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Memoir Writing Workshop Series held at UMFK

October 27, 2008


The University of Maine at Fort Kent will host a memoir writing workshop series entitled “Writing the Textures, Textiles, and Texts of Our Lives Finding and Writing Your Roots,” by Maine author Rhea J. Côté Robbins from Thursday, November 13 through Sunday, November 16. 

The creative nonfiction workshops will be held at various places on the University campus.  The workshops will focus on how to recover and examine traditional and nontraditional information and transform it into stories.  All sessions offered are appropriate for community members, including school-aged students, teachers, and anyone interested in learning about giving a voice to their personal stories. 

The first session will be held on Thursday, November 13 from 1 to 4 p.m.  The session will be based on: “Setting the Stage: YOU.” Discover the “envelope” of your life. Who are you as a writer? Where have you been, and what types of stories have you heard or read?  What are your stories?  Who told you stories? and Who do you tell stories to and why?   

The second session entitled, “Valuing Voices” will be held on Friday, November 14 from 9 to 11 a.m.   Participants will look at the valuing of your voice, your writing voice, your story telling voice, and what does that mean to you?  The third session, called “Permission: What does it look like to you?” will be held from 1 to 4 p.m.  Students will discuss giving themselves permission to say what they wish to say. What does such permission look like?  What do your silences look like? Who are the guards you must get past in order to write freely? 

During the third session, the film An Angel At My Table by Academy Award–winning filmmaker, Jane Campion, will be shown on the evening of Friday, November 14 beginning at 6 p.m.  The film brings to the screen the harrowing true-life story of Janet Frame, New Zealand’s most distinguished author. The film follows Frame along her inspiring journey, from a poverty-stricken childhood to a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia to, finally, international literary fame.  It also earned Campion a sweep of her country’s film awards and the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival.        

On Saturday, November 15, the fifth session entitled, “TABOO,” will run from 9 to 11:30 a.m.  Students will learn how to say the “unsayable,” and find ways to bring out and write down the hard times from their family’s past. The sixth session called “Why We Write At All/ Being Voiced,” will be held, from 1 to 4 p.m.  Côté Robbins will work with students on how to discuss why they want to write and who they may want to write for?  What does it mean to be voiced in your written work?  What does the story within look like? 

The final session of the series will be held on Sunday, November 16 from 1 to 4 p.m. and will be based on the topic “Your Maine – Our Town: The Shared Story.” What is unique to your view of Maine, your town, your street?  Students will share their stories with the entire group. The session will include short public readings from the students and Côté Robbins, as well as the sharing of artifacts and other items from the students’ homes. The public also is invited to attend. 

Côté Robbins grew up in Waterville, Maine, but her mother was from Wallagrass.  She was the 1997 winner of the Maine Chapbook Award for her work of creative nonfiction entitled, “Wednesday's Child”.  At least three of the branches of her family came over on the same boat to New France. She has spent many years researching the origins and visiting the hometowns of these people in Canada and France.  

“Untold stories and unrecognized resources lie in the attics and basements of almost every family. In diaries, letters, journals, bibles, photo albums, oral histories, and much more are the makings of a great book.  How can you unleash the power of the untold, tell the story of your family and your culture?  This creative nonfiction workshop will be a collaborative experience, tailored to the students,” said Côté Robbins. 

Dr. Rachel E. Albert, vice president for Academic Affairs at UMFK, and a lifelong resident of the St. John Valley noted: “We are absolutely delighted to bring an intellectual Libra scholar of Cote’s caliber to campus. Her contributions will advance our mission by engaging and empowering students, faculty, and the wider community with a resource to broaden their knowledge and skills in memoir writing in order to capture and record real, personal, and treasured life events and experiences.”  

“With its rich history of peoples, mixture of residents and immigrants, as well as its place in the modern world, the St. John Valley is fertile ground for finding intriguing personal stories.  This program is great opportunity for people to learn a little more about their own personal and community history, and share that with a wider audience,” said Donald Eno, coordinator of academic outreach at UMFK. 

Rhea Côté Robbins is the author of “Wednesday’s Child”, and editor of “Canuck and Other Stories” andI am Franco-American and Proud of It: Franco-American Women's Anthology,” a part-time faculty member and founder and executive director of the Franco-American Women's Institute at the University of Maine.  

Space is limited.  Interested people should call Don Eno 834-7835 to register.  Upon registration you will be sent confirmation and a full schedule.  People registering are invited to attend as many workshop sessions as they can. The series will be offered at no cost to the public, teachers, or students.        

Thr events are being offered by the UMFK Academic Outreach office, the Acadian Archives/archives acadiennes, and the Education Department.  Primary funding is being provided through a Libra Foundation grant.