Asheville writer wins Novello prize

Novello Festival Press on Tuesday named Asheville writer Dale Neal winner of the 2009 Novello Literary Award for his novel “Cow Across America.”

Judges chose his manuscript from 86 submissions by writers across the Carolinas. Neal will receive a $1,000 advance against royalties, and Novello Festival Press will publish his book in fall 2009.

“Cow Across America” is the story of two young men who set out walking to California with nothing but their wits and a milk cow named Ivy. Judges chose Neal's novel for its storytelling, humor and resonance, Novello Festival Press Publisher Amy Rogers said.

Rogers announced Neal's win Tuesday during the Novello Festival of Reading's Carolina Writers Night. The night featured New York Times bestselling author and Greensboro resident John Hart (“The King of Lies” and “Down River”) as well as readings from “Making Notes: Music of the Carolinas,” published by Novello Festival Press.

Kate Betterton of Chapel Hill, author of “Where the Lake Becomes the River,” also read from her debut novel, which was the 2008 Novello Literary Award winner. Holding up a copy, she said it was a thrill to see the newly published book with its “clean little letters in these clean, nicely cut pages.”

Neal, a graduate of Warren Wilson College's MFA Program for Writers, is a staff writer for the Asheville-Citizen Times. “Cow Across America” is his first novel.

Novello Festival Press also announced this year's three finalists, who will each receive $100: Marann Mincey of Charlotte, Lauren Faulkenberry of Asheville and Jo Anne V. Simson of Charleston.

This year's awards were underwritten by the Cold Mountain Foundation, established by author Charles Frazier and his wife, Katherine. Novello Festival Press is the publishing project of the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County.