Catherine Carberry Wins 2023 James Jones First Novel Competition

by Kelly Clisham
Photo of Catherine Carberry with her dog in front of book shelves

The James Jones First Novel Fellowship awarded first place and $10,000 to Catherine Carberry, Woodstock, New York, for her novel, Bitter Tropic. Her work was selected from 637 submissions to the competition co-sponsored by the Maslow Family Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Wilkes University and the James Jones Literary Society.

Anna Badkhen, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania., was named first runner-up for her novel, The Sound Keeps Coming, and will receive $3,000.  Jennifer Deane, Clifton, New Jersey, was named second runner-up for her novel, The Eleventh Horse, and will receive $2,000.

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.” Jones was the author of the National Book Award-winning novel From Here to Eternity, as well as the novels Some Came Running and The Thin Red Line.

About Catherine Carberry

Carberry has received fellowships from the Macdowell Artist Retreat, the Hedgebrook Writing Retreat and Sewanee Writers Conference, where she was named the Susannah McCorkle Scholar. Her fiction has appeared in journals including Guernica, The Kenyon Review, Tin House online, North American Review, and Harvard Review, and has been broadcast on National Public Radio. Her novel, Bitter Tropic, is based on the true story of the women leaders of Puerto Rico’s independence movement and the subsequent assassination attempt of President Truman.

About the Runners-Up

Anna Badkhen is the author of seven nonfiction books, most recently Bright Unbearable Reality, longlisted for the 2022 National Book Award and for the 2023 Jan Michalski Prize for Literature. Her awards include the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Barry Lopez Visiting Writer in Ethics and Community Fellowship and the Joel R. Seldin Award from Psychologists for Social Responsibility. Her novel, The Sound Keeps Coming, is set on a single day in northwest Russia against the backdrop of imperial collapse. It is the story of a septuagenarian couple grappling with loss of love and memories of violence, while their teenage grand-niece looks for love amid echoes of wars past. 

Jennifer Deane holds a master’s degree in social work and bachelor’s degrees in visual design and psychology. Her writing experiences include work as a freelance newspaper writer, collector of oral histories from Portuguese whaling men and author in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews while working in the field of sleep research. Her novel, The Eleventh Horse, set amid rural Tuscany’s refined natural beauty and the knife edge of New York City, introduces peasant farmers Elena and Gianluca who’ve survived the perils of servitude and WWII Italy, only to suffer tragedy at war’s end — along with a bewildering reversal of fortune.

About the James Jones Literary Society
The James Jones Literary Society was founded in 1992 to further appreciation for Jones’s writings and to encourage academic study of his contributions to 20th century literature. In addition to the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, established by the JJLS in 1992 and now co-sponsored with Wilkes University, the society sponsors an essay contest for high school students and the annual James Jones Symposium at Eastern Illinois University. For more information, please visit

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