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The L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Fiction Prize


In honor of L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark, who devoted their lives to literature and generously supported the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing at Texas State University, Texas State University’s English Department has established the $25,000 Clark Fiction Prize. The prize will be awarded annually to recognize an exceptional recently-published book-length work of fiction.

The Clarks

L.D. Clark (1922-2014) spent a long career as a professor of English at the University of Arizona, producing scholarship on D.H. Lawrence. He authored seven novels, three volumes of short fiction, and several works of nonfiction. His wife, LaVerne Harrell Clark (1929-2008), was a novelist, folklorist, and photographer. Her first book, They Sang for Horses, a study of Navajo and Apache horse mythology, won the University of Chicago Folklore Prize and has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution as a classic in Native American studies. The book is currently in print from the University of Colorado Press. A later book, Keepers of the Earth, won the Best First Novel award from Western Writers of America. Dr. and Mrs. Clark were both members of the Texas Institute of Letters.

Our Process

The Clark Prize Committee solicits nominations from distinguished writers around the country. No applications or unsolicited nominations for the award are accepted.


Award Winner: Daniel Alarcón

Daniel Alarcón

Daniel Alarcón's story collection, The King is Always Above the People, has won the 2018 L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Fiction Prize. The prize of $25,000 is one of the largest literary awards in the United States.

Established at Texas State University in 2016 and administered by the Department of English, the prize is designed to recognize an exceptional, recently-published book-length work of fiction in celebration of the Clarks’ lifelong contributions to, and love for, literature and the arts. 

Alarcón will be honored March 26 at Texas State. The award ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 3:30 p.m. in Flowers Hall, room 230. A reading and signing by Alarcón will follow.

The King is Always Above the People cover

The King is Always Above the People is a collection of stories about immigration, broken dreams, Los Angeles gang members, Latin American families and other tales of high stakes journeys. Alarcón explores issues of migration, betrayal, family secrets, doomed love and uncertain futures, transforming them into deeply human stories. In "The Thousands," people are on the move and forging new paths; hope and heartbreak abound. A man deals with the fallout of his blind relatives' mysterious deaths and his father's mental breakdown and incarceration in "The Bridge." A gang member discovers a way to forgiveness and redemption through the haze of violence and trauma in "The Ballad of Rocky Rontal." And in the tour de force novella, "The Auroras," a man severs himself from his old life and seeks to make a new one in a new city, only to find himself seduced and controlled by a powerful woman. Richly drawn, full of unforgettable characters, The King is Always Above the People reveals experiences both unsettling and unknown, and yet eerily familiar in this new world.

Alarcón is the author of At Night We Walk in Circles, which was a finalist for the 2014 PEN-Faulkner Award, as well as the story collection War by Candlelight and the novel Lost City Radio. His writing has appeared in the New York Times MagazineGrantan+1 and Harper’s, and in 2010, he was named one of the New Yorker's "20 under 40." He is executive producer of Radio Ambulante and teaches at the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York.

The 2018 Clark Prize short list included Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash, In the Distance by Hernan Diaz and The Gift by Barbara Browning. Nominations of works published in 2018 were solicited from 12 prominent writers on the condition of anonymity. The permanent fiction faculty at Texas State narrowed those nominations down to the short list, and author Karen Russell, Texas State’s University Endowed Chair in Creative Writing 2017-2019, made the final selection.


Karen Russell

This year’s judge, Karen Russell, won the 2012 National Magazine Award for fiction, and her first novel, Swamplandia!, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2011. She is a graduate of the Columbia MFA program, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, a 2012 Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, and a recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” fellowship. Russell is the author of St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories, and Sleep Donation: A Novella.