blackbirdonline journalSpring 2019  Vol. 18 No. 1

Reading Loop Introduction

spacer Hernan Diaz
   from In the Distance

Cabell First Novelist Award 2018
   A Reading by Hernan Diaz audio
   Panel Discussion

Matthew Phipps
   Review | In the Distance by Hernan Diaz

spacer A link to Blackbird’s “First Novelist Reading Loop” menu appears at the bottom of every First Novelist-related page. You may also return to this menu at any time by visiting Features. 

Hernan Diaz received the 2018 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award for In the Distance (Coffee House Press, 2017). In addition to the Cabell Award, Diaz’s novel won a 2019 Whiting Award, the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, an Institute for Immigration Research New American Voices Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

The award, which celebrated its seventeenth anniversary in 2018, recognizes an exceptional novel from a previously unpublished author. As part of the celebration, Diaz read an excerpt of his prizewinning book, and Virginia Commonwealth University organized a panel discussion featuring Hernan Diaz; Chris Fischbach, a publisher at Coffee House Press; and Heather Cleary, a literary translator who first recommended Diaz’s novel to Coffee House. A transcript of the panel, audio and a trascript from the reading, and Blackbird’s review of Diaz’s novel (by Matthew Phipps) are featured in the First Novelist Award Reading Loop.

The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, which is presented under the auspices of Virginia Commonwealth University’s MFA program in creative writing, was created by Tom De Haven and Laura Browder to celebrate VCU’s inaugural year-long novel workshop, the first of its kind in the nation. Initial funding for the award was provided by VCU alumnus and novelist David Baldacci. The award was named for James Branch Cabell, a prominent Richmond writer who died in 1958 and whose papers are collected in the VCU library that bears his name.

Current sponsors of the award include the VCU Department of English, the VCU MFA program in creative writing, the James Branch Cabell Library Associates, the Friends of VCU Libraries, VCU Libraries, the VCU Honors College, Barnes & Noble @ VCU, and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences.  end