I think I've told you that this year again, I am working on a Blue Metropolis Literary Foundation
I knew I was going to have a good afternoon at The Priory School yesterday when I opened my book bag, laid my books out on Mrs. Riggs's desk... and I was SWARMED by students wanting to see the
Our hiking boots are back in the closet -- and I'm back at my desk!
Oh, it was a good vacation! And oh, I am looking forward to getting back to my miracles manuscript! Except for writing
There's only one thing better than a four day hike in the Grand Canyon: THE SHOWER AFTERWARDS!!!
The hike was amazing. We saw a California condor
We're at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and after our backpacks are loaded, we'll head down to the base of the canyon. We've got a laptop with us, but of course, we'll be out of
Actually, "Go take a hike!" is a very rude thing to say!
Except in our case, that's exactly what we're about to do: go and take a big hike. My husband and I are heading back
Since 2006, I've had the great privilege of participating in an exciting educational program called Quebec Roots, run by Montreal's Blue Metropolis Literary Foundation. The program allows writers
I'm always telling my students not to use the word "very," but today, well, you'
Today is launch day. In less than 90 minutes, I've got to be at Babar en ville, Montreal's number one kids' bookstore, to launch my two new books: The Middle of Everywhere and <
What, you may ask, was I doing today in a kindergarten class?
Having fun -- and working!
Lately, I've been concentrating mostly on my new manuscript. I've done some book reviews
Can you read a book without a pencil between your fingers? Not me. When we're at the beach or on a hike, my husband always thinks it's strange that I can't read a book without a pencil.
For me, writing is an inside thing. I don't mean that I write indoors (which I usually do), I mean that I write from my inside. I've heard some writers say that they write for an imaginary
I'm buzzing -- could be because I just had a latte with three kid-lit writers... but it's also because of the shared energy at our table.
Joyce Scharf, Continue reading
Today's blog entry is inspired by a comment I got from John Abbott College English teacher Lesley Checkland-Orr. Lesley wrote to say that on her drive home this week, she thought about something
The truth is -- I miss teaching. It's a great privilege to be on sabbatical and to be writing
Graphic designer Cindy Murphy is responsible for the new banner at the top of this webpage. D'you like it? With two new books coming out this month (The Middle of Everywhere and Junkyard
Maybe it's because I'm on sabbatical and have no students this semester... maybe it's because I'm getting used to the idea that my daughter doesn't live here anymore...
Today's pic is of the window at Border's bookstore in Burlington, Vermont. And you see some
So it's time to "get back to the drawing board" -- or in my case, the carpet! I do some of my best story planning on the pink and green and red and blue and yellow carpet in my little
Tonight was a very special night for me because I did a little talk at Montreal's Jewish Public
I've mentioned before that one of the bonuses of being a writer is the people you get to meet through your books. Now in the case of Rachel Martinez
My husband and I spent the weekend in Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre, a little town about 3-1/2 hours from
So I've been meaning to tell you a little about the on-line interview I did two nights ago with Derrick Grose, editor of School Libraries in Canada . I did the interview at my neighbours
Usually, I'm the one who does the interviewing -- but not today. Today, I'm being interviewed not once, but twice. The first interview just happened and it was for 570 News, a radio station
It's the final weekend of the Montreal Film Festival and we've been seeing movies, movies, movies. We've gone to three in the last two days and I'm going to another three tomorrow.
That's me in today's pic, with my two amigas -- fellow writers Jane Barclay and Lori Weber
That man you see out for a walk... just may happen to be a writer. At least, that's what I learned this morning when I was jogging down Monkland Ave., near my house in Montreal.
So this weekend our friend Carole Wilbourn, who works in Manhattan as a cat therapist, came for a visit. Carole is the ideal houseguest -- independent and easy to please; in fact, she is a little like
So this is going to be my first autumn in 44 years that I haven't gone to school! I'm on sabbatical from my teaching job at Marianopolis College
Nothing like a week of bicycling uphill (well there was A LOT of uphill anyhow) to make this writer eager to get back to work.
I've got a boost of energy because my editor, Sarah Harvey at
Well, hello there! I'm writing to you from the town of Westport, New York. I can't find my reading glasses so I might make some typing errors. My husband and I are on a bike trip. We were attempting
Once a book is published, it has a life of its own. If you're lucky and your book is well distributed, it will be read by many people. I remember how excited I was when my daughter told me she
I spent the weekend with a very dear friend in Kingston, Ontario. On the drive home, I listened to a really good CBC interview with American novelist/graphic artist/playwright Lynda Barry. I have to
I just had a delicious mango-pineapple smoothie at a cafe on Sherbrooke St., in NDG, the Montreal neighbourhood where I live. Better even than the smoothie (which was totally yum-yum) was the company
Well, at least I need to be a little in love wih my narrator. Most YA (young adult) novels are written in the first person (of all of mine, only one, On the Game, is told from the
Pretty messy, no? I shot that photo for you this morning because I want you to see what the floor
We all have our weaknesses and though I hate to admit it, mine might be THINKING!! I'm way better at DOING!! (If you know me, you'll know that I am a very active person.) So you can imagine
This weekend, I was reading in the Montreal Gazette about film director Ken Scott and how he came up with the idea for his latest movie, Les doigts croches (Sticky Fingers), which is about
You may remember that after one of my school visits this spring, I mentioned a student named Delilah in one of my blog entries. Delilah was determined to improve her writing and she was going to try
Today again, I can't take credit for the title of my blog entry. The line, "we are our own best material" is a paraphrase of something Irish-American writer and teacher Frank McCourt
I don't know about you... but a beautiful paragraph can sure have power over me. Sometimes, I think life is all about language. When you think about it, words can start wars; they can also make
So I've got what's called an "advance reading copy" of Junkyard Dog -- one of my two new books coming out this fall. An advance reading copy means it is an uncorrected proof
Well, hello, hello... I'm writing to you from Hammondsport, New York, a very cute little town in the Finger Lakes region of New York. We're here for a little holiday -- though I am not REALLY
I have found that when I am hard at work on a project (the way I am now), life has a way of serving up special gifts (though they are not the sort of gifts that come in wrapped packages!). For example
So I am working on Chapter Six of my new manuscript. I get some of my ideas when I am just waking up, or just falling asleep. This weekend, I was waking up and wondering what would happen in Chapter
A snowy day in June? Now how could that be? It's actually warm and sunny in Montreal today, but in my head it's snowing. That's because in my head I'm in the far north!
One of my favourite parts of being a children's writer is getting to meet other children's writers. This week, I "met" Kristin Butcher. I put the word "met" in quotations
Just so you know... the boy in today's photo is NOT SLEEPING! He is THINKING OF AN IDEA FOR A
Ever have one of those days that just zipped by? Well, that's what happened to me today at Parkdale School in Ville St. Laurent, Quebec.
Do you remember when I told you about my beloved
The title "Tea Time" means things are going well today in this writer's life. The sheets are hanging out on the clothesline (do you already know that I have an obsession with clotheslines
One of the characters in the novel I am reading -- Secrets to Happiness by Sarah Dunn -- is a TV writer. Writing is difficult for him: "He felt, while sitting in front of his computer
Last semester, in my Writing for Children class at Marianopolis College, we talked a lot about the connection between our real lives and our stories. I'm one of those authors who draws on memories
So I'm working on Chapter Two of my new manuscript and I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I don't know what's going to happen next. But one thing I do know: I am having fun
It's a big weekend in Montreal -- not only is my sister getting married this afternoon (which means my daughter is in town from New York. YIPPEE!), but there's a CLA (Canadian Library Association
Hello hello dear blog readers! I'm just back from a whirlwind trip to London, Ontario where I visited two schools: John Dearness Public School and Mountsfield School. In all, I spoke to four groups
Thanks to website designers Vince and Cindy Murphy, moniquepolak.com has a new look. If you've visited my website before, you'll probably have noticed the new book banner on top, and also the handy new link to this blog. So what do you think?
I spent this morning at my school, helping grade placement exams for incoming students, so I'm a little late getting to my computer today
I got to know Tim this winter because we both served on the Arthur Ellis YA Crime Writing jury -- though we never met in
I thought you'd like this picture -- that's me with Megan, one of my students from last semester. That stop sign was Megan's end-of-term project for my "Stuff of Nonsense" class -- the sign is made of cloth roses. Don't you love it?
I like how that sounds -- Markin' Mama -- though perhaps it is a slightly rude way to describe a woman of my age!! However, Markin' Mama more or less captures what I am up to this week. It's the last week of classes at Marianopolis College, where I teach in Montreal, and all my students are handing in their work. I've already gotten through two sets of assignments and I have two
This evening I'm thinking about Sharon Browman, who was my fifth grade teacher at Westminster School more than 40 years ago. Tonight, I'm thinking of Mrs. Browman (though we are still in touch, and these days I call her "Sharon") because I am reviewing a book by Ken Robinson called The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. I just finished reading a chapter
Well... you blog readers have been keeping me busy with your comments. THANKS SO MUCH. There's nothing a writer likes more than knowing she has READERS!!!
As some of you know, I've been busy revising two manuscripts this winter... both are due out in October 2009 with Orca Books Publishers. One's called Junkyard Dog; the other is The Middle of Everywhere. Today, I submitted my
Only time for a quick blog entry since I am working away on the final (I think!) edit of The Middle Of Everywhere (due out next fall with Orca Book Publishers). I'm doing what's called "track notes," meaning I'm working directly on the manuscript, and responding to my editor
Ahhh -- that's the sound a writer makes when she gets to spend the afternoon at home WRITING.
This week, I get to concentrate on teaching and writing -- and I get to reflect on Montreal's Blue Metropolis Literary Festival, which ended yesterday. Besides participating, I went to 10 talks and readings, so I have lots to reflect about.
Yesterday, I went to a panel discussion
Hello dear blog readers, I'm just home from another busy day at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival here in Montreal! This morning, I did a writing workshop with students from Quebec High School, Vezina School, and Royal West Academy. This afternoon, I spoke to students at the Eleanor London
I'm just home from the launch of Quebec Roots: The Place Where I Live, 2009. The launch took place at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival and it was a super happy event. The book was created by students in 10 schools across the province. The students worked with their teachers and with a team composed of a writer and photographer. You may remember I was one of the writers involved
Hello, hello! I'm just back from the Jewish Public Library where I spoke about my book What World Is Left. And today was special because my mum, on whose life the novel is based, came along to the talk, along with my dad. It was quite a crowd -- there were over 400 students from Montreal area
I'm just home from a Holocaust Memorial event at Akiva School here in Montreal. Students in Grades Four, Five, and Six did a moving presentation and I spoke briefly about my latest book, What World Is Left, since it is based on the story of my mum's experience in a Nazi concentration
Hello again... you might think I'd be tired after teaching my own class this morning at Marianopolis College and then zipping off to LaSalle to work with Grades Three, Four, Five and Six students at St. Lawrence Academy's Senior Campus -- but instead, I'm ENERGIZED! That seems to be the effect young people have on me.
I met with two large groups of students, so that by the end
Today's pic was taken by yours truly at Stayner Park in Westmount. What, you may ask, was a writer doing hanging out at the park anyhow? Well, I'd just finished meeting those happy-looking kids you see in the pic (plus a lot of others who were busy on the swings or playing basketball at the
My, my, it's turning out to be another interesting day! First thing this morning, I participated in the 16th Annual Vanier College Kleinmann Family Foundation Holocaust Symposium, where I spoke to Marcia Goldberg's "Short Story" class about What World Is Left. Since
I spent part of today at Heritage Regional High School in St. Hubert, working with students in grades eight through eleven. I must say these were, for the most part, really well-behaved young people. Some of the credit must go to English teacher Mary Eva, who organized today's visit, and who
I've been a little under the weather this weekend... but it hasn't been all bad. Since I'm usually a very busy sort of person, feeling unwell yesterday had a certain upside. I spent the whole day in my nightgown, in bed READING! Actually, it was kind of pleasant.
My neighbour and good friend Joanne lent me her copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
I often tell students I meet how I get good story ideas when I'm out for a run. Well, I'm just back from today's run and though I didn't get any story ideas... I was thinking about the connection between being a mom and a writer and a teacher. This may sound weird, but I decided it has something
You will notice I've got two quite different photos to illustrate today's blog entry. The first pic is of students I met during my return visit to Orchard Elementary in LaSalle.
Hello, hello! I'm just back from a very energizing visit to Orchard Elementary School, where I worked with students who are a little younger than the ones I am used to. Before lunch, I met with a group of grades one and two students; after lunch, I worked with students in grades three and four. It was FUN! One thing about younger students is they don't feel the same pressures about writing
Yesterday YA author Lori Weber came to talk to my "Writing for Children" class at Marianopolis College. Lori has written five YA books, including Klepto, which we have been discussing in class. Yesterday was an exciting day for us because Lori read from her latest novel If You Live Like Me. In fact, we were present for Lori's debut performance -- since yesterday was the first time Lori read publicly from the novel.
Lori had many important things to tell us about writing and about how she gets her ideas. She told us that many of her characters are inspired by real people. For instance, a social worker who visited Lori's family when she was growing up and who drove a red Corvette, found her way into Klepto.
Lori has an expression to explain how real life incidents and feelings can inspire stories. She calls it, "One True Thing." Lori went on to say how "kernels of true things... something that had a profound effect on you" can inspire creative work.
Lori also spent some time discussing setting, which she describe as "an under-used element of fiction." I thought she gave great advice when she told the class, "Don't describe anything unless it's important."
But I'd say the highlight of Lori's visit was when she read from If You Live Like Me. The story is set in Newfoundland, and Lori read us the opening scene -- in it, the protagonist Cheryl is on the plane from Montreal, just about to land in Newfoundland and not too thrilled about it. I can't wait to read the rest of the book! Lori will be launching it on May 28 at Babar Books in Pointe-Claire and everyone's welcome to join the party.
After class ended, Lori stayed to workshop with individual students. I was working in my own office down the hall, but I had the impression Lori had quite a lot of "customers"!
When Lori was packing up to leave, I asked whether she had time for one more customer -- me!!
I've been struggling with one scene in my manuscript, The Middle of Everywhere, and Lori agreed to take a quick look at it. So there we were, in the hallway at Marianopolis, and guess what? Lori read the three pages I printed up, asked me a few questions about what I was up to in the story, and made a simple suggestion. And that simple suggestion really helped!! So, thanks to Lori for visiting my class, for working with students afterwards and for helping out a fellow writer. As the Beatles wrote, "I get by with a little help from my friends!"
Check out this pic of Lori with my very dear class! How could students who turn up reliably twice a week at 8:15 in the morning (and generally in good spirits, too) not be very dear?
On the weekend, Mike and I went to a terrific gospel concert at the St. James United Church here in Montreal. Amongst the songs the choir sang was "Oh Happy Day!" and I can't seem to get the tune out of my mind.
It's funny how happiness seems to be a state of mind. Ever notice how some people seem grumpy no matter what (they even have grumpy faces)? It's true that sometimes
Last week, I asked my "Writing for Children" students to tell me about their ideal writing spot and I've just finished reading their wonderful responses. Some like to write in cafes, one likes to write from a spot outside the family kitchen so he can smell the delicious odours of his mum's Asian cooking, and another does his best thinking and writing while he is waiting for the
I spent most of today at Beaconsfield High School, where I visited Melinda Cochrane's Grade Seven classes. Ms. Cochrane's students had all read What World Is Left and they had prepared some really terrific questions for me. Though I have presented the book to older audiences, I don't think I've had such thoughtful questions from any other group. One of my favourite questions
Yesterday afternoon, I participated in a panel discussion about writing at College Beaubois in Pierrefonds, Quebec. The panel was organized by College Beaubois English teacher Anthony Lombardi. My fellow panelists were children's writer Jane Barclay, short story author Barry Webster, and film and TV writer Janice Benthin. I must say that in listening to the other writers speak, I think I learned
'Tis me, the Queen of Rewriting. Wouldn't you know it -- yesterday, just as I was making the final adjustments on my rewrite of Junkyard Dog (due out next fall with Orca Book Publishers), I got an e-mail from Sarah Harvey (my other editor at Orca) saying that though she likes what I've done with my manuscript The Middle of Everywhere (also due out next fall), she thinks the relationship
I told you I was going to introduce you to another kid lit person -- so today, I'd like you to meet Helaine Becker. Helaine, who lives in Toronto and is the author of some 30 books for children, was visiting Montreal this week and because we've met on-line on a children's writers and illustrators' list-serv, we arranged to meet up. And I must say, we hit it off. In fact, we got
Blog alert: Expect to meet a couple of interesting new book people in my next two blog entries. Here comes the first!
Last night, at the launch of The Heart Specialist, a novel by Montreal author Claire Holden Rothman, I was standing in line behind a woman with whom I ended up chatting. The woman turned out to be Lynn Burgess -- who has spent more than a decade working in children
Last night, an old friend came for dinner. Her name is Leila Basen; she's a screenwriter and we've known each other since our kids were little. Leila has worked on many TV series and she was one of the writers on the hit movie, Bon Cop, Bad Cop. Her latest gig is head writer for the TV series Heartland. If you've never seen it, look for it on CBC on Sunday nights.
I have to admit
Well, today I received a very interesting packet of letters from three students at Unity Junior High School in Cicero, Illinois! There was also a letter from their teacher, Janine Katonah. Ms. Katonah's students have been studying books in Orca's Soundings series, which includes some of my titles. So today, I want to say a very special hello to Ms. Katonah's students Alberto H., Paola
I wish I could take credit for that very wise line, but alas, I'm not the one who came up with it. It's something Montreal author and journalist Joel Yanofsky told my students when he did a talk recently at Marianopolis College. I agreed with Joel at the time, and boy, do I ever agree with him now that I am working on the re-write of Junkyard Dog.
Here's an example. One of Melanie
There's so much to tell, it's hard to know where to begin.
I got my notes on Junkyard Dog -- the second of my two upcoming books with Orca Book Publishers. The editor on this project is Melanie Jeffs. Melanie's notes did something that a wonderful editor's notes can do: she got me excited all over again about my manuscript. Sure, there are plenty of things I need to work on
Another Arizona town we visited last week was Prescott. Though we didn't make it to the local library, we did find The Worm, a bookstore that carries both secondhand and new books. Because I had just finished reading The Hunger Games (more on that wonderful book later this week), I was in desperate need of something to read. I don't know about you, but I just can't manage without
I wrote my last blog entry from the Flagstaff City--Coconino County Public Library in Arizona. At that point, I had just finished using one of the library computers and was heading over to the children's section. To think, I've left you in suspense for five whole days! Well here's what happened next...
I ended up having a lively chat with Gail Reed, the children's librarian
Just a quick hello in case you are wondering whether we survived our three-day hike in the Grand Canyon. Well we did and it was AMAZING!!! It was a 7 mile hike down to Phantom Ranch at the base of the Canyon, and we did the 10 mile hike back up to the South Rim over two days. When we get home, I will post a picture. I have never seen anything more gorgeous in all my life. And I'm feeling