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Maurice Prize encourages alumni to keep writing

Best-selling author John Lescroart says it took winning a prestigious award early in his career to “believe I could be a writer.” The Maurice Prize for Fiction at UC Davis, now in its 14th year, is Lescroart’s way of paying it forward.

John Lescroart
John Lescroart

A UC Berkeley graduate and resident of Davis, Lescroart established the Maurice Prize, named for his father, to encourage UC Davis alumni writers. The annual $5,000 award recognizes the best book-length prose fiction written by a graduate of UC Davis who is not yet published. 

Contest now open to all alumni

In the past, only creative writing alumni were eligible, but in 2019 the contest was opened to all. The result was a substantial increase of entries, with more than 50 submissions from Aggies with degrees in English, economics, political science, German, cell biology, dramatic arts, and many more fields of study.

Peter Shahrokh
Peter Shahrokh

Peter Shahrokh (English, M.A. ’75, Ph.D. ’83; MBA ’99) won the 2019 prize for his manuscript, A Wind Will Come. A Davis resident, Shahrokh had a long career as a project engineer for Siemens Technologies and is also a visual artist

"I think I’m the oldest winner of the prize, and now as a senior person, I celebrate the things that keep me young at heart and allow me to keep moving forward," said Shahrokh. "I don’t like to hear criticism, but I’m of a mind now to learn from it. John Lescroart suggested I take two characters from the novel and put them on a different stage to act their parts. When I write, I simply watch and listen to my characters go at it, and I then do my best to record what they say and do. They have shown themselves to be much more interesting now." (Read more about Shahrokh's process for writing his winning story.)

Several past winners have had their books published, including Naomi Williams (M.A., English, ’07), Landfalls (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Melinda Moustakis (M.A., English, ’06), Bear Down, Bear North (University of Georgia Press); and Melanie Thorne (M.A., English, ’06), Hand Me Down (Dutton).

— Donna Justice, director of marketing and communications for the UC Davis College of Letters and Science, wrote this article for the fall 2019 issue of the College of Letters and Science Magazine