Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has awarded Deb Olin Unferth the Cabell First Novelist Award  for Vacation, published by McSweeney’s Books in 2008. She will receive five thousand dollars and an all-expenses-paid trip to Richmond to attend VCU’s First Novelist Festival  in November.
Unferth has previously published a short story collection, Minor Robberies, one-third of the boxed set One Hundred and Forty Five Stories in a Small Box (McSweeney's Books, 2007), which also includes How the Water Feels to the Fishes by Dave Eggers and Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape by Sarah Manguso .
Unferth’s debut novel was selected for the honor by previous prizewinners Travis Holland and Peter Orner, and Andrew Blossom, the editor of Makeout Creek magazine and the anthology Richmond Noir, forthcoming from Akashic Books  in March 2010. Holland won the 2008 award for The Archivist’s Story (Dial Press, 2007), and Orner won in 2007 for The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo (Little, Brown, 2006).
This year's finalists were David Mura  for Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire (Coffee House Press) and Jesmyn Ward for Where the Line Bleeds (Agate Bolden), recently nominated  for a Legacy Award from the Hurston/Wright Foundation.
The annual award is named for prolific Richmond author and poet James Branch Cabell , known for his contributions to fantasy fiction, though he also wrote literary works. His debut novel, The Eagle’s Shadow—the first of fifty-two volumes of work—was published by Doubleday in 1904.
The next deadline for publishers to submit  nominations is September 15, for books published in January through June of this year. The entry deadline for books released in July through December is January 15, 2010.