monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

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Buzzing After the Imagination Writers' Festival in Quebec City

Don't you love when your mind is BUZZING? That's what my mind has been doing all weekend, and it's still buzzing today. On Saturday, I traveled to Quebec City to take part in the Imagination Wrtiers' Festival at the wonderful Morrin Centre. Not only did I get to present on a panel (that's me with my co-panelists, authors Sheree Fitch and Vicki VanSickle, and that's our amazing moderator, Mary McCown on the far right in today's pic), but I went to four other events too -- and I learned a ton (which explains why my mind is buzzing!!).

So it's hard to know what to tell you first. I took a lot of notes...  because I wanted to be able to tell my students, as well as you, dear blog readers, about what I learned.

Talking about her new novel, The Winnowing, Vicki VanSickle explained the book was her "love letter to the X Files." She also said that in most sci-fi novels for teens, the protagonist wants to save the world. Vicki said she wanted to try something different. "I wanted," she told us, "to write about someone who is interested in saving her friend, not saving the world." Vicki also added that she writes for herself, in particular "my 11-year-old self."

Sheree Fitch is a beloved poet, and she was speaking about her YA novel Gravesavers, which she based on a historical event. Sheree told us she writes slowly, and when she read from Gravesavers, you could hear the poetry in her words. So I was not surprised when Sheree told us, "I read everything out loud." I recommend that tip to my students too, and now I've got proof for them that it works.

I usually focus on writing for kids in this blog, but I need to tell you about some of the other interesting presenters at Imagination. I was deeply moved by journalist Carol Off's talk. First of all, I have to admit that, like many Canadians, I feel as if I know Carol because I listen to her on CBC's As It Happens. Carol was speaking about her work as a foreign correspondent, and about her new non-fiction book, All We Leave Behind: A Reporter's Journey into the Lives of Others. Carol opened her talk with a line I don't think I will ever forget: "A reporter's best moments are when other people are having their worst." During the Q&A period, I asked Carol if she ever stops herself from asking a question she thinks might raise issues her subject would rather avoid. Carol's answer? "There's no question I won't ask if it's something people want to know. People often feel locked. My obligation is to unlock that door."

On Saturday night, I heard CBC Montreal's Nantali Indongo interview two-time Giller prize winner Esi Edugyan. Nantali's questions were great -- and so were Esi's answers. I loved that Esi shared her own struggles with writing. "All my books," she said, "are a mess at the outset." She also told us that, "I write everything with a great sense of anxiety. That's my process." And Esi also spoke about something I've never heard an author mention before -- not in all my years of attending festivals and interviewing authors. She said, "Luck plays a huge part in what happens to a writer." WOW! SO INTERESTING! I'm always telling my students that if they work work work, they will succeed, but now I'm thinking that Esi makes a good point. Luck plays a role too.

I still have MORE to tell you. I'm afraid this is turning into a very long blog entry -- when I really should be working on the book I am writing!!

On Sunday morning, playwright, author, journalist and filmmaker Drew Hayden Taylor spoke about finding humour in tragedy. He told us, "You can explore as much through humour as you can through drama." He also told us that, "structure is 80 per cent of anything you're writing." Another good lesson for my students!

And I ended my weekend in Quebec City with Lorina Mapa's art workshop. Lorina is a graphic novelist whose graphic novel Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos, and Me is based on her life as a teenager growing up in the Philippines. She told us she started the book after her dad's death. "I was trying to capture memories of my father. After my father's death, I felt like I lost myself." For her, drawing and writing helped her find herself again. I found doing Lorina's drawing exercises a combination of hard and fun. But something Lorina said really reached me: ""You do have the ability to tell a story in drawing. You just have to awaken that in yourselves."

So maybe all that buzzing in my brain could be described as something else too -- an awakening.

Thanks to all the writers for their inspiration, thanks to the Morrin Centre staff and volunteers for being amazing. Special shout-out to Barry McCullough, Elizabeth Perreault, Vivianne Carrier and Azanie Roy -- and an extra thanks to Mary McCown for an amazing run on Sunday morning!

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Wednesday, 28 September 2022

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