By Rukhsar Ali, June 22 2020 —
Over the last few years, Amy LeBlanc, writer and current grad student in English at the University of Calgary, has burst powerfully onto the literary scene. Her work has been published in magazines such as PRISM International, Room, and the Literary Review of Canada among many others. During her time as an undergraduate student, she immersed herself in the writing community as Editor-in-Chief of NōD Magazine and has expanded on her editing career as the current Managing Editor at filling Station Magazine.
Now, LeBlanc has even more to celebrate in her burgeoning career — she was named one of Alberta’s 2020 Emerging Artists at the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards. This prestigious award which includes a $10,000 award, recognizes outstanding artists in the early stages of their careers. The announcement of her achievement follows the launch of her newest publication and first full-length poetry collection, I know something you don’t know, released in March 2020.
“It feels amazing,” LeBlanc says. “I found out about [the award] a month and a half ago. All the recipients were informed with a phone call but we couldn’t tell anybody outside of our immediate families until the announcement so I’ve kind of just been holding onto that and wanting to talk about it but not being able to, but it feels really amazing. It’s really validating and just, I don’t know, really exciting. I feel like I’m doing the right thing and that this is just kind of a message for me that I’m leading myself in the right direction.”
For as long as she can remember, LeBlanc has been writing fiction and poetry as evidenced by her mother’s saved copies of the writer’s earliest works from childhood. LeBlanc’s love of writing shifted into a career possibility when she began taking creative writing classes at U of C.
“That was when it really kind of kicked in that like ‘Oh’, people do this for a living and Canadian writers do this and it’s not just the big names in Canadian lit that are being successful.’ There’s people in Alberta doing this and they are being successful in different ways.”
A few years after LeBlanc started getting published, her 2018 chapbook “Ladybird, Ladybird” served as inspiration for I know something you don’t know. The chapbook examines nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and folklore — themes which resonate in LeBlanc’s newest release.
“I had so much fun working on that chapbook that I kind of ended up extending it out into a full collection. The collection, for me, is kind of a combination of all of my favourite things. There’s fairytales that I’ve loved to read, there’s folklore influences, there’s a lot of botanical imagery and a lot of botanical influences — I kind of just took a lot of weird, occult, spooky things that I love and melded it into a collection. So there were a whole bunch of different influences but I think they’re all kind of tied together by the question of ‘Who’s telling the story?’ and characterization is a big part of it.”
I know something you don’t know had a unique launch to say the least. Timed almost exactly with the onset of COVID-19 in Canada, LeBlanc’s book launch suffered from event cancellations across the country in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Guelph. However, LeBlanc is still happy with how events panned out and tries to make the best of her situation.
“It’s been an experience, that’s for sure,” LeBlanc says. “There’s a lot of people that launched books in Spring 2020. We’re all kind of having the same experience of having to cancel launches and doing online readings for the first time. There’s even this little subcommunity that’s come out of that of people that did have to cancel launches and we’re all just kind of supporting each other and promoting each other’s books and stuff like that. So, it’s been weird and it’s not the way that I’d expected to launch my book but I’ve had so much support from different communities that I’m still super thankful with how my book launched into the world.”
While LeBlanc’s launch couldn’t happen as planned, the poetess is hopeful to celebrate her book with a launch party when it’s safe to do so. As she waits to find out when the coast is clear along with the rest of us, LeBlanc continues to work on a novel for her Masters thesis and plans to write a second poetry collection. She is also in the progress of writing another novel which she describes as: “Haunted houses. Calgary. Spooky.”
You can learn more about LeBlanc’s writing and find her publications listed on amyjleblanc.com. Her poetry collection, I know something you don’t know is available for purchase on Amazon and at local Calgary bookstores.