and the Walrus Foundation Unveil Shortlist for the 40th Anniversary of the First Novel Award

Six finalists selected by Russell Brown, head judge and Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Toronto; winner will be announced on May 26

The winner will be chosen by a panel of judges including Russell Brown, Walrus fiction editor Nick Mount and award-winning writer Gurjinder Basran

To celebrate 40 years of the First Novel Award, the winner of's First Novel Award this year will receive $40,000 and finalists will receive $4,000

SEATTLE, April 16, 2016 /CNW/ - and the Walrus Foundation today introduced the nominees for the 40th anniversary of the First Novel Award ( which celebrates the remarkable achievements of first-time Canadian novelists. In celebration of 40 years of the First Novel Award, this year's winner will receive a prize of $40,000 and all finalists will receive $4,000.

Head judge Russell Brown selected the six finalists. Brown is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Toronto. He has also served as a co-editor of Descant magazine and as editorial director at Canadian publisher McClelland and Stewart.

The finalists for the 2016 First Novel Award, listed alphabetically by author, are:

  • The Afterlife of Birds by Elizabeth Philips (Freehand Books)
  • Seep by Mark Giles (Anvil Press)
  • 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad (Penguin Canada)
  • Backspring by Judith McCormack (Biblioasis)
  • Do You Think This is Strange? by Aaron Cully Drake (Touchwood Editions)
  • Book of Sands by Karim Alrawi (HarperCollins)

"Having read the work of so many entries in judging this competition," said Brown, "I was surprised by how many terrific first novels there were this year. Strong new fiction came to me from all over the map, from every kind of writer, and about every kind of experience; some of these novels were published by major houses and some by small presses. I was able to pick a very strong shortlist and I would be happy to see any of the books on it take the prize. Being head judge for this contest has left me with no doubt whatsoever about the continuing health of Canadian fiction."

The winner will be announced on May 26, 2016 at the annual First Novel Award ceremony held in Toronto at the Four Seasons Hotel. The winner will be selected from the list of nominees by a panel of judges including head judge Russell Brown, Walrus fiction editor Nick Mount and award-winning writer Gurjinder Basran.

"With the Walrus Foundation and a remarkable group of judges, we are excited to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the First Novel Award and many wonderful years of talented Canadian authors," said Alexandre Gagnon, country manager for "For 40 years this prize has been dedicated to highlighting new and emerging talent in Canadian literature and we once again feel privileged to be a part of a literary program with the sole focus on recognizing and cultivating the careers of aspiring authors. We hope customers love this year's shortlist as much as we do."

Established in 1976, the First Novel Award program has a long history honouring and beginning the careers of Canada's favourite novelists. Previous winners include: Michael Ondaatje (1976), Joan Barfoot (1978), Joy Kogawa (1981), W.P. Kinsella (1982), Nino Ricci (1990), Rohinton Mistry (1991), Shyam Selvadurai (1994), Anne Michaels (1996), Margaret Gibson (1997), Andre Alexis (1998), Alan R. Wilson and David Macfarlane (co-winners, 1999), Eva Stachniak (2000), Michael Redhill (2001), Mary Lawson (2002), Michel Basilières (2003), Colin McAdam (2004), Joseph Boyden (2005), Madeleine Thien (2006), Gil Adamson (2007), Joan Thomas (2008), Jessica Grant (2009), Eleanor Catton (2010), David Bezmozgis (2011), Anakana Schofield (2012) and Wayne Grady (2013).

40th Anniversary First Novel Award: Past Winner Testimonials:

"It took me seven years to write The Free World. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Getting the First Novel Award was a high point in the novel's publication and in my career as a novelist."— David Bezmozgis, 2011 First Novel Award Winner

"The encouragement of the First Novel Award is invaluable and comes at a time when a writer needs it most."—Anne Michaels, 1996 First Novel Award Winner

"Winning the award made me feel, probably for the first time, that it was acceptable for me to use the job title "writer." It helped All True Not a Lie In It find an audience, and it helped me want to keep writing (the sequel is underway). I'm so grateful."—Alix Hawley, 2015 First Novel Award Winner

To find additional information about the finalists and their novels, and to find out more about the First Novel Award, visit or

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the prize, is offering a 40% discount on this year's First Novel Award shortlist for a limited time in addition to everyday savings of up to 40% off the 100 bestselling titles.

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About the Walrus Foundation

The Walrus Foundation is a registered charitable non-profit (No. 861851624-RR0001) with an educational mandate to create forums for matters vital to Canadians. The foundation is dedicated to supporting writers, artists, ideas, and thought-provoking conversation. We achieve these goals across multiple platforms, publishing The Walrus magazine—which focuses on Canada and its place in the world—ten times a year in print, tablet, and mobile editions; curating and producing the national series of public Walrus Talks; convening annual sector-based leadership dinners; posting original, high-quality content daily at; and designing such digital projects as Walrus Ebooks and Walrus TV. The foundation also trains young professionals in media, publishing, and non-profit development. 


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