National Literary Awards

The Department of English cosponsors three national literary prizes: the Cabell First Novelist Award, the Levis Reading Prize, and the Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Short Fiction Prize.

The Cabell First Novelist Award

cabell [View Image]The VCU First Novelist Award was founded in 2001 by Laura Browder and Tom De Haven. Richmond native and VCU alumnus David Baldacci generously funded and supported the fledgling award in its early years.

The award was renamed the Cabell First Novelist Award in 2009 as James Branch Cabell Library joined the Department of English and its MFA program to cosponsor the award. Cabell Library began hosting the award website in summer 2011.

The award celebrates the 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. 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 works, and from that short list, three judges choose the recipient of the Cabell First Novelist Award.

For more information on the Cabell First Novelist Award, the $5000 cash prize, and the annual festivities and public reading celebrating the award-winning book and writer, please visit the Cabell First Novelist Award web site at

A sketch of Larry Levis holding a cigarette by Patrick Scott Vickers after a photograph by Jay Paul. [View Image]

Levis Reading Prize

Founded in 1997 in the name of the late Larry Levis, the annual  prize is awarded to the best first or second book of poetry published in the previous calendar year.  Winners receive an honorarium of $5000 and are brought to Richmond all expenses paid for a reception and public reading.  

The Levis Reading Prize is presented on behalf of VCU’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. Sponsors include the VCU Department of EnglishVCU Libraries, Barnes & Noble @ VCU and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, with additional funding provided by the family of Larry Levis.

For more information on the the Prize, and the past recipients, please visit: Levis Reading Prize


The Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Short Fiction Prize

Blackbird journal logo: a stylized blackbird perched on the K of the word Blackbird overlaying the image of a photorealistic moon with a dark blue sky behind. The bird has a red berry in its beak the dot from the letter I in Blackbird. [View Image]The Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Short Fiction Prize is sponsored by the family of Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto in her memory to honor her devotion to the art of writing fiction, to expand the audience for outstanding short stories, and to encourage literary excellence among writers early in their careers.

$2,000 will be awarded periodically to the best work of short fiction published by Blackbird, with a particular emphasis on work by an emerging or underappreciated writer.

No application form or fee is required; all short fiction submitted to the journal is eligible.

Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto was born September 21, 1945 in Richmond, Virginia. She died in October of 2007 after being struck in a pedestrian crosswalk in Carmel by the Sea, California. Her sustained interest in writing led to her fiction being published in a number of literary journals as well as winning several competitions, including the 1996 and 2000 Short Fiction contests sponsored by Richmond Magazine. She was a graduate of St. Gertrude’s High School in Richmond and of Virginia Commonwealth University(class of 1967), and in 1971 she received an MA in English from the University of Michigan.

While funding for the prize itself comes from an endowment established at VCU by her husband, David Tarumoto, the Department of English welcomes contributions in support of the celebratory event as well as the outreach activities of the Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Prize, which will include visits by the winning writers with high school and elementary students at Richmond area schools.

Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Short Fiction Prize

David Wojahn, Director of Creative Writing
Thom Didato, Graduate Programs Advisor

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