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Search for history behind his last name leads to new book for MFA grad

October 28, 2018

Tyler LeBlanc had questions. About why there’d been so little information about the expulsion of the Acadians in his high school history books. About why the lives-shattering scattering of a people in the 1750s continues to resonate more than 260 years later for many people in the Nova Scotia where he grew up. About how little he knew of that story. About even why his own last name was LeBlanc.

“So I started digging deeper into the story. That’s when I found my family’s connection to it all.”

Fredericton’s Goose Lane Editions has now acquired the rights to publish Acadian Driftwood, the manuscript end-result of all LeBlanc’s digging.

Although he’d graduated from the University of King’s College School of Journalism in 2014 and begun freelancing, he says he wasn’t satisfied. “I wanted a larger project, I wanted to write a book.”

He knew the book he wanted to write would be about his own Acadian heritage, “but I really needed the discipline of deadlines, and the structure of a program to get the project off the ground. The King’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction was exactly what I needed to turn the book idea into reality. It worked!”

Not that it was easy. “The book is really research intensive, and the events I’m writing about took place over 250 years ago, so some of the material is hard to find, and even harder to read. Sometimes it feels like each sentence requires an hour of research, other times it comes out more smoothly.”

The King’s MFA Class of 2018 graduate credits the “interest and devotion” of the many amateur historians among the Acadian/Cajun community with making his own research possible. “I don’t know how I could write this book without their foundational historical and genealogical work.”

He also adds that, “without my mentors, this book wouldn’t exist. Early on, when I was still fleshing out the structure, they kept pushing me to try things and see if they worked. Once the narrative got moving, they buckled down as well and started to really groom my copy and keep me on track. Their flexibility, encouragement, and varied range of skillsets brought me to a place that once the program was over, I felt ready to finish the project alone.”

LeBlanc is already at work on another book of historical fiction, though he isn’t yet ready to give away too many details. “It will be set in the 18th century again, but this time in Western Europe, and there is a very subtle link to my current book.”

For more information about — or to apply to — the King’s MFA program, visit our website or contact MFA Executive Director Kim Pittaway. Applications for the 2019-20 academic year are now open.