Dawnie Walton is the 2022 recipient of the Cabell First Novelist Award for The Final Revival of Opal & Nev published by Simon and Schuster. The novel chronicles the meteoric rise of an iconic interracial rock duo in the 1970s, their sensational breakup, and the dark secrets unearthed when they try to reunite decades later for one last tour.

Walton is a fiction writer and journalist whose work explores identity, place and the influence of pop culture. She has won fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Tin House Summer Workshop, and earned her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Previously, she worked as an executive-level editor for magazine and multimedia brands, including Essence, Entertainment Weekly, Getty Images and LIFE. A native of Jacksonville, Fla. she lives with her husband in Brooklyn.  

The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award honors an outstanding debut novel published in the preceding calendar year and is supported generously by the Cabell Associates. The Cabell First Novelist Award is presented on behalf of VCU’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program. Sponsors include the James Branch Cabell Library Associates, VCU Libraries, the VCU Department of English, Barnes & Noble @ VCU, and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences.

Nearly 200 novels were submitted for this year’s prize. A university-wide panel of readers in addition to members of the Richmond community reduced the submissions to a Top 20 Long List. From there, the Long List was considered by the MFA in Creative Writing students, who further narrowed the submissions from a Top 10 Short List to 3 Finalists. The final round of judging included the MFA students, the VCU Cabell First Novelist Committee and the winner of the previous year’s award.

The award will be presented in an evening program Nov. 10 at James Branch Cabell Library. Save the date!

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