2016 Finalists

Our nine Vermont Book Award finalists for 2016 are mix of Vermont writers and authors with a deep connection to the state.

The winner of the award will be announced at the second annual Vermont Book Award Gala on Saturday, September 24. To purchase your tickets, follow this link.

Below are our 2016 Vermont Book Award finalists.

Castle Freeman Jr.Castle Freeman Jr. was born in Texas, raised in Chicago, and educated in New York. He came to Vermont with his wife, Alice, in 1972, and has lived in Newfane for forty years. He is the author of many essays, historical and journalistic pieces, short stories, and novels, most of them concerned in one way or another with the life of this state and its people. The Devil in the Valley is his fifth novel.

David HuddleDavid Huddle is from Ivanhoe, Virginia, and he’s lived in Vermont for 44 years. He’s taught at the University of Vermont, Hollins University, Middlebury College, Goddard College, Johnson State College, Radford University, Austin Peay State University, The University of Idaho, The Bread Loaf School of English, The Rainier Writing Workshop, and The Sewanee School of Letters. His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in The American Scholar, Esquire, Appalachian Heritage, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Poetry, Story, Shenandoah, Agni, Green Mountains Review, The Sow’s Ear, Plume, and The Georgia Review. In 2012 his novel Nothing Can Make Me Do This won the Library of Virginia Award for Fiction, and his collection Black Snake at the Family Reunion won the Pen New England Award for Poetry. Huddle’s novel The Faulkes Chronicle appeared from Tupelo Press in Fall 2014; his most recent poetry collection, Dream Sender, was published by LSU Press in Fall 2015; and his new novel, My Immaculate Assassin, is scheduled for publication by Tupelo Press in October.

Major Jackson is the author of four collections of poetry: Roll Deep (W.W. Norton: 2015), Holding Company (W.W. Norton: 2010), Hoops (W.W. Norton: 2006), and Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia: 2002), which was awarded the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. He has published poems and essays in AGNI, American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Paris Review, Poetry, Tin House, and other fine literary periodicals. His poetry has been included in Best American Poetry (2004, 2011, 2013, 2014) and Best of the Best American Poetry. He is the editor of Library of America's Countee Cullen: Collected Poems. Major Jackson is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Writers' Award, and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He has served as a creative arts fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He is a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars and the Richard A. Dennis Professor at University of Vermont. He serves as the Poetry Editor of the Harvard Review.

Jo KnowlesJo Knowles is the author of several novels, including Read Between The Lines, Living With Jackie Chan, See You At Harry’s, Pearl, Jumping Off Swings, and Lessons from a Dead Girl. Jo's next book, Still A Work In Progress, will be published August 2nd. Some of Jo's awards include two SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards, a New York Times Editor's Choice and Notable Book, the PEN New England Children's Book Discovery Award, an American Library Association Notable, Bank Street College's Best Books for Children (Outstanding Merit), and YALSA's Best Fiction for Young Adults. Jo's books have appeared on numerous state award lists, including the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award list. Jo has a master's degree in children's literature and teaches writing in the MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in Hartland, Vermont with her husband and son.

Jeffrey Lent Jeffrey Lent was born in Vermont and grew up there and in western New York State, on dairy farms. He studied literature and psychology at Franconia College in New Hampshire and SUNY Purchase. His first novel, In the Fall, was a national bestseller and a New York Times Book Review Notable Book for 2000. His most recent novel is A Slant of Light. Lent lives with his wife and two daughters in central Vermont.

Jennifer McMahonJennifer McMahon grew up in her grandmother’s house in suburban Connecticut, where she was convinced a ghost named Virgil lived in the attic. She wrote her first short story in third grade. She graduated with a BA from Goddard College in 1991 and then studied poetry for a year in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. A poem turned into a story, which turned into a novel, and Jennifer decided to take some time to think about whether she wanted to write poetry or fiction. After bouncing around the country, Jennifer wound up back in Vermont, living in a cabin with no electricity, running water, or phone with her partner, Drea, while they built their own house. Over the years, she has been a house painter, farm worker, paste-up artist, Easter Bunny, pizza delivery person, homeless shelter staff member, and counselor for adults and kids with mental illness—she quit her last real job in 2000 to work on writing full time. In 2004, Jennifer gave birth to their daughter, Zella. These days, Jennifer and her family live in an old Victorian in Montpelier, Vermont. Some neighbors think it looks like the Addams family house, which brings her immense pleasure.

Sean Prentiss is the author of the memoir, Finding Abbey: a Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave. Prentiss is the co-editor of The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction, a creative nonfiction craft anthology. He lives, with his wife Sarah, on a small lake in northern Vermont and serves as an assistant professor at Norwich University. His writing can be found at seanprentiss.com.

Julia ShipleyJulia Shipley is the author of a debut poetry collection, The Academy of Hay, winner of the 2014 Melissa Lanitis Gregory Poetry Prize and Adam's Mark, named a 2014 Best Book About New England by the Boston Globe. The 2006 winner of the Ralph Nading Hill Award, she has also been the recipient of grants from the Vermont Community Foundation and the Vermont Arts Council. Her work has appeared in Bloodroot, Gettysburg Review, Green Mountains Review, North American Review, Northern Woodlands, Orion Magazine, Poetry, The Salon, Taproot, Vermont Magazine, Vermont Life, Vermont's Local Banquet, Whole Terrain and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the Bennington College Writing Seminars and lives in the Northeast Kingdom where she works as an independent journalist, serving as a contributing editor for Yankee Magazine and a contributing writer for Seven Days. Her website is www.writingonthefarm.com.

Tamara Ellis SmithTamara Ellis Smith is a graduate of the Writing for Children and Young Adults Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is represented by Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. She lives in Vermont with her family. Another Kind of Hurricane (Schwartz & Wade/Random House) is her first novel.


Miciah Bay Gault
Program Director, MFA in Writing & Publishing
Editor, Hunger Mountain


The Vermont Book Award is a new prize created to honor artists with deep connections to the state of Vermont and to draw attention to a state so uniquely suited for creative enterprise.

In keeping with our mission of promoting emerging and established artists, the Vermont Book Award will recognize outstanding poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and children’s literature that is penned by a Vermont writer or by a writer with deep ties to the state of Vermont.