|Hauling a lobster trap in Maine.|
“How to Catch a Lobster in Down East Maine” hit the bookshelves in May. Written by Christina Lemieux Oragano, the 160-page book provides a thorough look at the art of lobstering in a lesser-known region of Maine.
Christina, 34, grew up in Cutler, the daughter of lobsterman Norbert Lemieux. She began working on her father’s boat during the summer months when she was ten
n years old. “My father said to us [Christina and her older brother] ‘This is a family business. You are all going to help out,’” she recalled. “I started painting buoys when I was oh, about seven or eight years old.”
Christina attended Washington Academy High School in East Machias before going to Colby College in Waterville. She graduated in 1999 with a double major in English literature and psychology and then took stock of what to do next. Many of her friends were heading to Boston or other east coast cities but Christina felt the urge to go further from her home territory. “I liked culture,” she explained. “And I figured that I would never have that much freedom again.” So she packed her bags and moved to San Francisco to pursue a career in advertising.
She soon found work and settled into a new world. “It was such an exciting place to be,” Christina said. By 2007 she was transitioning from visual advertising into the expanding field of digital advertising, using blogs, social media sites and other new tools to promote products. As part of that shift, she decided to start her own blog. But not just any blog. “I wanted to do something that others weren’t writing about. And I am passionate about lobstering,” she explained. Thus was started “Notes from a Lobster Fishing Village” (http://notesfromalobsterfishingvillage.blogspot.com/).
In the meantime, Christina moved from San Francisco to New York City and from there to London as her advertising career blossomed. She filled her blog with links to interesting stories about lobsters and Maine lobstermen as well as recipes, tips on how to freeze lobster, and her own comments about the lobstering world she knows so well. Still, it came as a big surprise when, two months after giving birth to her daughter in 2009, she received an email from The History Press, based in Charleston, South Carolina, asking her to write a book on the history of lobstering. “They sent me a note saying that they liked the blog and would I be interesting in submitting a proposal,” Christina said. “I was still wrapped up in being a new mother but I thought ‘now’s the time.’” She persuaded the company that a book about contemporary lobstering would be better received than a lobstering history book and then sat down to the task of research and writing.
“I found that to be very exciting and satisfying,” Christina said. She used information provided by the Department of Marine Resources to determine how many lobstermen were in each port, their average age and even the names of their boats. She drew on the knowledge of Sheila Dassett, head of the Downeast Lobstermen’s Association, to devise a questionnaire sent to 200 lobstermen in that association with a variety of questions pertaining to lobstering. Among those questions was one asking each lobsterman to rank his satisfaction level from a scale of one to ten, with ten being extremely satisfied. Christina was astonished by the response. “Over 60 percent of the fishermen said that they were extremely satisfied with their job,” she said. “They could write in what they liked best about lobstering and nearly everyone said independence or freedom.”
“How to Catch a Lobster in Down East Maine” is now in Barnes and Noble stores across the country as well as a variety of bookstores in the state. Christina has purchased a number of the books herself to sell when she returns to Maine in August. In addition, she has set up a page on Amazon’s Web site to sell her book directly to consumers.
“I think that lobstering today is sort of in its golden age,” Christina noted. “The stock is strong, lobstermen are getting good catches. These are the good years.” She plans to be at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland on August 4th for a book signing event in the marine tent, then in Winter Harbor the next weekend. “This has been very gratifying,” Christina said, referring to completion of her first book. “It’s important to me that the lobstermen feel I’ve told the story well.”