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The L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Fiction Prize

Please join us as we honor Rebecca Makkai, winner of the 4th Annual L. D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Fiction Prize for her novel, The Great Believers.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Presidio AB, Grand Hyatt San Antonio, Third Floor

See Parking Information

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.

Rebecca MakkaiRebecca Makkai's novel, "The Great Believers," has won the 2019 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. 

Makkai will be honored March 5 during the 2020 Association of Writers and Writing Program Conference at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. 

Ben Fountain, author of "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," former Texas State MFA endowed chair and Clark Prize final judge described "The Great Believers" as "a big, ambitious novel in the best American tradition that portrays the interior life with rare subtlety and nuance, and at the same time captures a crucial era in our collective history." 

The Great Believers"The Great Believers" is a novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy. It opens in 1985, where Yale Tishman, the development director for a Chicago art gallery, is about to pull off a coup, bringing an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister. Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago epidemic, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways the AIDS crisis affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. Yale and Fiona’s intertwining stories take readers through the heartbreak of the 80s and the chaos of the modern world, as both struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.

Chicago-based Makkai's other novels include "The Hundred-Year House" and "The Borrower," as well as the short story collection "Music for Wartime." "The Great Believers" was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and received the ALA Carnegie Medal and the LA Times Book Prize. Her books have been translated into 14 languages, and her short fiction has been anthologized in "The Pushcart Prize XLI" (2017), "The Best American Short Stories" 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008, "The Best American Nonrequired Reading" 2016 and 2009, "New Stories from the Midwest" and "Best American Fantasy." Her work has been featured on Public Radio International's "Selected Shorts" and "This American Life." 

Makkai is on the MFA faculties of Sierra Nevada College and Northwestern University. She is artistic director of StoryStudio Chicago.

The 2019 Clark Prize short list included "Sabrina" by Nick Drnaso, "The Surprising Place" by Malinda McCollum and "Those Who Knew" by Idra Novey. 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 Fountain made the final selection. 

Ben Fountain

This year’s judge, Ben Fountain, was born in Chapel Hill and grew up in the tobacco country of eastern North Carolina. A former practicing attorney, he is the author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction, and the novel Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, winner of the National Book Critics' Circle Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. Billy Lynn was adapted into a feature film directed by three-time Oscar winner Ang Lee, and his work has been translated into over twenty languages. His series of essays published in The Guardian on the 2016 U.S. presidential election was subsequently nominated by the editors of The Guardian for the Pulitzer Prize in Commentary. He is the former Endowed Chair of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Texas State University.