monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

3 minutes reading time (595 words)

Perfect Start to the Week at Selwyn House

Well hello Monday and hello blog readers! Lucky me --  I've just had the perfect start to my week, working with Ms. Farnell and Ms. Russett's Grades 7 and 8 students at Selwyn House School, a private boys' school here in Montreal.

The teachers came up with a wonderful idea -- to have their students write a picture book, which they'll be reading to Grade Two students at the school. I was invited in to give an opening workshop about writing a picture book.

Most people think picture books must be a snap to write. Order a pizza, and write your picture book before it's delivered to your door! But that's not how it works. Picture books are, in my opinion, the hardest books to write -- even though they are generally the shortest. That's because every word counts. Picture books are also the most difficult to sell -- that's because they're expensive to produce and so many people are writing them!

I had two hours with the boys -- that's us in today's pic with Ms. Farnell -- and we did A LOT. I read three picture books -- Maurice Sendak's Pierre, David A. Robertson's When We Were Alone, and my own picture book The Brass Charm. I also covered a lot of writing tips, some just for picture books, and we did THREE writing exercises.

As I often do in my blog entries, I'm going to share a few of my favourite moments from this morning. When I asked a student named Bowie to spell his name for my blog (I collect interesting names to use for characters in future books), he hesitated and explained, "I'm not used to spelling my name out loud." I wrote that line down because well... it's interesting. I explained to the kids that many picture books use dialogue, so it's important to listen for interesting dialogue -- and write it down when we hear it!

I was explaining that happy endings are out of style, but that most picture books include some... I wanted the kids to guess the word. I told them it happens when we eat. A student named Oliver made me laugh when he called out "Poop!" But then the class figured out the word I wanted was GROWTH.

A student named Aidan explained he prefers to be called Bruce. What I really liked was that Bruce TOLD US THE STORY OF HIS NAME. He said, "Bruce is my middle name. It's also the name of my grandfather who passed away two years ago."

When we were making a list of feelings that could be included in picture books, a student named Jiaang impressed me by calling out the word discombobulated. I love that word -- even though I don't love feeling discombobulated.

By the time I left, a few students had some preliminary ideas for their picture books. Bruce might write about the confrontation between a vegetarian and a carnivore. I love that idea! Make it funny! Nikolai might write about a kid who can fly, but who needs to learn humility. Very cool! And Liam might write about his dog, who sometimes sings along when someone plays harmonica. Excellent-o!

So now you know why my week is off to such a happy start. Thanks to Ms. Farnell and Ms. Russett for the invite -- and for doing all the exercises with the kids. Yay for teachers like you! Thanks to the boys for your excellent fun company. Good luck on your picture book stories. I look forward to hearing about your progress!

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Sunday, 19 May 2024

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