The 2015 Cabell First Novelist Award Winner!

We are happy to announce that the winner of this year’s award is Boris Fishman for his outstanding debut novel, A Replacement Life!

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This year’s winner was chosen from nearly 150 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: Everything I never told you by Celeste Ng and Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert.

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After months and months of reading, reading, reading, the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award committee is excited to announce that, from a field of nearly 150 debut novels submitted, 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 2015 semifinalists are:


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The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award goes to AWP!


Planning on attending this year’s Association of Writing Programs conference in Minneapolis next week? So are we! Come say hello and get more information about the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award at the Virginia Commonwealth University table, #1518–or we’ll find you first!

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The Golem and the Jinni selected for “One Book, One Community” event!


Congratulations are in order for Helene Wecker, 2014 winner for THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI, whose bestselling novel has most recently been selected as the 2014-2015 One Book, One Community title by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.

One Book, One Community is a community-wide program in which synagogues, agencies and other Jewish communal organizations in northern New Jersey participate in a series of conversations and events focusing on one book and its themes: “Each group can use the book in its own way, as a springboard for conversation, study, and celebration not only of the book but of the issues, the culture, and the ideas it raises.”

Helene Wecker will appear at event on May 14, 2015 at Temple Emeth in Teaneck, NJ. Check out the Jewish Federation’s website for more details.

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All submissions are in…


We’re proud to announce that this year the Cabell First Novelist Award has received a record number of ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-THREE submissions–that’s right folks, 1-3-3. Our VCU reading community is currently in the process of reading and reviewing each debut novel submission in preparation for the selection of semifinalist novels in late spring.

As always, all are invited to pick up a submission for review at our bookshelves in the VCU Department of English office, Hibbs 306, or on the first floor of the Cabell Library, next to the stairs. And now, if you’ll excuse us, we have a bit of reading to do…

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2013 Winner Ramona Ausubel Judges Phoebe’s 2015 Fiction Contest!


Attention writers and Cabell First Novelist fans! 2013 winner Ramona Ausubel is judge of the 2015 Phoebe fiction contest. She’s in quite good company: her two fellow judges this year are Brian Teare, in poetry, and Roxane Gay, in creative nonfiction.

Submissions are open until March 1st, so act fast! Check here for more information on contest guidelines, and here for a interview Phoebe conducted with Ramona.

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First Novelist Alumni Roundup #2: Isabel Zuber


In the second of our series of blog posts checking in on former Cabell First Novelist Award winners, we’re happy to catch up with 2002 winner Isabel Zuber, who won for her debut novel Salt.

Zuber, a North Carolina writer who has worked as a librarian and a small press publisher, has served on the boards of the North Carolina Writers Network and the Salem College Center for Women Writers. In 2009 she received a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship. In 2010 Zuber published her third collection of poetry, Red Lily (Press 53), described by former Poet Laureate of North Carolina, Fred Chappell, as “a sinewy, pungent, world-knowing collection of poems that engrave themselves upon the memory as upon a granite slab.”

Read more about Isabel Zuber, including a poem from Red Lily, “Communion,” over at her author page at Press 53.

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First Novelist Alumni Roundup #1: Maribeth Fischer

This week we’ll begin a series of blog posts checking in on former Cabell First Novelist Award winners, who have gone on to a wide variety of successes and endeavors following the publication of their debut novels.


We start with Maribeth Fischer, 2001 winner for The Language of Good-bye. Fischer has since acted as the executive director of the Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild in Delaware, also directing that organization’s biannual writers’ conference, Writers at the Beach, for many years. In 2007 Fischer published a second novel, The Life You Longed For, with Touchstone Books, a division of Simon & Schuster:

Grace’s son Jack is a miracle. At three years old, he’s fighting a mysterious, deadly disease that his doctors predicted would kill him as a baby. Even though it was determined to be mitochondrial disease, the little-known illness remains a mystery to medicine….To the world, Grace’s fierce dedication is the sole reason for her son’s survival. But someone suspects that perhaps Jack’s disease is not what it seems.

Read more about The Life You Longed For over at Goodreads or at Simon & Schuster.

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See photos and video of the 2014 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award night!

Thanks to everyone who made it out, this past Tuesday, to another wonderful Cabell First Novelist reading and award presentation! Tuesday’s event brought more than two hundred attendees to the W.E. Singleton Center on the VCU campus for a reading by Helene Wecker, winner for her debut novel The Golem and the Jinni, as well as a panel discussion featuring Ms. Wecker and her agent, Sam Stoloff of the Frances Goldin Literary Agency in New York City. The panel was moderated by former Cabell Fellow Shannon O’Neill.

Here are some photos from Tuesday’s event:

For those who missed Tuesday’s event, or those who attended and would like to relive the memories, VCU Libraries has already uploaded a video of the event on their Youtube page. Thanks again to all who helped honor Helene Wecker’s debut novel, The Golem and the Jinni. It was a magical evening we won’t soon forget!

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Jewish Book Council interview with Helene Wecker


This week we’d like to direct your attention to this excellent interview with 2014 winner Helene Wecker over at the Jewish Book Council. In it, Wecker elaborates on the years and drafts that went into writing her prizewinning novel, and her thoughts on some of the religious and cultural themes that arise in the course of the book. Of her original conception for the novel, Wecker says:

My very first idea for the book was that it was going to encompass about a hundred years and it was going to be more of a fable, the story of these two creatures who are both living in New York, and who check in with each other every once in a while over a hundred years. It was going to be a very compressed sort of story telling the evolution of the Jewish and Arab communities of New York from the late 1800s to the turn of the twenty-first century….But that didn’t survive the first workshop session. Every­one said, “You’ve got to slow down, the fun is in the details.”

For more from the interview, click here, and stay tuned for more information about this year’s award ceremony!

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