monique polak

Monique Polak's Books


Two Dutch Women on Arts Notebook -- with Stan Asher

This morning, I was a guest on Stan Asher's Radio CINQ program, Arts Notebook. So, not only did I get to catch up with Stan -- he's a former CEGEP teacher with a great interest in Holocaust education -- but I also got to meet his other guest, who turned out to be a Dutch performance artist. (Since I'm of Dutch descent myself, I found this a very exciting development!)

I'm one of two spokespersons for this year's Blue Metropolis Literary Festival for Children, so Stan asked me questions about the upcoming festival and also about writing for teens. I must say we had such a lively discussion I forgot I was on air!  Here's the link to Radio CINQ's website -- when I checked just now, the interview had not yet been posted, but hopefully you'll be able to access it soon....

What I really want to do in today's blog entry is tell you about Jacqueline Van de Geer, who is the other woman in today's pic. (As you must have figured out by now, that's Stan standing in between us.) Jacqueline was in studio to talk about her latest performance piece, La Guerre en Moi. It's a one-woman show based on her memories of growing up in post-war Rotterdam, and she also draws on memories her father shared with her. Rotterdam was bombed twice during World War II. Jacqueline was born some 13 years after the war ended, but as she explained, there were still many signs of what had happened in her city: "I was brought up in a scarred city," she said. Even though Jacqueline's dad was only a child during the war (he was nine when the war ended), he -- and his wife, too -- were deeply affected by their wartime experience. "I felt an enormous guilt from my parents," Jacqueline said.

Another interesting thing about Jacqueline's work is that it's performed in her own living room. She does what is called home theater. In her case, that means the audience is small; there's room for only 16 people. Jacqueline says theater-goers need to adjust to the unusual venue: "It's a big challenge for them to be in someone's living room."

Tonight and tomorrow's 8 P.M. performances are sold out, but there are second performances at 9 P.M. I'm going to try to go!

Here's another link in case you want to learn about the International Home Theater Festival. I know I do!

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Salon du Livre de Montréal 2011

I spent a happy afternoon yesterday at the Salon du Livre de Montréal. I was there to sign copies of Poupée and Pris au Jeu, both published by Courte Echelle. These books are French translations of two of my earlier titles, On the Game and All In.

Though I'm bilingual, I learned a new word: "signet." That means bookmark, and the younger kids who came by my signing booth were especially interested in picking up bookmarks I signed for them.

How 'bout I tell you a little about the pics in today's blog post?

The pic at the top of the page makes me very happy! That's because it's of two students at Ecole Paul-Bruchési -- Carol and Mégane. They were in the group I worked with yesterday morning (Read the previous blog entry to learn more about the new Blue Metropolis Literary Foundation Project, En Mots et en Images, which brought me to their school). The students told me they'd be at Salon du Livre at the same time as me -- and these two promised to come by and visit! Merci, les filles!!

In the next pic, I'm with Claudia, Kimberley and Amélie, students at Cité des Jeunes in Vaudreuil-Dorion. When I wrote down the girls' names, their friend who took the pic, said, "What about the photographer?" So, yes, special thanks to Caroline for taking the pic -- and for making me laugh!

Scroll down a little further to meet Camille, who goes to Ecole St-Hilaire. Though I know that both of the French translations of my books have been selling briskly, Camille is the first teenager I met who bought one of my books. So that was an exciting moment!

Here's Nelson. What I liked about him was that he was doing an assignment! Three cheers for Nelson's teacher at Ecole Lucien Pagée on Jarry Street here in Montreal. I have to admit that I helped him with a few answers about my book Pris Au Jeu! Hope you get a good mark, Nelson!

My favourite part of Salon du Livre was getting to spend time with young people. Here's a question for you: do you think I was observing them, taking notes for my next book? Scroll down to find out the answer!!








MAIS OUI. (Which means, but of course, YES!)

Thanks to my friends at Courte Echelle for translating my books, and for inviting me to this year's Salon du Livre!

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Packing Light!

We're gearing up for a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon.

Serious backpackers (meaning my husband, not me!) know that backpacking is all about packing light. There'll be a weigh station at the top of the trail and we'll weigh our packs before setting out. (I know how this works because we've hiked in the Grand Canyon twice before.)

I also know that my husband will say, "Mo, your pack is too heavy! What have you got in there?"

Then, I'll have to unpack the whole danged thing.

Then, he'll find my books (I need at least two) and my journal (and two ballpoint pens).

He'll say, "There'll be no time for reading. And no time for writing in your journal either! We're going to be hiking all day long. At night, you'll be too konked out to read or write!"

And I'll say: "If you want me to stay married to you, and if you want me to keep going on these crazy hikes, DON'T MESS WITH MY BOOKS AND MY JOURNAL. THEY'RE COMING ON THIS TRIP TOO AND THAT'S THAT!!"

The moral of this story is: writers don't go anywhere without something to read and something to write in (and two ballpoint pens, in case one runs out of ink).



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Middle Children Unite!!

I am reading a fascinating book called The Secret Power of Middle Children by Catherine Salmon and Katrin Schumann. It's making me reflect about the influence birth order can have on our lives. The authors argue that middle children have special strengths which they must develop in order to differentiate themselves from their eldest and youngest siblings. (By the way, Salmon and Schumann say any child who is not an only, an eldest or a youngest, qualifies as a middle.)

So here, in a nutshell, is the general theory: Parents focus more on their eldest and youngest children than on their middle kids. The down side for middles is they miss their parents' attention, but there's an up side, too. Because middles are left more to their own devices, they have more freedom to become who they want to be.

There's more to the theory: Typically, eldest children tend to be bossy take-charge sorts. (I hope my big brother is not reading this!) Youngest children tend to be ... well ... spoiled. (Now I'm worried that my little sister may be reading this blog entry.) Salmon and Schumann say middle children are often creative and go out of their way to avoid conflict. They also describe middle children as "friendship specialists" -- a trait they say middle children cultivate in order to build connections outside their families.

So if, like me, you're working on a book or a story, you might think about the role of birth order in your characters' lives.

I write a about self-help books for the Montreal Gazette, and I'm reviewing The Secret Power of Middle Children for my October column. How 'bout I let you know when the column appears?

Signed, Middle Child


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Starting to Know My Way Around Rosemere High!

The reason I'm starting to know my way around Rosemere High School is that this morning was my third of five visits there. This winter, I'm doing a series of writing workshops with RHS students.

In today's pic, you see a lovely young man named Marcus reading from my book What World Is Left. Usually, I read a little during my visits, but since I'm getting over a cold,  I needed  assistance -- and Marcus kindly agreed to help me out. And you know what? It was kind of wonderful hearing SOMEBODY ELSE read my book out loud! So thanks Marcus for the great job!

This was my second visit with Miss Fazio's Grade Sevens. In preparation for today, she'd asked them to interview someone interesting. A student named Jana shared the sad, but beautiful results of what she learned. One of Jana's relatives told her, "My childhood was filled with fear and pain. My imagination helped me escape." When Jana read these lines to us, my arms got tingly. This, for me, is a sign of a great story. Jana, if you're reading this, I hope you have the courage to learn more about this story -- and then to write it, perhaps from the point of view of your relative when he was a teenager. I would definitely want to read it!

I tried all sorts of strange writing exercises with Miss Fazio's class. I made them shake out their hands, do deep breathing, then write with their left hands. A student named Dominique stopped by at the end of my session to say she'd actually come up with a plot for her own story. So maybe there's something to be said for my kooky ideas!

I'll be back at RHS tomorrow afternoon -- hopefully with a working voice! Sleep tight wherever you are!

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