Guest blog post written by Édith Bourget
(This article has been translated from the original in French).
Creation is my life. Painting, postal art, installation, performance, photography; I have long explored the visual arts. Yes, with thirty-five solo exhibitions and over a hundred and twenty collective ones, I have exhibited plenty, both in Canada and in parts of the United States, Haiti, France and Spain. I have also always written.
In 2003 I published Autour de Gabrielle (Surrounding Gabrielle) (Soulières éditeur), a collection of poems for children. The book won the Prix France-Acadie in 2004, and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards. Since then, other collections of poems, picture books and novels for all ages have followed. In September 2017, Ici, là et ailleurs (Here, there and elsewhere), my twenty-seventh children and young adult book, will be published by Soulières éditeur. This collection of fourteen short stories for teens was written thanks to a Creation grant from artsnb. The Category A grant allowed me to pursue my exploration of another literary genre, short stories, and to deepen my reflection on the place of the French language in our country.
I have presented my books all over Canada and in parts of Europe. Here in Canada, I have met thousands of Francophone students and young Anglophones enrolled in French immersion. From St. John’s to Vancouver, by way of Halifax, Moncton, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary and Whitehorse, I realized that French, my beloved language, was spoken, learned and alive from the Atlantic to the Pacific, in cities large and small. I also noted that Francophones and Francophiles do not know each other well, and often feel isolated.
Ici, là et ailleurs was born of my desire to create a tool for bringing together young people who speak French in Canada, and to offer a book that could facilitate the learning of this language for the youth who study it. In 2014, a librarian in Whitehorse pointed out to me how difficult it was to find a French-language book that was aimed at the reading level of French immersion teens, and that would interest them. This conversation wormed its way through me. I concluded that short texts on teen issues, set in various locations across Canada, would have a chance to reach young people and captivate them enough to make them want to read in French. I believe it is essential to open up new horizons for young Francophones and Francophiles about the reality and the beauty of our country and the world. I hope that my collection will make them want to learn about others, whether they live nearby or hundreds of kilometers away.
This collection also addresses themes directly related to my work as a writer. I explore autobiographical fiction in two texts. The opening text of my collection, Dans mon jardin (In my garden), is an invitation to discover the place where I write and my motivations. “Dans mon jardin, au printemps, je sème des graines de fleurs et de légumes. Tout au long de l’année, je sème des mots français dans mes livres et dans le cœur des jeunes. Quand je suis dans mon jardin, que je réfléchis à ma place ici-bas, je me dis que mon passage sur Terre aura peut-être un peu servi à ça” (In my garden, in the spring, I sow the seeds of flowers and vegetables. Throughout the year, I sow French words in my books and in the hearts of young people. When I am in my garden, if I reflect on my place here, I tell myself that my time on Earth has perhaps been for this purpose) (page 15). The last short story, Mes mots (My words), tells the story of one of my school visits, and illuminates the thoughts of a boy and girl in attendance. I close this collection by saying that I cannot wait to return to my garden to write more stories. Things have come full circle. Several of the photos I took during my travels in Canada appear on the cover.
I have always considered creation as a way of being truly present in the world, of continuing to learn, of facing challenges. In my works, I seek a universal language. The work of a writer is one of solitude, of introspection, but also of openness to others. To create, you must mix with the rest of the world, travel across it, open your eyes and know how to listen to your heart. Every new project is an opportunity for me to reflect on what surrounds me, touches me, and how to talk about it as truthfully as possible. For each book, I take great care with both the form and the substance. I do not want to repeat myself. I flee the comfort of what I know. I know I’m moving forward in my quest, if ever so slowly.
Once again thanks to a grant from artsnb, I am currently writing a novel for teens. Où est ma maison? (Where is my house?) will discuss identity and immigration. After months of work, I have not yet found all the elements to tie up the story. Though everything seemed clear to me at the start, I can now say that this is the most complex project I have ever undertaken.
The more I create, the more I see everything I could explore. I hope to succeed one day in creating the work that will completely delight me. Will I get there? I do not know, but I am trying with all my heart.
Creating in Edmundston, New Brunswick, Édith Bourget has published twenty-seven books for children and young adults: picture books, novels, and collected poems. She has received several awards from the Canada Council for the Arts and the New Brunswick Arts Board. Autour de Gabrielle (Surrounding Gabrielle), winner of the Prix France-Acadie, and Les saisons d’Henri (Seasons of Henry) were finalists at the Governor General’s Literary Awards. She has pursued internships in binding and engraving at the Royal Museum of Mariemont (Belgium). She has been invited to festivals and author’s tours in Canada (WordFest, Vancouver International Writers Festival, Métropolis bleu, Petits bonheurs, Lire à tout vent) and abroad (La Bataille des livres, Switzerland, 2008, la Fête du livre de Merlieux, France, 2013) where she has rubbed shoulders with creators from the whole of Francophonie.
Édith Bourget enjoys traveling, meeting people from all over and talking about her creative work to young and old alike. She wants to stay on the move, take up challenges, and discover new places because all this allows her to better understand the world and to develop her works.
She dreams of peace, and hopes that her words will sprinkle happiness like confetti in people’s hearts, open their eyes and make them want to protect life.
You can follow Édith’s work on her Facebook page.