The Virginia Commonwealth University’s MFA program in Creative Writing is using the classroom setting to create young writers who then turn into first novelists.
The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award is a competitive program that puts its student writers through competitive paces. The program is only open to ten students. In addition to working on character and plot development and writing style, the students participate as judges in the Cabell First Novelist Award.
One of the more unique elements of this award is the wide range of judges used to evaluate the first round of submissions. Community members, faculty, and students are the first level of judges. The manuscripts are then moved to three nationally prominent judges for final selection of a winner.
The winner receives a $5,000 prize and the day’s activities of recognition for the winner also serve as teachable moments for the students in the year-long novel writing workshop. The students learn from an author who has recently experienced what the current students are learning. The students also hear from publishers, agents, editors, and publicists who help them understand the professional end of the writing business.
This award is not for authors who drift into anonymity. The most recent VCU Cabell First Novelist Award winner is Justin Torres for We the Animals. See a list of all past winners here. And keep an eye on this award. It’s not only picking the winners, it has an eye for authors who have the talent to be around for many years.