When asked where she drew inspiration for her award-winning work, fiction-writer Carrie R. Moore points somewhere between track 12 and 13 on the Solange Knowles’ album “When I Get Home.”
The tracklist leads with an Alexyss K. Tylor sample that describes women as magnificent embodiments of God, then transitions to a “very romantic” (read: sexy) love song titled “Jerrod.”
“I had expected the song to be about God more explicitly, and then it turns into this song about romance. And, that just sort of stuck with me,” says Moore, a first-year fellow at the Michener Center for Writers. “I thought, ‘well, what is the relationship between all of these things?’ What does it mean to love God? What does it mean to love yourself? What does it mean to love somebody else?”
Moore uses all 30-pages of her story “The Rest of the Morning” to answer these questions, detailing the transformative experiences of a young deaconess who is caught grappling with her past during a weekend baptism retreat. The piece was awarded the 2021 Keene Prize for Literature from The University of Texas at Austin and will publish in the Autumn 2021 issue of The Southern Review.
Established in 2006 through an endowment to the College of Liberal Arts by 1942 UT Austin biology alumnus E.L. Keene, the prize is one of the world’s largest student literary prizes, awarding $50,000 each year to an undergraduate or graduate student who creates “the most vivid and vital portrayal of the American experience in microcosm.”
2021 Keene Prize finalists include:
“Sycamore” by Nicholas Kaidoo, a third-year MFA playwright in the Department of Theatre and Dance. The play follows three generations of mothers in rural South Carolina reflecting on their respective pasts, presents, and futures — each trying to live a life worth living and be a person worth being.
“A Catalogue of Kānaka Superstitions” by Megan Kakimoto, a first-year fiction fellow at the Michener Center for Writers. Through a collection of stories, Kakimoto explores the minds and bodies of kānaka maoli (native Hawaiian) women on the brink of hysteria.
“un-animal” by C. Samuel Rees, a first-year poet in the New Writers Project. His submission is a series of fractured lyric poems engaging with childhood sexual abuse, ecology, masculinity, contamination, and survival.
“El Míster” by Juan Fernando Villagómez, a second year fiction writer in the New Writers Project. The short story explores a family’s attempt at reunification across the border.