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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.

2020 Prize Winner

Chia-Chia Lin's novel, "The Unpassing," has won the 2020 L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Fiction Prize. The prize of $25,000 is one of the largest literary awards in the United States. 

A photo of Chia-Chia Lin.

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. 

Lin will be honored during a virtual event later this spring.  

"The Unpassing" is a searing debut novel that explores community, identity and the myth of the American dream through an immigrant family in Alaska. In Lin's novel, a Taiwanese immigrant family of six is struggling to make ends meet on the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska. The father, hardworking but beaten down, is employed as a plumber and repairman, while the mother, a loving, strong-willed, and unpredictably emotional matriarch, holds the house together. When ten-year-old Gavin contracts meningitis at school, he falls into a deep, nearly fatal coma. He wakes up a week later to learn that his little sister Ruby was infected, too. She did not survive.

With flowing prose that evokes the terrifying beauty of the Alaskan wilderness, Lin explores the fallout after the loss of a child and the way in which a family is forced to grieve in a place that doesn’t yet feel like home. Emotionally raw and subtly suspenseful, "The Unpassing" is a deeply felt family saga that dismisses the American dream for a harsher, but ultimately more profound, reality. The Unpassing cover.

"There's a lot to recommend 'The Unpassing,' but perhaps what lingers most---besides Chia-Chia Lin's gliding, innovative prose, and cast of indelible characters---is the pervading notion that grief transforms the world into a place of shimmering malice and beauty," said Téa Obreht, author of "The Tiger's Wife" and Texas State M.F.A. endowed chair.

Lin graduated with an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where she received the Henfield Prize. Her short stories and essays have appeared in The Paris Review,, The New York Times, Zyzzyva and more. She currently lives in Northern California.The 2020 Clark Prize short list included "Sabrina & Corina" by Kali Fajardo-Anstine and "Where Reasons End" by Yiyun Li. Nominations of works published in 2019 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 Obreht made the final selection.