Announcing the winner of the 2014 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award!

We are happy to announce that the winner of this year’s award is Helene Wecker for her outstanding debut novel, The Golem and the Jinni!

This year’s winner was chosen from more than 110 titles which were read by diverse members of Virginia Commonwealth University’s academic community and a panel of judges. Each of the finalists came from a strong and uniquely talented writer. They were: Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon and Fort Starlight by Claudia Zuluaga.

TGATJ Cover Art HarperCollins PB
Stay tuned for more information about the award event this fall. Until then, check out Ms. Wecker’s novel and website!

Poets & Writers interview with PJ Mark

Poets & Writers has just published a fascinating interview with PJ Mark, the agent of 2013 winner Ramona Ausubel. In the interview, Mark discusses his path to becoming a literary agent, sheds light on what happens to his clients’ manuscripts once they arrive in his hands, and talks about what kind of work he seeks to represent.


Also check out the audio recording and transcript of the panel from our 2013 award ceremony, archived over at Blackbird, in which Mark, Ausubel, and Ausubel’s editor at Riverhead Books, Sarah McGrath, discuss the winning novel, No One is Here Except All of Us and its process to publication.

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New story from 2011 winner David Gordon

Check out a new story from 2011 winner David Gordon, “The Amateur,” available now as a Kindle Single download on Amazon.


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2013 winner Ramona Ausubel in the New Yorker!

Subscribers of the New Yorker should check out 2013 winner Ramona Ausubel’s new story, “You Can Find Love Now,” in the current issue of the magazine:


“If you want me to set a trap, I’ll set a trap. A first date picking blueberries in the whitest, cleanest sunlight, tin pails. I’ll bring sandwiches and chilled Chardonnay and tell you that we are already the good people we wanted to become.”

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Announcing the 2014 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award Finalists!

Following a yearlong reading period of over 110 debut novel submissions and an initial selection round of twelve semifinalists, we are proud to announce the three finalists for the 2014 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award:


The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (Harper)

Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon (Simon & Schuster)

Fort Starlight by Claudia Zuluaga (Engine Books)

Once again, we’d like to thank all of our volunteer readers, as well as the authors and publishers who submitted debut novels this year.

This year’s winner will be announced in early July, so please keep an eye on our Facebook page and blog!

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The 2014 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award Semifinalists!

After months and months of sometimes-frenzied but always enjoyable reading, the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award committee is excited to announce that, from a field of 112 debut novels submitted in all, we have finally narrowed the selection to 12 semifinalists.

We’d like to thank all of those who submitted to the award this year, as well as our wonderful volunteer readers in the VCU English Department, the MFA program in creative writing, the Friends of the VCU Library, the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, the Richmond literary community, and beyond.

Without further ado, the 2014 semifinalists are:

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Y by Marjorie Celona

Borrowed Horses by Sian Griffiths

Courting Greta by Ramsey Hootman

The Revolution of Every Day by Cari Luna

Dear Lucy by Julie Sarkissian

Heart of Palm by Laura Lee Smith

The Blood of Heaven by Kent Wascom

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

The Assembler of Parts by Raoul Wientzen

The Sound of Songs Across the Water by Rob Yardumian

Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon

Fort Starlight by Claudia Zuluaga

Stay tuned for news on our three finalists in just a few more weeks!

Survival Instincts: First-time Novelists on the Ties that Bind



2012 Cabell First Novelist Winner, Justin Torres, will be reading along with Ayana Mathis at the Folger Shakespeare Theater on February 24! Presented by the Pen/Faulkner Foundation, the reading will be followed by a conversation on the makings-of these writers’ brilliant first novels. For more information, please check out the Pen/Faulkner website.


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Round Two Reading!


This year we received more than 110 books, and wow, are they beautiful! If you would like to become a volunteer reader, please head over to the James Branch Cabell Library at VCU, or the English Department, and simply check one of the books out. Once you’re finished, go to the reviewer page on the CFN website to download the review form. The reading period will end in the beginning of April (date TBD).

Also, if you’d rather read on your etablet, many of the titles can be downloaded through Richmond and Henrico County library websites.

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Photos from the 2013 Award Ceremony!


Here’s some great photos from the 2013 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award Ceremony. Many thanks to our friends at VCU Libraries!

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Ramona Ausubel in Style Weekly


Have a look at a new First Novelist article by VCU’s own, Dale Brumfield, in the most recent Style Weekly! 

“Being a writer means you need to be like Velcro so that experiences stick,” author Ramona Ausubel says. “I try to be influenced by everything. For me, it’s about collecting details along the way.”


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