monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

Sep
16

Heading to the SPCA This Morning...

You know that research I'm doing about junkyard dogs? Well, this morning I'm headed to the Montreal SPCA. I'm going to interview the acting director, Alanna Devine, who tells me she knows "too much" about guard dogs. Hope to take lots of notes for my new book project. The rest of the week is going to be super busy -- my students are writing exams for me and one class is handing
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Sep
15

Courageous Young Women I Know

I've been thinking a lot about courage lately. And instead of looking to older people as role models, I've been learning some big lessons from several young women in my life. So today's entry is dedicated to them. One's my daughter, who moved to New York in August to start a job in the fashion industry. As I keep telling her, I don't think I would have had the courage to do what
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Sep
11

Doing Things Differently

Recently I read that it is good to do something different every day. When I googled that line just now, I couldn't find exactly who had said it. But I did come up with a similar thought from Eleanor Roosevelt, who advised: "Do one thing every day that scares you."

Lately, I've been thinking about doing things differently. Not so easy for me since I am definitely a creature

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Sep
03

Why Do Dogs Bare Their Teeth?

Quick entry because I have to leave for school in six minutes. So I had my first interview about guard dogs yesterday. I met with a gentleman named Robert Des Ruisseaux, who is a longtime dog trainer. He has worked with guard dogs for almost 50 years. Here's an interesting thing I learned: dogs bare their teeth when they are frightened. Des Ruisseaux told me that dogs who are a little nervous

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Aug
28

Whoa, Girl!

Whoa, Girl is the sort of thing you'd say to a lady horse, right? Well that mare is me -- and it turns out I need to "hold my horses." I sent the first three chapters of the new novel I've been tinkering with to the publisher at Orca Books, and though he likes my narrator, he doesn't think schools -- one of the main markets for their books -- will be comfortable with a story
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Aug
27

What Does Hillary Clinton Have to Do With Writing?

Guess it's my week for writing about celebrities. Did you hear the speech Hillary Clinton made in support of Barack Obama at the Democratic Convention last night? Well, my favourite part was about the importance of perseverence. Clinton was talking about politics and the future of the United States, but she could just as well have been talking about being a writer. She quoted Harriett Tubmann,
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Aug
25

What Does Michael Phelps Have to Do With Writing?

I heard today on CBC radio that Olympic champion Michael Phelps had some trouble with his middle school English teacher, who told him he'd never amount to anything!!

What, you may ask, does this tasty tidbit have to do with the writing life -- the subject of this blog? Well, I've been reading a book where the main male character is too perfect. The best characters -- the ones who

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Aug
21

Back to My Old Writing Routine

Well there is something to be said for getting back to an old routine. It's only the third day of school, but I'm already feeling used to it. And there is a certain comfort, at least for me, in routine. Today, I only have classes in the afternoon and so, besides going for a run this morning, I've been writing. I'm still tinkering with my latest idea for a YA project. It involves Internet
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Aug
19

Back to School!!

Classes start today at Marianopolis College -- which means that at precisely 2:15 this afternoon I undergo a major transformation: I turn back into a teacher!! Though it's more than a little difficult to give up my summer writing schedule, part of me actually looks forward to having students again. I think it may be partly because my daughter flew the coop in July and I've been storing up
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Aug
15

Special Afternoon

Today was a special afternoon because I met up with Sapina, one of the students I worked with in Nunavik in the winter of 2007. As you may know if you've been keeping up with my blog, I've spent most of this summer working on a YA novel set in Nunavik. And Sapina has agreed to be my first reader. YESSS!

I met Sapina at the Lionel Groulx metro station. Oh, I forgot to tell you something
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Aug
13

Are You the Sort of Person Who Always Needs a Book?

I am the sort of person who always needs a book. In fact, I realize that I need at least TWO books: one to read (ahh, the pleasure of lying down on my sofa at the end of the afternoon with a delicious book to read); and one to WRITE. Some writers I know take breaks in between book projects, but that doesn't seem to be my way. You know there are women who always need a boyfriend? Well, I always
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Aug
12

A Funny Thing Happened Out on My Porch Today

I was taking in the laundry when I spotted a young person scraping the neighbour's balcony. "Hello," I said, "who are you?" (If you don't know me, I should explain that I am unusually friendly.) Imagine my surprise when the person looked up -- and he was one of my students from last semester. He was even more surprised than me. "Miss Polak," he sputtered. Gee

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Aug
11

Stoner & Spaz

Catchy title, no? Unfortunately I can't take credit for making it up. It's the title of a YA novel by Ron Koertge that I just finished this morning and MAN, WAS IT EVER GOOD!! Un-put-downable. It's the story of unlikely friends: Ben Bancroft, who has cerebral palsy, and drugged-out Colleen Minou. Great dialogue, great setting, great plot, great themes.

My friend Lori Weber

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Aug
08

Galley Copy Arrives

The galley copy of What World Is Left just landed on my doorstep. The galley is a typeset version of the book. This is my last chance to make any small changes before the book goes to print. Am still doing some work on my new manuscipt, but once that's done, I'll start reviewing the galley.

Yesterday a student whom I met when I was in Nunavik two winters ago phoned to say she'

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Aug
05

What the Joker Has to Say About Making Plans

Have you seen the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight? In it, Batman's nemesis, the Joker, despises people who believe in making plans. Well, he wouldn't like me! I've got exactly two weeks until I turn back into a teacher. This calls for a plan, and here's mine: this week, I'm going to reread and revise the manuscript I've been working on all summer, and next week, by hook or

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Jul
31

Pressed Pennies & Beijing Noodles

What, you may ask, do pressed pennies and Beijing noodles have to do with each other? If you've been reading my blog this week, you'll know that I am doing a story for Maclean's about people who collect pressed pennies. Well now, I've got another story to juggle. Because the Beijing Olympics begin next week, the Gazette wants to run a story about Beijing-style cooking in next Wednesday

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Jul
30

Energized

Some of my friends already call me the Energizer Bunny (I don't like when they say so), but I have to admit that today, I am feeling unusually energetic -- even for me. Maybe it's a result of the vacation, or that my Mom energy has to be channeled elsewhere since as of yesterday, my daughter has become a resident of Brooklyn, New York. Anyway, I've been a-writing. Finished a personal essay
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Jul
29

Endings

Today must be a day for endings. I just just wrote the last sentence of the book I've been working on all summer. (Though mind you, the re-writing, which some people say is the most important part of all, comes next!) The other ending is the end of my official duties as mum. My daughter left home today to start a job in New York City. I didn't think I'd cry, but I did (of course, she

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Jul
28

Back at My Desk

It's Monday afternoon and I'm reinstalled at my desk in Montreal. The holiday did me loads of good and I'm feeling very energetic and happy to be writing again. Of course I did keep my trusty journal and though I didn't exactly work, I did do some interviewing for a possible story. Best of all, I keep waking up with IDEAS IN MY HEAD!! This is very fun.  My main goal writing-wise
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Jul
23

Literary Street Car Ride

It's our last night in San Francisco... wanted to tell you about the street car we rode today to Fisherman's Wharf. Many of the street cars in San Francisco were used in other cities. It just so happened that the one we rode today came from New Orleans where it was used on the Desire line. Playwright Tennessee Williams named his play after a street car like the one we took today. And because

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Jul
19

Hello from Sonoma!

So we're spending a couple of days in wine country. Before that we were in Berkeley. Yesterday, we went to two wineries; our plan is to visit three or four today before we had back to San Francisco for the last leg of our trip. Don't worry -- we're just sipping!!

Mike's gone to the lobby to print up tickets he bought on line for a baseball game tomorrow: San Francisco Giants

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Jul
15

Greetings from San Francisco

Well here we are in San Francisco, having a super fun time. This is my first visit to California and I feel very at home here. We've already met lots of interesting people with interesting STORIES, like a young man who's made his fortune designing a new kind of penny-stretching machine. Yesterday we went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit. Kahlo and

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Jul
11

San Francisco Here We Come!

So we're headed to San Francisco tomorrow morning. Means I won't be around to catch my "Summer Reading" segment on CTV this weekend. Melanie Porco, researcher for the show -- and Marianopolis College graduate!! -- e-mailed to let me know that the segment will air Saturday, July 12 between 9:30 and 10 a.m., and then again on Sunday, July 13 between 8:30 and 9 a.m. If you happen to
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Jul
10

Hello from Winnipeg!

So here I am in Winnipeg -- have taken care of the official business I came here for (I was on a top-secret mission!!) and now I have the afternoon off. It's a short trip because I arrived at 11 p.m. last night and I leave first thing tomorrow morning. The joke here in Manitoba is that their provincial bird is the mosquito -- but so far, my combination bug and suntan lotion seems to be doing the
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Jul
07

Writing Advice from American Author/Historian David McCullough

This weekend, we caught a bit of an old Charlie Rose show in which he interviewed American author/historian David McCullough. McCullough whose books include 1776, shared some practical writing advice. He explained that he does 60 per cent of his research before he starts writing a book. Then he researches as needed. I thought this was interesting because I've heard other writers say they sometimes
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Jul
04

Mothra!!

Mothra is the name of an old Japanese movie about a moth monster. I'm thinking about Mothra today because I just finished writing my story about moths for Maclean's Magazine. I got the idea because there are moths in my kitchen. Every time I think I've wiped them out, they're back -- like Mothra, who was the enemy of Godzilla.

It's July 4 and we're having a barbecue

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Jul
01

Happy Canada Day!

It's a gorgeous Canada Day here in Montreal -- and I have no special plans, except to work on my manuscript. Ahhh! I'm still  rereading and making adjustments. Today, I'm thinking what I've done so far is pretty darned good. I've been in this business long enough to know that I should savour this feeling -- there are lots of times when I'm dissatsified with what I&#

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Jun
25

Devoir reculer...

Hope the French title won't put you off from reading today's blog entry. I'm reviewing a fun book for The Gazette -- it's called Petite Anglaise, and it's the true story of Catherine Sanderson, a young British woman living in Paris, and how she starts a really successful blog called "Petite Anglaise." Apparently, she gets 100,000 visitors a month. Let's just say

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Jun
23

Going Back in Order to Move Forward

I'm a person who likes moving FORWARD, but today is a day for GOING BACKWARDS. Have you ever noticed that sometimes you have to go back in order to go forward? In my case, I'm returning to the beginning of the manuscript I'm working on -- I'm making adjustments and reading out loud and generally getting ready to MOVE FORWARD!  Though I know this is an important part of the

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Jun
20

Testing!

Just testing to see whether I can post a picture from home without the help of Gord, my web guru. Trying to post a photo of my neighbours' poppies. There's no fence between our two houses and I must say the poppies lean quite a bit towards OUR side of the garden!! I took the photo last week... and alas, the poppies have shed their beautiful orange-red flowers. Imagine what it would be like

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Jun
19

Learning to Post a Pic

WhatWorld.jpgHey, blog readers out there. Today I'm writing to you from web-school -- that means Gord Fisch, my web guru (he told me to write that) is teaching me how to post a pic on this blog. Okay, here goes. Gord and I are going to try and post a pic of the book cover of What World Is Left -- my fall book
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Jun
18

Cleavage

So today, I promised I'd tell you a little about an upcoming book called Cleavage: Breakaway Fiction for Real Girls. It's a collection of short stories about girls, their bodies, and their relationships with their mums -- and it's edited by two of my friends, Deb Loughead and Jocelyn Shipley. I caught up with Deb and Jocelyn when I was in Toronto on the weekend, and they told me a little

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Jun
17

Back From Book Expo -- With Lots of Stories!

Well hello again. I'm back from Book Expo in Toronto and fortunately for you, I've got loads of stories about other writers and I've asked them for writing tips I could share on this blog. I figure I have enough cool stuff to tell you to last all week and maybe into next week, too!

The first author I want to tell you about is Bilaal Rajan -- the amazing thing about him is that

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Jun
10

Meeting-ed Out

I spent most of the day in end-of-term meetings at school. Not that the meetings were uninteresting -- they weren't -- but they did leave me feeling kind of drained and not especially creative. So when I got home, I could have taken a nap or vegged on the couch, but no, not me... instead I started working on a book review I have to do for the Montreal Gazette. It's about this book called Novel
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Jun
09

Thinking of My Opa

Opa is the Dutch word for grandfather. Though my opa died in 1977, I think about him almost every day. More than anyone else I knew when I was growing up, my opa was my role model. He was a painter who worked out of his house in Plandome, New York. In my mind, Opa was the ultimate artist. He even wore a cap that was a little like an artist's beret. (He also drove a yellow Stingray Corvette,

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Jun
05

Ups and Downs of the Writing Life

I have a confession to make: one day this week, I was working on my new manuscript and thinking, "Gee, this isn't very good. It's not at all the way I wanted it to come out." I ended my writing day at around four that afternoon, feeling kind of crabby with myself. The next morning, I returned to my desk and plunged back into the story. And guess what? By the end of the day, I

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Jun
04

Author Marsha Skrypuch Pays Another Visit

So my friend, author Marsha Skrypuch was back in Montreal last weekend. She was here to launch her latest book, Daughter of War (Fitzhenry & Whiteside), which I am looking forward to reading. I find that sometimes, it takes another author to understand what goes on inside my head.

Over lunch in Old Montreal on Saturday, I told Marsha my writing plans for this summer -- to finish the

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May
30

Writing Snarky!!

That's writing snarky -- as opposed to feeling snarky. Actually, I'm in my usual mental state, which is generally friendly and mostly kind. But I'm WRITING SNARKY!! That's because when Sarah Harvey, my editor at Orca, and I had our phone "meeting" this week, she suggested that Noah, the protagonist in my latest book project could be a little snarkier. Now that's fun

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May
28

Stories Calling!!!

I just got off the phone with Sarah Harvey, my editor at Orca -- and besides discussing my latest book project, we compared notes about the writing life. I told Sarah how my favourite part is coming up with the next story idea. There's so much possibility at that stage and so much energy and excitement.

Sarah told me that though she has begun work on a new novel (I've already mentioned

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May
23

Writing and Running

I woke up one morning this week with a really sore knee. Uh oh, I thought, this could have a seriously negative impact on my life. First, if I ever had to stop running (and after a certain age, many runners do), it would curtail my cookie-eating habit. I am, if I may say so myself, a very good cookie maker and a frequent cookie consumer. Also, running helps me manage stress and it helps me WRITE

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May
21

Precious Time to Write

Good morning! So, except for some odds and ends at school, I'm pretty much into full-time writing mode. Ahhhh with five h's!! The only complication is I'm feeling like I kind of have to fight to preserve chunks of writing time. If not, the days'll go by and I won't get done what I so want to do. A phone call here, a chitchat there, and next thing I know -- the morning (or afternoon
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May
16

On the Cusp of a Long Weekend

I've had a little technical trouble this week -- I had trouble saving yesterday's blog entry, which is why it appears today. (It's the one that has the five h's in "Ahhhhh!") I don't have much to tell you this afternoon. Actually, I feel a little boring. But -- this is a bit difficult to explain -- it's because I'm writing away. I'm getting lost in my new

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May
16

Ahhhhh!

That Ahhhhh! (with five h's) is because I'm done correcting. Except for a few days of meetings at school, I'm pretty much done -- which means I can make the switch to full-time writing.

Ahhhhh! In the past, I've sometimes needed a little transition time between school and writing, but I'm trying to get right back into the writing so I can make the most of my long free
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May
12

Monday Hello!

I'm still marking away like a fiend, but I'll take a short break to write this blog entry. One of my students, Anastasia S., dropped by during office hours today and we discussed how much her writing has improved over the semester. "The thing I really learned," she told me, "is that I have to keep writing and re-writing. And sometimes I need to take a break and then go back

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May
08

Quick Hello!

Today is the last day of classes at Marianopolis College. Boy, did this semester ever fly by! I've got a mountain of correcting, but I hope to be through it by the end of next week. Then I'm going to turn back into a full-time writer. Ahhhhh! (That's the sound of happy anticipation.) Okay then, gotta run to make it to school on time. Likely won't write another blog entry till next
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May
06

Wisdom from Writer Nancy Huston

I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that I went to hear an interview with Canadian author Nancy Huston during Blue Met and I thought today, I'd do a blog about some of the wise things she had to say. Her latest novel Fault Lines is narrated by several children. Asked how she was able to imagine these narrators, Huston said: "I had many childhoods." She went on to explain that most

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May
05

Photo Shoot for Cover of "What World Is Left"

So today, my friend and super-talented photographer Monique Dykstra came over to shoot some pictures for the cover of my fall book, What World Is Left. Many of you who've met me know I often wear a very special necklace -- a simple leather cord with a pendant attached. The pendant is a scene my grandfather painted and gave to my mother for her 15th birthday. It's no bigger than a postage

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May
04

Trying to Post a Pic!!

Oh my goodness!! I think I JUST FIGURED OUT HOW TO DO IT -- AND IT WASN'T EVEN SO HARD!! I've just posted a pic of Wednesday's launch of my latest book, 121 Express. The lady in the middle is me -- the young people are some of my students (past and present). You can tell from the pic, how pleased I was to see them at the launch. Way to go, Monique! (If I may say so myself!!)

(

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May
02

Notes from Blue Metropolis

The last few days have been a bit of a whirlwind. Many thanks to those of you who turned up for the launch of 121 Express on Wednesday afternoon. It meant a lot to me that many of my friends and students turned up to celebrate. Now if only I could post those pictures!! (I SOLEMNLY PROMISE TO LEARN HOW -- but you'll have to wait until I get through the mountain of term papers that arrives next

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Apr
30

Blue Metropolis Literary Festival Kicks Off!

Today is the first day of the 10th Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival! I'm doing a series of writing workshops today, tomorrow and Friday. Plus, I launch 121 Express later this afternoon; and tomorrow, we're launching Quebec Roots: The Place Where I Live (2008) -- that's the project I participated in along with photographer Monique Dykstra (that was when we worked

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Apr
29

Gearing Up for Tomorrow's Book Launch

So the official launch of my latest book, 121 Express, is coming up tomorrow!  If you're in Montreal and looking for something to do, come join us. Here are the details:

The launch takes place at the 10th Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival, Wednesday, April 30 from 4 to 5:30 p.m., at the Delta Centre-Ville, 777 University Street. (The closest metro station is

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Apr
28

Literary Breakfast in the Gaspe

I'm back at my own computer in Montreal, but my head's still in the Gaspe! Thought I'd tell you a little about this literary breakfast I went to on Sunday morning in New Richmond. I got to sit at a table with lots of quebecois writers and hear them interviewed for a local radio show. Of course, you know me, I had my trusty writer's notebook on hand -- and I used it to jot down some

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Apr
25

More News from the Gaspe!!

Hello again! Today I'm writing to you from New Richmond High School. I just fished my last talk and I thought I'd write another blog entry to fill you in on my adventures. It snowed up here eysterday morning, but it's bright and sunny today, so the Gaspe looks even more beautiful!

Yesterday, I spoke at New Carlisle High School.There were also students there from Shigawake Port

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Apr
23

Hello from the Gaspe

My, my, it`s been quite an exciting day. First news: I flew here on a FOUR-seater plane and the PILOT WAS A WOMAN. Her name is Karen Stone, she is 32 and has two small daughters. The co-pilot was a guy named Marian Musil. He told me, ``I am the captain`s slave and secretary!``

I did three talks today at Bonaventure Polyvalent, where I met many young Gaspesians. I thought I`d tell you a little

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Apr
22

Hello -- and Good-bye

...Hello since it's Tuesday morning and I'm checking in with the blog; good-bye because I leave tomorrow morning super-early for the Gaspe! The taxi comes to pick me up at 4:45! YIKES!! My plan is to go to sleep really early tonight, since I'm speaking to three groups of students tomorrow. If I have the energy and I can get to a computer, I'll try to write at least one blog entry from
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Apr
21

Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Shares Some Advice

I'm supposed to be making supper (it's Melanie's last night in Montreal and it's warm enough for a barbecue!), so I don't have time to tell you all about the dinner party we had where Melanie (my editor on 121 Express) met Andrew Adams (who's actually a character in the book). In short, we had a great time and the party didn't end until nearly one in the morning, which

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Apr
18

Meet My Editor Melanie Jeffs

So lucky me, I get to spend the weekend with Melanie Jeffs, who edited my latest book 121 Express. Melanie arrived from Victoria yesterday. This is her first visit to Montreal so she's eager to get a feeling for the city. Today, we went for lunch to Santropol, a restaurant on St. Urbain St., where on a wonderful warm day like today, you get to sit outside. And while we were there -- now I&#

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Apr
17

Spring Fever -- Part Two

Did I tell you that my neighbours on both sides are already busy in their gardens? So, first thing this morning, I gave into temptation and did a little tidying up in the garden, too. My reward? I saw a cardinal and heard his trill! 

Melanie Jeffs, the Orca editor who edited my latest book, 121 Express,  will be here when I get home from school tonight. I met her when I toured Vancouver

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Apr
16

This 'n That

Today's been a this 'n that sort of day. Lots of little things to do -- and not a long enough block of time to really work on the final go-through of What World Is Left. Also, I've been busy with the "business" of writing. Today, I had my photograph taken for a Ville St. Laurent weekly newspaper -- my not-so-imaginary school in 121 Express is located there - - and so, they

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Apr
15

Workshop on Dialogue

I'm just home from my final writing workshop at Hebrew Academy. Today, we talked about dialogue and how it can help bring a story to life. We also discussed how dialogue that doesn't work can distract readers from the story you want to tell. Because it was our final workshop, I gave the students a little more time than usual to work on their stories -- and then to share them with the rest

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Apr
14

Spring Fever!!

It's a little hard to concentrate when it's warm and sunny and my clothesline is calling to me! "Monique! Monique! Hang out the sheets on me, please! Think how nice they'll smell when you crawl into bed tonight!"

I'm getting to my computer late today (blame the clothesline), but I need to get cracking on that final read through "What World Is Left." 

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Apr
11

Big Day at LaurenHill Academy Junior Campus!!!

I'm sitting at my computer, but I'm still flying from my big day at LaurenHill Academy's Junior campus in Ville St. Laurent. LaurenHill is a special school  for me -- since that's where I got my idea for my newest book, 121 Express. The idea came about in November 2006, on the day I met Andrew Adams, an English teacher at the school. Andrew and I were paired up for a Blue Metropolis

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Apr
10

Visit to College Brebeuf

Bonjour. I greeted you in French today because I'm just back from a visit to College Brebeuf, where I spoke to Lawrence Szigeti's English as Second Language students. Lawrence invited me in to discuss my short story "Row by Row," which is going to be published later this year in an  anthology

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Apr
08

Today's Workshop on Setting

So I was at Hebrew Academy again this morning, this time to do a workshop on setting. We spent the first half hour on theory. I explained how setting is a way of taking your reader with you -- transporting your reader to another time and place. I also talked about the importance of selecting sensory details in order to create an overall mood or impression -- and we looked at several YA authors&#

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Apr
07

New Friends at the Terryberry Library in Hamilton

Hello, hello, blog readers! I'm back from GritLit -- a literary festival in Hamilton, Ont. The bed sheets are out on the clothesline and I'm having the tires on my car changed (Goodbye, Winter Tires! See you in November!). Can you tell we Montrealers are eager for spring?

So, let me tell you a little more about GritLit. On Friday, Don Aker (Don, if you're reading this, Mike who

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Apr
04

Meet Don Aker!

Well you've got to meet Don Aker -- my speaking partner this weekend at GritLit, a literary festival in Hamilton, Ontario (or "The Hammer" as the locals call it). Don and I just did a reading and talk together at the local high school. The kids, who were in grades 9 to 12, were great. They were attentive listeners and they asked smart questions. I took notes on some of the things

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Apr
03

YA Author Lori Weber Visits Marianopolis

So we had another cool visitor at Marianopolis today. This time, it was Lori Weber, author of Klepto, Split, Strange Beauty and Tattoo Heaven. Lori did a general presentation that was open to all students, and later a special workshop on setting for my "Writing for Children" class. So I'll devote today's blog entry to sharing some of her wisdom. During her general presentation

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Apr
02

Gearing Up for GritLit 2008

What is GritLit, you ask? It's a literary festival in Hamilton, Ontario -- and I get to participate this weekend. Friday, I'll be reading at Westdale High School in Hamilton; on Saturday, I read at Terryberry Library. I'm partnered up with Nova Scotia YA author, Don Aker.

So, to gear up for my visit, I'm reading Don's latest book, The Space Between. It's about a 17

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Apr
01

Working With Budding Young Writers at Hebrew Academy

This morning, I worked with a group of grades five and six students at Hebrew Academy here in Montreal. (It's part of a project organized by the Quebec Writers' Federation. The students have been specially picked and they get to work with a poet, a journalist, and a children's writer. As you may have surmised, I'm the children's writer!)

Anyway, they were a very keen group

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Mar
28

Ever Notice How Things Sometimes Turn Up at Just the Right Time?

Just now, as I was tidying up (you may know that tidying up the house is part of my writing ritual!), I noticed an envelope peeping out of the basket where we keep mittens. When I checked to see what was inside, I found some notes I took last spring when I was in Holland doing research for What World Is Left. I took these notes at the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation in Amsterdam. There

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Mar
27

Journalist/Author Joel Yanofsky Visits my Journalism Class

Yesterday, Joel Yanofsky, author of the novel Jacob's Ladder, as well as a non-fiction book called Mordecai and Me (about among other things, Mordecai Richler), visited my Journalism class at Marianopolis. In addition to being an author, Joel is a busy journalist, who does book reviews and author profiles for publications like The Gazette, the National Post, and a publishing industry magazine

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Mar
26

More Wisdom from a Student: "I'm not that good a writer -- yet"

Yesterday, in my "Writing for Children" class at Marianopolis College, another one of my students said something deep about writing. Today's quote comes from Kelly G., who is thinking of doing her next assignment (the first chapter of a YA novel) on an Indian girl living in Canada who is hooked on Bollywood movies. Great idea, Kelly! Well, yesterday, Kelly and I were reviewing her

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Mar
25

About This Play I Saw Last Night

Last night, I went to the Saidye Bronfman Centre in Montreal to see the play, "No More Raisins, No More Almonds." Performed by local teens, the play is set in a Jewish ghetto during the Holocaust. One of the actors was my former student Tamar Eliashiv -- who was just great (and when I caught her eye, she didn't even smile! Very professional, Tamar!!) 

The play was based

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Mar
23

Thoughts on Happiness

I'm preparing for a talk I'm doing about a book called Happier by Harvard psychology professor Tal Ben-Shahar. In this inspiring book, Ben-Shahar points out that most of us tend to focus on the achievement of goals, rather than the process involved in achieving them. A former Israeli squash champion, Ben-Shahar says he felt "empty" after winning at squash. In this book, he writes

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Mar
20

Here's What One of My Students Has to Say About the Writing Process

The students in my "Writing for Children" have been working on their first chapters of a junior novel. Thanks to them, I'm getting to read some pretty amazing stories. One of my students, Emily Distefano, is writing about a girl from Texas who comes to Canada to live with her magician uncle. The girl's parents have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. At the end of Tuesday
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Mar
18

Preparing for a Talk about "Capturing the Teenage Imagination"

For someone who enjoys TALKING as much as I do, preparing for a talk is not usually too difficult! In a little over an hour, I've got to be at the McCord Museum here in Montreal, where I'm doing a talk called "Capturing the Teenage Imagination: Writing for Young Adults." As you know, this is one of my favourite subjects. I've scribbled a bunch of points on a sheet of paper and
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Mar
17

Correcting Frenzy!!

Did I mention that I recently reviewed a book for The Gazette called "Complaint-Free Universe"? According to the book, we're not supposed to complain (because according to the book, complaining about things only makes us unhappier). So all I can tell you is I've got a pile of correcting sitting on the dining room table and it needs doing. It also means I may not get much time

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Mar
14

Goodness Gracious, Almost Forgot to Write a Blog Entry...

That's because I've been so busy working on the "track changes" for What World is Left. (I'm starting to get used to the name of my fall book, which was re-christened this week by my editor in B.C.) Only time for a short entry today since I'm headed out for dinner with a friend. But I wanted to share something interesting that Manitoba writer Anita Daher wrote to me today

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Mar
12

My Character Gets a New Name -- and So Does My Book

So, after a great deal of deliberation (e-mail consultations with my editor Sarah Harvey in B.C., phone consultations with my parents, and several chats with my husband and daughter) the main character in my historical novel has had her name changed from Lotje (deemed too difficult for North American readers to pronounce) to Anneke. Hope you like it!! One of the funny things about deciding on her

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Mar
11

Early Morning Coffee with Toronto Writer-Editor and Toronto Teacher

A person like me probably shouldn't have coffee ever, but alas -- I had a cafe au lait downtown this morning with two friends from Toronto -- and now I'm even livelier than usual. My poor students!!! So I met up with Toronto children's writer and editor Gillian O'Reilly and Toronto elementary school teacher Nancy Rawlinson. Not surprisingly, we talked about kids books and I asked

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Mar
10

Hola Senor

... or senorita! Now that I'm back in snowy Montreal, I have a tremendous urge to speak Spanish!! Those of you taking Spanish classes are SO lucky. If I had a little more free time, I'd ask one of the Spanish teachers at school to let me sit in on her (or his) class. 

So I'm back at work. I've already taught and tidied up my house (the tidying if you're new to my

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Mar
08

Last full day of vacation...

So we're now in Puerto Vallarta, since that's where we fly home from tomorrow. Not to get into the gory details, but we took a bus here yesterday from La Penita... and I got... well... sick. Mike was my angel of mercy. I can't give you the details, but let's just say that if ever in one of my future books, a boy (you see I'd likely change the sex to protect my privacy) gets sick
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Mar
06

Reading on the Beach

So it's jueves, I think that's the right way to say and spell Thursday in Spanish. That means it's market day in La Penita de Jaltemba, so this little town which is usually pretty sleepy, wakes wide up. Mike and I are heading to the market soon, but first, I thought I'd say hola and tell you about the wonderful books I've been reading this week. I've finished Meg Rosoff'
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Mar
03

Quick hello

Hello out there... all is well, except for one small glitch: I can't seem to check my website email from here, so Kim, Sophie and Tamar, in case you're  sending me comments, I'll have to wait till I'm back in snowy Montreal to read them.

I was going through this little notebook I keep and I found a quote about writing that I'd meant to post on the blog, so here it

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Mar
01

Hola de Mejico!!

Quick entry since I´m working on a little old computer in an Internet place in Mexico -- and it´s hard to find the right buttons. We´re in La Penita. It´s warm and sunny and we´re going to spend the whole day READING on the beach. Ahhhh!! Did I tell you I was planning not to write... can´t find the question mark. Not sure I´ll be able to keep that promise.
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Feb
28

Donde esta la playa?

That's about all I can say in Spanish -- but it'll come in handy tomorrow -- which is when we land in Mexico. Our destination is La Penita de Jaltemba, a small town I've already written about for the Montreal Gazette. I've been toying with the idea of not doing ANY WORK over this holiday -- but to be honest, I'm not sure I'll be able to do that. There's nothing harder

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Feb
27

Phone Conversation with my Friends in Wemindji

I just got off the telephone with Ingrid Taylor's class in Wemindji. (These are the students I visited last month in Quebec's James Bay region.) We had a "conference call" -- the students had sent me their stories and we discussed ways to make them even better. So in today's blog entry, I thought I'd share some of the pointers I gave to the students -- and then I'll

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Feb
26

More Snow!

So it's another snowy day in Montreal. I got to the computer early this morning -- which means I still have to go for my run. The good thing about all this snow is it's inspiring me as I work on my story about Nunavik. My story is set in winter -- and believe me, there's a lot of snow up there this time of year.

You've probably heard some mum say how hard it was to leave her

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Feb
25

Writers are Like Squirrels

The reason writers are like squirrels is that we don't let anything go to waste. Something strange or funny or sad happens and we JOT IT DOWN. Eventually, it'll find a place in some story or another. Tamar sent a comment to the blog asking whether I ever recycled any of my manuscripts that were initially rejected? The answer is YESSIREE!! My spring 2007 title, Finding Elmo, was based on one
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Feb
23

Link to Meg Rosoff Interview

Here's a link to my profile of Meg that appears in today's Gazette: http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/books/story.html?id=728159a3-a2e9-4440-a956-7cdedd2bbabc

Talk to you on Monday!! 

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Feb
22

Late Start

My goodness, it's already 12:55 P.M. and I'm really just settling in at the computer with my green tea -- though I did do a little work on my George River story earlier today. But after that, I went for a run, caught up with my very dear neighbours Liz and Kees, who were out of town for two weeks, and returned some other friends' phone calls. Sometimes, a writer needs to replenish her
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Feb
21

Teleconference with St. Willibrord Students

I'm just home from a teleconference that photographer Monique Dykstra and I did with Kelly Ryan's class at St. Willibrord School in Chateauguay. (Last time, we visited the class in person; today we went to a special educational technology centre in Laval and had a "virtual" meeting with the students.) First, "the other Monique" (that's what we call each other) gave

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Feb
20

Novelist Heather O'Neill Visits Marianopolis

Yesterday afternoon, novelist Heather O'Neill -- author of the prize winning Lullabies for Criminals -- visited Marianopolis, the college where I teach. Heather read from her novel and she also read a very clever short story that was a contemporary retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. It's always interesting to hear a writer reading something you've read and enjoyed -- you get to hear

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Feb
19

La Di Da

What's that I hear, La Di Da? I was just washing the bathroom floor (part of my pre-writing ritual... I told this to my Writing for Children class last week and I could tell they thought it was very WEIRD), and I heard myself singing "La Di Da."

"La Did Da? What is that strange song -- and badly sung, too?" you may ask. Well, it's the sound of a writer who'

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Feb
18

Pizza Lesson

We had friends over for dinner this weekend -- and one of them (his name is Ray) gave us a pizza-making lesson. I've always wanted to make my own pizza dough, so I was pretty psyched. We started by mixing yeast and tepid water -- we had to wait a while for it to bubble up. (I got a little impatient at this stage.) Then we added more water, some sugar, and lots of flour. Next came kneading the

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Feb
15

Still in my Pajamas!!

I know it's shocking, especially for someone my age, but I'm still in my pajamas -- actually, in my case, it's a nightgown. The thing is, it's already 2 P.M. But don't think I've been lounging around like some middle-aged lady of leisure -- no sirree! I've been marking and marking and I just just finished my profile of Meg Rosoff. And now, I'm feeling like maybe I should
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Feb
14

Meet Meg Rosoff!

So I'm on a bit of a high here because I just came in from interviewing YA author Meg Rosoff, who's in Montreal as part of a multi-city North American book tour to promote her latest novel, What I Was. Ever set eyes on someone and know straightaway you're going to get along? That's how I felt about Meg.

My assignment for The Gazette is to write a little profile about Meg and

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Feb
13

Preparing for Tomorrow's Interview with Meg Rosoff

Tomorrow morning, I'm interviewing British YA writer Meg Rosoff for a Gazette story -- so I'm doing some background research today. First of all, I just finished reading Meg's latest book, What I Was. I really loved it -- it's very atmospheric, funny in spots, and really gets you thinking. Here is one of my favourite bits: "now that I'm older I've seen how little it

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Feb
12

"Bird by Bird"

Today was a pedagogical day at Marianopolis College, meaning the students had a day off and we teachers had to be in for meetings. I went to three presentations -- one was given by my office mate, Mary Frauley. Mary was talking about designing course plans, which doesn't have much to do with what I blog about, but on the sample course plan she handed round there was a quote from American writer

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Feb
11

This 'n That

I'm calling today's blog entry "This 'n That" because that's the kind of day it is at my end of the computer. I have lots of this 'n that to do. I think it's because I was so focused on the rewrite that I put off a number of other tasks. The first thing I want to do is get cracking on the research for my next newspaper assignment: a story for The National Post

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