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Shawn Wen Wins 2018 Krause Essay Prize

Aug 31, 2018
Shawn Wen, author of A Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause

The Nonfiction Writing Program is pleased to announce that Shawn Wen—radio producer, multimedia artist, and author of A Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause—is the winner of this year’s Krause Essay Prize.

A book-length meditation on the mime Marcel Marceau, A Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause is informed by interviews with Marceau’s students, closely observed performances, and archival research.

Remarkably innovative in structure and style, the book employs lists, prose poems, syllabi, travel itineraries, and catalogs of Marceau’s possessions.

The book, according to the selection committee, is “a beautifully braided and visceral portrait of Marceau that simultaneously asks blunt and surprising questions of its parallel subject, silence, and the art of manipulating it.”

Lucy Schiller, NWP ’18, who served on the judging committee, described the book as an essay “flitting between biography, lyricism, performance studies, serious human questions about creation and what we leave behind, and much more, and it manages to orchestrate all of these elements into a guided exploration that feels more like a journey than a spectacle. It let me in on why Marceau matters: his silent but completely transporting art, his advocacy, his place in the world, and what, ultimately, he left behind.”

Wen—a writer, radio producer, and multimedia artist—has published work in numerous journals including The Iowa Review, n+1, Seneca Review, and The New Inquiry. Her video projects have been screened at MoMA and other venues, and her radio work has been broadcast on This American Life, Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Marketplace.

Wen will receive the award on September 27 during a ceremony on the University of Iowa campus hosted by UI President Harreld. She will also teach a series of master classes for NWP students.

Founded in 2006 with the encouragement of the late essayists David Foster Wallace and Guy Davenport, the Krause Essay Prize is awarded each year to the work that best exemplifies the art of essaying. As a celebration of inquiry, experimentation, discovery, and change, the Prize seeks to honor work that emphasizes the activity of a text, rather than that text’s status as a dispensary of information.

Open to projects in any genre, medium, or form—be it text, film, radio, performance, or other—the Krause Essay Prize intentionally stretches the definition of “essaying” in order to celebrate work that is defined by what it does—the activity that it engages in—rather than what it is.

Nominations for the Prize are made each year by an ever-changing committee of twelve to fifteen writers, filmmakers, radio producers, visual artists, critics, editors, and readers. Each of them selects one essay from the previous year that they most enjoyed and admired, submitting it with a brief paragraph of support.

Projects that are nominated for the Prize become the primary texts in a semester-long graduate writing seminar taught each spring in the NWP. After a series of papers, presentations, and discussions about the essays, the graduate students in the seminar choose the winner of the Prize.

The Krause Essay Prize, which now comes with a $10,000 cash award, has been renamed in honor of a generous donation from the Kyle J. and Sharon Krause Family Foundation.