commissioned by Clubbed Thumb, a theater company in New York City. She is also working with director Jessica Kubzansky on FEVER/DREAM, a modern adaptation of Pedro Calderon’s play Life is a Dream.

In addition to this, Sheila is compiling an epic, multi-textured theater piece with director Daniella Topol and video designer Bill Cusick at New York City’s HERE Arts Center, where she is a resident-artist. Thanks to a grant from the Jerome Foundation, she also will soon be traveling to Berlin for a few months to work with German Theatre Abroad in creating a new piece about displacement, ex-patriotism, and the culture of post-communist East Germany.

To find out about Sheila’s other projects and to read her blog, visit her Web site at

Madeline M. Patrick ’10


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