First Novel Award 2015

Photograph of Alix Hawley by Sam Santos First Novel Award winner Alix Hawley. Sam Santos

Alix Hawley discusses All True Not a Lie in It, her First Novel Award–winning account of American pioneer adventurer Daniel Boone, with Mary Newman.

SEATTLE—May 21, 2015 — and the Walrus Foundation presented Alix Hawley with the First Novel Award, which celebrates the remarkable achievement of a first-time Canadian novelist. Hawley’s novel All True Not a Lie In It (Knopf Canada) earned her the title of this year’s First Novel Award winner and $7,500 at this year’s award ceremony, held at The Four Seasons in Toronto and hosted by CBC’s The Next Chapter radio host, Shelagh Rogers.

“Every year, we are fortunate to receive submissions that celebrate and illustrate incredible Canadian talent and creativity. This year, the finalists took us around the world with five unique stories,” said Alexandre Gagnon, country manager for “We’re delighted to support a program which recognizes Canadian first-time novelists. Congratulations to all who participated in this year’s First Novel Award.”

A tall tale like no other, All True Not a Lie In It is set during the American Revolutionary War. It tells the story of folk hero and pioneer Daniel Boone in his own voice. Boone recounts his childhood in a Quaker colony, his capture—and eventual adoption—by the Shawnee, and his personal triumphs and tragedies. Hawley has also published the short-story collection The Old Familiar and her work has won multiple accolades from CBC’s Canada Writes competition. Born in Vancouver, Hawley now resides in Kelowna, British Columbia.

In addition to Hawley, the 2015 First Novel Award finalists include Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper (Hamish Hamilton), Us Conductors by Sean Michaels (Random House Canada), New Tab by Guillaume Morissette (Esplanade Books) and Pedal by Chelsea Rooney (Caitlin Press), all of whom earned $1,000 and a $450 Gift Card.

This year’s shortlist of finalists was selected by Nick Mount, head judge and fiction editor of The Walrus. The winner was selected from the list of finalists by a panel of judges including award-winning authors Helen Humphreys and Richard Wagamese.

All True Not A Lie In It is a remarkable act of literary ventriloquism. Alix Hawley fully inhabits the character of Daniel Boone, creating a novel that is richly detailed, beautifully written, and intensely moving,” said Helen Humphreys, award-winner author and First Novel Award judge.

Over the last three decades, the First Novel Award has recognized outstanding literary achievements by first-time Canadian authors and has launched the careers of some of Canada’s most beloved novelists, including most recently, Wayne Grady for Emancipation Day, Anakana Schofield for Malarky, David Bezmozgis for The Free World and Eleanor Catton for The Rehearsal.

For more information about the First Novel Award, visit or

All True Not a Lie in It book jacket
Etta and Otto and Russell and James book jacket
Us Conductors book jacket
New Tab book jacket
Pedal book jacket is proud to present the First Novel Award, which recognizes the outstanding achievement of a Canadian first-time novelist. Since 1976, the First Novel Award has launched the careers of some of Canada’s most beloved novelists, including Michael Ondaatje, Joan Barfoot, Joy Kogawa, W. P. Kinsella, Nino Ricci, Rohinton Mistry, Anne Michaels, André Alexis, Michael Redhill, Mary Lawson, Colin McAdam, Joseph Boyden, Joan Thomas, and David Bezmozgis.

The shortlisted novels have been selected by head judge Nick Mount, fiction editor of The Walrus. The winning novel was selected by a panel composed of Mount and award-winning Canadian authors Helen Humphreys and Richard Wagamese. The winner was announced on May 21, 2015.

The finalists for the 2015 First Novel Award, listed alphabetically by the author’s last name, are:

  • All True Not a Lie in It by Alix Hawley
  • Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
  • Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
  • New Tab by Guillaume Morissette
  • Pedal by Chelsea Rooney

Congratulations to all the nominees. For more information, or to purchase the books, please visit

The Shortlist

All True Not a Lie in It

Photograph of Alix Hawley by Mike Hawley

Set during the American Revolutionary War, All True Not a Lie in It tells the story of folk hero and pioneer Daniel Boone, in his own voice. Boone recounts his childhood in a Quaker colony, his capture—and eventual adoption—by the Shawnee, and his personal triumphs and tragedies.

Hawley is the author of the short-story collection The Old Familiar (Thistledown Press, 2008); her work has won multiple accolades from CBC’s Canada Writes competition. Knopf Canada published her debut novel, All True Not a Lie in It, as part of the 2015 New Face of Fiction program. She lives in Kelowna, British Columbia.

“A book of great sympathy and sadness. Hawley’s intimate version of Daniel Boone is a wonderful character, intelligent and self-aware, even if he can’t stop himself from being himself.”
Nick Mount

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Photograph of Emma Hooper by Martin Tompkins

Early one morning, eighty-two-year-old Etta takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots and begins walking the 3,232 kilometres from Saskatchewan to Halifax. Her husband, Otto, wakes to a note left on the kitchen table. As Etta walks toward the ocean, she is accompanied by James (a coyote) and followed by Russell, who has loved her from afar for sixty years.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James moves from a past filled with hunger, war, passion, and hope to a present of quiet industry and peaceful communion—from trying to remember to trying to forget.

Emma Hooper is an author, musician, and academic. Raised in Alberta, she brought her love of music and literature to the UK, where she received a doctorate in musico-literary studies at the University of East Anglia and currently lectures at Bath Spa University. Emma performs under the name Waitress for the Bees and also plays with a number of bands. In 2015, Hamish Hamilton published her first novel, Etta and Otto and Russell and James. She lives in Bath, UK.

Eighty-two-year-old Etta sets out to walk from Saskatchewan to the Atlantic with a coyote and her disappearing memories for company. A sweet, magical novel that reads like a symphony.
Nick Mount

Us Conductors

Photograph of Sean Michaels by John Londono

Us Conductors is a fictionalized account of the life of Lev Termen, the famed Russian inventor and spy who patented the theremin in the 1920s. Imprisoned in a ship’s cabin on a transatlantic journey to Leningrad, he writes a letter to his “one true love,” Clara, recalling his early years as a scientist, inventing the theremin and other electric marvels, and the Kremlin’s dream that these inventions could be used to infiltrate capitalism itself. Instead, New York infiltrated Termen—he fell in love with the city’s dance clubs and speakeasies, with the students learning his strange instrument, and with Clara, a beautiful young violinist.

Sean Michaels was born in Stirling, Scotland; raised in Ottawa; and currently lives in Montreal. He is the founder of Said the Gramophone, one of the Internet’s earliest music blogs. He has writ­ten for the Guardian and McSweeney’s, and is the recipient of two National Magazine Awards. Michaels’ debut novel, Us Conductors, won the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

A Russian inventor comes to New York in the 1920s, falls in love, and becomes a reluctant spy. The writing is as exciting as the story, alive and vital.
Nick Mount

New Tab

Photograph of Guillaume Morissette by Walter Wlodarcyzk

Guillaume Morissette is the author of the short story and poetry collection I Am My Own Betrayal (Maison Kasini, 2012), and the debut novel New Tab, which was shortlisted for the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. Morissette’s work has appeared in Maisonneuve, Little Brother, Electric Literature, and many other publications. He is the co-editor of Metatron, a small press based in Montreal.

Set in Montreal, New Tab spans a year in the world of a twenty-six-year-old video game designer as he attempts to reset his life. It’s a sharp, funny story of disillusionment, boredom, self-destruction, Facebook chats, bilingualism, good parties, bad parties, ambiguous relationships, a backyard cinema, social anxiety, and a possibly illegal DIY venue.

Twenty-seven-year-old Thomas hasn’t had sex in so long, his sex life has abandonment issues. A sharp, insightful glimpse of life here and now, from a genuinely new voice.
Nick Mount


Photograph of Chelsea Rooney courtesy of Caitlin Press

Pedal follows Julia Hoop, a counselling-psychology student researching childhood sexual abuse. When both her boyfriend and her graduate advisor break up with her on the same day, Julia leaves Vancouver on a bicycle for a cross-Canada trip in search of her father. Her unexpected travel partner is Smirks, a handsome athlete with a complicated history.

Pedal explores how we are shaped by accidents of timing—trauma and sex, brain chemistry, and the landscape of our country—and challenges beliefs we hold dear about pedophilia, innocence, and the notion that the past is something one runs from.

Chelsea Rooney grew up in the Annapolis Valley and lives in Vancouver. She hosts a monthly episode of The Storytelling Show on Vancouver Co-Op Radio, and is a regular contributor to Project Space’s web series on artist publishing. In 2014, Caitlin Press released her debut novel, Pedal, which Quill & Quire chose as a favourite first novel, and Canada’s book blog, 49th Shelf, chose as a book of the year.

A romance on two wheels, Pedal will surprise you, possibly disturb you, and certainly give you lots to think and talk about. A brave novel by a smart new writer.
Nick Mount


Head Judge

Nick Mount

Nick Mount is a nationally recognized student and teacher of Canadian literature, an associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Toronto, and the author of the prize-winning When Canadian Literature Moved to New York (UTP, 2005). Besides courses in Canadian literature, he teaches the department’s popular first-year course, ENG140 Literature for Our Time. His lectures for this class have been broadcast and podcast on TVO’s Big Ideas and used in other courses across Canada. In 2011, he was awarded a 3M National Teaching Fellowship, the country’s highest teaching award.

Shortlist Judges

Photograph of Richard Wagamese

Richard Wagamese is the author of thirteen books of fiction, memoir, and poetry. He is Ojibway from the Wabaseemoong First Nation, and has received the 2012 National Aboriginal Achievement Award in media and communications, the 2013 Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize, the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature, the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction, and the inaugural Burt Award for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Literature. He also holds honorary doctorates from Thompson Rivers and Lakehead Universities. In addition to his literary pursuits, he is an award-winning journalist, radio-television broadcaster, educator, and public speaker. He lives in Kamloops, BC.

Helen Humphreys is the author of four books of poetry, seven novels, and two works of creative non-fiction. She has won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the City of Toronto Book Award, and the Lambda Prize for fiction. Her work has been published in many languages and has been translated into screenplay, stage play, opera, and song. In 2009, she was awarded the Harbourfront Prize for literary excellence in a body of work. Her latest book is the novel, The Evening Chorus, published by HarperCollins Canada. She lives and writes in Kingston, Ontario.

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About the Walrus Foundation

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