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VCU Cabell

First Novelist Award

Current Winner

John Englehardt has won the 19th award for Bloomland (Dzanc Books).

About the Award

The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award honors an outstanding debut novel published in the preceding calendar year. Symbolized by a three-dimensional compass, the award is a tribute to writers who have navigated their way through the maze of imagination and delivered a great read, taking the reader someplace new.

Winning novelists have written books that may be funny or sad, sarcastic or heartrending, but each is powerful enough in its own way to have moved initial readers and final judges toward the conclusion that, among a field of roughly a hundred submissions annually, its writer has achieved something notable and enduring.

How the Award Works

Selecting a winner is a lengthy process. Twice a year, the administrative team from the VCU Department of English sends out a nationwide call for submissions from publishers, editors, agents, and writers themselves. The first round of evaluations is made by volunteer readers from across the university and the Richmond community. Their rankings and feedback guide the judging process toward three or four finalists, and from there, the First Novelist Committee and the winner from the previous year choose the recipient of the award.

VCU Libraries then organizes the annual event, generally held at James Branch Cabell Library, in which the winning author and two others involved in the writing and publishing worlds, typically the author's agent and editor, appear at a public reading and Q&A session, followed by a book signing and reception, that focus on the creation, publication, and promotion of a first novel. Travel expenses to and lodging in Richmond for the author and the additional speakers are provided, and the author receives a cash prize.