De Haven’s 12 Panel Pitch in Slate

Professor Tom De Haven was recently asked to participate in Slate‘s ongoing series, “12 Panel Pitch,” where writers and artists are challenged to pitch an idea for a feature film in one 12-panel cartoon. The results are popcorn-worthy.

Tom and cartoonist Melanie Gillman came up with  a tragic tale of romance gone radioactive entitled Radiant.  See it at


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!


Interview with Greg Donovan on Radio IQ’s “Virginia Conversations”

Poet and Director of Creative Writing Greg Donovan will be interviewed on Radio IQ’s “Virginia Conversations” (92.5 FM in Richmond) and WTVF Public Radio this coming Friday, October 4, from 9 to 10 a.m. Four Virginia authors including Donovan, biographer and essayist Phyllis Theroux, and Virginia’s Poet Laureate Sofia Starnes will discuss their new publications. Also featured will be retired UVA Professor Charles Wright, winner of this year’s Bollingen Prize for American Poetry.

“Virginia Conversations” will be rebroadcast on Tuesday, October 8 at 7:30 p.m. on WVTF.

Congratulations, Greg!

Greg Donovan | Photo by Patrick Scott Vickers, 2013

Photo by Patrick Scott Vickers

First Friday – Cristina Stanciu

The VCU Department of English hosts a lecture by Professor Cristina Stanciu as a part on its ongoing First Friday lecture series. The lecture will take place Friday, October 4th at 3:00pm in Hibbs 308. Topic: “Recovering Laura Cornelius Kellogg: Oneida Leader, Native Activist, American Writer.”

All First Friday events are free and open to the public.

Cristina Staniu | Photo by Patrick Scott Vickers, 2013

Photo by Patrick Scott Vickers

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.

Incoming Fall 2013 MA class

Please welcome our incoming Fall 2013 MA class:

Kym Goering is a native Virginian, born and raised in Fairfax then transplanted to Williamsburg in ’94 with her husband. She earned BS degree from High Point University in ‘91. With her three sons (ages 16, 13 and 8) in school full-time, Kym is now able to pursue graduate school. Currently, she works in the American Sign Language Department at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond. The experience of working in a collegiate environment led to her desire to teach post-secondary English. Her research curiosities vary; however, particularly keen are her interests in Composition Instruction, American Literature (Modernism – present), Novel Structure, and Sociolinguistics. If Kym were allotted downtime, she’s pretty darn satisfied with her feet buried in the sand, a wine glass in hand, the Redskins (or Nats, season depending) on the big screen and music thumping in the background.

Alex Jones was born in Roanoke, Virginia on September 17th, 1983. In 2006 he graduated from VCU with a bachelor’s degree in business administration focusing on small business management and entrepreneurship. For the past 7 years Alex has been waiting tables. In the course of those 7 years he has learned a lot of important life lessons: Olive Garden bread sticks can be close to 500 calories each, Tempeh is like tofu but with a flaky texture, and Rumplemintz is the way to go for cheap shots. A year ago, he decided to pursue graduate education and six months later a masters in English.  Alex will use the degree to create business models around new digital media to resurrect the single-sitting pulp magazines of the 50s and 60s. He would like to see the popularity of short fiction overtake visual and musical arts in the Richmond area, then the world. Perhaps one day create as great a wave as Weird Tales in the 1920s and Astonishing Science Fiction in the 1950s.

Rebecca Elizabeth Jones was born in Huntsville, Alabama on January 25, 1963 and grew up in Annandale, Virginia.  She moved to Richmond in 1981 and earned bachelor’s degrees in art history and English education at VCU.  In those days, Rebecca never dreamed that the humble day-old Wonder Bread outlet store on Cary and Belvidere would become the VCU School of Business — but it did and that’s where she works today as Marketing Program Coordinator.  She is thrilled to be an English major again and eager to start the master’s program and meet others in the program. Prior to working for VCU, she was Managing Editor of WORKMagazineCreative Work SpaceUrge Magazine, and Sports Backers Quarterly.  Before that, Rebecca was Coordinator of Teacher Programs and Statewide Exhibition Programming for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for six years.  And before that, she taught English, journalism and Italian for Richmond Public Schools and at Saint Gertrude High School for thirteen years.  Her interests include writing creative nonfiction and musical theatre (book and lyrics).  She is also interested in visual arts, Broadway history, opera, and gardening.

James Lee studied in the Undergraduate English program at VCU, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 2013 before continuing on to the VCU masters program in English. His research interests include topics in Feminist and Queer Theory as well as Continental philosophy, with a special focus on the work of Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault. After completing his masters thesis, James hopes to continue on to VCU’s Media, Art, and Text PhD program.

Connor McCormick has lived in Richmond for most of his life. His wife’s name is Tati, and they currently live in Carytown with their dog Magnolia. Connor studied History at Virginia Commonwealth University, focusing primarily on European Modernism, and hopes to pursue a future in research through his graduate studies in English. In his free time he enjoys writing poetry, playing music, watching films, and skateboarding. Some of his favorite writers include Toni Morrison, Jack Kerouac, William Carlos Williams, Joyce Carol Oates, and Junot Diaz.

Tim Morris earned a BA in English from James Madison University where he was the editor of the literary and arts magazine Gloo. He later earned an MFA from Brooklyn College. He has published poetry, essays and manifestos in hand-made books and on confusing websites. He is the author of the play Red Steak in a Black Building which was performed, one night only, at Zebulon with members of NTUSA. His research interests mostly pertain to the critical examination of poetry, especially Zukofsky and the Objectivists. A few short weeks ago Tim finished silk-screening, folding and stapling 280 copies of a collaborative poetry booklet called Row Boat Cop. Much to the annoyance of wife, dogs and neighbors, he tends to practice electric guitar at odd hours and is probably less good at it than he thinks he is.

John Pettis is a cat person. So that probably gives you all you need to know about him. As you can probably imagine, he has a bachelor’s degree in English.  John is interested in studying modern works of fiction with an emphasis on postmodern and experimental fiction. He writes short stories, and is currently working on a comic book with other VCU students. However, he doesn’t think English, as a subject, should be restricted to written mediums. John likes working on/helping with group projects like a short film, or voice acting.

Jennifer Revis studied at Old Dominion University and in December of 2010 received her Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in journalism and a minor in psychology. While attending ODU, her senior year she wrote for the student newspaper, Mace and Crown. Jennifer also volunteered for the Student Activities Council her freshman and sophomore years at the university. Since graduation she has started a family and is a proud mother of one wildly energetic and affectionate two-year-old girl. Along with her fiancé and daughter, she resides in Chesterfield County with their Labrador and Pit bull mix, Scooby.  Currently, she is an Outreach Specialist at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. There she speaks with out of state companies and their executive teams to help create jobs in Virginia.

Virginia Seatherton was raised and educated in England.  She went to Randolph-Macon College and graduated in 2008 with a BA in English and History and a minor in Political Science.  Virginia went to The College of Law of England and Wales in London and graduated in 2010 with an LLB.  She currently works in-house for Capital One as a Litigation Specialist.  She likes to read, write, run, and travel.  With her English degree, Virginia hopes to get published and to go on to get a PhD.

Born in Miami, Florida on March 7, 1968, Vincent Simone lived four years of his early childhood in the former West Germany before moving briefly to New York and then to Texas. His father’s hiring by RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company brought the family to Winston-Salem, NC, where he grew up. After high school, Vincent attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, including one year at the Université Paul Valéry in Montpellier, France. After graduation, he waited tables for a few months before moving to Paris, where he eked out an existence teaching English and… plumbing. When Vincent returned to the US a year later, he wanted to read philosophy, so he took classes—first at Wake Forest, then at UNC—until he decided in the spring of 1993 to join the Army. After a year studying Arabic, he spent the remainder of his four-year enlistment as a cavalry scout. After being discharged, Vincent returned to school full-time to study comparative literature—first at UNC, then at NC State. In the fall of 1998, he fell in love with an old friend and moved to NYC; within a month of his arrival, they moved together to Geneva, Switzerland where he worked for nearly six years as an analyst at a Swiss hedge fund. In the summer of 2004, Vincent returned to NC State to resume the degree he had left incomplete. After arranging to observe classes at a high school in Raleigh, he decided to pursue secondary education and graduated in December 2007 with a degree in English and a license to teach. When his girlfriend/now-wife and he moved to Richmond for her work, Vincent took his first teaching job. Finally, after five years as a public high school English teacher, he looks forward to the next chapter of his life as a graduate student at VCU.

Meredith Spencer completed her BS in Psychology and BA in English at VCU in the Spring of 2013. She is interested in all aspects of the English major, ranging from literary research to editing and publishing to writing pedagogy. She currently works in the VCU Writing Center and interns as a copyeditor and pagebuilder with VCU’s literary magazine, Blackbird. She will be teaching all across Virginia this summer for the Institute of Reading Development, after which she is excited to pursue graduate studies in English literature here in the Fall.

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

Incoming Fall 2013 MATX PhD Class

Please welcome our incoming Fall 2013 MATX PhD class:

Born and raised in the Netherlands, Jeanine Guidry has her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science degrees in Health Sciences from Maastricht University. After completing these degrees, she moved to the United States, where she has been working in the nonprofit field ever since, including work on refugee camps and orphanages in Southeast Asia. She founded and runs Arts in the Alley, a Richmond-based nonprofit that turns rundown alleys, streets, and neighborhoods into bright outdoor art galleries by painting murals. Jeanine recently completed her Master’s of Professional Studies in Strategic Public Relations from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and wrote her thesis on stakeholder responses to nonprofit organizations’ tweets. Her research interests include social media, health communication, nonprofit communications, and street art as community development.  Jeanine lives in Richmond with her husband Chris and their two dogs. An accomplished singer and musician, she and her band Offering play between 60-80 acoustic rock concerts a year.

Michael Means is a scholar, born and raised in southwestern Virginia. He received a BA in Political Science from Radford University in 2005, and in 2012 he earned an MA in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. Michael spent a year in Japan as an English language teacher, which sparked his interest in Japanese culture and literary history. Through his graduate research and work, he has been able to engage with issues connected to identity, social structures, and an increasingly commoditized culture. Michael currently calls Richmond home—and has for the last six years—where he sings, writes, and performs as the front man for the local dark-wave band, Dead Fame. He has also enjoyed his time working as an English instructor at a local community college. Michael is ecstatic about continuing his work, exploring the oftentimes contentious relationship between the individual, society and culture, as part of the MATX program at VCU.

Born and raised in Alexandria, Virginia, Candace Parrish received both her Bachelor of Science in Public Relations and Master of Science in Strategic Public Relations from Virginia Commonwealth University. Working closely with nonprofits in Richmond, she created and spearheaded strategic initiatives fulfilling community engagement needs for both the American Diabetes Association of Richmond and the American Heart Association of Greater Richmond. Most recently, Candace featured an all-red line of garments (Coeur du Rouge) in the 2013 Designer Showcase of RVA Fashion Week that raised awareness and funds on behalf of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women efforts and all women battling heart disease. She also served as a Public Relations Junior Associate at Social Driver, Digital Consultancy in Washington, D.C., helping raise their profile through social media strategy, internal communications, and awards. Candace currently serves as the Communications Chair for the Graduate Student Association at VCU.

Ivy Roberts is a multimedia producer and educator. She holds a BA from Marlboro College and an MA from Antioch University. Ivy has been a professional media producer and educational technologist for the past ten years in settings including Bard College, University of Maryland, Keene State College (NH), and the Community College of Vermont. Her professional work includes video, photo and web production. Academically, her interests involve an interdisciplinary mix of media, technology, language, history, and philosophy.

Mary Selph received her BA in liberal arts from Hofstra University and her MFA in creative writing from Texas State University-San Marcos, where she worked as poetry editor for Front Porch Journal. Mary taught freshman composition and led poetry workshops for middle and high school students in Texas. Before moving to Texas, she did political outreach work in New York and Philadelphia. Her poetry has appeared in Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25, edited by Naomi Shihab Nye.

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!

New Book by Faculty Member David Latané

A new book by David Latané, William Maginn and the British Press: A Critical Biography (Ashgate Press, 2013), follows Maginn’s life from his early days in Ireland through his career in Paris and London as political journalist and writer, through his sad decline and incarceration in debtor’s prison. Through painstaking archival research into Maginn’s surviving letters and manuscripts as well as those of his associates, Latané restores Maginn to his proper place in the history of 19th-century print culture.

Congratulations, David!


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