The write stuff: Grad combines twin passions for writing and sports at UTM

Rachele Marchand holding three books
Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 3:42pm
Blake Eligh

Growing up near tiny Dorset, Ontario, Rachele Marchand spent every spare moment being active—on the rink, the court, the baseball diamond or the water. So it’s no surprise that the U of T Mississauga graduand was named UTM’s female athlete of the year in 2017.

Marchand, who graduates in June 2017 with a double major in history and professional writing, spent her non-class hours chasing balls and pucks for UTM’s intramural sports teams. During her time at UTM, she was a member of the women’s ice hockey, field lacrosse and flag football teams, and even took a turn chasing the snitch with UTM’s Quidditch club.

“The professional writing and communication program brought me here,” Marchand says of the program offered by the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology. Originally enrolled in a college writing program, Marchand knew she wasn’t interested in traditional journalism. “Then I found the professional writing program at UTM, and I knew this was it. This was what I wanted to do.”

Marchand spent the next years exploring creative non-fiction, learning to use literary techniques to create vivid accounts of true stories. She contributed to collections of medical writing and personal journalism, including a story about a sibling’s mental health crisis. Her first book of short stories, Wren Lake, delves into Marchand’s familial relationships and her memories of the lake where she grew up in Ontario’s cottage country.

“It’s fun to see my name in print,” she says. “It never gets old.” Marchand says the program helped her to grow as a writer. She valued the small class sizes and having one-on-one guidance from professors and editors. Wren Lake is partially dedicated to the campus: “To UTM, for giving me the opportunity to tell this story.”

History was another focus of Marchand’s academic life. “I’m drawn to the stories,” she says. A class on Cold War history left a particularly deep impression. “It really broadened my view of world history. We humans seem to make the same mistakes over and over again.”

She found balance by playing intramural sports, spending about 10 hours a week in practice and games, which earned Marchand the James J. Rae award from UTM Athletics. Also known as the female athlete of the year, the award recognizes a graduating female student who has contributed the most to UTM athletics, but Marchand says that sports has given back to her, too. “Sports saved my sanity,” she says. “I knew that on Wednesday night at 10:00p.m., I had hockey practice at the Clarkson Arena, and I would be there. The consistent exercise re-centred me, and helped to get out any aggressions that I might be having that day.”

UTM Egles women's ice hockey team holding championship shirts

“Sports also gave me community," she says. "I met a lot of different people that I would never have talked to otherwise, and the friends I’m closest with are the people I met on those teams.”

As she prepares to graduate, Marchand is plotting out her first book of fiction, and hopes to combine her passions for sports and writing on a future creative non-fiction project about women’s hockey.

Marchand (kneeling, third from left) with the UTM Eagles women's ice hockey team. Photo credit: UTM Athletics.