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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 2014.

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, 2013. Only one submission per applicant please.

Deadline and Submission Procedure

By January 21, 2014 (Tuesday) 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

2013 Competition Results

Keene winners 2013




2013 Keene Finalists

Kara Mahajan, Jenn Shapland, Katherine Noble, and Corey Miller




Katherine Noble Katherine Noble, a graduating senior in the Department of English at The University of Texas at Austin, has won the $50,000 Keene Prize for Literature for her collection of poems, “Like Electrical Fire Across the Silence.”

Noble is the first undergraduate to win or place in the Keene competition, which awards one of the world's largest student literary prizes. An additional $50,000 will be divided among three finalists.

“The judges were impressed by her audacious combination of spirituality with sexuality, by her wide range of literary reference, and her bold experimentation with the form of the prose poem,” says Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, chair of the Department of English and the award selection committee.

“I have been affected by images from biblical myths since I was a young girl, and the narrators in my poems often wrestle to understand how God interacts with the physical world,” Noble says. “The collection also has a long poetic essay called ‘In the Empire of Flesh,’ which I wrote after a couple of meaningful, but failed, relationships.”

Noble spent this year interning at the Harry Ransom Center. She is also a recent recipient of the George H. Mitchell Undergraduate Award for Academic Achievement, sharing the $25,000 top prize. Last year, she received the Roy Crane Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in the Literary Arts, the Ellen Engler Burks Memorial Scholarship, the Bailey Prize in Poetry, and the James F. Parker Prize from the English Department. For her work on her senior thesis, a study of the poet Frank Stanford, Noble won a Rapoport-King Scholarship.

Keene Prize Finalists will receive $17,000. The recipients are:

Corey Miller Corey Miller, a Michener Center graduate student, for a collection of poems, "The New Concentration."







Karan Mahajan Karan Mahajan, a Michener Center graduate student, for an excerpt from his novel, "Notes on a Small Bomb."







Jenn Shapland Jenn Shapland, an English Department graduate student, for her essays, "Finders Keepers."








Previous Winners

2012 Competition Results

McFarland Fiona McFarlane, a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers at The University of Texas at Austin, has won the $50,000 Keene Prize for Literature for her story, "A Fortunate Man." 

The Keene Prize is one of the world's largest student literary prizes. An additional $50,000 will be divided among three finalists. 

McFarlane was a finalist in 2010 and again in 2011. This year she has finally taken the big prize.  "A Fortunate Man" was chosen from over sixty submissions in drama, poetry and fiction. "The story demonstrates her talent for original characterization, vivid and sensuous description, and subtle irony. All the judges praised her immaculately spare and elegant prose," said Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, chair of the Department of English and chair of the award selection committee. 

Fiona McFarlane is graduating from the James A. Michener Center for Writers.  She received her BA from the University of Sydney, Australia, and her PhD from the University of Cambridge, England. Her work has appeared in Best Australian Stories, Missouri Review, Zoetrope, Dossier, and others.  In 2010 she won The Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize, and last month she won the Roy Crane Award for the Literary Arts. She is currently working on a novel.

Keene Prize Finalists:

EbeidCarolina Ebeid, graduate of the Michener Center, for her masterly collection of poems, "Small Beauty of the Forest." Ebeid was also a finalist in 2011. 







GrenierCorinne Greiner, graduate of the New School for Writers in the English Department, for her vivid and compelling creative non-fiction piece, "Blood Holler."







MillerCorey Miller, first year master of fine arts student at the Michener Center, for his witty and direct collection of poems, "How we say I love you in coal country." 







2011 Competition Results

Josh BootonJosh Booton, a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers (MCW) at The University of Texas at Austin, has won the $50,000 Keene Prize for Literature for his collection of poems, "The Union of Geometry and Ash." He is the first poet to win the distinguished award.
 
The Keene Prize is one of the world's largest student literary prizes. An additional $50,000 will be divided among three finalists.
 
Booton's collection of poems was chosen from more than 60 submissions in drama, poetry and fiction. The title sequence is a traditional double or "heroic" crown of sonnets, 14 poems in which the last line of the first poem becomes the first line of the next.

"The technical inventiveness of these poems never overwhelms their substance, a profound meditation on how to sustain a working marriage," says Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, chair of the Department of English and the award selection committee. "All of the judges found Josh's work hauntingly memorable and compassionate, as well as formally compelling."
 
Booton received his bachelor's degree from the University of Oregon, and his master's degree in speech and hearing sciences from Portland State University. A finalist for the 2010 Missouri Review Editors' Prize, his poems have appeared in The Missouri Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Poetry Northwest, Raleigh Review and The Grove Review.

Members of the selection committee were: Cullingford; Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts (ex officio); Brant Pope, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance; Joanna Hitchcock, director of The University of Texas Press; and author Tom Zigal, novelist and senior communications writer for The University of Texas System.
 
Established in 2006 in the College of Liberal Arts, the Keene Prize is named after E.L. Keene, a 1942 graduate of the university who envisioned an award that would enhance and enrich the university's prestige and reputation in the international market of American writers. The competition is open to university undergraduate and graduate students, and the prize is awarded annually to the student who creates the most vivid and vital portrayal of the American experience in microcosm. Students submit poetry, plays and fiction or non-fiction prose.

Keene Prize Finalists:

Carolina EbeidCarolina Ebeid, master of fine arts student of the Michener Center, for her collection of poems, "An Iceboat Will Carry Us Through the Ice." Ebeid's poems are learned and intricate; the judges praised her richly allusive technique, flashes of humor, and subtle evocation of loss.







nicolecullenNicole Cullen, graduate of the Michener Center, for her story, "Long Tom Lookout." This melancholy narrative, framed by the oil spill in the Gulf, explores a young woman's developing relationship with her husband's autistic son. Cullen observes her characters and the landscape of the West with the same powerful intensity.





fionamcfarlaneFiona McFarlane, master of fine arts student of the Michener Center, for three stories, "Rose Bay," "The Movie People," and "Unnecessary Gifts," each of which demonstrates a distinct gift: for highly original characterization, for the absurd, and for the manipulation of suspense. The judges were united in their praise for her immaculate prose.






2010 Competition Results

Photo by Shella JohnsonNora Boxer, a graduate of the Creative Writing Program in the English Department at The University of Texas at Austin, has won the $50,000 Keene Prize for Literature for her story, "It's the song of the nomads, baby; or, Pioneer." The Keene Prize is one of the world's largest student literary prizes. An additional $50,000 will be divided among three finalists.

Boxer's story was chosen from 61 submissions in drama, poetry and fiction. Laconic in style, it unsentimentally evokes the artistic, old hippy, new punk eco-lifestyle in New Mexico. In a sharply evoked landscape of bare mesas and changing seasons, among a cast of characters ranging from the shallow and self-aggrandizing to the stoically compassionate, the pregnant heroine tries to make sense of her commitment to a life "off the grid."

"As we watch the devastating consequences of our oil addiction unfold in the Gulf of Mexico, Nora's story takes on particular resonance," said Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, chair of the Department of English and chair of the award selection committee. "She examines the costs and consequences of an attempt to live responsibly as well as creatively."

An emerging poet and fiction writer, Nora will receive an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at Austin in 2010, and holds an undergraduate degree from Brown University. After receiving her MA, she will be a writer-in-residence at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Colony in July 2010.

Nora is informed by a varied career in arts, agriculture, community and non-profit work settings including an apprenticeship at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in California, an arts and agriculture center for the developmentally disabled, and work with a literary organization in Taos, New Mexico, as well as two agriculture NGOs in East Africa serving the HIV+ population. Nora has worked in community education, with urban artists’ collectives, and on Burning Man project collaborations. A 2006 writing travel grant took her to East Africa and is related to her novel-in-progress.

She is currently developing a nonprofit, sustainable urban arts residency in Oakland called The Resourcery, a public space and urban artists' residency which operates on principles of the local and the sustainable.  For more information about The Resourcery, please visit their website, www.westoaklandresourcery.org.

Keene Prize Finalists:

Roger ReevesRoger Reeves, master of fine arts graduate of the Michener Center for Writers, for his collection of poetry, "King Me." These allusive poems appropriate paintings, classic literature and history to build a formally inventive, emotionally intense and rhythmically powerful structure.

Roger Reeves is currently earning his Ph.D., in American Literature and Creative Writing at UT Austin. In addition to his M.F.A., he holds an M.A. in American Literature from Texas A&M University.  Reeves's poetry has been published in several journals and anthologies including American Poetry Review, Best New Poets 2009, and American Literary Review.

Fiona McFarlaneFiona McFarlane, master of fine arts student of the Michener Center, for two stories, "Mycenae" and "Exotic Animal Medicine." McFarlane's prose is polished, elegant and witty, while her displaced characters are sharp observers of the original and awkward situations in which she places them.

Born in Sydney, Australia, Fiona McFarlane is a a graduate of Sydney University and holds a Ph.D. in English from Cambridge University. She is currently earning her M.F.A. at the Michener Center and has won several prizes and nominations for her writing, including a Pushcart Prize nomination and The Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize.

Virginia ReevesVirginia Reeves, master of fine arts student of the Michener Center, for three stories, "Investments as Big as These," "Why Don't You Put that Down," and "Her Last Dead Child." These stories employ strong dialogue and rich descriptive detail to evoke the complicated relations between parents and children.

Although currently working towards her M.F.A. at the Michener Center, Virginia Reeves also holds a Master of Arts in Teaching and served as a public school teacher for six years before becoming an Adjunct Professor at Carroll College. She has had several pieces published in such journals as the Baltimore Review, Takahe, and Storyglossia.



2009 Competition Results

Winner
Cowhig photo

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, a graduate of the James A. Michener Center for Writers, won the 2009 Keene Prize for Literature, for her play "Lidless," in which a former Guantanamo detainee dying of liver disease journeys to the home of his female interrogator to demand half her liver for the damage she wreaked on his body and soul during her interrogations.

“Political without being propagandistic, moving without being sentimental, 'Lidless' uses theatrical space, physical bodies and talismanic objects to create a bold and timely imaginative intervention into the debate about torture,” said Elizabeth Cullingford, Chair of the Keene Prize Jury.

In addition to the Keene Prize "Lidless" has been selected by playwright Sir David Hare as the winner of the 2009 Yale Emerging Playwrights Prize. The play was produced at UT’s Lab Theatre and has been given staged readings at Houston's Alley Theatre, Ojai Playwrights Conference and Yale Repertory Theatre. It will be published by Yale University Press.

Finalist
Malachi Black, master's of fine arts candidate at the Michener Center, for a collection of sonnets, "Cantos from Insomnia." The committee admired this poet's technical ambition, his free but respectful modernization of the sonnet form, his witty internal and external rhymes ("vodka/sonata"), and his attention to rhythm and cadence. They appreciated his delightfully original conceits, such as "anxious as a phone / About to ring" or "turn the doorknob of a corner."

Finalist
Cornwell photo

Sarah Cornwell, master's of fine arts candidate at the Michener Center, for her short stories "Mr. Legs," "Champlain," and "Other Wolves on Other Mountains." The committee was impressed with the range and variety of Cornwell's subject matter, her emotional and psychological insights, her intimate characterization of a boy with dyspraxia, her vivid evocation of the contagion spread by an accusation of sexual abuse, and her taut, often poetic use of language and metaphor—for example, the image of the lost wolf that opens and closes the last story.

Finalist
Smith photo

Sarah Smith, master's of fine arts candidate at the Michener Center, for a collection of poetry: "Enormous Sleeping Women." These witty, clever, and often surreal poems captivated the judges with their juxtapositions between the exotic and the mundane. Debating the value of rarity and impermanence, "Sturgeon" ranges from caviar through quails eggs, from Russia to the Ohio River; while the title poem modulates from the vivid description of country life to sudden menace, and ends with an apparently inconsequential freckle. "Quirky, original, and linguistically rich, 'Enormous Sleeping Women' is a pleasure to read," noted the committee.



2008 Competition Results

Winner
George Brant, a recent graduate of the James A. Michener Center for Writers, for the play “Elephant’s Graveyard.”

Brant's play was chosen out of 51 submissions in drama, poetry and fiction. In addition to the Keene Prize, it earned the 2008 David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award from the Kennedy Center. Produced at the university last fall, it was honored as Best New Play by the Austin Critics’ Table.

“‘Elephant’s Graveyard’ is a strikingly original and imaginative drama,” said Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, chair of the English Department and of the award selection committee. “Brant uses the true story of Mary, a circus elephant who killed an handler and was executed by hanging, to create a dramatic portrait of small-town Tennessee life in 1916. Employing choruses of townspeople and circus performers who speak directly to the audience but never to each other, Brant transforms a bizarre historical incident into a moving and metaphorically resonant narrative in which the elephant, her loyal trainer, and the ballet girl who makes her entrance wrapped in Mary’s trunk, command our sympathy.”

Finalist
Smith Henderson, master of fine arts candidate at the Michener Center, for his short stories “Number Stations” and “Muscles.” The committee singled out Henderson's stories, which are set in his native Montana, for their combination of wry humor, rich detail, convincingly terse dialogue and emotional depth.

Finalist
Domenica Ruta, a recent graduate of the Michener Center, for the opening chapters of her novel “Edgewater.” The committee praised the novel’s large cast of idiosyncratic characters and artful interweaving of scenes, which gradually create the back story of a mysterious murder.

Finalist
Sarah Smith, master of fine arts candidate at the Michener Center, for three stories: “The Wild Girl of Western Pennsylvania,” “The Bigtime” and “Night Shift at the Don Knotts Memorial Hospital.” The committee commended Smith’s quirky, poetic voice, and her sharp powers of observation and comic inventiveness, which create intriguing characters.


2007 Competition Results

Winner
Will Dunlap, master of fine arts candidate with the Michener Center for Writers, for two short stories “Pastoral Sonata” and “Devotion.”

The quirky, mysterious and original “Pastoral Sonata” vividly evokes an old woman who mourns her drowned husband through a bizarre charade of blindness, and imagines his spirit lives on in her pet goldfish. “Devotion,” a disturbing story set on the nineteenth-century frontier, has its origin in a historical incident, the murder of a group of defenseless Native Americans by white farmers. Dunlap brilliantly recreates the prose style of the period through the journal entries of his narrator, an itinerant preacher.

“Dunlap’s writing has great emotional sensitivity and power,” said Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, chair of the English department and a member of the selection committee. “He has a musician’s ear for language together with a gift for effective story-telling. And the complexity of his characterization is remarkable: the old woman in ‘Pastoral Sonata’ turns out to be a musical critic and an accomplished actress, while the reader slowly realizes that the narrator of ‘Devotion’ is unreliable and capable of self-deception. Our committee was impressed by Dunlap’s versatility: his two stories are completely different in period, style and tone.”

Finalist
Kate Hagner, master’s in creative writing (’07), for “Pear (and other stories).”

Hagner's characters experience mysterious obsessions and undergo strange metamorphoses. Her stories are remarkable for their poetic language, which vividly evokes colors, shapes and textures. "Pear," "Birds" and "Agave" are precisely observed but highly imaginative representations of the interaction between human beings and nature.

Finalist
Smith Henderson, master of fine arts candidate with the Michener Center, for his short stories “Twelver” and “Blooms.”

"Twelver" was singled out for its command of both poetic and colloquial language, its ingenious mathematical structure, and its imaginative use of motifs like buffalo nickels, dying cows, and exploding volcanoes. His witty account of the culture clash between California and Montana and his excellent evocation of a particular place also drew praise.

Finalist
Kevin Jones, master of fine arts candidate with the Michener Center, for his three short stories in “North American Male.”

All these stories impressed the committee with the energy of their narrative voices and the author’s assured use of dialogue. Judges praised the conceptual originality of "Parts," and the vivid humor of "Uncle to the Rescue."


2006 Competition Results

Winner
Brian Hart, master of fine arts candidate with the Michener Center for writers, for the fictional narrative, “The Dog With the Broken Teeth, The One That Fetches Rocks.”

"The wonderful dialogue and closely observed world of Brian's work won us over," said Richard Lariviere, former dean of the College of Liberal Arts. "The quality of the applicant pool was astonishingly high. It was hard to choose, but the consensus of the selection committee was strong."

Finalist
George Brant, master of fine arts candidate with the Michener Center, for his play "N O K."

Finalist
Seth Harp, economics senior, for his essay "Leaving Iraq."

Finalist
Michael McGriff, master of fine arts candidate with the Michener Center, for his poem "Where Light Falls, the Last Detail Becomes the World."

Finalist
Jake Silverstein, master of fine arts candidate with the Michener Center, for his novel excerpt "Golden State."