New Novel by Susann Cokal

Stop by the English department office to see an advanced copy of Susann Cokal’s new novel, The Kingdom of Little Wounds (Candlewick Press).

The novel has already garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly.

Congratulations, Susann!


MFA Alum Champa Publishes Novel

Alumna Paula Champa (MFA, Fiction, 1997) has published her first novel, The Afterlife of Emerson Tang (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2013). Booklist praised the book as an “intellectual yet deeply human examination of what it means to live as well as to die.” Author Jonathan Keats called the book “stunning,” saying “The raw emotion of (Champa’s) story and the restrained elegance of her writing together make for a literary tour de force.”

Paula Champa

Read Tom Gresham’s interview with Champa in the Aug. 16 edition of VCU News.

Congratulations, Paula!

Incoming Fall 2013 MFA Class

Please welcome our incoming Fall 2013 MFA class:

Patience Armstrong (f) originally majored in fine arts with an emphasis on painting and printmaking, but she has explored almost every media including welding, earthworks and performance art. Her imagery often had a social-political context around societal labeling and expectations. She worked as a visual artist for many years and showed her artwork in competitive shows, won several awards and painted several large-scale public murals. She also has taught yoga for the last thirteen years in all its aspects including philosophy and teacher training. Having lived originally in the Northeast, then in Austin, the Midwest and Southern California, Patience finally settled in Raleigh, NC for twenty one-years where she raised her two sons. Although she had written most of her life, it wasn’t until her children left for college that Patience began to realize that she was meant to be a writer.

John-Michael Bloomquist (p) is from Gilbert, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University with a BA in Creative Writing.  Last year, he was awarded a Global Writing Fellowship to attend Western Michigan’s Prague Summer Program. His poetry has been published in many journals including The Carolina Quarterly, Third Coast, and The Tampa Review. He currently lives in Austin, where he works as a Barista.  

Sarah Curry (f) is the Legislative Strategist and Policy Manager with the We Belong Together campaign, a campaign to engage everyday women and immigrant women side by side in the fight for immigration reform as part of the struggle for women’s equality. She loves research and stories and any venue, be it policy report, political action, or short story. She graduated from George Mason University with aN MA in Anthropology and received a BA in Community Development from the University of Kentucky. She hails from Kentucky but more recently has lived in Seattle, WA and Berkeley, CA. In addition to writing and reading, she loves hiking, playing soccer, and travelling. You can find her tweeting @SarahManonCurry and moderating a conversation on gender and immigration at Think Immigration.

Patricia Dodson (f) graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1981 with a BA in English and completed an MA in English at VCU in 1984.  She earned a nursing degree along the way.  She is currently employed as a research nurse at the Massey Cancer Center but has come to believe that short fiction might have more restorative powers than medicine.  She is fascinated by short fiction and blogs from time to time at

Chelsea Gillenwater (f) is a Virginia Tech graduate from the class of 2013 with a duel degree in English and communication—concentrations in creative writing, media studies, and history. She worked as an associate editor of Virginia Tech’s undergraduate research journal for liberal arts, Philologia, for two years and has published feature articles and short stories there. She has lived in Gate City, a very small town in southwest Virginia, her entire life, in a house on a hill surrounded by her family’s cows. She claims to be an introvert with a rather obvious obsession with cartoons and gothic literature, and she’s a non-denominational Christian who has to stop sleeping in on Sundays.

Christie Maurer (p) received her BA in English from the University of Houston. She graduated summa cum laude with membership in the Honors College and Honors in Major. A native Houstonian, she enjoys excessively spicy food and life-threatening rainstorms. In addition to poetry, she is interested in mythology, analytical psychology, and belly dancing. She hopes to take up knife throwing soon.

Kate Zipse (f) comes from the rainy lands of Portland, Oregon. She has spent the last three years adjusting to sunlight in Boulder, CO while also completing a Masters degree in Religious Studies. She loves several things, including chocolate chip cookies, dragonflies, and bicycles. She is particularly interested in art and writing that involve identity, power structures, land, and language.

2013 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award — Ramona Ausubel for No One Is Here Except All of Us

Ramona Ausubel has won the 2013 Virginia Commonwealth University Cabell First Novelist Award, which honors an outstanding debut novel published during a calendar year. Her winning work, No One Is Here Except All of Us, published by Riverhead Books, tells the story of an isolated Romanian village in 1939 whose inhabitants attempt to stave off the forces of war by reinventing the world around them.


Ausubel will receive the award on Nov. 19 at VCU, where she will give a reading and participate in a roundtable and discussion with VCU students and the public. She was one of three finalists for the prize, now in its 12th year. The other finalists were Nick Dybek for When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man and Tupelo Hassman for Girlchild.

Powerful, lyrical and generous in its sentiments, No One Is Here Except All of Us is set in the remote village of Zalischik and is narrated by Lena, a girl chosen by circumstances beyond her control to leave her family and marry young as war breaks out elsewhere in Europe. Confronted with troubling news from abroad, the citizens of Zalischik choose to turn inward and create their world anew, starting with the origins of God and man, new ideas of family and community, and in Lena’s case, a new understanding of time, identity and destiny. In its exploration of the stories we tell to make sense of the world, and the stories that give us strength in even the darkest of times, No One Is Here Except All of Us affirms the power of narrative as a force of both love and resilience.

“No One Is Here Except All of Us” has received extensive critical acclaim. Ron Carlson, author of “Five Skies,” calls the novel “a special work of the imagination, an original gift, dark and light.”

“If a book can be said to have a consciousness,” writes Polly Rosenwaike of the San Francisco Chronicle, “the consciousness here is infinitely tender and soulful, magical and true.” According to The New Yorker, “Ausubel’s original voice combines fresh, clear observation and Old Testament grandeur.” Rachel Syme of NPR says Ausubel’s “sentences—often funny, usually heartbreaking—are tiny works of art.”

The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award celebrates the VCU MFA in Creative Writing Program’s yearlong novel workshop, the first in the nation and one of the few still in existence. The winning author receives a $5,000 cash prize. Travel expenses and lodging are also provided for the author and her agent and editor to attend an evening of events that focus on the creation, publication and promotion of each year’s winning novel.

Co-sponsors of the award and activities are the VCU Department of English, the VCU MFA Program in Creative Writing, the James Branch Cabell Library Associates, the VCU Friends of the Library,VCU Libraries, the VCU Honors College, the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences and Barnes & Noble @ VCU.

Nearly 140 novels were submitted for this year’s prize. A university-wide panel of readers in addition to members of the Richmond community reduced the list to 14 semifinalists and ultimately three finalists. The finalists were then considered by a panel of judges consisting of Justin Torres, winner of the 2012 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award for We the Animals, Liz Humes, host of the book-themed public radio program Wordy Birds; and award-winning author and memoirist Samantha Dunn.

In addition to Torres, previous winners of the award have included David Gordon for The Serialist, Victor Lodato for Mathilda Savitch, Deb Olin Unferth for Vacation, Travis Holland for The Archivist’s Story, Peter Orner for The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, Karen Fisher for A Sudden Country, Lorraine Adams for Harbor, Michael Byers for Long for This World, Isabel Zuber for Salt and Maribeth Fischer for The Language of Good-bye.

The deadline for the 2014 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award is Sept. 14 for books published January through June 2013. For books published July through December 2013, the deadline is Jan. 14, 2014. For more information, visit

Forthcoming Work by MFA Alum Diana Woodcock

Diana Woodcock’s fourth chapbook, Tamed by the Desert, is scheduled for publication this fall by Finishing Line Press. Poet Helen Farish (Nocturnes at Nohart and Intimates) writes “I read Tamed by the Desert eagerly, not only for the pleasure of the language, but also for the instruction on how to live…. From the shapeless desert, Woodcock crafts shapely poems which provide a place to drink for all poetry lovers.” Diana’s first full-length poetry collection, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, was published in 2011.

Congratulations, Diana!

2013 Levis Reading Prize — Michael McGriff for Home Burial

The Department of English and the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Virginia Commonwealth University are pleased to announce that Home Burial by Michael McGriff was selected as the winner of the 2013 Levis Reading Prize, awarded in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the calendar year 2012. Mr. McGriff will receive an honorarium of $2000 and will be brought to Richmond all expenses paid for a reception and public reading at 8PM on Sept. 25, 2013 at the Grace Street Theater.


Michael McGriff is the author of two books of poetry, Home Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2012) and Dismantling the Hills (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008). His other books include an edition of David Wevill’s essential writings, To Build My Shadow a Fire (Truman State University Press, 2010), and a co-translation of Tomas Tranströmer’s The Sorrow Gondola (Green Integer Books, 2010). His poetry, translations, and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including American Poetry Review, Bookforum, Slate, Narrative, and The Believer. He has received a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Stegner Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Fellowship. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he edits Tavern Books, a publishing house devoted to poetry in translation and the revival of out-of-print books.

This year the Prize Committee would also like to recognize the outstanding books of four additional finalists: Catherine Barnett for her collection The Game of Boxes (Graywolf Press, 2012), Traci Brimhall for Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton & Company, 2012), Eduardo C. Corral for Slow Lightning (Yale University Press, 2012), and Matthew Dickman for Mayakovsky’s Revolver (W.W. Norton & Company, 2012).

The Levis Reading Prize is presented on behalf of VCU’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. Sponsors include the VCU Department of English, VCU Libraries, the VCU Honors College, Barnes & Noble@VCU, the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, with additional funding provided by the family of Larry Levis.

We would like to express our most sincere thanks to all who entered and thus made this annual contest such a success.

For further information about the Levis Reading Prize, see, call 804.828.1329, or contact Lena Moses-Schmitt, Levis Fellow, at


Clint McCown on With Good Reason

VCU English department creative writer Clint McCown will discuss his latest novel, Haints, on With Good Reason beginning July 13th to the 19th. A tornado that devastated McCown’s home town of Fayetteville, TN the week he was born is the setting for this award-winning novel. The real-life tornado reached wind speeds up to 260 mph and damaged or destroyed over 1,800 buildings. Local air times are at 4pm on Saturdays and 12 noon on Sundays on WCVE.

Pulitzer Poet Claudia Emerson Joins Department

Emerson_Claudia-smClaudia Emerson, distinguished professor, poet and Pulitzer Prize winner, will join VCU’s Department of English beginning Aug. 15. Emerson joins the department as a professor of English, and she will teach graduate and undergraduate creative writing workshops and courses in literature and poetics. Emerson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 2006 for her third collection of poetry, “Late Wife,” a series of poems examining one woman’s emotional and personal overlap of past and present. In 2008, she was selected by then-Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine as Poet Laureate of Virginia. Prior to joining VCU, Emerson was a professor and the Arrington Distinguished Chair in Poetry at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, where she has been since 1994. She has authored six books, placed countless poems in more than a dozen anthologies and is the recipient of nearly 20 notable awards and recognitions.

A Virginia native, Emerson studied undergraduate English at the University of Virginia and received her master of fine arts degree in creative writing at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.

“Claudia Emerson brings an undeniable reputation to our department,” said Katherine Bassard, Ph.D., professor and chair of the VCU Department of English. “A poet of her caliber and teacher of her aptitude will enhance and inspire students and faculty peers alike.”

Emerson will join a staff of other distinguished poetry and fiction faculty at VCU.

Tom De Haven’s Freaks’ Amour Republished as a Graphic Novel

Freaks' AmourDark Horse has released a graphic novel edition of Tom De Haven’s Freaks’ Amour which sold out in less than two weeks! In the meantime, please check out Tom’s new blog called Cafe Pinfold  at:
There you’ll find nearly all of his short fiction, as well as three novellas-in-progress, full-length film scripts, videos, and several essays and lectures on American comics. Beginning this summer, he’ll be posting chapters from two long novels-in-progress.