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. Three runners-up will receive $20,000 each.


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 2020.

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, 2019. Only one submission per applicant please.

Deadline and Submission Procedure

By January 24, 2020, 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.


2019 Competition Results

Raye Hendrix

Raye Hendrix, 2019 Keene Prize Winner. 

Raye Hendrix, a graduating poet from the New Writers Project in the Department of English, was recognized for her collection of poems, The Epithets of Local Shells. Raye received her BA and MA from Auburn University, and next year she is going to the University of Oregon to do a PhD in Contemporary Poetry with a focus in Queer/Crip Studies. She has published poems in The Tinderbox, Nightjar Review, Glass, Andironack Review, Shenandoah, The Pinch, and Rattle. And since being named a Keene finalist in 2018, The Screen Door Review nominated her for a Pushcart Prize, and the Southern Indiana Review awarded her its Patricia Arkhus Prize.

2019 Keene Prize Finalists


Left to right, Keene Prize finalists: Sindya Bhanoo, Hedgie Choi and Tracey Rose.

Sindya Bhanoo, a third-year fiction writer in the Michener Center for Writers, was named a Keene finalist for the second year in a row. This year Bhanoo was selected for two short stories that embrace the poetics of family loss and sadness: Malliga Homes Farewell and Dolphin Encounter, which explore the experience of Indian migration to America from alternate perspectives. In Dolphin Encounter, an elderly widow abandoned in a comfortable, but lonely, retirement community tries to put a brave face on her diminished expectations; and, in Malliga Homes Farewell,  her not particularly guilty daughter and granddaughter are busy making a different life in the U.S.

Hedgie Choi, a first-year poet, fiction writer and translator in the Michener Center, also writes from a trans-pacific perspective, the perspective of an exile who is paradoxically at home. She was born in Korea, came to America at the age of seven and returned to Korea at seventeen before pursuing a degree in Information and Interaction Design at Yonsei University in Seoul. Her writing collection includes mostly translations from Korean, and in Customs she has developed her own reckoning with what she calls “national identity angst.” 

Tracey Rose, a second-year fiction writer in the Michener Center, has published stories and novel excerpts in Prairie Schooner, Obsidian, Guernica, Vandal Journal, Elimae and Pank Magazine. Her story, “The Last Days of Rodney,” imagines the psyche of Rodney King, who after the beating spent his settlement money on a large house in Oakland with a swimming pool. Traumatized by the incident that made him famous, King struggled with alcohol and drugs before drowning in that swimming pool at the early age of 47.

2019 Keene Prize Winners


Left to right: Tracey Rose, Sindya Bhanoo, Raye Hendrix and Hedgie Choi. Photos by Brian Birzer.

Previous Results

2006 - 2008