Second annual Kobo Emerging Writer prize winners announced

kobowinners2016g-inE-book retailer Rakuten Kobo, in search of the best new books written by debut Canadian authors, has announced the winners of its second annual Emerging Writer Prize.

The award was created with the goal of kick-starting the careers of debut authors with a $10,000 (CAD) cash prize awarded to a book in each of three categories – Non-Fiction, Literary Fiction and Genre Fiction (Romance).

In addition, each winning author receives promotional, marketing and communications support throughout 2016. The final selection process was led by top Canadian authors Camilla Gibb for Non-Fiction, Gail Anderson-Dargatz for Literary Fiction, and Lynsay Sands for Genre Fiction (Romance).

Here are the 2016 winners

Irina Kovalyova.
Irina Kovalyova.

The Literary Fiction prize was awarded to Irina Kovalyova for Specimen, published by House of Anansi Press.

About the book: The stories in Specimen are a unique exploration of science and the human heart; the place where physical reality collides with our spiritual and emotional lives.

Gail Anderson-Dargatz, author and Literary Fiction Judge, said: “I was entranced with Specimen. Irina Kovalyova is a magician who, with a nudge and a wink, makes us laugh in awe and recognition at each new trick. As at home in the experimental story as in a traditional narrative, she tackles the ordinary, the bizarre and the taboo with equal assuredness. Reading Kovalyova’s magical stories, I again felt that numinous, giddy joy I first experienced as a young writer discovering the endless possibilities found in narrative form.”

Nicola R. White.
Nicola R. White.

The Romance prize was awarded to Nicola R. White for Fury’s Kiss, Strange Roads Press/Self-Published.

About the book: Tara Walker dreams of more excitement than slinging plates of seafood for Cape Cod tourists. Faced with strange new powers and embroiled in a murder investigation, Tara must now race to uncover the secrets of the ancient Fury that has woken inside of her – and of the evil that stalks her.

Lynsay Sands, author and Romance Judge, said: “The idea behind the story was definitely original and Ms. White is a natural storyteller. Her writing flows smoothly, quickly drawing the reader into the world she’s created, and then keeps them there with high doses of action, suspense, and of course romance. Her female lead is strong but still relatable. However, her secondary characters really added to the story, giving it depth and personality. This story is definitely a winner.”

Wab Kinew.
Wab Kinew.

The Non-Fiction prize was awarded to Wab Kinew for The Reason You Walk, published by Penguin Canada.

About the book: Invoking hope, healing and forgiveness, The Reason You Walk is a poignant story of a towering but damaged father and his son as they embark on a journey to repair their family bond.

Camilla Gibb, author and Non-Fiction Judge, said: “Wab Kinew’s story is a deeply moving memoir about the possibility of forgiveness and healing within a family, a community and a country coming to terms with the damaging legacy of the residential school system. The son of an Anishinaabe chief and a non-native woman, Kinew moves within two worlds, as did his father, both seeking to reconcile conflicting parts of selves shaped by different cultural forces. Wab Kinew’s book is a gift to this country.”

Michael Tamblyn.
Michael Tamblyn.

“We’d like to congratulate our winners on their debut books – works that will further enrich the lives of readers in Canada and around the world,” said Michael Tamblyn, CEO, Rakuten Kobo. “It’s our great pleasure to support new authors making such great first contributions to Canadian literature.”

More about the prize

The winners were selected from a shortlist of talented Canadian authors chosen by Kobo’s team of booksellers – with book completion rates, customer ratings and reviews taken into consideration. The Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for 2016 was open to eligible to Canadian citizens or legal residents of Canada who published debut books during the 2015 calendar year in the categories of Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction (Romance this year – a different genre is highlighted each year), or Non-Fiction. All submitted books must be available at

kobowinners2016h-inRakuten Kobo is one of the world’s fastest-growing eReading services offering more than 5 million eBooks and magazines to millions of customers in 190 countries. Believing that consumers should have the freedom to read any book on any device, Kobo provides consumers with a choice when reading. The company offers an eReader for everyone with a variety of E Ink eReaders – including Kobo Aura H2O, Kobo Glo HD, and Kobo Touch 2.0. Its free top-ranking eReading apps are compatible with Apple, BlackBerry, Android and Windows. Headquartered in Toronto and owned by Tokyo-based Rakuten, Kobo eReaders can be found in major retail chains around the world.


Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.