The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award was created in 2001 by Laura Browder (Slippery Characters, Rousing the Nation), playwright, and Tom De Haven (It's Superman!, Funny Papers, Derby Dugan's Depression Funnies, Dugan Under Ground, among others), novelist and facilitator of VCU’s novel workshop. Richmond writer and VCU alumnus David Baldacci (Total Control, Absolute Power) generously funded and supported the fledgling Award in its early years, for which we are ever grateful. Current sponsors include the VCU Department of English, James Branch Cabell Library Associates, VCU Friends of the Library, the VCU Libraries, the VCU Honors College, Barnes & Noble @ VCU Bookstore, and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences.
The award celebrates the year-long novel workshop offered by VCU’s MFA in Creative Writing Program—which was the nation's first year-long novel workshop, and still one of the very few. Created to recognize a rising new talent in the literary world who has successfully published a first novel, nominations are solicited nationwide from publishers, editors, agents, and writers. A panel of readers narrows the field to three or four promising new works, and from that short list, three prominent judges choose the recipient of the First Novelist Award.