Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program students help judge Krause Essay Prize

DeafBlind essayist and poet John Lee Clark is the winner of the 2022 Krause Essay Prize, hosted by the Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program.
Monday, May 22, 2023

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.  

John Lee Clark
John Lee Clark

“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. 

Melissa Febos
Melissa Febos

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.  

You can watch the full video of the latest Krause Essay Prize ceremony at Iowa. Learn more about the Krause Essay Prize by visiting,  

The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers about 70 majors across the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. About 15,000 undergraduate and nearly 2,000 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by faculty at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all Iowa undergraduates through the college's general education program, CLAS CORE. About 80 percent of all Iowa undergraduates begin their academic journey in CLAS. The college confers about 60 percent of the university's bachelor's degrees each academic year.