Deb Olin Unferth takes Cabell First Novelist Award
Deb Olin Unferth has won the 2009 Cabell First Novelist Award for "Vacation" (McSweeney's Press) from Virginia Commonwealth University, which comes with bragging rights and $5,000.
Although judging of literary contests is often held in the hands of the few, a large number of readers helped in the selection process -- about 100 readers from both the university and the broader Richmond community, where VCU is located, were involved.
In a 2007 interview with Bookslut, Unferth -- who had recently been part of a short fiction project with Dave Eggers and Sarah Manguso -- talked about why she writes.
I think what drives me the most are desire and fear. I think: I want to write this book. I can see it in my mind, it's perfectly formed, the structure is sound. It's like an apple, it's like something in nature. Why can't I get it to look the same on the page? Why? So bewilderment is part of it too, I guess. And stubbornness.
And also I'm afraid of what will happen to me if I don't write the book. Some days I feel like my life is completely empty. Writing is the only thing that seems to bring meaning to my life and without it I would be facing this black hole. A more cynical interpretation might be to say that it's not that writing is meaningful, just distracting, but to me that doesn't usually feel true.
This November, VCU will hold a two-day First Novelist Festival. Unferth will read from her work, and panels will discuss publishing and writing. Where people can commisserate about the relief of writing.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Image credit: McSweeney's