College of Liberal Arts

Keene Prize for Literature


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."


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


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.


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


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 2018.

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, 2017. Only one submission per applicant please.

Deadline and Submission Procedure

By Friday, January 19, 2018, please submit TWO separate electronic documents, your entry and CV, to 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.


2017 Competition Results

Leah Hampton

Leah Hampton

“Boomer,” a short story by Leah Hampton that illustrated the impact of Trump’s election against the backdrop of destructive Appalachian wildfire, won the 2017 $50,000 Keene Prize for Literature at The University of Texas at Austin.

“Being chosen for the Keene Prize feels like an incredible gesture of support from the university,” said Hampton. “It's rewarding to know that the environmental and political issues facing my community can resonate with a wider audience.”

Karas Poole Prescott

Left to right: Samantha Karas, Julie Poole and Lara Prescott.

Samantha Karas, a second-year poet in the Michener Center for Writers, was selected as a finalist for the second year in a row for her play, Hard Money, “a pulp Western romance inspired by the lives of musicians on 30 Minutes Behind the Walls, a wildly popular country-western radio show produced and performed by inmates at Texas State Penitentiary in the 1940s,” Karas said.

Julie Poole, who received her Masters of Fine Arts this spring from the New Writers Project in the Department of English, won for her collection of poems, Up North, which “explore notions of home, when ‘home’ no longer exists,” Poole said. Her poems encapsulate the heartache and challenges of a mother-daughter relationship, torn by unemployment, bankruptcy and homelessness. 

Lara Prescott — a second-year Michener Fellow, 2016 Crazyhorse Fiction Award winner and Fania Kruger Fellowship recipient — was named a finalist for an excerpt titled “The Muse” from her forthcoming novel, The Living Ones,a polyphonic novel about the “secret history” behind Boris Pasternak's masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago, in the era of Soviet repression. 

Read More

Previous Results

2006 - 2008