Wilkes University


Cam Terwilliger of Montreal, Quebec, Wins 2014 James Jones First Novel Fellowship

The 23rd Annual James Jones First Novel Fellowship awarded first place and $10,000 to Cam Terwilliger of Montreal, Quebec, for his manuscript titled Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart. The competition is co-sponsored by the Wilkes University Graduate Creative Writing Program and the James Jones Literary Society.

Runner-up was Andrea Bobotis of Denver, Colo., who received $1,000 for her manuscript The Middlings. Priya Balasubramanian of Gold River, Calif., received an honorable mention for her manuscript The Alchemy of Secrets.  

The James Jones First Novel Fellowship was established in 1992 to “honor the spirit of unblinking honesty, determination, and insight into modern culture as exemplified by (the writings of) James Jones.” It is awarded to a North American author of a first novel-in-progress. This year’s competition drew 502 submissions. 

Set in 1757 during the French and Indian War, Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart centers on Andrew Whitlaw, a gentleman physician. After a ruinous attempt to found Manhattan’s first medical college, Whitlaw must return to his older brother’s manor in the Hudson Valley. There, the physician becomes embroiled in his brother’s obsessive pursuit of William Bell, a counterfeiter operating on nearby Native American land. When Whitlaw discovers a native girl claiming to be Bell’s wife, she leads him into the heart of the frontier in search of the mysterious counterfeiter. 

Terwilliger’s writing has appeared in a number of literary magazines, including West Branch, Electric Literature, Post Road, and Narrative, where he was selected as one of the magazine’s “15 Under 30.” His fiction has also been supported by fellowships from the Fulbright Program, Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Elizabeth George Foundation and the American Antiquarian Society. A graduate of Emerson College’s master of fine arts program, he has taught at Grub Street and Louisiana State University. 

Andrea Bobotis work, The Middlings, tells the story of septuagenarian Judith Kratt, who finds her world upended when her sister Rosemarie returns home after fifty years. Rosemarie drags to Judith’s doorstep a long-buried indictment: that Judith played a role in their middle brothers’ deaths. Rattled, Judith finds refuge in their childhood home, a waning estate in South Carolina. There, she fixates on the family’s heirlooms, setting out to write an inventory of these possessions; but in doing so she exposes the very inheritance she aims to suppress, one of sibling rivalry, bigotry, and survival in the segregated South. As Judith faces her complicity in the Kratt family’s troubled history, she is forced to reassess the story of her youth. 

Bobotis holds a doctorate in English literature from the University of Virginia and teaches writing at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop. 

Priya Balasubramanian’s novel, set in Bangalore, India, follows a young woman named Mira who returns to her childhood home upon receiving news of her grandmother’s impending demise. Mira had left Bangalore after she and a friend were targeted by a vigilante mob eight years before. Mira had drawn their ire by kissing her Muslim neighbor and for being the daughter of a disgraced woman. On her deathbed, Mira’s grandmother, Ajji, reveals the secret at the heart of Mira’s family in an account encompassing Ajji’s marriage to a Satyagrahi in British India to the death of Mira’s mother during the Emergency. When Mira returns to discover the truth about her mother, she finds a city greatly changed and her adversaries on the cusp of greater power. 

Balasubramanian is a physician and writer. The Alchemy of Secrets is her first work of fiction. 

Requests for guidelines for entering the annual competition should be sent, along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope, to James Jones First Novel Fellowship, c/o The Graduate Creative Writing Department, 84 West South Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766, or via email to jamesjonesfirstnovel@wilkes.edu. The submission deadline for entries is March 15 of each year. 

About Wilkes University Graduate Creative Writing Program 

The Wilkes University graduate creative writing program is an accredited, nationally recognized low-residency program offering both a M.A. and a M.F.A. in creative writing with five areas of concentration: fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting and playwriting. The program also added a new master of arts degree in publishing in June 2013 and a track in documentary film in June 2014. Both the publishing and documentary film tracks are 30 credit low-residency programs. Students in all programs spend eight-day residencies in January and June on campus and complete the project semesters online. For more information, please visit www.wilkes.edu/creativewriting or call 570-408-4527