Creative Writing Graduate Wins Keene Award for Literature

May 5, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — Nora 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."

Boxer graduated Brown University in 1996 with a bachelor's degree in English and American literature and earned her master's degree in creative writing from The University of Texas at Austin this year. She has had a varied career in arts, agriculture, community and non-profit work, including an apprenticeship at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in California and work with a literary organization in Taos, N.M.  She is developing a nonprofit, sustainable urban arts residency in Oakland.

In addition to Boxer, the three finalists are:

Roger 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.

Fiona 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.

Virginia 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.

Members of the 2008 selection committee included: Cullingford; Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts; Holly Williams, chair ad interim of the Department of Theatre and Dance; Joanna Hitchcock, director of The University of Texas Press; and resident author Tom Zigal, novelist and speechwriter for President William Powers Jr.

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 all 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.

For more information, contact: Gary Susswein, Office of the President, 512-471-4945; Elizabeth Cullingford, chair, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-4991.

7 Comments to "Creative Writing Graduate Wins Keene Award for Literature"

1.  Bruce Pennycook said on May 11, 2010

can you post these fine stories on line for faculty to enjoy?

2.  James Terrell said on May 13, 2010

Despite so many examples to the contrary, sometimes, to our sheer delight, human history gets it absolutely right--this is one of those times! As one who has been a fan and follower of Ms. Boxer's artistic contributions for many years, I have to say that while her work clearly qualifies as "vivid and vital" that will not be sufficient preparation for your own encounter. Whether you meet Nora through her poetry or her fiction, you had better be ready to pioneer the frontiers of emotional vulnerability and moral courage yourself, because that is where she daily wins and loses her ongoing struggle to carve a face on postmodern humanity that is tender, true, and beautiful. Congratulations! Very well done!

3.  Daniela Ochoa Gonzalez said on May 13, 2010

How can we read it?

4.  Richa said on May 13, 2010

Yes, why are the Keene Prize-winning works not posted on a special Web site, so the UT community can read them, too?

5.  Stan Cunningham said on May 14, 2010

Are these stories available anywhere online?

6.  Melissa said on May 17, 2010

I would also like to read the work of these writers.

7.  Davine Daniels said on Aug. 11, 2010

I live an hour from Taos and would love to read her prize-wining story as I feel as she does that it is a special place like no other, and it draws me there. I spent some magical time in an earthship there and never slept as soundly. How can I access her writing?