monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

Oct
20

Visit to Wonderland -- Akiva School in Montreal

You may know that my favourite book of all time is Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (it was the subject of my Master's thesis at university)... that helps explain why I had such a fun morning today -- I got to talk about Alice with a group of wonderful Grade 5 & 6 students at Akiva School in Westmount, Quebec. The entire school is reading Alice and they've decorated their building with Alice pictures and posters and paraphernalia. In today's pic, I'm with Jennifer Fraenkel, the school's director of academics, who coordinated the project -- with a great deal of assistance, of course, from the teachers, the administration and the students. Check out Jennifer's mad hatter's hat and the tea party exhibit!

For me, the best part was working with the students. They were so smart and well prepared! I told them they were able to answer some questions that my own CEGEP-aged students would have had trouble with! Such as: Where was Lewis Carroll born? (A student named Rebecca knew the answer to this one: Cheshire, England, which helps explain the appearance of the Cheshire Cat in Carroll's book) and What was Lewis Carroll's real name? (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson -- a student named Shai got the middle name, and a student named Michael knew the rest). Then when I was reciting the poem "Jabberwocky," a student named Jon helped me out when I lost my place. Thanks for that, Jon!

I must say I had a good chuckle when a student named Naomi asked if I had written the Alice books. (No, but do I ever wish I had!!) Emma wanted to know if I was Carroll's daughter. (Nope to that one, too!)

I only had about an hour with the students... and truth is, when it comes to talking about Alice, I could go on forever. But here's what I asked the students to remember: that the book's theme of growth is also an important theme in our lives. No matter our age, we continue to grow -- inside and out. I also told them to keep reading, that reading brings solace when we need it (not to mention new information and experiences) and that Wonderland cannot be found on a map -- that's because I think Wonderland's in all of us, available all the time through our imaginations and that no matter our age, we need to exercise our imaginations as much and as often as possible. So make sure you get to Wonderland soon. Have fun learning and growing!

Special thanks to Tina Roth for bringing me to Akiva; to Jennifer, for getting things organized; and to librarian Janice Camlot for letting us use the library. Akiva students, you sure are smart and energetic! Maybe I'll get to teach some of you at Marianopolis in a few years. Hey, you'd be wiz-es in my Alice class!

 

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Oct
18

More Adventures Coming Soon!

I have the great good fortune to be participating again this year in Quebec Roots, an educational program sponsored by the Blue Metropolis Literary Foundation. As part of the project, teams of writers and photographers will visit a total of 10 schools in the province in order to help students produce a chapter in this year's Quebec Roots: The Place Where I Live.

Today was the first of two orientation sessions and I met some of the teachers I'll be working with. Photographer Monique Dykstra and I will be traveling to Quebec City and Shawinigan to work at Everest Elementary School and Shawinigan High. Closer to home, photographer Joel Silverstein and I will work with students at St. Willibrord Elementary in Chateauguay. My biggest (and furthest) trip will be with photographer Thomas Kneubuhler when we go to Sautjuit Schoool in Kangirsuk, Nunavik.

One of the other writers working on the project this year is Winnipeg-born poet Gillian Sze. Last year, Gillian's poetry collection, Fish Bones, was a finalist for the Quebec Writers' Federation First Book Prize. Today, I had a chance to chat with Gillian. She was telling me about her work with at-risk teens, and how important it is for the young writers she works with to feel they can trust her. I really loved how Gillian expressed her thoughts, telling me: "Walls don't write." (You can tell from that line that Gillian is a poet, can't you?) Anyway, that's what I'm thinking about this afternoon... how writing takes a certain openness. If your feelings get too walled up inside, you've got to find a way to take down those walls. For me, it's always been writing.

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Oct
15

Nice News Sometimes Comes Just When You Need It...

Have you ever noticed that nice news sometimes comes just when you need it?

It's been a challenging week. My mum (wonderful woman whom some of you have had the good fortune of meeting -- she's the subject of my novel What World Is Left and has occasionally come to do talks with me) has been pretty sick. She was hospitalized earlier this week, but thank goodness, she was released yesterday... so things were already looking up. (Note to young readers here: APPRECIATE your mum and dad, if you are lucky enough to have them. Sure they sometimes drive us crazy, but no matter what, we love them, right?!)

Anyway... on to the other nice news. I just happened to be reading the Montreal Gazette this morning and guess what I found out? My most recent novel The Middle of Everywhere has been nominated for the 2010 Quebec Writers' Federation Prize for Children's and Young Adult Literature.

Last year, when What World Is Left was nominated for the prize, I knew in advance... so when I was reading the article, I was already half-grumpy, thinking for sure I  hadn't made the shortlist and anticipating a little grumpiness this morning. But then I scanned the story and my eyes landed on my name. So, all this to say, sometimes nice news comes at just the right time in just the right way. Hope there's nice news coming your way, too. Life sure is a mix of things, isn't it?

 

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Monique Polak
Dear Jade, Oh my, that is very tough news to deal with. I can understand that you must be really sad and upset and confused. I hop... Read More
Monday, 18 October 2010 15:35
Guest — Rina Singh
It's wonderful to see your title being recommended in the TD Children's book giveaway- Caramba. 500,000 kids will see this recomme... Read More
Wednesday, 10 November 2010 10:36
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Oct
13

World Watches Dramatic Rescue Story

You probably know that at this very moment, the world is in the middle of a dramatic rescue -- 33 Chilean miners who have been trapped in the San José Mine for 69 days -- are being lifted up to the ground one at a time in a tiny capsule. Though I haven't been watching the rescue on TV (too busy reading and writing!!), I have been following the STORY closely in the newspaper and on-line. This morning, when I read an account of the rescue in the Montreal Gazette, I wept.

Which got me thinking about what makes a great story (one of my favourite things to think about). If you've met me, you know I'm always saying how stories need TROUBLE and these miners certainly had their share of trouble. But their story is also about tremendous courage and about the bonds that can develop between us. Apparently one of the miners had a great sense of humour; another one proposed, from underground, to his girlfriend; another looked after his fellow miners' medical needs.

And, not surprisingly, there's already talk of a book. When they were first trapped, the miners kept a kind of diary. (I really love that part of the story, too.) Another interesting issue that's getting a lot of media attention is how the miners will fare when they return to real life. They'll be famous and rich, but it's likely they will also face major adjustment difficulties.

I don't know about you, but I AM HOOKED ON STORIES. And you know what else? STORIES ARE EVERYWHERE!!!

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Oct
05

Visitor to My Own School!

This afternoon, I visited my friend Sabine Walser's English 103 class at Marianopolis College here in Montreal. Ms. Walser invited me in to talk to students about writing book reviews. I told them everything I know about the book review business -- how book reviewers need to read every word of a book, how they should take careful notes and keep track of their responses, how they should express a forceful opinion early on in their review and support their major points with quotes from the book. Anyway, the students had many good questions -- and best of all for me, they got me back in the mood to be a teacher!! (I'll be back at Marianopolis full-time in January.)

On another note, I wanted to talk a little today about coincidences. You may remember that I wrote about a student named Mary, who lived in Akulivik, Nunavik, and who died unexpectedly early this summer. Mary was a star student involved in the Quebec Roots program -- which is how I got to meet her. I wrote a note to Mary's mum in Nunavik, expressing my condolences. Last week, I was visiting a friend at the Montreal General Hospital and I saw two Inuit women. I said hello to them in Inuktitut. (My Inuktitut isn't very good.) Something about one of the women's faces made me keep talking to her. She told me she was from Akulivik; I said I knew Mary -- and guess what? IT WAS MARY'S MUM!!! Guess what else? She's coming here for supper tonight. I think some coincidences are more than just coincidences -- and this was one.

 

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Oct
04

Happy Day at Mother Teresa Middle School

It's been a while since I've been in a classroom -- and now I realize how much I've missed it!

I had the pleasure of spending most of my day with students at Mother Teresa Middle School in Laval, Quebec. First, I worked with teacher Monic Farrell's Music class. I must say they were a lively bunch (you'll see some of them in today's pic) and they helped get me energized for the rest of the day. Only two of the students said they had an interest in becoming writers, but hopefully, I convinced a few others in the group to consider the writing life. A student named Manny wanted to know how I handle writer's block. I told him that mercifully, it doesn't happen to me very much, but if I do feel blocked, I JUST KEEP WRITING. Even if it is only to say, "gee this is tough. I'm getting discouraged." In other words, I'd write through the block. We talked a little about determination and a student named Dylan gave me a look that told me he knows all about determination. Later, Dylan told me his dream is to become a chef. I told him that'd make great stories -- so maybe he can be a chef who writes on the side.

I spent the rest of the day with Miss Farrell's accelerated learners. I don't think I've ever worked with such a keen group of young writers. Several came in at lunch to share their work with me and to get some feedback. Angel is working on a werewolf story; Alexis is more interested in the place where fiction and non-fiction meet. I told both of them their work looks promising, full of energy and fun, but that they both need to really get to know their main characters. In case you're reading this entry, Angel and Alexis, a good exercise to learn more about your main character is to write down 50 questions (whatever comes to mind -- favourite food, religion, kind of house he or she lives in...) and then work out the answers. We writers need to know all we can about our characters. 

Miss Farrell is doing some super work with her students. They are keeping writers' notebooks, critiquing each other's work, and rewriting. Way to go, Miss Farrell and your students! Thanks for inviting me to Mother Teresa today. Special thanks, too, to principal Mrs. Villalta who attended part of my workshop; to Joan Wasserman, the super English consultant for the Sir Wilfred Laurier School Board; and to Mr. Bilodeau, who was videotaping the visit.

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Recent Comments
Guest — Vanessa
Thank you so much for coming to our class Ms.Polak, I was wondering how would I know if readers would be interested in my writing,... Read More
Monday, 04 October 2010 15:24
Guest — alexis
Dear Monique, I enjoyed meeting you today and appreciate the tips. I will work on developing my characters and work on editing my ... Read More
Monday, 04 October 2010 15:33
Guest — Abby
Hello Ms. Polak! I'm so happy you were able to join us in class. I love writing, and you motivated me and helped me get past my wr... Read More
Thursday, 07 October 2010 18:33
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Sep
30

Quick Trip to Missouri

You must be wondering how I managed to get to Missouri this morning and be back in time for lunch in Montreal! That's because I did a Skype visit with Emily Edger's class at Lewis and Clark Middle School in Jefferson City, Missouri.

I must say the students were super well-prepared! They had loads of good questions for me. Kelly wanted to know if I shared my writing while it was in process. (My answer was yes, but I am very careful about whom I show it to. My first readers have to be kind and smart and honest. Also, I rely heavily on my editor's input during the process.) Morgan wanted to know if I ever get distracted. I answered by holding up my cup of tea (that was my third cup this morning), but I explained that during my frequent tea-making and tea-drinking breaks, I am still thinking about my manuscript.

It was a short Skype session and frankly, I'm sorry it's over so soon. (I think I'm missing having a class of my own!!) In case any of you from L&C Middle School are reading today's entry, I want to know whether you are big fans of the explorers Lewis and Clark. I bet there are many great stories about the famous pair. Do you guys know any of those stories? Thanks to all of you for the fun morning -- and to Miss Edger for making it happen and preparing you so well!

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Guest — Monique
This is my idea for YOUR book. Two stories in one. Modern day students at L&C are doing research on the famous pair after whom the... Read More
Monday, 04 October 2010 19:16
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Sep
29

The Trick to Writing Historical Fiction

Just so you know, dear blog reader, I am ALWAYS thinking of you. Even during business meetings. Yesterday, I was having a business meeting with Sarah Harvey, my editor at Orca Books. Sarah always says many smart things, but when she said this one thing about the trick to writing historical fiction, I thought to myself WRITE THAT DOWN SO I CAN USE IT ON THE BLOG!!

Here's what Sarah said: "The trick with historical fiction is to make the characters live in both these worlds." You're going to need a little context now. The two worlds Sarah meant are the historical world the author is trying to capture in her (or his) story, and the world contemporary teens live in today. 

I thought that line was simple, but oh-so-smart. And because I'm hard at work on another historical YA fiction, that's exactly my challenge: getting my characters to live in two worlds.

Hope things in your world are going okay today.

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Guest — Armen Attarian
Hello Miss P, Today, I had some free time ( a rarity these days) and decided to have a look at the blog! Wow, another historical... Read More
Wednesday, 29 September 2010 14:23
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Sep
26

"Your Heart Can Only Be Broken Open"

Why, good morning, blog readers! I heard this wonderful line yesterday on CBC radio: "Your heart can only be broken open." It's something that poet-musician Kinnie Star's mum once told her. For me, it means that something huge and wonderful can come from a broken heart.

Kinnie is the author of a collection called How I Learned to Run. During the CBC interview, she talked a little about what writing means to her. She said, "All we're going to have eventually is our stories." That line really resonated with me, too, because though I do like material things, I like stories even more! And I know how important it is to preserve and share them.

I'm back in Montreal and it feels good to be here at my desk. I've written two food stories based on our trip to France and Spain, and I'll let you know when they come out in our paper.

In the mean time, if you've got an achy heart -- and believe me, I've had one (many times!!) -- perhaps you'll take a little comfort in knowing that aches and breaks can lead to a new open-ness. And you know what else? Writers need open hearts in order to imagine what their characters are going through. So, in the end, your own aches and breaks may not only open your heart, but make you a better writer, too!

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Sep
20

Musea Guggenheim Bilbao

Hello again, dear blog readers! Today, I'm writing to you from Toulouse, France's "pink city." We drove here yesterday from Bilbao, Spain, where we visited the Musea Guggenheim Bilbao. The titanium-covered museum was designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. We did an audio-tour of the museum and thinking ahead to this blog entry, I took some notes.

In an interview, Gehry said that for him, designing a building is "like feeling your way in the dark." I LOVE THAT LINE because that's what writing fiction feels like to me, too. I also enjoyed learning that in some ways, Gehry returns to his childhood when he comes up with his ideas. When he was a child growing up in Toronto, he spent a lot of time with his grandmother, who encouraged him to make little buildings out of cardboard and other materials. Gehry's grandmother used to buy fresh carp at the market and kept the carp in her bathtub before cooking it up for dinner. Gehry says fish continue to inspire him: "The fish shape got me into moving freely." The titanium exterior of the Musea Guggenheim Bilbao really does look like fish scales. When I'm back at my own computer in Montreal, I promise to post a picture.

In the mean time, I have a question for you: which of your own childhood memories can you tap into and use in a creative way?

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Sep
16

Trouble Makes a Good Story

I'm always telling my students that trouble makes for a good story. A story that has no trouble in it is ... well ... boring.

Of course, the irony is that we don't want trouble to happen to US (only to the characters in our stories)!! But, alas, there's no avoiding trouble, is there?

We had some trouble this week in Barcelona. Our rental car was broken into. Two of the car windows were smashed and because we had one suitcase stashed in the trunk, the thieves got that, too. We lost our warm clothes and I lost my souvenirs! We had to file a police report and get a new rental car... but we're both fine and of course, we've got STORIES to tell about our experience. Today, we leave Barcelona (a gorgeous city, despite the banditos) and head for San Sebastian. Adios for now, amigos!

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Sep
13

Hola from Barcelona

Remind me never to complain about rewrites again! Yesterday, we visited Barcelona's most famous church, the Sagrada Familia. Renowned Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudi spent the last TWELVE years of his life working almost exclusively on the church. He knew that the work would never be completed during his lifetime and in fact, to this day, work on the church continues. It sure is magnificent, though! Instead of pillars, there are these huge structures that look like tree trunks, and when you look up at the ceiling, it's covered in yellow leafy flowers. In a strange way, you have the feeling you are in a forest, not a church!

On another note, my journalistic urges have kicked in again. This morning, we are going to La Boqueria, Barcelona's famous food market... and I've hatched a plan to interview vendors there and ask them for tapas recipes. Now it's true that I speak hardly any Spanish... but don't think that's going to stop me!!! I wish you a buenos dias wherever you are.

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Sep
09

An Afternoon with Salvador Dali

Okay, the title of today's blog entry is a little misleading since Salvador Dali died in 1989, so I couldn't really have spent yesterday afternoon with him. On the other hand, we did get to visit the home he shared with his wife Gala in Port Lligat, just outside Cadaques where we are now staying. (Have I mentioned that I'm writing to you from Spain?)

It's not that I believe in ghosts... but somehow the Dalis felt very present during our visit. And oddly, so did my grandparents... now you really must be thinking that I am losing my marbles during this holiday. Like Dali, my opa (the Dutch word for grandfather) was an artist... and the home he shared with my oma (Dutch for grandfather) in Plandome, New York, had something of the feel of the house we visited yesterday.

Dali was a Surrealist, more interested in some ways in dreams than in reality. When you first walk into the house, you are greeted by a huge stuffed bear, several necklaces draped around his neck. Now Opa and Oma's house didn't have a stuffed bear in their entrance way. What the houses had in common was a sense of beauty and order -- and playfulness. My favourite example from the Dali home: in the room adjoining the bedroom, the Dalis hung a large mirror in a special spot so that in the morning, they'd wake up to the sun rising in their bedroom. 

... When, earlier this summer, I flew from Paris home to Montreal, I sat next to a gentleman from Mauritius, we got into a very good conversation... the sort of conversation it's sometimes easier to have with a complete stranger. Well, this gentleman told me how, in his view, life is about moments, and you have to hold on tight to the special ones, make them last. I think maybe that is what Dali and his wife were doing... I like to imagine them waking up with the sun.... That's it for today's blog entry. May you find (or perhaps, like the Dalis, create) your moments!

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Sep
07

Photojournalism Exhibit in Perpignan

Yesterday, we went to the nearby town of Perpignan to see the interntional photojournalism exhibit running there until September 12.

In my last blog entry, I quoted Anne, an art historian here

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Sep
03

Have You Ever Heard of the Fauves?

Hello hello from Collioures, France, birthplace of the Fauve art movement. It's a beautiful little town and I'm writing to you from a table that looks out on the Mediterranean Sea. Not a bad

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Aug
30

Busy Brain

I haven't told you, but I've been a little cranky the last few days -- that's because I was supposed to be working on an outline for my next book. Only, I kept getting stuck. But you know

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Guest — Mirian Wright
-fine Adidas socks... Read More
Sunday, 15 May 2011 21:53
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Aug
27

Draft Four!

Just in case you think writing's easy... today's entry is meant to set you straight. This week, I spent most of my days working on DRAFT NUMBER FOUR of Miracleville, my novel due out

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Guest — Dee Taylor
Hi Monique I could not resist sending you this poem I wrote ages ago - entitled Rewrite She was a writer - An "author" - Not too s... Read More
Sunday, 29 August 2010 14:33
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Aug
23

Back to School, but not for me!

It's back to school today for Montreal CEGEP (college) students and teachers. Normally, that would mean me -- only I'm on sabbatical again this semester so that I can continue work on another

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It's great being back at school! I hadn't realized how much I missed it. ... Read More
Saturday, 28 August 2010 10:31
Monique Polak
Hi Emily! It's fun to hear that there are students who enjoy being back at school. Good for you! It looks like I'll be at Marianop... Read More
Sunday, 29 August 2010 21:09
Guest — Emily O.
That sounds great! I have a short break at 4 .
Monday, 30 August 2010 22:14
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Aug
18

The Up-Side of Living in a High Tech World

There are plenty of things I don't like about being in a high-tech world: the way a certain man I love never goes anywhere without his Blackberry; the way a certain girl I love sometimes text messages

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Aug
15

79-Year-Old Judge Enjoying My New Ms.

In case you're wondering "Ms." stands for "manuscript." And the 79-year-old judge is my dad! My dad (I generally call him "Pa") reads a ton -- but mostly just newspapers

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Aug
09

Problem Solving

"Writing is problem solving." That's what my friend, author and journalist Joel Yanofsky , told my students

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Aug
05

De Retour!!

After a week in France, I'm thinking in French! So I'm back from a wonderful whirlwind holiday -- and back at my computer, sipping green tea and gearing up for a day of writing.

I was

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Jul
28

Goeje Dag from Amsterdam

Goeje dag means hello in Dutch. I am writing to you today from Amsterdam. And tonight I leave for Nice -- and cooking school.

I just met with Samantha Haywood, a literary agent based here. I

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Jul
21

Thinking About Voyages

I'm off this afternoon -- to Holland, then on to France. In all, I'll be away two weeks, which means I may not be blogging with my usual regularity (it all depends on how difficult it is for

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Jul
16

The Pleasure of Starting to Read a New Book

You know the feeling I'm talking about... you crack open a book, you start reading, and within seconds, you know it's GONNA BE WONDERFUL. Now, that's what I call pleasure.

I've

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Jul
13

What Do You Do Before You Start to Write?

I don't know about you, but I do a whole bunch of things before I settle down to write. Here's what I've done this morning: Got up, wrote in journal (I recommend this as a loosening-the

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Jul
08

Advice From Tom Rachman and Woody Allen

Now that the revision of Miracleville is with my editor, I could be relaxing... only I'm not very good at that!! Instead, I've drummed up some journalism work. I'm doing two stories for

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Jun
29

Revision Time

I'm working on the first major revision of my manuscript Miracleville. It's due on Monday at lunchtime and I'm trying to give it a real push this week. Some moments, I think it

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Jun
23

Louis Sachar Comes to Dinner

YA author Louis Sachar -- best known for his book Holes -- had dinner at our house last night.

So in today's blog entry. I will answer your burning questions!

What did he

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Jun
20

Meet Louis Sachar! (I Did!!)

Oh, what a wonderful afternoon!! That's Louis Sachar with me in today's pic. Louis is the author of many YA books including Holes, which was made into a movie by Disney. I LOVED THAT

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Jun
16

Double Trouble!!

DSC_9734.jpgIMG_3131.jpgThis seems to be my week for hanging out with twins! In today's pics, you'll meet two pairs of

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Guest — tamar
hahahaha! I actually knew about that but forgot until I read it here... ... Read More
Saturday, 19 June 2010 11:59
Guest — Chi
Hope you and your family are doing well. I have enjoyed reading your blog.
Sunday, 04 July 2010 00:16
Guest — Maïté
Un petit commentaire en français pour le plaisir de Monique J'ADORE la première photo avec les "twins" vous êtes magnifiques et ta... Read More
Saturday, 17 July 2010 19:08
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Jun
15

Report from Hebrew Academy

Yesterday, I did the last of three creative writing workshops at Hebrew Academy here in Montreal.

I've been working with a group of six lively and bright 11-year-old girls. Because I wanted

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Jun
12

Saturday Afternoon On-line Chat

I spent a fun afternoon with some bright young readers from across Canada -- all without leaving my comfy chair here in Montreal.

That's all thanks to Teenrc

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Guest — eliana
hi monique it's eliana from the writers workshop i hope you can come next year i cant wait for you to see the book... Read More
Monday, 14 June 2010 19:53
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Jun
11

Meet Scaredy Squirrel's Creator

This week, I got to interview Quebec picture book author and illustrator Mélanie Watt. (I'm doing a profile of her for the Continue reading

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Jun
09

In Memoriam: Mary Qinuajuak

Today, I want to tell you about a very special person named Mary Qinuajuak. Photographer Thomas Kneubuhler and I met Mary in December 2009, when we traveled to Akulivik, an Inuit community in Nunavik

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Guest — Simon Anautak
Hi Monique!! It was fun with Quinn, Annie and Late Mary with you inviting us to your Spaghetti supper. When we were in Kenya, w... Read More
Wednesday, 28 July 2010 22:21
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Jun
07

YES Artists' Conference & Workshop 2 at Hebrew Academy

I spent the morning at the 10th Annual YES Artists' Conference, where I participated on a panel called "Creation and Inspiration: How They Made It!" Our moderator was Andy Nulman, president

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Jun
04

Hippity Hoppity Happy Writer

I was just in my car thinking how I'm feeling like a hippity hoppity happy writer. I think those words only when I'm feeling most happy. And the reason I'm HHH (see, I won't make you

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Jun
01

Cooking Up a Story

Yesterday, I did the first of three writing workshops at Hebrew Academy here in Montreal. I'm working with six Grade Five students -- all girls, and all eager to write! In my one-hour session,

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Guest — tamar
hey miss p! been a while since I have been on here when are you going to HA next? I am asking because I work there!! I also know ... Read More
Wednesday, 02 June 2010 14:32
Guest — Jordana Marciano
hey monique, it's Jordana! Thanks for writing about me on your blog. BTW, it's monday june 7 2010. Sorry I wrote so late. TTYL ... Read More
Monday, 07 June 2010 18:21
Monique Polak
Hi Jordana, I think YOU got the dates mixed up! I wrote this entry last week after our first workshop... I just posted a new blog ... Read More
Monday, 07 June 2010 19:05
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May
31

Feeling Dutch

I'm feeling Dutch these days. Could be because I keep making Dutch friends! It's also because I spent yesterday at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Netherlandic

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May
30

Two Conferences in One Weekend!

I'm just home from participating in a conference run by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Netherlandic Studies, and though I'd like to tell you about it, I'm going to do a

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Recent Comments
Guest — Emily Lawrence
Dear Monique, I am Emily Lawrence from Hebrew Academy. I wanted to remind you that next Monday, you should bring the necklace! See... Read More
Monday, 31 May 2010 18:25
Guest — Monique
Hi Emily! Will do! Hope you're feeling inspired and going to write something wonderful for next Monday!
Tuesday, 01 June 2010 15:40
Guest — Emily
Thank you, Monique.
Tuesday, 01 June 2010 18:56
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May
27

Audio Interview

Today, I'm scheduled to do an audio interview for a website called TeachingBooks. They're located in Madison, Wisconsin, and through their website

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May
25

The Shadow Self

You may or may not know I review self-help books for the Montreal Gazette. A side-effect is that I can get a little unbearable when someone has a problem -- I'm always recommending books

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May
20

Snail Mail

These days, most readers contact authors over the Internet... but yesterday, I actually received two old-fashioned snail mail letters. Both are from students at Hadley Junior School in Glen Ellyn,

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1558 Hits
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May
19

Moving to a New Rhythm

The new rhythm I'm moving to is a SLOWER one. That's because my marking is nearly all done (just two late assignments left)... and I'm back at my desk most of the day. It's nice not

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Guest — Philip Tabah
Hi Mrs. Polak! I just wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday! I wrote the date down (in my little notebook that I carry around) when ... Read More
Thursday, 20 May 2010 11:07
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May
18

Upcoming Children's Writing Conference

The bad news is that picture book author and illustrator Mélanie Watt is out of town and my interview with her has been postponed till June. The good news is I have a wide-open day, with lots

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May
17

I Used to Think Taking Pictures Was Easy...

I used to think that compared to writing, taking pictures was easy! Until, that is, I started hanging out with photographers.

Monique Dykstra is one of those photographers. We have worked together

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May
13

Louis Sachar Coming to Montreal This Summer

I was excited to learn that children's author Louis Sachar will be coming to read in Montreal this summer. You may know Sachar's YA book, Holes, which is one of my all-time favourites

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May
10

Proud Teacher Clucks

I think perhaps most of all, we teachers need to teach our students to be independent. That's why when students come to see me for help with their writing, I make a point of NOT doing all the work

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May
06

Got Talent? Then Use It!

IMG_1414.jpgIn today's pic, you'll meet my "Writing for Children" class. Our semester ends

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May
02

Inside and Outside

IMG_212121.jpgToday's pic is the OUTSIDE of our house. I wanted to show off our spring garden -- still

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614 Hits
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Apr
28

All Oprah All the Time

Why, you may be wondering, is my mind on Oprah Winfrey, host of the world's most popular talk show? It's because I'm reviewing Kitty Kelley's recently released unauthorized bio of Oprah

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Apr
25

Days 3 & 4: Blue Met

It's Sunday morning, and my desk need some serious tidying. That's because it's covered with notes I took during the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival, which comes to an end today. Yesterday

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Apr
23

Day 3: Blue Metropolis

I'm home, taking a little breather between Blue Met events. I did another student writing workshop this morning and this afternoon at five, I'm on a CBC panel called "The Human Face of

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Recent Comments
Guest — Amber
Hello Monique! "The Human Face ofGenocide. The "of" Needs to be capitalized and needs a space Anyways I just got back from schoo... Read More
Friday, 23 April 2010 16:26
Guest — Jonathan
Hey Monique! Jonathan here, from this morning! First I just wanted to say that I really liked your workshop! It reminded me of th... Read More
Friday, 23 April 2010 21:52
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Apr
22

Day 2: Blue Met

I really shouldn't be writing this blog entry! That's because in exactly 20 minutes from now, 20 dinner guests are due to arrive here! They're all friends involved in the Quebec Roots project

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Guest — Amber
"projectand" is incorrect! ;D Anyways sounds like you've had a busy day today and good luck getting your banana breaad out of the... Read More
Thursday, 22 April 2010 21:19
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Apr
21

Day One: Blue Met

IMG_12121212121.jpgIt's Day One of the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival here in Montreal  --

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Recent Comments
Guest — Charlene Seale
Hi there, Wow, we just can't stop talking about it. My students were so inspired by you, Monique. Even though Kayla is shy, she... Read More
Friday, 23 April 2010 15:11
Guest — Monique
Hi Charlene, Thanks for writing -- and for sharing your students with me this week. I'll try to post that pic on the blog!
Saturday, 24 April 2010 11:54
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Apr
19

New Friends at Macdonald High School

IMG_1010101.jpgHello hello, dear blog readers! I'm just in from a long, but happy day. I started at Marianopolis

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Guest — Melissa
Hey, i dont know if you remember me. I was the one who wrote magazines with kim. Thank you for giving me feedback on Bitten. Fact ... Read More
Tuesday, 20 April 2010 19:08
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Apr
17

I Love Sheree Fitch

Today, I did something I haven't done for ages -- I took a class instead of giving one! I did a one-day workshop with Nova Scotia children's writer Sheree Fitch. Sheree called

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Apr
16

"The More You Can Learn the Better"

IMG_9999.jpgThat's what a student named Shaugn told me this morning. I was back at Vanier College, again because I was participating in the Kleinmann Family Foundation 17th Annual Cegep Symposium on the Holocaust and Genocide.

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Recent Comments
Guest — Akeem
Hey miss Polak it`s Akeem I just wanted to thank you for coming to our class and sharing your story it was a great experience to m... Read More
Sunday, 18 April 2010 19:55
Monique Polak
Hi Akeem, I know I didn't get to chat with you for long, but I must say I really felt your interest in my talk. I think you are a ... Read More
Tuesday, 20 April 2010 23:42
Guest — Sara Drost
Just a note of appreciation for your informative account of my sister's class. As a former teacher, we appreciate hearing about t... Read More
Friday, 23 April 2010 16:28
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Apr
14

The Gift of Listening

Okay, so I'll admit it: I am not always the best listener (maybe because I do so much talking!!). But it's a skill I am working on.

Today, I was at Vanier College as part of the school

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Apr
08

Writing Lessons from a Photo Editor

IMG_77777.jpgI  know what you're thinking -- what could a photo editor have to teach us about writing?

Well, you'd better keep reading, because today, Marcos Townsend, photo editor at The

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1552 Hits
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Apr
07

YA Writer Lori Weber Pays a Return Visit to Marianopolis

My friend, local YA writer Lori Weber, came to work with my Writing for Children class this morning at Marianopolis College. Lori is the author of five novels for young adults, the most recent of which

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1780 Hits
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Apr
06

Time to Breathe!!

During the most hectic days of the semester, I sometimes feel like I don't have time to breathe. But this week isn't like that. Ahhhh... it feels good. I used the long weekend to do this &#

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Guest — Sarah MacNeill
Monique! I have been thinking about you and how I haven't said a cyber "hi" in so long! that's great news that you are once again ... Read More
Wednesday, 14 April 2010 13:40
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Mar
31

Helping Students Gear Up for Trip to Nunavik

IMG_666666.jpgI spent part of this afternoon at Royal West Academy in Montreal West. It was a special visit

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Mar
30

Another Visit to Beaconsfield High

IMG_55555.jpgHello hello dear blog readers,

I've posted a pic from this morning's whirlwind visit to Beaconsfield

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1858 Hits
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Mar
29

Passing On My Opa's Advice

This morning, in my Writing for Children class, I passed on some advice I got long ago from my opa (the Dutch word for grandfather). I had just handed back some terrific assignments (I'd asked

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Guest — Bill Nygren
Hi Monique, Found your blog while I was "googling" the Follow Through Factor...I am the author Gene Hayden's husband (and as suc... Read More
Thursday, 15 April 2010 11:53
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Mar
24

Handsome Editor Visits My Journalism Class

Now why, you may be wondering, would a happily married woman like myself notice that an editor who was visiting her Journalism class is handsome? Don't worry -- he's my husband!

My husband

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Mar
23

Hello Nebraska!

IMG_4444.jpgAdmittedly, today's photo is not very good. I took it at my friend Viva's house yesterday

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Recent Comments
Guest — Pam Olsen
It was so great that reading and language arts teacher Stacy Oberembt Skyped you from her classroom through Skypeanauthor.com. It... Read More
Wednesday, 24 March 2010 20:10
Guest — Monique
Hi Pam! Thanks for those encouraging words! I think if all I did was write write write, I'd miss the opportunity to meet young peo... Read More
Monday, 29 March 2010 20:35
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Mar
19

"All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy"

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" -- that's an old expression used in James Joyce's gorgeous short story "Araby." The line popped into my head when I

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Mar
17

Correcting Frenzy!

If you're wondering where I've been, the answer is on the living room couch, CORRECTING ESSAYS. My fingers are getting sore from all the writing -- that's a bad sign for my students since

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520 Hits
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Mar
11

Just So You Know...

Just So You Know it isn't only singing in the morning that makes me happy (though today is the perfect day for that old song, "Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day!" --

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1466 Hits
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Mar
10

I Have an Awful Voice

I have an awful voice, but I love to sing! When my daughter still lived at home, she'd beg me to stop... and my husband does the same.

This morning, the students in my Writing for Children

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Mar
08

Uh Oh, Beautiful Weather in Indiana!

IMG_333.jpgNow you may be wondering why beautiful weather in Indiana would cause me to go, "Uh oh!"

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Mar
07

March Break Coming to an End... and a Lovely Book

Hello out there, So if you're like me, your March break is nearly over. I have to be back in my classroom tomorrow morning at 8:15. All I can say is YIKES. Not because I don't want to see my

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Mar
02

Special Day with Another Gang of Talented Young Authors

Hello, hello, it's me again (well, who else would it be? It's my blog after all!),

So I'm just back from the final day of this year's Young Authors' Conference in Montreal

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Recent Comments
Guest — leah
it was me who told you about the bath crayons
Tuesday, 02 March 2010 20:59
Guest — Ann B
Hi Monique, I was one of your volunteers at this morning's workshop. I'm pleased to tell you that more than half of the "enthusia... Read More
Tuesday, 02 March 2010 22:20
Guest — Be
Thank you for your inspiration today. My daughter (in your afternoon group) is all fired up now and writing quite a tale!
Tuesday, 02 March 2010 23:08
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Mar
01

Report from the Young Authors' Conference

IMG_22222.jpgI'm just home from a happy day at the Young Authors' Conference here in Montreal. It'

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Recent Comments
Guest — jaimey finkel
hey monique i was one of the students that you had today i just wanted to thank you again for coming and i really appreciate it... Read More
Monday, 01 March 2010 20:40
Guest — Monique
Hi Jaimey, Hope you had another great day today at the workshops. Thanks for posting your comment!
Tuesday, 02 March 2010 18:39
Guest — S-R Mestel
Hi! I was also one of your students, but from tuesday. I really had such a great, good, fantastic time!!! You have given me happin... Read More
Tuesday, 02 March 2010 19:35
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Feb
28

Super-Conference!

IMG_1111111111.jpgSo I'm just back from Toronto, where I attended the Ontario Library Association's

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Recent Comments
Guest — Mahtab Narsimhan
Hi Monique, Loved our walking chat (shows how well we multi-task, eh?). Hope to meet up over coffee sometime; in TO or Montreal... Read More
Monday, 01 March 2010 07:57
Monique Polak
It's a date, Mahtab!
Saturday, 20 March 2010 02:30
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Feb
24

Writers Share their Writing Secrets

Even when I was growing up and getting published was just a dream, I always loved reading what writers had to say about writing. I remember hoping that if I paid careful enough attention, I'd figure

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Feb
22

Can You Spell

IMG_111111.jpg"Theriatrics" was the word that won Christopher Scarvelis the Canwest Canspell Regional Spelling Bee here in Montreal yesterday.

Scarvelis, 13, goes to Loyola High School -- and let

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1571 Hits
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Feb
18

A Story That Made My Arms Get Cold

The way I know if a story feels amazing to me is that my arms get cold  when I hear it (or tell  it). Just ask my students -- they've been there in class when this has happened to me.

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Guest — CHARLOTTE21
Commonly, some teachers want to analyse the analysis essay writing technique of their students, however not all students are able ... Read More
Monday, 22 February 2010 13:49
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Feb
15

Trouble -- in a Story -- is a Fine Thing

If you've read my books or been in one of my classes, you'll know by now that I have an unnatural interest in trouble. Not in my own life, of course, but in my stories! (And for those of us

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Recent Comments
Guest — Brittany
Ms. Polak, as soon as I read this blog entry, I posted that saying on this website called Plurk. And my friend responded, "What if... Read More
Monday, 15 February 2010 21:42
Guest — tamar
you always were obsessed with clothes lines... when do we find out what the new book is about?... Read More
Tuesday, 16 February 2010 19:33
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Feb
13

Thinking About Reviews

You write a book and if you're lucky enough, like me, to find a publisher, you send it off into the world... and then, people read it and respond.

I know of one author -- short-listed for

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3 Comments
Recent Comments
Guest — P
Congratulations! I read the review, I'm proud to show it to my friends and family and say "That's my teacher!" ... Read More
Monday, 15 February 2010 01:20
Monique Polak
Hi P! Well, it's usually me who feels proud of my students -- so it's fun, too, when it's the other way around. Tnx for checking i... Read More
Monday, 15 February 2010 17:23
Guest — tamar
what a great review it was! short but sweet
Tuesday, 16 February 2010 19:31
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Feb
12

Meet Neale McDevitt

Yesterday, Montreal journalist and short story writer Neale McDevitt came to do a talk at Marianopolis College and also

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Guest — Bryan Stone
I know Neale McDevitt and hung out with his dad Bob too.
Friday, 26 February 2010 01:55
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Feb
08

Work and Play... and an Upcoming Conference

This morning, in my "Writing for Children" class at Marianopolis College, I was trying to explain a tricky concept. The students are beginning work on the texts for their own picture books

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1271 Hits
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Feb
05

A Visit with our Friends at Tukisiniarvik School

Photographer Thomas Kneubuhler and I spent this morning with our friends at Tukisiniarvik School in Akulivik, Nunavik. Now how did we manage to

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1496 Hits
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Feb
03

Courage

I've been thinking a lot lately about courage. Maybe because the man in the room next to my mom's at the rehab centre has had an arm and a leg amputated on account of his cancer, yet he still

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1534 Hits
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Feb
02

Proud Teacher Checks In

One of the courses I'm teaching this semester at Marianopolis College is Print Journalism. This week, students had to write a letter to the editor.

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Recent Comments
Guest — tamar
I think that without the assignment, the younger generation wouldn't voice their opinion. Since I am all for young people voicing ... Read More
Tuesday, 02 February 2010 20:18
Guest — Amanda Meltzer
I was so bummed when my two letters never got published!! But I will keep trying - even though there's no more bonus marks for me!... Read More
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 17:51
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Jan
29

Laying An Egg

Since my mum got sick before Christmas, I am spending more time chatting with my dad. (Quick report: my mum is doing much better, but is still not well enough to return to her own house.) Well, this

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Guest — L
Hello Ms. Polak, I write to you because I need your help for finding a quote you showed us in your Stuff of Nonesense class, a fe... Read More
Sunday, 31 January 2010 14:05
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Jan
28

12:19 P.M. on January 28, 2010

I record the time and date, because I'm about to jump into a new project. I've spent the last little while on the floor in my office, reviewing notes. And now, I'm going to do it -- write

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1413 Hits
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Jan
26

The Air Is Thick With Stories

IMG_22.jpgLately, I've been telling students how to me, the air feels thick with stories. What I mean is there

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1487 Hits
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Jan
25

Home Invasion Gets Mentioned on CBC Sunday Edition

Yesterday morning, I came home from a run to find a message on our telephone -- it was my friend Deena, calling from the side of the road near Hamilton, Ontario, where she lives. She had been listening

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Guest — tamar
so cool!!! 8)
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 00:44
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Jan
21

Names, Names, Names!

So it's almost the end of my first week back as a pumpkin (I should say teacher -- that's a reference to a previous blog entry where I said I felt a little like the pumpkin in Cinderella

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Recent Comments
Guest — tamat
glad to hear mum is out of the hospital! i am reading "dear john" by nicolas sparks... finding it a bit slow but not one but TWO ... Read More
Friday, 22 January 2010 01:00
Guest — Sophie
Hey Mrs. Polak! It's been a while since I read your blog. I like the new theme - you've always liked red. Hope everything is wel... Read More
Saturday, 23 January 2010 17:19
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Jan
19

The Baby Starts Kindergarten

What baby? My daughter's 26, a long way past kindergarten!

No, the baby is the new manuscript. About six seconds ago, I submitted it to my wonderful editor Continue reading

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1294 Hits
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Jan
18

Pumpkin Turns Into Carriage

In the fairy tale Cinderella, a pumpkin is transformed into a carriage. I feel a little like that pumpkin today... or maybe more like the carriage! This was my first day back at Marianopolis

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1304 Hits
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Jan
17

I Shouldn't Be Writing this Blog Entry!

The reason I shouldn't be writing this blog entry is because I have a ton of things to do... but I've got lots to tell you, dear blog reader, so here I am, writing a blog entry when I shouldn

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1727 Hits
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Jan
13

On Thin Ice!!

Today photographer Thomas Kneubuhler and I were out "on thin ice." Usually, that means people are getting into trouble, but not us! We went out snowshoeing this morning on Lake Mistissini

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1849 Hits
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Jan
12

Hello from the Cree Nation of Mistissini

So today's entry comes to you from the Cree Nation of Mistissini. I am writing to you from a computer at Voyageur Memorial School, where I'm working with photographer Thomas Kneubuhler on a project

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1426 Hits
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Jan
10

Heading Back to James Bay

Tomorrow morning, really early, I'm catching a plane to James Bay -- this time, I'm headed for a town called Mistissini. I'll be meeting up with photographer Thomas Kneubuhler and we'

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Jan
07

The Most Special Dress in my Closet

IMG_99.jpgMy day started with an e-mail from a reader named Elise. Elise wrote to say that her favourite part of

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Recent comment in this post
Guest — Thea
That dress is very pretty I'm beginning to read What World is Left? ... Read More
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 22:04
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Jan
06

Ordinary Things... and a good day at the computer

Today, driving home from the hospital (my mum is beginning to recover, but it looks like she may be in the hospital for a while still), I heard a wonderful interview on CBC Radio with Scottish author

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1218 Hits
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Jan
04

Ups and Downs and Finding Ways to Handle Them

Well, there've been a lot of ups and downs around here the last few days. My mum who has been in the hospital for nearly two weeks, was getting a little better last week, and then she took a real

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1315 Hits
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