If you know me, you probably know that I ask A LOT OF QUESTIONS. Some of my friends think this comes from being a journalist. Sometimes they even get a little annoyed with me and say, "What is this, Monique, an interview?" It is funny how the work we do tends to influence our personalities -- or perhaps it's the other way around and we pick the kind of work that suits who we are.
So we're launching What World Is Left at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 23 at Marianopolis College here in Montreal. YIPPEE! Now I have to say I'm in another phase of the writing life: book promotion! I'm getting a lot of help from my friends at Orca Books and also from the communications officer at Marianopolis, Kathryn Haralambous. Kathryn just phoned to let me know that CBC Radio
Okay, I admit it, some people tease me and call me the Energizer Bunny. And I don't even have long pointy ears! I'm thinking of the bunny business because I am extra-energetic today. I don't know about you, but I find that doing interesting things and meeting interesting people GIVES me energy.
Last night, my friend and fellow YA author Lori Weber and I began team-teaching a
Well, I guess it's your week for meeting children's writers, isn't it? Last night, I did a short presentation at Westmount Library, along with several other local writers who are launching new children's books this season. Today, I want you to meet Anne Renaud, who has published several non-fiction books for young readers. Her latest is called Pier 21, and it's part of Stories
I promised to tell you a little about Frieda Wishinsky -- a Toronto children's author who had dinner with us on Sunday night. Frieda is the author of over 40 books for children. Her picture book, Please, Louise! illustrated by Montrealer Marie-Louise Gay, was recently nominated for the TD Children's Literature Award, one of the country's most prestigious literary prizes.
A few months ago, I got a comment on this blog from a young woman named MaryAnn. Well, MaryAnn was in touch again last week and it turns out she is a writer and blogger, too. A graduate of Concordia, Maryann Hayatian has published a book of poetry, a children's book, and a novella with the very cool name, Love Is Blind, But the Neighours Ain't. MaryAnn told me she started her own website
This is going to be a sad entry, so if you're not in the mood for something sad, better to take a pass on today's entry.
Don't have much time, but I wanted to tell you a little about my interview with Alanna Devine, acting director of the Montreal SPCA. Alanna knows a lot about guard dogs and she told me some heartbreaking stories. I'd heard that some guard dogs have been &
Recently I read that it is good to do something different every day. When I googled that line just now, I couldn't find exactly who had said it. But I did come up with a similar thought from Eleanor Roosevelt, who advised: "Do one thing every day that scares you."
Lately, I've been thinking about doing things differently. Not so easy for me since I am definitely a creature
Quick entry because I have to leave for school in six minutes. So I had my first interview about guard dogs yesterday. I met with a gentleman named Robert Des Ruisseaux, who is a longtime dog trainer. He has worked with guard dogs for almost 50 years. Here's an interesting thing I learned: dogs bare their teeth when they are frightened. Des Ruisseaux told me that dogs who are a little nervous
I heard today on CBC radio that Olympic champion Michael Phelps had some trouble with his middle school English teacher, who told him he'd never amount to anything!!
What, you may ask, does this tasty tidbit have to do with the writing life -- the subject of this blog? Well, I've been reading a book where the main male character is too perfect. The best characters -- the ones who
I was taking in the laundry when I spotted a young person scraping the neighbour's balcony. "Hello," I said, "who are you?" (If you don't know me, I should explain that I am unusually friendly.) Imagine my surprise when the person looked up -- and he was one of my students from last semester. He was even more surprised than me. "Miss Polak," he sputtered. Gee
Catchy title, no? Unfortunately I can't take credit for making it up. It's the title of a YA novel by Ron Koertge that I just finished this morning and MAN, WAS IT EVER GOOD!! Un-put-downable. It's the story of unlikely friends: Ben Bancroft, who has cerebral palsy, and drugged-out Colleen Minou. Great dialogue, great setting, great plot, great themes.
My friend Lori Weber
The galley copy of What World Is Left just landed on my doorstep. The galley is a typeset version of the book. This is my last chance to make any small changes before the book goes to print. Am still doing some work on my new manuscipt, but once that's done, I'll start reviewing the galley.
Yesterday a student whom I met when I was in Nunavik two winters ago phoned to say she'
Have you seen the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight? In it, Batman's nemesis, the Joker, despises people who believe in making plans. Well, he wouldn't like me! I've got exactly two weeks until I turn back into a teacher. This calls for a plan, and here's mine: this week, I'm going to reread and revise the manuscript I've been working on all summer, and next week, by hook or
What, you may ask, do pressed pennies and Beijing noodles have to do with each other? If you've been reading my blog this week, you'll know that I am doing a story for Maclean's about people who collect pressed pennies. Well now, I've got another story to juggle. Because the Beijing Olympics begin next week, the Gazette wants to run a story about Beijing-style cooking in next Wednesday
Today must be a day for endings. I just just wrote the last sentence of the book I've been working on all summer. (Though mind you, the re-writing, which some people say is the most important part of all, comes next!) The other ending is the end of my official duties as mum. My daughter left home today to start a job in New York City. I didn't think I'd cry, but I did (of course, she
It's our last night in San Francisco... wanted to tell you about the street car we rode today to Fisherman's Wharf. Many of the street cars in San Francisco were used in other cities. It just so happened that the one we rode today came from New Orleans where it was used on the Desire line. Playwright Tennessee Williams named his play after a street car like the one we took today. And because
So we're spending a couple of days in wine country. Before that we were in Berkeley. Yesterday, we went to two wineries; our plan is to visit three or four today before we had back to San Francisco for the last leg of our trip. Don't worry -- we're just sipping!!
Mike's gone to the lobby to print up tickets he bought on line for a baseball game tomorrow: San Francisco Giants
Well here we are in San Francisco, having a super fun time. This is my first visit to California and I feel very at home here. We've already met lots of interesting people with interesting STORIES, like a young man who's made his fortune designing a new kind of penny-stretching machine. Yesterday we went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit. Kahlo and
Mothra is the name of an old Japanese movie about a moth monster. I'm thinking about Mothra today because I just finished writing my story about moths for Maclean's Magazine. I got the idea because there are moths in my kitchen. Every time I think I've wiped them out, they're back -- like Mothra, who was the enemy of Godzilla.
It's July 4 and we're having a barbecue
It's a gorgeous Canada Day here in Montreal -- and I have no special plans, except to work on my manuscript. Ahhh! I'm still rereading and making adjustments. Today, I'm thinking what I've done so far is pretty darned good. I've been in this business long enough to know that I should savour this feeling -- there are lots of times when I'm dissatsified with what I
Hope the French title won't put you off from reading today's blog entry. I'm reviewing a fun book for The Gazette -- it's called Petite Anglaise, and it's the true story of Catherine Sanderson, a young British woman living in Paris, and how she starts a really successful blog called "Petite Anglaise." Apparently, she gets 100,000 visitors a month. Let's just say
I'm a person who likes moving FORWARD, but today is a day for GOING BACKWARDS. Have you ever noticed that sometimes you have to go back in order to go forward? In my case, I'm returning to the beginning of the manuscript I'm working on -- I'm making adjustments and reading out loud and generally getting ready to MOVE FORWARD! Though I know this is an important part of the
Just testing to see whether I can post a picture from home without the help of Gord, my web guru. Trying to post a photo of my neighbours' poppies. There's no fence between our two houses and I must say the poppies lean quite a bit towards OUR side of the garden!! I took the photo last week... and alas, the poppies have shed their beautiful orange-red flowers. Imagine what it would be like
So today, I promised I'd tell you a little about an upcoming book called Cleavage: Breakaway Fiction for Real Girls. It's a collection of short stories about girls, their bodies, and their relationships with their mums -- and it's edited by two of my friends, Deb Loughead and Jocelyn Shipley. I caught up with Deb and Jocelyn when I was in Toronto on the weekend, and they told me a little
Well hello again. I'm back from Book Expo in Toronto and fortunately for you, I've got loads of stories about other writers and I've asked them for writing tips I could share on this blog. I figure I have enough cool stuff to tell you to last all week and maybe into next week, too!
The first author I want to tell you about is Bilaal Rajan -- the amazing thing about him is that
Opa is the Dutch word for grandfather. Though my opa died in 1977, I think about him almost every day. More than anyone else I knew when I was growing up, my opa was my role model. He was a painter who worked out of his house in Plandome, New York. In my mind, Opa was the ultimate artist. He even wore a cap that was a little like an artist's beret. (He also drove a yellow Stingray Corvette,
I have a confession to make: one day this week, I was working on my new manuscript and thinking, "Gee, this isn't very good. It's not at all the way I wanted it to come out." I ended my writing day at around four that afternoon, feeling kind of crabby with myself. The next morning, I returned to my desk and plunged back into the story. And guess what? By the end of the day, I
So my friend, author Marsha Skrypuch was back in Montreal last weekend. She was here to launch her latest book, Daughter of War (Fitzhenry & Whiteside), which I am looking forward to reading. I find that sometimes, it takes another author to understand what goes on inside my head.
Over lunch in Old Montreal on Saturday, I told Marsha my writing plans for this summer -- to finish the
That's writing snarky -- as opposed to feeling snarky. Actually, I'm in my usual mental state, which is generally friendly and mostly kind. But I'm WRITING SNARKY!! That's because when Sarah Harvey, my editor at Orca, and I had our phone "meeting" this week, she suggested that Noah, the protagonist in my latest book project could be a little snarkier. Now that's fun
I just got off the phone with Sarah Harvey, my editor at Orca -- and besides discussing my latest book project, we compared notes about the writing life. I told Sarah how my favourite part is coming up with the next story idea. There's so much possibility at that stage and so much energy and excitement.
Sarah told me that though she has begun work on a new novel (I've already mentioned
I woke up one morning this week with a really sore knee. Uh oh, I thought, this could have a seriously negative impact on my life. First, if I ever had to stop running (and after a certain age, many runners do), it would curtail my cookie-eating habit. I am, if I may say so myself, a very good cookie maker and a frequent cookie consumer. Also, running helps me manage stress and it helps me WRITE
I've had a little technical trouble this week -- I had trouble saving yesterday's blog entry, which is why it appears today. (It's the one that has the five h's in "Ahhhhh!") I don't have much to tell you this afternoon. Actually, I feel a little boring. But -- this is a bit difficult to explain -- it's because I'm writing away. I'm getting lost in my new
I'm still marking away like a fiend, but I'll take a short break to write this blog entry. One of my students, Anastasia S., dropped by during office hours today and we discussed how much her writing has improved over the semester. "The thing I really learned," she told me, "is that I have to keep writing and re-writing. And sometimes I need to take a break and then go back
I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that I went to hear an interview with Canadian author Nancy Huston during Blue Met and I thought today, I'd do a blog about some of the wise things she had to say. Her latest novel Fault Lines is narrated by several children. Asked how she was able to imagine these narrators, Huston said: "I had many childhoods." She went on to explain that most
So today, my friend and super-talented photographer Monique Dykstra came over to shoot some pictures for the cover of my fall book, What World Is Left. Many of you who've met me know I often wear a very special necklace -- a simple leather cord with a pendant attached. The pendant is a scene my grandfather painted and gave to my mother for her 15th birthday. It's no bigger than a postage
Oh my goodness!! I think I JUST FIGURED OUT HOW TO DO IT -- AND IT WASN'T EVEN SO HARD!! I've just posted a pic of Wednesday's launch of my latest book, 121 Express. The lady in the middle is me -- the young people are some of my students (past and present). You can tell from the pic, how pleased I was to see them at the launch. Way to go, Monique! (If I may say so myself!!)
The last few days have been a bit of a whirlwind. Many thanks to those of you who turned up for the launch of 121 Express on Wednesday afternoon. It meant a lot to me that many of my friends and students turned up to celebrate. Now if only I could post those pictures!! (I SOLEMNLY PROMISE TO LEARN HOW -- but you'll have to wait until I get through the mountain of term papers that arrives next
Today is the first day of the 10th Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival! I'm doing a series of writing workshops today, tomorrow and Friday. Plus, I launch 121 Express later this afternoon; and tomorrow, we're launching Quebec Roots: The Place Where I Live (2008) -- that's the project I participated in along with photographer Monique Dykstra (that was when we worked
So the official launch of my latest book, 121 Express, is coming up tomorrow! If you're in Montreal and looking for something to do, come join us. Here are the details:
The launch takes place at the 10th Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival, Wednesday, April 30 from 4 to 5:30 p.m., at the Delta Centre-Ville, 777 University Street. (The closest metro station is
I'm back at my own computer in Montreal, but my head's still in the Gaspe! Thought I'd tell you a little about this literary breakfast I went to on Sunday morning in New Richmond. I got to sit at a table with lots of quebecois writers and hear them interviewed for a local radio show. Of course, you know me, I had my trusty writer's notebook on hand -- and I used it to jot down some
Hello again! Today I'm writing to you from New Richmond High School. I just fished my last talk and I thought I'd write another blog entry to fill you in on my adventures. It snowed up here eysterday morning, but it's bright and sunny today, so the Gaspe looks even more beautiful!
Yesterday, I spoke at New Carlisle High School.There were also students there from Shigawake Port
My, my, it`s been quite an exciting day. First news: I flew here on a FOUR-seater plane and the PILOT WAS A WOMAN. Her name is Karen Stone, she is 32 and has two small daughters. The co-pilot was a guy named Marian Musil. He told me, ``I am the captain`s slave and secretary!``
I did three talks today at Bonaventure Polyvalent, where I met many young Gaspesians. I thought I`d tell you a little
I'm supposed to be making supper (it's Melanie's last night in Montreal and it's warm enough for a barbecue!), so I don't have time to tell you all about the dinner party we had where Melanie (my editor on 121 Express) met Andrew Adams (who's actually a character in the book). In short, we had a great time and the party didn't end until nearly one in the morning, which
So lucky me, I get to spend the weekend with Melanie Jeffs, who edited my latest book 121 Express. Melanie arrived from Victoria yesterday. This is her first visit to Montreal so she's eager to get a feeling for the city. Today, we went for lunch to Santropol, a restaurant on St. Urbain St., where on a wonderful warm day like today, you get to sit outside. And while we were there -- now I
Did I tell you that my neighbours on both sides are already busy in their gardens? So, first thing this morning, I gave into temptation and did a little tidying up in the garden, too. My reward? I saw a cardinal and heard his trill!
Melanie Jeffs, the Orca editor who edited my latest book, 121 Express, will be here when I get home from school tonight. I met her when I toured Vancouver
Today's been a this 'n that sort of day. Lots of little things to do -- and not a long enough block of time to really work on the final go-through of What World Is Left. Also, I've been busy with the "business" of writing. Today, I had my photograph taken for a Ville St. Laurent weekly newspaper -- my not-so-imaginary school in 121 Express is located there - - and so, they
I'm just home from my final writing workshop at Hebrew Academy. Today, we talked about dialogue and how it can help bring a story to life. We also discussed how dialogue that doesn't work can distract readers from the story you want to tell. Because it was our final workshop, I gave the students a little more time than usual to work on their stories -- and then to share them with the rest
It's a little hard to concentrate when it's warm and sunny and my clothesline is calling to me! "Monique! Monique! Hang out the sheets on me, please! Think how nice they'll smell when you crawl into bed tonight!"
I'm getting to my computer late today (blame the clothesline), but I need to get cracking on that final read through "What World Is Left."
I'm sitting at my computer, but I'm still flying from my big day at LaurenHill Academy's Junior campus in Ville St. Laurent. LaurenHill is a special school for me -- since that's where I got my idea for my newest book, 121 Express. The idea came about in November 2006, on the day I met Andrew Adams, an English teacher at the school. Andrew and I were paired up for a Blue Metropolis
Bonjour. I greeted you in French today because I'm just back from a visit to College Brebeuf, where I spoke to Lawrence Szigeti's English as Second Language students. Lawrence invited me in to discuss my short story "Row by Row," which is going to be published later this year in an anthology
So I was at Hebrew Academy again this morning, this time to do a workshop on setting. We spent the first half hour on theory. I explained how setting is a way of taking your reader with you -- transporting your reader to another time and place. I also talked about the importance of selecting sensory details in order to create an overall mood or impression -- and we looked at several YA authors
Hello, hello, blog readers! I'm back from GritLit -- a literary festival in Hamilton, Ont. The bed sheets are out on the clothesline and I'm having the tires on my car changed (Goodbye, Winter Tires! See you in November!). Can you tell we Montrealers are eager for spring?
So, let me tell you a little more about GritLit. On Friday, Don Aker (Don, if you're reading this, Mike who
Well you've got to meet Don Aker -- my speaking partner this weekend at GritLit, a literary festival in Hamilton, Ontario (or "The Hammer" as the locals call it). Don and I just did a reading and talk together at the local high school. The kids, who were in grades 9 to 12, were great. They were attentive listeners and they asked smart questions. I took notes on some of the things
So we had another cool visitor at Marianopolis today. This time, it was Lori Weber, author of Klepto, Split, Strange Beauty and Tattoo Heaven. Lori did a general presentation that was open to all students, and later a special workshop on setting for my "Writing for Children" class. So I'll devote today's blog entry to sharing some of her wisdom. During her general presentation
What is GritLit, you ask? It's a literary festival in Hamilton, Ontario -- and I get to participate this weekend. Friday, I'll be reading at Westdale High School in Hamilton; on Saturday, I read at Terryberry Library. I'm partnered up with Nova Scotia YA author, Don Aker.
So, to gear up for my visit, I'm reading Don's latest book, The Space Between. It's about a 17
This morning, I worked with a group of grades five and six students at Hebrew Academy here in Montreal. (It's part of a project organized by the Quebec Writers' Federation. The students have been specially picked and they get to work with a poet, a journalist, and a children's writer. As you may have surmised, I'm the children's writer!)
Anyway, they were a very keen group
Just now, as I was tidying up (you may know that tidying up the house is part of my writing ritual!), I noticed an envelope peeping out of the basket where we keep mittens. When I checked to see what was inside, I found some notes I took last spring when I was in Holland doing research for What World Is Left. I took these notes at the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation in Amsterdam. There
Yesterday, Joel Yanofsky, author of the novel Jacob's Ladder, as well as a non-fiction book called Mordecai and Me (about among other things, Mordecai Richler), visited my Journalism class at Marianopolis. In addition to being an author, Joel is a busy journalist, who does book reviews and author profiles for publications like The Gazette, the National Post, and a publishing industry magazine
Yesterday, in my "Writing for Children" class at Marianopolis College, another one of my students said something deep about writing. Today's quote comes from Kelly G., who is thinking of doing her next assignment (the first chapter of a YA novel) on an Indian girl living in Canada who is hooked on Bollywood movies. Great idea, Kelly! Well, yesterday, Kelly and I were reviewing her
Last night, I went to the Saidye Bronfman Centre in Montreal to see the play, "No More Raisins, No More Almonds." Performed by local teens, the play is set in a Jewish ghetto during the Holocaust. One of the actors was my former student Tamar Eliashiv -- who was just great (and when I caught her eye, she didn't even smile! Very professional, Tamar!!)
The play was based
I'm preparing for a talk I'm doing about a book called Happier by Harvard psychology professor Tal Ben-Shahar. In this inspiring book, Ben-Shahar points out that most of us tend to focus on the achievement of goals, rather than the process involved in achieving them. A former Israeli squash champion, Ben-Shahar says he felt "empty" after winning at squash. In this book, he writes
Did I mention that I recently reviewed a book for The Gazette called "Complaint-Free Universe"? According to the book, we're not supposed to complain (because according to the book, complaining about things only makes us unhappier). So all I can tell you is I've got a pile of correcting sitting on the dining room table and it needs doing. It also means I may not get much time
That's because I've been so busy working on the "track changes" for What World is Left. (I'm starting to get used to the name of my fall book, which was re-christened this week by my editor in B.C.) Only time for a short entry today since I'm headed out for dinner with a friend. But I wanted to share something interesting that Manitoba writer Anita Daher wrote to me today
So, after a great deal of deliberation (e-mail consultations with my editor Sarah Harvey in B.C., phone consultations with my parents, and several chats with my husband and daughter) the main character in my historical novel has had her name changed from Lotje (deemed too difficult for North American readers to pronounce) to Anneke. Hope you like it!! One of the funny things about deciding on her
A person like me probably shouldn't have coffee ever, but alas -- I had a cafe au lait downtown this morning with two friends from Toronto -- and now I'm even livelier than usual. My poor students!!! So I met up with Toronto children's writer and editor Gillian O'Reilly and Toronto elementary school teacher Nancy Rawlinson. Not surprisingly, we talked about kids books and I asked
... or senorita! Now that I'm back in snowy Montreal, I have a tremendous urge to speak Spanish!! Those of you taking Spanish classes are SO lucky. If I had a little more free time, I'd ask one of the Spanish teachers at school to let me sit in on her (or his) class.
So I'm back at work. I've already taught and tidied up my house (the tidying if you're new to my
Hello out there... all is well, except for one small glitch: I can't seem to check my website email from here, so Kim, Sophie and Tamar, in case you're sending me comments, I'll have to wait till I'm back in snowy Montreal to read them.
I was going through this little notebook I keep and I found a quote about writing that I'd meant to post on the blog, so here it
That's about all I can say in Spanish -- but it'll come in handy tomorrow -- which is when we land in Mexico. Our destination is La Penita de Jaltemba, a small town I've already written about for the Montreal Gazette. I've been toying with the idea of not doing ANY WORK over this holiday -- but to be honest, I'm not sure I'll be able to do that. There's nothing harder
I just got off the telephone with Ingrid Taylor's class in Wemindji. (These are the students I visited last month in Quebec's James Bay region.) We had a "conference call" -- the students had sent me their stories and we discussed ways to make them even better. So in today's blog entry, I thought I'd share some of the pointers I gave to the students -- and then I'll
So it's another snowy day in Montreal. I got to the computer early this morning -- which means I still have to go for my run. The good thing about all this snow is it's inspiring me as I work on my story about Nunavik. My story is set in winter -- and believe me, there's a lot of snow up there this time of year.
You've probably heard some mum say how hard it was to leave her
Here's a link to my profile of Meg that appears in today's Gazette: http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/books/story.html?id=728159a3-a2e9-4440-a956-7cdedd2bbabc
Talk to you on Monday!!
I'm just home from a teleconference that photographer Monique Dykstra and I did with Kelly Ryan's class at St. Willibrord School in Chateauguay. (Last time, we visited the class in person; today we went to a special educational technology centre in Laval and had a "virtual" meeting with the students.) First, "the other Monique" (that's what we call each other) gave