Ecris! Lis! Vis!
Last week, I was one more than 100 Québécois authors lucky enough to take part in the Salon du Livre d’Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
If you read the blog entries I wrote while I was there, you’ll know it was a meaningful week for me. I did many school visits, speaking to elementary school students about Le trésor d’Oma, the French translation of my picture book The Brass Charm, illustrated by Marie Lafrance and published by Scholastic. Though the story is written for young readers, it deals with a serious subject – the Holocaust – and was inspired by an experience my mom had when she was imprisoned as a child in a Nazi concentration camp. So I had the very good feeling that I was doing important work – speaking about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust to children who knew little, if anything, about these subjects.
I was one of the few anglophone writers at SLAT. In fact, I may have been the only one! So that made the week more interesting too. I felt like I exercised my brain! My French is good, but I’m not used to living entirely in French. And I did! I also made some new friends. They included Patrick Isabelle and Samuel Larochelle, both of whose kids’ book I had read, enjoyed and reviewed when I was a columnist for the ICI Radio-Canada show, Plus on est de fous, plus on lit! I also hit it off with Dominique de Loppinot, a children’s author whose work I am planning to dive into this summer.
Which brings me to the subject of today’s blog.
Last Sunday night, there was a barbecue for the SLAT authors who were still in Rouyn-Noranda. Many had left on Saturday – including Samuel and Dominique. It was a hot day, and I was feeling uncharacteristically lazy…. also we knew we had to be up at 3:30 AM to catch our flight back to Montreal. All this to tell you I was thinking about skipping the barbecue, and just having a sandwich in my hotel room.
BUT AM I EVER GLAD I WENT! (And not just because the salads and sausages and plum cake and grapefruit cake were way better than any sandwich! And not just because the barbecue took place at Livresse, a really cozy bar-bookstore in Noranda!) I was glad because I had an unforgettable conversation with my tablemates! And though I decided NOT to bring the notebook I bring ALMOST everywhere, I ended up taking notes in my agenda book. Because I didn’t want to forget the things I learned over dinner, and I also wanted to be able to share them with you, dear blog reader.
Perhaps you know the feeling of being at a party with mostly strangers, having a plate full of food, and looking for a table – anywhere! -- to sit down at?
That’s the feeling I had last Sunday night.
As fate would have it, I spotted a friendly looking young man sitting alone at a nearby table. This turned out to be Jonathan Harnois, an author and part-time mariner, whose books include Je voudrais me deposer la tête. After I sat down, we were joined by two more authors: Richard Ste-Marie, a visual artist, musician and author of many books including L’Inaveu; and Jocelyne Saucier, a native of the Abitibi region, whose books include Il pleuvait des oiseaux, which in 2019 was made into a film. (I have to admit I went a little crazy when Jocelyne told me who she was – a friend recently gave me a copy of Il pleuvait… which happens to be at the top of my must-read pile next to my bed!)
Because I love asking questions, I asked my tablemates many questions, such as what advice they would give to aspiring authors. Which helps explain the title of today’s blog entry: Ecris! Lis! Vis!
Jonathan advised, “Ecris!” (For those of you who don’t speak French, that means “Write!”) He added, “Il faut écrire pour écrire” (which means “You have to write to write.”)
Richard advised, “Lire pour comprendre comment ça se fait” (“Read to learn how it’s done.”) He explained that as a musician, he often improvised – and to improvise well he needed to really listen to other musicians. Reading the work of other authors works in a similar way for him.
I asked a slightly different question to Jocelyne. Because she’s about a decade older than me, I asked, “What advice would you have given to yourself ten years ago?” And Jocelyne told me something beautiful. She said, “Vis” (which means live). She went on to explain that sometimes, she has been so involved in her writing that she has missed out a little on life.
I left Livresse feeling very happy. I think I even sang on the walk back to the hotel. I’m left – nearly a week later -- feeling a little like a character from a fairy tale – the character who receives magical gifts from three fairies. In my case, those gifts were the words Lis! Ecris! And Vis! And now I have passed them on to you!
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Monique, vous êtes mon coup de cœur du salon! Vous êtes lumineuse. Je vous écris bientôt pour vous inviter à venir visiter nos élèves! Bon été!