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Thomas is the author of the novels Curiosity and Reading by Lightning. She is a past recipient of the First Novel Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. While in Dawson City during her July to September summer residency, the Winnipeg-resident worked on Help Island, a novel about three characters in crisis challenged to revise their views on nature.

Award History

Jury Citation

“Joan Thomas has a profound understanding of the human condition. She creates characters and relationships and turns these through many phases, illuminating for all of us, the small and large tragedies and joys of life. In her work, she is unafraid, and she is truthful. When she blends fiction with historical fact, she does so seamlessly — whether it is to call up the language of Darwinian times, or to describe a young Canadian’s Christmas in England during WWII. Thomas’s prose, limpid and sensual, has a lightning-bright intensity when exploring the relationships between mothers and daughters, or secret lovers, the beauty of prairie landscapes, sexual awakenings, religious zeal, those small vanities that undo us, those veins of bravery that sustain us. We, as readers, anticipate the richness of her future endeavors.”
— 2014 Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award Jury (Frances Itani, Lisa Moore, Nino Ricci)

Program History

Writer in Residence

Berton House Writers’ Residency

Works recognized by WT


The Opening Sky

Reading by Lightening