Announces the 2008 First Novel Award Winner: Joan Thomas
for Reading by Lightning

SEATTLE, Sept. 23 /CNW/ - This evening, presented the 2008 First Novel Award and a cheque for $7,500 (CDN) to Joan Thomas, author of Reading by Lightning, at a ceremony held at the Archeo Trattoria, Distillery District in Toronto, Ontario. Thomas was selected to receive the award from a group of six finalists, all of whom had their first novels published in 2008.

The First Novel Award recognizes outstanding achievement by first-time Canadian novelists and has served as a springboard for the careers of many of Canada's most renowned authors. This is the 33rd year of the award. Gil Adamson, author of The Outlander, won the 2007 award; Madeleine Thien, author of Certainty, won the 2006 award; Joseph Boyden, author of Three Day Road, won the 2005 award; and Colin McAdam, author of Some Great Thing, won the 2004 award. Other previous winners include Michel Basilières, Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry, Joan Barfoot, Joy Kogawa, Wayne Johnston, Nino Ricci and Deborah Joy Corey.

Joan Thomas has been a regular book reviewer for the Globe and Mail for more than a decade. Her essays, stories and articles have been published in numerous journals and magazines including Prairie Fire, Books in Canada, and the Winnipeg Free Press. She has won a National Magazine Award, co-edited Turn of the Story: Canadian Short Fiction on the Eve of the Millennium, and has served on the editorial boards of Turnstone Press and Prairie Fire Magazine. She lives in Winnipeg. Reading by Lightning is published by Goose Lane Editions and is available at (

Joining Thomas as 2008 First Novel Award finalists were Michael Blouin for Chase & Haven (Coach House Books); Claudia Dey for Stunt (Coach House Books); Patrick Lane for Red Dog, Red Dog (McClelland and Stewart); Mary Swan for The Boys in the Trees (Henry Holt); and Padma Viswanathan for The Toss of a Lemon (Random House). All six finalists were presented with gift certificates in the amount of $750 (CDN) at the event.

"We at continue to be inspired by the many emerging authors who embody Canada's rich and longstanding literary history," said Julie Todaro, Director, Books. "We would like to thank and congratulate all of the talented novelists who participated in the 2008 First Novel Award process, and we look forward to a bright future and many inspiring titles from all of these very talented authors."

For the second year in a row, the finalists were selected by Aritha van Herk, an award-winning Canadian novelist, critic and reviewer. She is the author of nine books, a member of the Royal Society of Canada, and a professor of Canadian literature and creative writing in the Department of English at the University of Calgary. Also serving as judges were Russell Smith, a writer whose last novel, Muriella Pent, was shortlisted for the Rogers Fiction Prize and the Toronto Book Award, and longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Prize; Geoffrey E. Taylor, Director of International Authors Festival at Harbourfront Centre and the recipient of numerous awards for his work in the publishing community, including being one of Quill and Quire's 30 most influential people in Canadian publishing in 2008; and Lisa Moore, a writer who has won the Author's Association Jubilee Prize for Short Fiction and the Commonwealth Prize for the Canadian Caribbean, as well as teaching at the University of British Columbia's online creative writing program.

"Joan Thomas's Reading by Lightning is a compelling story burnished by spare and powerful writing," said van Herk. "In this tale of redemption and growth, Lily Piper learns how much she has been gifted the strong spine of her family, and yet how much she must resist familial superstitions. This is a fabulous novel, full of grace and delicious discovery, haunted by the flavour of memory and the prairies in World War II."

For more information about the First Novel Award, please go to will be accepting submissions for the 2009 First Novel Award until Nov. 2, 2009.

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Forward-Looking Statements

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For further information: For further information: Margaret Antkowski/Mark Van Tol, NATIONAL Public Relations, (416) 586-0180,

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