October 31, 2003
Rhea Côté Robbins, the Franco-American and native Mainer best-known for authoring the book Wednesday's Child, will lead a writing workshop at the University of Maine at Fort Kent on Wednesday, November 19, between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. in the Nadeau Hall teleconference room.
Coordinated and sponsored by UMFK's French Heritage Council, the hands-on session, which is free and open to the public, is entitled "Writing the Textures, Textiles, and Texts of Our Lives-Finding and Writing Your Roots". Participants will learn how to connect with their "roots" to more effectively tell the story of their family and their culture.
"Untold stories and unrecognized resources lie in the attics and basements of almost every family. In diaries, letters, journals, recipe books, baby books, bibles, photo albums, oral histories, and much more are the makings of a great book," said Côté Robbins. "This creative nonfiction workshop will be a collaborative experience, a 'writing inquiry' approach tailored to the students' works-in-progress, their needs and interests."
The workshop format will include writing exercises, readings, and the discussion and development of session participant's works.
"We'll focus on how to recover and analyze traditional and nontraditional data and transform this source material into stories," said Côté Robbins.
To assist and better prepare workshop attendees, Côté Robbins will share examples of the research methods she used in developing her own memoir.
She is asking participants to bring with them to the session an artifact which will support and inspire them in achieving a piece of writing upon completion of the workshop. Côté Robbins will also invite participants to include their writings in a collaborative journal at the end of the workshop.
Before leaving, Côté Robbins will lead workshop attendees in a discussion of continuing the writing process began at the workshop as a writing group for the community.
The four-hour session will include a light dinner.
Côté Robbins was brought up bilingually in a Franco-American neighborhood in Waterville, Maine known as 'down the Plains.' Her "maman" came from Wallagrass, and her father was from Waterville.
Tracing the family tree back, on both sides of her parents, she found that in Québec their people settled in close proximity to each other, and on a further search into their origins in France, she discovered that in the 1600s they lived within ten miles or less of each other. At least three of the branches of the original settlers 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.
She attended the University of Maine at Presque Isle, from 1980 through 1982, graduating with an associate degree with a concentration in art. From 1982 through 1985, she attended the University of Maine on a bilingual education scholarship. She graduated in 1997 with a master's degree in liberal studies focusing on creative writing.
Through her work and studies, she has had the opportunity to spend much time contemplating what it means to be Franco-American and female in the U.S.
She has made contact with many people across the country who are also interested in this cultural group. She traveled to Louisiana to compare the progression of the culture within a different milieu. She has also traveled to Canada and France to visit the hometowns from where her ancestors emigrated.
Côté Robbins was the 1997 winner of the Maine Chapbook Award for her work of creative nonfiction entitled, Wednesday's Child. The book, taught in university courses such as social work, culture, literature, writing, and women's studies is in its third printing.
She is currently editing a book of translations of Franco-American women writers who were writing in the early part of this century. Several translators are also involved in this project.
Côté Robbins has written a sequel to Wednesday's Child, called 'down the Plains' for which she is seeking publication.
For more information on the writing workshop that will be lead by Côté Robbins or to register, contact UMFK French Heritage Council members Gil Albert at (207) 834-7583 or Jocelyne Schael at (207) 834-7539.