College of Liberal Arts

Keene Prize for Literature

Overview

Mr. E. L. Keene, a 1942 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, envisioned a prize that would honor and support the pursuit of great American writing, and through his estate made possible the Keene Prize in Literature.

In establishing this prize, Mr. Keene hoped "to encourage the writing and publishing of good American Literature, to lend financial support to the creators of such literature, and to enhance the prestige and reputation in the world market of American writers both now and in the future." According to Mr. Keene's wishes, the recipient of this prize will be selected from among those who create "the most vivid and vital portrayal of the American experience in microcosm."

In addition, the winner will be the student who demonstrates "the greatest artistic merit and narrative mastery of the English language and has shown the greatest promise of becoming a professional writer, as judged by the Scholarship Committee of the College of Liberal Arts."


Categories

Poetry, drama, fiction, and non-fictional prose.

Judges

As mandated by Mr. Keene's will, the Judges of the Prize will be the Dean of Liberal Arts, the Chair of the Department of English, the Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, the Director of the University of Texas Press, and an author who is resident in Austin.

Prize

The winner of the Keene Prize will receive $50,000. A further $50,000 will be divided between three runners-up.

Eligibility

All undergraduate or graduate students currently enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin are eligible to compete, with the exception of previous winners of the prize. Entrants must be enrolled during the semester of submission, Spring 2016.

Electronic Submissions

Applicants should submit electronically, in a single document, a collection of poetry, a complete play, or a work of prose, plus a separate curriculum vitae. Submissions should be original work, demonstrating superior expression and craftsmanship. Work may not have been published before September 1, 2015. Only one submission per applicant please.

Deadline and Submission Procedure

By January 22, 2016 (Friday) please submit TWO separate electronic documents, your entry and CV, to keeneprize@mail.dla.utexas.edu. The CV must contain the following information: author's name, title of entry, address, phone number, e-mail address, current standing at the University, and UT EID. Very Important: The entry itself should contain no identifying markers except the title. If it does so it will not be accepted. Pages should be numbered and proofread.
  • Poetry - Minimum 10 pages, maximum 30 pages. May be one poem or a collection of poems.
  • Play - Use standard play format. 17,000 words maximum.
  • Prose – Minimum 7,500 words, maximum 12,500 words. May be one work, an extract from a longer work, or a compilation of shorter works.
  • Non-fictional Prose – same as above.

Results

2015 Competition Results

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Pictured left to right: Jenn Shapland, David Semonchik, Meg Freitag, and Darri Farr 

David Semonchik, a second-year fellow, took the $50,000 grand prize for his stories “Three Houses, “The Bee Story,” “Eau Galle,” and “The Snake Place.”  The Keene committee praised David, who previously earned an MA in English from UC Davis, for “writing that is understated and graceful, phrase after phrase.”    

Darri Farr, just finishing her first-year, was a finalist for her story “The Devil is a Lie.”  Darri hails from Philadelphia and earned a BA in Romance Languages from NYU.  The judges felt her Philly-based story fulfilled Mr. Keene’s desire to identify student work that represents “the most vivid and vital portrayal of the American experience in microcosm.”

Meg Freitag, a May 2015 graduate of the MCW, was a finalist for her poetry manuscript “Edith.”  Meg, a Sarah Lawrence graduate, has published work in Tin House, Narrative, Cumberland River Review, and Smoking Glue Gun, among others.  Judges cited her poems for their “wisdom, craft and melancholy wit.”

Jenn Shapland, a Department of English Ph.D. candidate, was a finalist for a piece of nonfiction, “Take the Waters,” chronicling her battles with Austin allergies.  Jenn was a finalist for her nonfiction in 2013.


Previous Results

2006 - 2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014