Ramona Ausubel wins the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award for “No One Is Here Except All of Us”

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Ramona Ausubel has won the 2013 Virginia Commonwealth University Cabell First Novelist Award, which honors an outstanding debut novel published during a calendar year. Her winning work, “No One Is Here Except All of Us,” published by Riverhead Books, tells the story of an isolated Romanian village in 1939 whose inhabitants attempt to stave off the forces of war by reinventing the world around them.

Ausubel will receive the award on Nov. 19 at VCU, where she will give a reading and participate in a discussion about the journey of the book from concept to publication. The reading and discussion will be held at 7 p.m. in the Richmond Salons of VCU Student Commons. Joining Ausubel will be PJ Mark, her agent at Jankow & Nesbit, and Sarah McGrath, her editor at Riverhead Books. Tina Griego, news editor at Style Weekly, will moderate.

Ausubel was one of three finalists for the prize, now in its 12th year. The other finalists were Nick Dybek for “When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man” and Tupelo Hassman for “Girlchild.”

Powerful, lyrical and generous in its sentiments, “No One Is Here Except All of Us” is set in the remote village of Zalischik and is narrated by Lena, a girl chosen by circumstances beyond her control to leave her family and marry young as war breaks out elsewhere in Europe. Confronted with troubling news from abroad, the citizens of Zalischik choose to turn inward and create their world anew, starting with the origins of God and man, new ideas of family and community, and in Lena's case, a new understanding of time, identity and destiny. In its exploration of the stories we tell to make sense of the world, and the stories that give us strength in even the darkest of times, “No One Is Here Except All of Us” affirms the power of narrative as a force of both love and resilience.

“No One Is Here Except All of Us” has received extensive critical acclaim. Ron Carlson, author of “Five Skies,” calls the novel "a special work of the imagination, an original gift, dark and light."

"If a book can be said to have a consciousness," writes Polly Rosenwaike of the San Francisco Chronicle, "the consciousness here is infinitely tender and soulful, magical and true." According to The New Yorker, "Ausubel's original voice combines fresh, clear observation and Old Testament grandeur." Rachel Syme of NPR says Ausubel's "sentences—often funny, usually heartbreaking—are tiny works of art."

The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award celebrates the VCU MFA in Creative Writing Program’s yearlong novel workshop, the first in the nation and one of the few still in existence. The winning author receives a $5,000 cash prize. Travel expenses and lodging are also provided for the author and her agent and editor to attend an evening of events that focus on the creation, publication and promotion of each year’s winning novel.

Co-sponsors of the award and activities are the VCU Department of English, the VCU MFA Program in Creative Writing, the James Branch Cabell Library Associates, the VCU Friends of the Library, VCU Libraries, the VCU Honors College, the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences and Barnes & Noble @ VCU.

Nearly 140 novels were submitted for this year’s prize. A university-wide panel of readers in addition to members of the Richmond community reduced the list to 14 semifinalists and ultimately three finalists. The finalists were then considered by a panel of judges consisting of Justin Torres, winner of the 2012 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award for “We the Animals;” Liz Humes, host of the book-themed public radio program Wordy Birds; and award-winning author and memoirist Samantha Dunn.

In addition to Torres, previous winners of the award have included David Gordon for “The Serialist,” Victor Lodato for “Mathilda Savitch,” Deb Olin Unferth for “Vacation,” Travis Holland for “The Archivist’s Story,” Peter Orner for “The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo,” Karen Fisher for “A Sudden Country,” Lorraine Adams for “Harbor,” Michael Byers for “Long for This World,” Isabel Zuber for “Salt” and Maribeth Fischer for “The Language of Good-bye.”

The deadline for the 2014 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award is Sept. 14 for books published January through June 2013. For books published July through December 2013, the deadline is Jan. 14, 2014. For more information, visit

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