Lookout Books Author Clare Beams Wins Bard Fiction Prize

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Lookout Books author Clare Beams has received the 2020 Bard Fiction Prize for her debut collection of short stories, We Show What We Have Learned.

The Bard Fiction Prize is awarded to a promising emerging writer by Bard College, long considered a center for creative, groundbreaking literary work by both faculty and students. Beams will receive a $30,000 award and an appointment as writer in residence at Bard College for one semester. Her residency begins the fall 2020 semester.

“I’m ecstatic about this well-deserved recognition for Clare Beams and her brilliant debut collection, We Show What We Have Learned, and am delighted that the Bard Fiction Prize will support her meaningfully as she works on her second novel,” said Emily Smith, Lookout Books’ publisher and senior lecturer in the UNCW Department of Creative Writing. Lookout Books is the UNCW Department of Creative Writing’s literary book imprint.

Previous recipients of this prize include Greg Jackson, Carmen Maria Machado and Karen Russell, whose books were published by larger, established houses, said Smith.

“In addition to celebrating Clare and her exquisite writing, this award validates the work of Lookout, our faculty editors and students, in championing significant debut books and authors,” she added. 

In their comments about Beams’ 2016 book, the Bard Fiction Prize committee wrote, “Every one of these stories has a world and a lifetime behind it, and every one is a compelling, disquieting and immensely pleasurable journey, reverie and dream for its reader. Clare Beams is a subtle, quiet master of short fiction, who writes in beautiful and exquisitely crafted prose.”

The nine-story collection was also the recipient of the Kirkus Best Debut of 2016 and a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award and the Shirley Jackson Award.

Beams’ first novel, The Illness Lesson, will be published by Doubleday in February 2020. Her fiction appears in One Story, n+1, Ecotone, The Common, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation.

-- Venita Jenkins