VCFA announces the 2016 Vermont Book Award finalists

VCFA has announced the finalists of second annual Vermont Book Award. This year’s finalists represent several Vermont authors and a variety of genres—fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and children’s literature.

The nine finalists are:

Children’s literature

  • Jo Knowles, Read Between the Lines: Does anyone ever see us for who we really are? This Young Adult novel of interlocking stories peers behind the scrim as it follows nine teens and one teacher through a seemingly ordinary day.
  • Tamara Ellis Smith, Another Kind of Hurricane: In this stunning debut novel, for middle grade readers, two very different characters—a black boy who loses his home in Hurricane Katrina and a white boy in Vermont who loses his best friend in a tragic accident—come together to find healing.


  • David Huddle, Dream Sender: An account of spiritual survival through the practice of literary art, the poems in Dream Sender move among a variety of poetic forms and voices.
  • Major Jackson, Roll Deep: This breakthrough volume evokes the vernacular notion of “rolling deep” to explore human intimacy and conflict with masterful musicality.
  • Julia Shipley, Academy of Hay: This debut collection lingers in the liminal spaces where transition and connection occur. Academy of Hay delivers a feminist response to our world straight from the earth.

Creative nonfiction

  • Sean Prentiss, Finding Abbey: When the great environmental writer Edward Abbey died in 1989, four of his friends buried him secretly in a hidden desert spot that no one would ever find. This book follows the author who went looking for Abbey’s grave, combining an account of his quest with a creative biography of Abbey.


  • Castle Freeman, Devil in the Valley: Placed in the classic setting of rural Vermont, this novel tells a story of temptation and greed, and explores what we’re willing to trade to obtain the things we most desire. It’s a memorable story that explores the supernatural while staying rooted deeply in our world.
  • Jeffrey Lent, Slant of Light: At the close of the Civil War, a weary veteran returns to his home in western New York State to find his wife and hired man missing and his farm in disrepair. A double murder ensues, the repercussions of which ripple through a community with spiritual roots in the Second Great Awakening.
  • Jennifer McMahon, The Night Sister: This novel is an atmospheric, gripping, and suspenseful tale that probes the bond between sisters and the peril of keeping secrets.

The Vermont Book Award is a $5,000 literary prize created last year by VCFA to celebrate the literature of Vermont. In order to be nominated, the book must be a work of outstanding literary merit published in 2015. The book’s author must also be a Vermont writer or have deep ties to the state of Vermont.

Seven judges read through more than 40 Vermont Book Award nominees to choose this year’s finalists. This year’s judges include poets Elizabeth Powell and Ryan Walsh; editor and writer Carolyn Kuebler; memoirist Jessica Hendry Nelson; Vermont Public Radio host Mitch Wertlieb; and award-winning children’s writers Kekla Magoon and An Na.

“Books are nominated by a committee of independent booksellers of Vermont,” said Miciah Bay Gault, coordinator of the Vermont Book Award, and Director of the MFA in Writing & Publishing at VCFA. “The sheer talent evident in these 40 nominees is staggering. It was a fun challenge for the judges to choose the finalists, and they have their work cut out for them now, as they revisit all nine finalists to pick one winner.”

The winner will be revealed at the Vermont Book Award Gala, an awards ceremony to be held at VCFA on September 24, 2016. Tickets for this event are currently on sale for $75 per person, but will increase to $100 on August 1. Purchase tickets is here.

Montpelier poet Kerrin McCadden won the first Vermont Book Award last year; she was chosen from six finalists.