Lookout Books, the literary imprint of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, has another feather in its cap. Another of its publications is a finalist for a national literary award.

“We Show What We Have Learned,” a short story collection by Clare Beams, released by Lookout last fall, is a finalist for the 2017 PEN/Robert Worth Bingham Prize.


The award, presented by the literary organization PEN America, honors a debut work of fiction, either a novel or story collection, that shows exceptional promise. The winner gets a $25,000 cash prize. The winner will be announced Feb. 22 in New York.

This is not Lookout’s first prizewinner. Its very first release, “Binocular Vision,” a story collection by Edith Pearlman, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award for 2011. Last year, “Honey from the Lion,” a novel by Matthew Neill Null, won the 2016 Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

There’s an intriguing Wilmington connection to the award.

Launched in 2002, the PEN/Bingham Prize honors the memory of Robert W. Bingham IV, a novelist, who died at the age of 33, just before the publication of his first novel.

Bingham’s great-grandfather, Robert Worth Bingham (1871-1937), a North Carolina native, married Mary Lily Kenan Flagler (1867-1917), a Wilmington native and the sister of inventor William Rand Kenan Jr. Her first husband, who died in 1913, was Henry Flagler, the flamboyant Florida land tycoon and longtime partner of John D. Rockefeller.

Bingham and Mary Lily Flagler married in December 1916. She died barely seven months later (and was buried in Wilmington’s Oakdale Cemetery). From her, Bingham inherited a share of the Flagler fortune, which he used to buy the Louisville Courier-Journal, turning it into one of the nation’s great newspapers.

A number of books have been written about the unusual circumstances of the Bingham-Flagler marriage, notably “The Binghams of Louisville,” by David and Mary Chandler (1989).