monique polak

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Some Valentine's Day Thoughts -- on Love and Writing

It's Valentine's Day, so no surprise that I'm thinking about love -- and writing (I'm always thinking about writing!!).

I was thinking how people seldom tell you the truth about love. They seldom tell you love is hard work, and that sometimes, they feel like giving up altogether on love! You'd certainly never read that on a Hallmark card, would you?

Yes, yes... it's also true that love can transform us, make us better than we were before, and that love can make us grow in the most unexpected ways. But it's not honest or fair to focus just on the "up side" of love.

The same is true for writing. And especially for RE-WRITING.

Those of us involved in this year's Quebec Roots: The Place Where I Live project are all hard at work now on re-writing. I'm sure the students who are working with me will be quick to tell you that the re-writing can be difficult and discouraging. Last week, photographer Monique Dykstra and I met -- via video-conference -- with our class at New Carlisle HIgh School in the Gaspé. Teacher Rose Roussy said some of the girls were pretty down when they read the comments I'd made about their writing. I told them how one of my friends, Montreal writer Elaine Kalman Naves, once told me how a writer needs to have both a thin skin and a thick skin. The thin skin is to be sensitive to the world around us; the thick skin is to be strong enough to handle criticism.

During that video-conference, I could actually see the girls in Mrs. Roussy's class coming around... beginning to understand that re-writing, solving problems, is all just part of the writing process. Together, we had time to work on a group poem. It was about the things we wish we could say to someone we love. Cheyenne came up with the amazing beautiful line: "I'd tell you that my heart beats 24-7 for you." Way to go, Cheyennne!

Yesterday, I was at FACE High School here in Montreal. There too, Kristen O'Sullivan's students were struggling with their re-writes. Kristen had sent me a huge packet of material last week... but it lacked shape. It needed pruning -- kind of like an overgrown tree! But guess what? The students did it! On their own, then together with Kristin, and then with me, they turned their material into something beautiful. In fact, I can't wait for you to read it. Here's one small preview. It's a line from a poem by a student named Jyoti, in which she describes her music class: "Even the birds outside stop to listen to our music."

So today, I want to wish you all a happy Valentine's Day. I want to tell you that love and writing can sometimes be hard... but that's okay. Look -- and listen -- for those birds. Let your hearts beat 24-7 for the person you love, but also for the creative work -- the writing, the music, whatever...  -- that brings you satisfaction!

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Friday, 19 August 2022

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