Pelletier will offer the course Northern Writers: A Sense of Place, which will focus on writers of New England and other northern climes as well as those whose works focus on this unique region and way of life. Open to campus and community members, this 10-week course that begins in February will explore the works of those who capture the essence of New England living and carving out a life "up north."Pelletier - who has written nine novels including several that examine life as lived in small Maine towns - will provide opportunities for her class to speak in person and by phone with some of the writers whose works they will be reading. While schedules still are being coordinated, Pelletier is hoping to connect her students with writers such as Suzanne Kingsbury (The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me), Howard Frank Mosher (A Stranger in the Kingdom), Ernest Hebert (author of the Darby series), Deborah Joy Corey, and Chris Bojahlian, whose book Midwives was an Oprah's Book Club selection.
The course will be Cathie Pelletier's third collaboration with the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Pelletier, an Allagash native, most recently taught a screenwriting class at UMPI that helped to launch the University's new Film Studies Program. That class introduced students to several professionals in the movie industry, allowing them to talk by phone with producer/director George Stevens, Jr. (Separate But Equal), actress Lolita Davidovich (Blaze), and writer/director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham). The course capped off with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to bring their screenplay to life by working with cinematographer Zoran Popovic (War,Inc.) on creating a 20-minute short film, which they hope to present to the campus and community this spring.
Pelletier's latest course is expected to provide students with similarly unique experiences that will give them a much fuller appreciation for the subject they are studying.
"When a writer teaches writing, or discusses the works of other writers, there is always a tremendous learning experience and exchange that is going on. I can't imagine a better way for students to fully understand an author's work than to speak to him or her directly once we've finished reading the books. And from these classes, I take new knowledge with me to the next novel I write," Pelletier said. "I never intended to spend much time in the teaching arena, but the atmosphere at UMPI is so open, so energetic and exciting, that I can't wait to begin a new class."
Pelletier wrote her first novel, The Funeral Makers, in 1986. That novel was followed by Once Upon a Time on the Banks, The Weight of Winter, The Bubble Reputation, A Marriage Made at Woodstock, and Beaming Sonny Home. She made international literary news in 1998 when Doubleday paid her a $1 million advance for her novel Candles on Bay Street, written under her pen name K.C. McKinnon. "Candles" eventually became a Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions film starring Alicia Silverstone. Her other McKinnon novel, Dancing at the Harvest Moon, has been translated into 18 languages and, in 2002, became a CBS movie starring Jacqueline Bisset and Valerie Harper. Her latest novel, Running the Bulls, won the 2006 Paterson Prize for Fiction. Coming full circle, Pelletier has adapted her first novel into a screenplay for director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity; Mr. and Mrs. Smith). She also is working with actor Donald Sutherland, who has optioned her original screenplay, The Luna Christmas, with hopes to begin filming this spring.