Well, at least I need to be a little in love wih my narrator. Most YA (young adult) novels are written in the first person (of all of mine, only one, On the Game, is told from the
Well, at least I need to be a little in love wih my narrator. Most YA (young adult) novels are written in the first person (of all of mine, only one, On the Game, is told from the
Well, hello, hello... I'm writing to you from Hammondsport, New York, a very cute little town in the Finger Lakes region of New York. We're here for a little holiday -- though I am not REALLY
So I'm working on Chapter Two of my new manuscript and I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I don't know what's going to happen next. But one thing I do know: I am having fun
Thanks to website designers Vince and Cindy Murphy, moniquepolak.com has a new look. If you've visited my website before, you'll probably have noticed the new book banner on top, and also the handy new link to this blog. So what do you think?
I spent this morning at my school, helping grade placement exams for incoming students, so I'm a little late getting to my computer today
I got to know Tim this winter because we both served on the Arthur Ellis YA Crime Writing jury -- though we never met in
I like how that sounds -- Markin' Mama -- though perhaps it is a slightly rude way to describe a woman of my age!! However, Markin' Mama more or less captures what I am up to this week. It's the last week of classes at Marianopolis College, where I teach in Montreal, and all my students are handing in their work. I've already gotten through two sets of assignments and I have two
This evening I'm thinking about Sharon Browman, who was my fifth grade teacher at Westminster School more than 40 years ago. Tonight, I'm thinking of Mrs. Browman (though we are still in touch, and these days I call her "Sharon") because I am reviewing a book by Ken Robinson called The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. I just finished reading a chapter
Well... you blog readers have been keeping me busy with your comments. THANKS SO MUCH. There's nothing a writer likes more than knowing she has READERS!!!
As some of you know, I've been busy revising two manuscripts this winter... both are due out in October 2009 with Orca Books Publishers. One's called Junkyard Dog; the other is The Middle of Everywhere. Today, I submitted my
Only time for a quick blog entry since I am working away on the final (I think!) edit of The Middle Of Everywhere (due out next fall with Orca Book Publishers). I'm doing what's called "track notes," meaning I'm working directly on the manuscript, and responding to my editor
Ahhh -- that's the sound a writer makes when she gets to spend the afternoon at home WRITING.
This week, I get to concentrate on teaching and writing -- and I get to reflect on Montreal's Blue Metropolis Literary Festival, which ended yesterday. Besides participating, I went to 10 talks and readings, so I have lots to reflect about.
Yesterday, I went to a panel discussion
Hello dear blog readers, I'm just home from another busy day at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival here in Montreal! This morning, I did a writing workshop with students from Quebec High School, Vezina School, and Royal West Academy. This afternoon, I spoke to students at the Eleanor London
I'm just home from the launch of Quebec Roots: The Place Where I Live, 2009. The launch took place at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival and it was a super happy event. The book was created by students in 10 schools across the province. The students worked with their teachers and with a team composed of a writer and photographer. You may remember I was one of the writers involved
Hello, hello! I'm just back from the Jewish Public Library where I spoke about my book What World Is Left. And today was special because my mum, on whose life the novel is based, came along to the talk, along with my dad. It was quite a crowd -- there were over 400 students from Montreal area
I'm just home from a Holocaust Memorial event at Akiva School here in Montreal. Students in Grades Four, Five, and Six did a moving presentation and I spoke briefly about my latest book, What World Is Left, since it is based on the story of my mum's experience in a Nazi concentration
Hello again... you might think I'd be tired after teaching my own class this morning at Marianopolis College and then zipping off to LaSalle to work with Grades Three, Four, Five and Six students at St. Lawrence Academy's Senior Campus -- but instead, I'm ENERGIZED! That seems to be the effect young people have on me.
I met with two large groups of students, so that by the end
Today's pic was taken by yours truly at Stayner Park in Westmount. What, you may ask, was a writer doing hanging out at the park anyhow? Well, I'd just finished meeting those happy-looking kids you see in the pic (plus a lot of others who were busy on the swings or playing basketball at the
My, my, it's turning out to be another interesting day! First thing this morning, I participated in the 16th Annual Vanier College Kleinmann Family Foundation Holocaust Symposium, where I spoke to Marcia Goldberg's "Short Story" class about What World Is Left. Since
I spent part of today at Heritage Regional High School in St. Hubert, working with students in grades eight through eleven. I must say these were, for the most part, really well-behaved young people. Some of the credit must go to English teacher Mary Eva, who organized today's visit, and who
I've been a little under the weather this weekend... but it hasn't been all bad. Since I'm usually a very busy sort of person, feeling unwell yesterday had a certain upside. I spent the whole day in my nightgown, in bed READING! Actually, it was kind of pleasant.
My neighbour and good friend Joanne lent me her copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
I often tell students I meet how I get good story ideas when I'm out for a run. Well, I'm just back from today's run and though I didn't get any story ideas... I was thinking about the connection between being a mom and a writer and a teacher. This may sound weird, but I decided it has something
Hello, hello! I'm just back from a very energizing visit to Orchard Elementary School, where I worked with students who are a little younger than the ones I am used to. Before lunch, I met with a group of grades one and two students; after lunch, I worked with students in grades three and four. It was FUN! One thing about younger students is they don't feel the same pressures about writing
Yesterday YA author Lori Weber came to talk to my "Writing for Children" class at Marianopolis College. Lori has written five YA books, including Klepto, which we have been discussing in class. Yesterday was an exciting day for us because Lori read from her latest novel If You Live Like Me. In fact, we were present for Lori's debut performance -- since yesterday was the first time Lori read publicly from the novel.
Lori had many important things to tell us about writing and about how she gets her ideas. She told us that many of her characters are inspired by real people. For instance, a social worker who visited Lori's family when she was growing up and who drove a red Corvette, found her way into Klepto.
Lori has an expression to explain how real life incidents and feelings can inspire stories. She calls it, "One True Thing." Lori went on to say how "kernels of true things... something that had a profound effect on you" can inspire creative work.
Lori also spent some time discussing setting, which she describe as "an under-used element of fiction." I thought she gave great advice when she told the class, "Don't describe anything unless it's important."
But I'd say the highlight of Lori's visit was when she read from If You Live Like Me. The story is set in Newfoundland, and Lori read us the opening scene -- in it, the protagonist Cheryl is on the plane from Montreal, just about to land in Newfoundland and not too thrilled about it. I can't wait to read the rest of the book! Lori will be launching it on May 28 at Babar Books in Pointe-Claire and everyone's welcome to join the party.
After class ended, Lori stayed to workshop with individual students. I was working in my own office down the hall, but I had the impression Lori had quite a lot of "customers"!
When Lori was packing up to leave, I asked whether she had time for one more customer -- me!!
I've been struggling with one scene in my manuscript, The Middle of Everywhere, and Lori agreed to take a quick look at it. So there we were, in the hallway at Marianopolis, and guess what? Lori read the three pages I printed up, asked me a few questions about what I was up to in the story, and made a simple suggestion. And that simple suggestion really helped!! So, thanks to Lori for visiting my class, for working with students afterwards and for helping out a fellow writer. As the Beatles wrote, "I get by with a little help from my friends!"
Check out this pic of Lori with my very dear class! How could students who turn up reliably twice a week at 8:15 in the morning (and generally in good spirits, too) not be very dear?
On the weekend, Mike and I went to a terrific gospel concert at the St. James United Church here in Montreal. Amongst the songs the choir sang was "Oh Happy Day!" and I can't seem to get the tune out of my mind.
It's funny how happiness seems to be a state of mind. Ever notice how some people seem grumpy no matter what (they even have grumpy faces)? It's true that sometimes
Last week, I asked my "Writing for Children" students to tell me about their ideal writing spot and I've just finished reading their wonderful responses. Some like to write in cafes, one likes to write from a spot outside the family kitchen so he can smell the delicious odours of his mum's Asian cooking, and another does his best thinking and writing while he is waiting for the
I spent most of today at Beaconsfield High School, where I visited Melinda Cochrane's Grade Seven classes. Ms. Cochrane's students had all read What World Is Left and they had prepared some really terrific questions for me. Though I have presented the book to older audiences, I don't think I've had such thoughtful questions from any other group. One of my favourite questions
Yesterday afternoon, I participated in a panel discussion about writing at College Beaubois in Pierrefonds, Quebec. The panel was organized by College Beaubois English teacher Anthony Lombardi. My fellow panelists were children's writer Jane Barclay, short story author Barry Webster, and film and TV writer Janice Benthin. I must say that in listening to the other writers speak, I think I learned
'Tis me, the Queen of Rewriting. Wouldn't you know it -- yesterday, just as I was making the final adjustments on my rewrite of Junkyard Dog (due out next fall with Orca Book Publishers), I got an e-mail from Sarah Harvey (my other editor at Orca) saying that though she likes what I've done with my manuscript The Middle of Everywhere (also due out next fall), she thinks the relationship
I told you I was going to introduce you to another kid lit person -- so today, I'd like you to meet Helaine Becker. Helaine, who lives in Toronto and is the author of some 30 books for children, was visiting Montreal this week and because we've met on-line on a children's writers and illustrators' list-serv, we arranged to meet up. And I must say, we hit it off. In fact, we got
Blog alert: Expect to meet a couple of interesting new book people in my next two blog entries. Here comes the first!
Last night, at the launch of The Heart Specialist, a novel by Montreal author Claire Holden Rothman, I was standing in line behind a woman with whom I ended up chatting. The woman turned out to be Lynn Burgess -- who has spent more than a decade working in children
Last night, an old friend came for dinner. Her name is Leila Basen; she's a screenwriter and we've known each other since our kids were little. Leila has worked on many TV series and she was one of the writers on the hit movie, Bon Cop, Bad Cop. Her latest gig is head writer for the TV series Heartland. If you've never seen it, look for it on CBC on Sunday nights.
I have to admit
Well, today I received a very interesting packet of letters from three students at Unity Junior High School in Cicero, Illinois! There was also a letter from their teacher, Janine Katonah. Ms. Katonah's students have been studying books in Orca's Soundings series, which includes some of my titles. So today, I want to say a very special hello to Ms. Katonah's students Alberto H., Paola
I wish I could take credit for that very wise line, but alas, I'm not the one who came up with it. It's something Montreal author and journalist Joel Yanofsky told my students when he did a talk recently at Marianopolis College. I agreed with Joel at the time, and boy, do I ever agree with him now that I am working on the re-write of Junkyard Dog.
Here's an example. One of Melanie
There's so much to tell, it's hard to know where to begin.
I got my notes on Junkyard Dog -- the second of my two upcoming books with Orca Book Publishers. The editor on this project is Melanie Jeffs. Melanie's notes did something that a wonderful editor's notes can do: she got me excited all over again about my manuscript. Sure, there are plenty of things I need to work on
Another Arizona town we visited last week was Prescott. Though we didn't make it to the local library, we did find The Worm, a bookstore that carries both secondhand and new books. Because I had just finished reading The Hunger Games (more on that wonderful book later this week), I was in desperate need of something to read. I don't know about you, but I just can't manage without
I wrote my last blog entry from the Flagstaff City--Coconino County Public Library in Arizona. At that point, I had just finished using one of the library computers and was heading over to the children's section. To think, I've left you in suspense for five whole days! Well here's what happened next...
I ended up having a lively chat with Gail Reed, the children's librarian
Just a quick hello in case you are wondering whether we survived our three-day hike in the Grand Canyon. Well we did and it was AMAZING!!! It was a 7 mile hike down to Phantom Ranch at the base of the Canyon, and we did the 10 mile hike back up to the South Rim over two days. When we get home, I will post a picture. I have never seen anything more gorgeous in all my life. And I'm feeling
March break is coming up at my school. Tomorrow morning, my husband and I are leaving for a hiking trip in the Grand Canyon -- which means I probably won't be blogging for about a week or so.
Usually when we travel I end up writing a travel story about our adventures, but this time, I'm less inclined to work on our trip. I mentioned this to a friend yesterday and she said, "
In my Monday morning "Writing for Children" class this week, I talked about how writers need to stretch. What I meant was we need to try challenging things when we write. We need to keep writing even when we want to stop. I asked my students, "Doesn't stretching feel good?"
One student, S.S., called out "No!" -- and everyone laughed. So, to prove my point
Last Thursday, prize-winning author and journalist Joel Yanofsky spent a day at Marianopolis College. In addition to reading from his work, Joel talked about what he does -- and how he does it. I thought I'd devote today's blog entry to telling you a little about what Joel had to say. Joel believes "All writing is creative" whether it is fiction, or non-fiction, or something called
This week, in addition to working on the rewrite of my Nunavik manuscript, I have been reading my students' picture book texts. As we've discussed in class, there is probably nothing harder to write than the text for a picture book. That's because every word counts. And as I admitted to my students, the assignment I gave them -- to write a picture book text -- is something I have never
So I finally caught up today with my editor Sarah Harvey in Victoria, B.C. I told her exactly what I needed from her -- a nudge in the right direction as I psych myself up for the next revision of my Nunavik manuscript. One of the things I enjoy so much about a talk with a fiction editor is she treats your characters as if they are real people. There's a secondary character in my book named
Beginnings matter -- but of course, you know that already. Think back to the beginning of a friendship or a romance. Or the beginning of a book! I just started reading Dead Silence, a YA book by Toronto writer Norah McClintock. After I read the first couple of sentences, I turned to my husband and said, "I know I'm going to like this book." He was surprised. "How can
Sorry if the title of today's blog entry led you to believe I was about to tell you a joke. Nope, I'm about to answer the question to last week's burning question: what do two sled dogs teams do when they meet up somewhere? I needed to know the answer because the issue comes up in the manuscript I'm in the middle of revising -- which happens to be set in Nunavik, Quebec. Last night
In case you are waiting with bated breath for the answer to yesterday's burning question (do dog sled teams get excited when another team of dogs shows up?) you are going to have to wait until next week. Sorry, folks! When I phoned my friend Mark last night in Nunavik, HE WAS OUT WITH HIS SLED DOGS!! We've now agreed to talk later in the weekend -- so look for the answer to that question
I've heard some writers complain that they get so caught up doing research they lose sight of what they were planning to write about! I'm more into researching on a need-to-know basis. For my latest book, What World Is Left, I spent about six months doing research -- interviewing my mum, on whom the book is based, and researching Theresienstadt, the Nazi concentration camp
I think a lot of people in Montreal were feeling optimistic today. The temperature was hovering around zero -- way warmer than usual for this time of year. My act of optimism was that I hung the sheets out on the clothesline. (You may know that I have an obsession with clotheslines.) Now I wish I'd taken a photo for you -- the sheets billowing in the breeze, a good five feet of snow on the
Every writer needs to know the answer to this question. Last night, I was working on the re-write of my George River manuscript and I have to admit I was feeling a tad overwhelmed. There's so much to do!
This morning, I got up, wrote my morning pages (three pages every single morning no matter what!), went for a run... and then I came back up here to the computer. And you know what?...
Since I came home from school today, I've been working on the rewrite of my George River manuscript (that's my YA novel set in Nunavik). I'm working with something called "track changes." That means my editor, Sarah Harvey, has made notes directly onto my computer manuscript and I respond to her notes (also on the computer manuscript). It's kind of like having a conversation
Gee, I really had to slow down to get those apostrophes right in the title of today's blog entry! So, today I'd like to introduce you to Faye Smailes, YA editor at James Lorimer & Co., in Toronto. When I was at the OLA conference, Faye and I arranged to meet up (several of my books including On the Game and Scarred are published by Lorimer). Faye has been working
So I've got loads to tell you about Genevieve Cote's visit yesterday to Marianopolis College here in Montreal. Genevieve has written and illustrated many picture books. In 2007, she won the Governor General's Prize for her illustrations in The Little Word Catcher.
Genevieve began her talk by telling us that writing the text for a picture book is far more difficult than most people
Yesterday, my photographer friend Monique Dykstra and I did a videoconference. That means we worked with a class on live-video. We were out in Laval; the students were in Franklin Centre, near the American border. This is all part of a great project called Quebec Roots, organized by the Blue Metropolis Literary Foundation. We are helping the students put together a chapter for a book about Quebec
At the Ontario Library Association super-conference last week, I also met Rene Schmidt, the author of Leaving Fletchville (Orca). Rene and I have been in touch because it turns out we met about 40 years ago! There is another coincidence: Rene's grandfather was the minister in a Dutch town close to where my grandparents lived; they were very kind to my family during difficult times
Hi there! I'm writing to you from the lobby of my hotel in Toronto. I'm just back from my little talk at the Ontario Library Association. I was one of 20 children's authors invited to speak about our work. I talked about my latest book What World Is Left -- and I have to admit I got a little choked up telling the story behind the story, how the book is based on my mum's
If you don't believe me, ask the students in my "Writing for Children" class. They are aged 16 to 19, and this morning, I got them to sit on the floor in front of me while I read them two picture books. And you know what? I could tell they had a good time! Maybe even a great time!!
I "read" them A. Guillope's Loup Noir. I put the word "read" in quotation
So I'm just back from a press conference to promote a Montreal literacy organization called "J'Apprends Avec Mon Enfant." Today, JAME began a new initiative to promote literacy -- 60 children's books are being "sent out" into the community and the goal is for the books to be read to as many kids as possible. I'm one of the "passeurs de livres,"
The lines "Whoopy once/ whoopy twice/ whoopy chicken soup/ with rice" come from Maurice Sendak's delightful picture book "Chicken Soup With Rice." Perfect reading for a chilly day in Montreal (last I heard it was minus 21 without the windchill), which is why I read the book to my "Writing for Children" class this morning.
...which gave me the idea to dedicate
No, not a secret code. "A bad code." At least, that's how I say it. What I mean is, I have a sore throat and a sniffle. And my nose is red from blowing it so much. You know... a "code."
Anyway because I've been busy busy with school stuff, I must admit I haven't done much in the way of writing today. But I'm going to try to do a little work now before I
So my head is still full of Judy Blundell's wonderful book, What I Saw and How I Lied. I thought that for today's blog entry, I'd copy out one of my favourite lines from the book (believe me, there were lots to choose from). This one describes the feelings Evie Spooner (the story's 15-year-old protagonist) experiences when the boy (if you can call him a boy, he's 23 years old
Some books are DELICIOUS. That's how I felt reading Judy Blundell's YA novel What I Saw and How I Lied. Lucky me -- I get to review this book, which won the 2008 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. This is the first novel Judy Blundell has written under her own name. She has written many many books under the pen name Jude Watson. What I Saw and How I Lied is
It's on page three of today's Gazette, but for those of you who are out of town, here's the link: http://www.montrealgazette.com/Minus+school/1188315/story.html
If you've got the paper copy, check out Monique Dykstra's photo of Joseph Dixon and the Malamute pup that turned up outside his house on Wednesday in minus 50 degree weather (with the wind chill). I talked to Joseph
So the Moniques are home, back from a fun and interesting trip to Ouje-Bougoumou! It was a bit of a whirlwind, considering we went there and back in about 36 hours (we flew there on a 16-seater beachcraft), but we managed to get everything done. We worked with Kyla Nadeau's Grade Six students at Waapihtiiwewan School. Kyla, thanks for doing such a great job of getting things organized
I think I used a similar title for a blog entry a few months ago -- must be because I'm at the same stage in the writing process. I'm working on the very first draft of a manuscript called Junkyard Dog (it's about guard dogs) and I'm about to start writing the final chapter. Only before I can go ahead and try to bring the whole story to a conclusion, I feel like I have to go back
That's the daily quota I've set for myself. And this week I have what every writer craves most -- TIME!! When I looked at my agenda this morning, I had the delightful feeling that comes when I see BLANK BOXES. No plans!! And then, I sat down to work on Junkyard Dog -- my latest manuscript for Orca -- and when I checked my word count a little later, guess what?! I'd already written 500
Hello hello... I'm just back from a lively session with grades five, six, seven and eight students at The Study, a private girls' school in Montreal. I don't think I've ever had so many questions after one of my talks. Way to go, girls! Only problem is there wasn't time to answer all the questions, so I'm hoping students will send questions to the blog (use the comment section
I bet you think the answer to that question is writing and books. And usually, when I get together with my friends Jane Barclay and Lori Weber, we do discuss writing and books. But to be honest, this week, we mostly discussed our kids. It's been a while since the three of us got together and so we had quite a lot of catching up to do. We also drank a bottle of red wine -- so maybe that explains
First, let me explain: "shmall" is what some people call the Cavendish Mall, a shopping centre in Cote St. Luc, the Montreal neighbourhood where I grew up. As you may remember from an earlier blog entry, I've been doing writing workshops with a group of students at Hebrew Academy, which just happens to be located almost across the street from the "shmall." Together with
So it's Monday morning -- already 9:30. I want to get to the Y to lift weights (don't worry, nothing too heavy!), then I'm going to spend some time at my computer. I need to find my way back to the manuscript I was writing (Junkyard Dog) before I got busy with the re-write (On the George River). I started looking at Junkyard Dog on Friday -- what I need to do is re-read what I've
I don't know if you ever heard of a game called "Hot Potato." We played it when we were kids, and the idea was to keep passing an imaginary hot potato around so it never landed in your lap. About two minutes ago, I e-mailed off a copy of my George River manuscript to Sarah Harvey, one of my editors at Orca Book Publishers in Victoria. So I got rid of the hot potato... and in a few
I'm thinking of expert advice because last night I had a great talk with my friend Mark B, who lives in George River. I may have told you this already, but Mark and a friend of his (they both work at the local school) read the first first draft of my book that is set in Nunavik, Quebec and found a lot of things for me to fix. The hardest scene for me was the one with the polar bear. So, because