By Charlotte Brookins
The University of Iowa Krause Essay Prize is an annual contest that has been held at the university since 2006, intended to celebrate extraordinary essays and their creators. The most recent winner is John Lee Clark, a DeafBlind essayist and poet from Minnesota, for his essay Against Access.
“I taught the class last year, so I’m very familiar with all of the nominated essays,” says Melissa Febos, bestselling author and professor in the Nonfiction Writing Program.
The class is the semester-long course entitled the Essay Prize, in which students of the Nonfiction Writing Program explore and judge nominated essays, ultimately arriving at one final winner.
“John Lee Clark’s wonderful essay had some excellent competition,” Febos continues, “but was the clear favorite in the end.”
The purpose of the Krause Essay Prize is to recognize and appreciate the work that goes into the creation of an essay, as well as showcase the genre as a form of art.
Although the prize is strictly awarded to essays, there are no specific requirements as to the medium of the essay. They can be presented in the form of the written word, film, radio, performance, or anything else that comes to mind. The Krause Essay Prize aims to stretch the definition of an essay and showcase works that are defined by what it does rather than by what it is supposed to be.
Contestants are nominated by a rotating committee of not more than fifteen writers, with nominators staying anonymous until the winner of the prize is made public. Made possible by the generous donations of the Kyle J. and Sharon Krause Family Foundation, the winning essay is awarded $10,000 and a hand-carved walnut letter box inscribed with the winner’s name and the name of their essay. The winner is also invited to a ceremony held in their honor on the University of Iowa campus.
Corey Campbell, coordinator of the Nonfiction Writing Program, says her favorite part about the contest is the appreciation it shows for essays and their creators.
“I’m drawn to the program’s deep respect for, and interest in, essaying as an art,” she says.