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Audrey Thomas

Audrey Thomas 2003

Audrey ThomasIn 2003, Audrey Thomas received the ninth George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an Outstanding Literary Career in British Columbia.

The Galiano Island and Victoria-based short story writer and novelist has also won British Columbia’s top fiction award, the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, an unprecedented three times, for Intertidal Life, Wild Blue Yonder and Coming Down from Wa. As well, she has received the $15,000 W.O. Mitchell Award (2001), the Marian Engel Award (1987), the $3,000 Canada-Australia Prize (1989), the Canada-Scotland Literary Fellowship (1985-86) and a National Magazine Award. More than 25 of her plays and stories have been broadcast on CBC.

Audrey Thomas was born in Binghamton, New York on November 17, 1935, and raised there as Audrey Grace Callahan. She married English sculptor and art teacher Ian Thomas in 1958, immigrated to British Columbia in August, 1959, attended UBC and earned an MA in English (1963). At UBC she met numerous writers involved in the emerging TISH poetry movement but always felt separate from them as a prose writer. She taught English 100 at UBC from 1959 to 1963.

From 1964 to 1966 she lived in Ghana where she wrote her first published story, ‘If One Green Bottle…” It concerns the author’s confinement and miscarriage in a Ghana hospital. It won her the Atlantic First Award from the Atlantic Monthly. In 1967, Audrey Thomas published her first collection of short stories, Ten Green Bottles. Her first novel Mrs. Blood (1970) harkens back to her Ghanaian experiences.

Audrey Thomas has three daughters and two grandchildren. She and Ian Thomas separated in 1972. She has taught and been writer-in-residence at many universities and has several honorary degrees including an honorary SFU doctorate conferred in 1994. She served on the panel of judges for the 2002 IMPAC Dublin Literary Arts Award, the most lucrative literary prize in English.

She was twice shortlisted for Governor-General’s Awards for fiction and has received three prizes from CBC Literary Competitions. Her books have been translated in several languages and she has had 20 radio plays produced. A special issue of Room of One’s Own highlighted her work and life in 1985. She has lived in Greece, France, England and Scotland but has chiefly resided at the north end of Galiano Island since 1969.

Audrey Thomas has published 16 books of fiction. In them she is often concerned with gender politics, secrets, language and identity. The first novel she wrote, but the second one published, Songs My Mother Taught Me, recalls growing up in New York State.

The female protagonist in her most recent novel, Isobel Gunn, is based on an historical figure from the Orkney Islands who disguised herself as a man in 1806 and signed on with the Hudson’s Bay Company to work in Rupert’s Land, concealing her identity for a year and a half. The audiobook version of Isobel Gunn, read by Vancouver actor Duncan Fraser, has been nominated for an Audie Award in 2003. Audrey Thomas’ books have mainly been published in Canada by Talonbooks of Vancouver and Penguin Canada of Toronto.


Ten Green Bottles (Bobbs-Merrill, 1967, Oberon 1977) – stories
Mrs. Blood (Bobbs-Merrill 1970, Talonbooks 1975) – novel
Muchmeyer / Prospero on the Island (Bobbs-Merrill 1972) – novel
Songs My Mother Taught Me (Talonbooks 1973) – novel
Blown Figures (Talonbooks 1974) – novel
Ladies and Escorts (Oberon 1977) – novel
Latakia (Talonbooks 1979) –novel
Real Mothers (Talonbooks 1981) – stories
Two in the Bush and Other Stories (M&S, collected, 1981) – stories
Intertidal Life (Stoddart 1984) – novel
Goodbye Harold, Good Luck (Penguin 1986) – stories
The Wild Blue Yonder (Penguin 1990) – stories
Graven Images (Penguin 1993) – novel
Coming Down From Wa (Penguin 1995) – novel
Isobel Gunn (Penguin 1999) – novel
The Path of Totality (Penguin, some collected, 2001) – stories, new and selected