Travis Holland has won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award honoring the best debut novel published in 2007 for “The Archivist’s Story,” his tale of a prison archivist in the Soviet Union shortly before World War II. Holland will receive the award at the First Novelist Festival at Virginia Commonwealth University this November. Holland, a Michigan […]
Travis Holland has won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award honoring the best debut novel published in 2007 for “The Archivist’s Story,” his tale of a prison archivist in the Soviet Union shortly before World War II.
Holland will receive the award at the First Novelist Festival at Virginia Commonwealth University this November. Holland, a Michigan resident whose short stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, Five Trains and Ploughshares, was one of three finalists for the prize, which is now in its seventh year. The other finalists were Jesse Ball for “Samedi the Deafness” and Joshua Harmon for “Quinnehtukqut.”
Holland’s novel, published in June 2007 by The Dial Press, centers on Pavel, a former teacher who works in the Lubyanka prison archives in Moscow in 1939. Pavel prepares manuscripts for destruction in the service of Stalin-era limits on free expression. Then he comes across an unsigned manuscript apparently written by the famed author Isaac Babel, who has been imprisoned at Lubyanka. Pavel attempts to salvage the work, and later an additional manuscript, for posterity.
In a starred review, the Library Journal said, “There is a quiet authenticity about Holland’s writing that draws you in, and soon you will find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat, silently cheering for his characters. Readers will want to hear more from the author of this heartbreaking and haunting work. Highly recommended for anyone concerned about the fate of humanity.”
More than 80 novels were submitted for consideration for this year’s prize. A group of more than 100 readers reduced the list to finalists and semifinalists. The finalists were then considered by a panel of judges that included Valley Haggard, book editor for Style Weekly; Ann McMillan, author of “Chickahominy Fever: A Civil War Mystery,” among many other books; and John Ulmschneider, VCU university librarian.
The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award celebrates the VCU MFA in Creative Writing Program’s year-long novel workshop – the first in the nation and still one of the few in existence. The winning author receives a $5,000 cash prize. Travel expenses and lodging accommodations also are provided for the author and his or her agent and editor to attend the First Novelist Festival, a series of events that focus on the creation, publication and promotion of a first novel. Sponsors of the award include the VCU Department of English, James Branch Cabell Library Associates, Friends of the Library, VCU Libraries, VCU Honors College, and VCU College of Humanities and Sciences.
Previous winners of the award have included 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 entries for the 2009 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award is Jan. 15, 2009. For more information, click here.
– The information about was provided by Tom Gresham at VCU