Junot Díaz, who was granted the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008 for his novel, “The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao,” added yet another impressive accolade to his already shining resume. He has been granted the extremely coveted MacArthur Genius Grant, otherwise known as the MacArthur Fellowship.
The MacArthur Genius Grant is awarded to only a select few people each year, with this year’s grants being awarded to 23 other professionals from various fields, including a mathematician, a medical microbiologist and a documentary film maker . Díaz was the only Latino awarded the fellowship this year. Díaz, a professor of writing at MIT, will be awarded $500,000 as party of the fellowship, a sum to be distributed over the course of five years.
Junot Díaz was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and moved to the United States when he was six year old. A voracious reader and budding writer, Díaz majored in English at Rutgers University, where he earned his Bachelor’s in 1992. He went on to earn his MFA from Cornell University in 1995. Díaz’s first book of short stories, “Drown” was published in 1996, to strong and rave reviews. He followed “Drown” with the Pulitzer Prize winning “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” published in 2008. Díaz has been heralded for his ability to weave complex, original, but familiar stories depicting the American Latino experience from the inside, looking out.
During a tour to promote his latest book, “This Is How You Lose Her”,Díaz stopped to talk to a group of young writers at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. During his speech, the now anointed MacArthur Genius shared nine pieces of priceless advice for aspiring writers. This is what Díaz had to say to the Pulitzer Prize hopefuls of tomorrow, as reported in the Huffington Post’s Latino Voices:
1. Forget about being original.
2. Make it count when writing a short story.
3. Don’t write for your frenemies.
4. Let your characters speak as they must.
5. Just Read.
6. Follow your fears.
7. Give in to your weaknesses.
8. Worry about writing, first. Worry about publishing later.
9. Keep on.