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2019 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize Winners Announced

June 27, 2019

Canada’s best debut books in Literary Fiction, Romance, and Nonfiction have been named.

Toronto, ON – June 27, 2019 – Today Rakuten Kobo announced the winners of the fifth annual Emerging Writer Prize, adding three authors to Canada’s growing list of esteemed and celebrated writers. Debut authors in Literary Fiction, Romance, and Nonfiction each receive a $10,000 CAD cash prize, and will have promotional, marketing and communications support from Rakuten Kobo to aid in fostering their writing careers.

“This is a special year for Rakuten Kobo and for the Emerging Writer Prize. 2019 marks Kobo’s tenth anniversary, a decade of making reading lives better, and our writing prize marks five years of, we hope, making writing lives better for debut authors,” said Michael Tamblyn, CEO of Rakuten Kobo. “As a global company with a catalogue of more than 6-million titles, we recognize how brave it is to write and publish your first work and how difficult it is to fight for a reader’s attention. As a Canadian company we also recognize the importance of a country’s voices and stories. We are proud to support Canadian talent and to help bring it to the rest of the world.”

“Our goal with the Emerging Writer Prize has always been two-fold: help readers find new, can’t-be-missed titles, and help debut authors find audiences with whom their work connects; and I think we’ve done just that.”

Literary Fiction Winner

The Literary Fiction prize has been awarded to Nora Decter for How Far We Go and How Fast, published by Orca Book Publishers.

About the book: A moving and poignant coming-of-age tale that doesn’t depend on traditional tropes, How Far We Go and How Fast tells the story of Jolene, a seventeen-year-old girl named after the Dolly Parton song, who comes from a long line of musical lowlifes, who must use music to find her way after a sudden loss.

Author Craig Davidson, this year’s Literary Fiction judge, said of the book: “I'm a sucker for coming-of-age books, and Nora Decter's hit my sweet spot big-time. In her teenage narrator, Jolene Tucker, Decter gets it all right: the angst of youth, that simmering rage and bewilderment, looking in the mirror wondering who you are and what your worth to humankind may (or may not) be—Decter nails that mindset, really, she does. The narrative voice, plus the way Decter renders Winnipeg with such organic but effective brushstrokes, are the primary reasons why (in what was by no means an easy choice) How Far We Go and How Fast is my choice. Congratulations to all the nominees; it was a pleasure and an honor to be able to read your work.”

Romance Winner

The Romance prize has been awarded to Julie Evelyn Joyce for Steeped in Love, self-published by the author.

About the book: Steeped in Love is the contemporary romance of Addie, a dispossessed entrepreneur who turns to unconventional methods (like reading tea leaves) to help her search for love; and Ethan, a novelist who can’t help but eavesdrop on Addie’s failed dating attempts at his local writing spot.

Author Dale Mayer, this year’s Romance judge, said of the book: “This story has a unique premise that's driven by witty dialogue keeping the reader hooked into the flow of the story. The plot is simple but that helps seat the reader in the character's romantic problems and ultimate happy ending. It was an enjoyable and fun read!”

Nonfiction Winner

The Nonfiction prize has been awarded to Kate Harris for Lands of Lost Borders, published by Knopf Canada.

About the book: In Lands of Lost Borders, Kate Harris offers a travel narrative that is at once exuberant and meditative, wry and rapturous. The book weaves adventure and deep reflection with the history of science and exploration, exploring the limits and the wildness of a world that can never fully be mapped.

Author Michael Harris, this year’s Nonfiction judge, said of the book: "This is so much more than a travelogue; in sharing her adventure biking the Silk Road, Kate Harris gives us a meditation on both our yearning to explore and that darker impulse to divide ourselves into walled-off nations. Lands of Lost Borders is a rhapsodic, deeply researched, and elegantly written book. I cannot wait to see where this writer goes next.”

More about the prize

The Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize is now in its fifth year. The winners were selected among a shortlist of talented Canadian authors, chosen by Kobo’s team of booksellers, with book completion rates, customer ratings and reviews taken into consideration.

Shortlist (announced May 1, 2019)

Literary Fiction

Summer Cannibals by Melanie Hobson — Penguin Canada

The Philistine by Leila Marshy — Linda Leith Publishing

Searching for Terry Punchout by Tyler Hellard — Invisible Publishing

The Dictionary of Animal Languages by Heidi Sopinka — Penguin Canada

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq — Penguin Canada

How Far We Go and How Fast by Nora Decter — Orca Book Publishers


The Fruitful City by Helena Moncrieff — ECW Press

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot — Doubleday Canada

Son of a Critch by Mark Critch — Penguin Canada

Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris — Knopf Canada

The Measure of My Powers by Jackie Kai Ellis — Appetite by Random House

The Boy on the Beach by Tima Kurdi — Simon & Schuster


Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin — HarperCollins

Steeped in Love by Julie Evelyn Joyce — Julie Evelyn Joyce Doner

My Dear One by Deborah Small — Deborah Small

The Long Weekend by Mimi Flood — Dreamy Morning Publishing

The Reluctant Traveler by Corinne Aarsen — Corinne Aarsen

Archibald Full Frontal by Kasey Goldstraw — Iguana Books

To be eligible for the 2019 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, entrants must be Canadian citizens or legal residents of Canada who published debut books during the 2018 calendar year in the categories of Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction (the genre this year is Romance; each year, a different genre is chosen), or Nonfiction. All submitted books must be available at

For more details:

About Rakuten Kobo Inc.

Owned by Tokyo-based Rakuten and headquartered in Toronto, Rakuten Kobo Inc. is one of the world’s most innovative eReading services offering more than 6 million eBooks and audiobooks to millions of customers in 190 countries. Believing that consumers should have the freedom to read any book on any device, Kobo provides people with a choice when reading. Kobo offers an eReader for everyone with a wide variety of E Ink eReaders to suit any reader’s style including the Kobo Clara HD, Kobo Aura, Kobo Aura H2O, Kobo Aura ONE and Kobo Forma; along with the company’s free top-ranking eReading and audiobook listening app for iOS® and Android®. Kobo’s award-winning eReaders can be found in major retail chains around the world. For more information, visit


Media contact
Jamie Gillingham
Rakuten Kobo Inc.
Senior Manager, Public Relations
416 460 1668
[email protected]

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