monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

May
21

Precious Time to Write

Good morning! So, except for some odds and ends at school, I'm pretty much into full-time writing mode. Ahhhh with five h's!! The only complication is I'm feeling like I kind of have to fight to preserve chunks of writing time. If not, the days'll go by and I won't get done what I so want to do. A phone call here, a chitchat there, and next thing I know -- the morning (or afternoon
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May
16

On the Cusp of a Long Weekend

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

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May
16

Ahhhhh!

That Ahhhhh! (with five h's) is because I'm done correcting. Except for a few days of meetings at school, I'm pretty much done -- which means I can make the switch to full-time writing.

Ahhhhh! In the past, I've sometimes needed a little transition time between school and writing, but I'm trying to get right back into the writing so I can make the most of my long free
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May
12

Monday Hello!

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

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May
08

Quick Hello!

Today is the last day of classes at Marianopolis College. Boy, did this semester ever fly by! I've got a mountain of correcting, but I hope to be through it by the end of next week. Then I'm going to turn back into a full-time writer. Ahhhhh! (That's the sound of happy anticipation.) Okay then, gotta run to make it to school on time. Likely won't write another blog entry till next
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May
06

Wisdom from Writer Nancy Huston

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

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May
05

Photo Shoot for Cover of "What World Is Left"

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

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May
04

Trying to Post a Pic!!

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!!)

(

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May
02

Notes from Blue Metropolis

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

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Apr
30

Blue Metropolis Literary Festival Kicks Off!

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

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Apr
29

Gearing Up for Tomorrow's Book Launch

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

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Apr
28

Literary Breakfast in the Gaspe

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

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Apr
25

More News from the Gaspe!!

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

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Apr
23

Hello from the Gaspe

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

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Apr
22

Hello -- and Good-bye

...Hello since it's Tuesday morning and I'm checking in with the blog; good-bye because I leave tomorrow morning super-early for the Gaspe! The taxi comes to pick me up at 4:45! YIKES!! My plan is to go to sleep really early tonight, since I'm speaking to three groups of students tomorrow. If I have the energy and I can get to a computer, I'll try to write at least one blog entry from
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Apr
21

Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Shares Some Advice

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

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Apr
18

Meet My Editor Melanie Jeffs

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&#

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Apr
17

Spring Fever -- Part Two

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

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Apr
16

This 'n That

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

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Apr
15

Workshop on Dialogue

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

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Apr
14

Spring Fever!!

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." 

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Apr
11

Big Day at LaurenHill Academy Junior Campus!!!

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

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Apr
10

Visit to College Brebeuf

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

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Apr
08

Today's Workshop on Setting

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&#

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Apr
07

New Friends at the Terryberry Library in Hamilton

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

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Apr
04

Meet Don Aker!

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

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Apr
03

YA Author Lori Weber Visits Marianopolis

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

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Apr
02

Gearing Up for GritLit 2008

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

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Apr
01

Working With Budding Young Writers at Hebrew Academy

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

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Mar
28

Ever Notice How Things Sometimes Turn Up at Just the Right Time?

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

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Mar
27

Journalist/Author Joel Yanofsky Visits my Journalism Class

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

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Mar
26

More Wisdom from a Student: "I'm not that good a writer -- yet"

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

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Mar
25

About This Play I Saw Last Night

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

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Mar
23

Thoughts on Happiness

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

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Mar
20

Here's What One of My Students Has to Say About the Writing Process

The students in my "Writing for Children" have been working on their first chapters of a junior novel. Thanks to them, I'm getting to read some pretty amazing stories. One of my students, Emily Distefano, is writing about a girl from Texas who comes to Canada to live with her magician uncle. The girl's parents have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. At the end of Tuesday
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Mar
18

Preparing for a Talk about "Capturing the Teenage Imagination"

For someone who enjoys TALKING as much as I do, preparing for a talk is not usually too difficult! In a little over an hour, I've got to be at the McCord Museum here in Montreal, where I'm doing a talk called "Capturing the Teenage Imagination: Writing for Young Adults." As you know, this is one of my favourite subjects. I've scribbled a bunch of points on a sheet of paper and
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Mar
17

Correcting Frenzy!!

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

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Mar
14

Goodness Gracious, Almost Forgot to Write a Blog Entry...

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

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Mar
12

My Character Gets a New Name -- and So Does My Book

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

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Mar
11

Early Morning Coffee with Toronto Writer-Editor and Toronto Teacher

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

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Mar
10

Hola Senor

... 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

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Mar
08

Last full day of vacation...

So we're now in Puerto Vallarta, since that's where we fly home from tomorrow. Not to get into the gory details, but we took a bus here yesterday from La Penita... and I got... well... sick. Mike was my angel of mercy. I can't give you the details, but let's just say that if ever in one of my future books, a boy (you see I'd likely change the sex to protect my privacy) gets sick
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Mar
06

Reading on the Beach

So it's jueves, I think that's the right way to say and spell Thursday in Spanish. That means it's market day in La Penita de Jaltemba, so this little town which is usually pretty sleepy, wakes wide up. Mike and I are heading to the market soon, but first, I thought I'd say hola and tell you about the wonderful books I've been reading this week. I've finished Meg Rosoff'
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Mar
03

Quick hello

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

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Mar
01

Hola de Mejico!!

Quick entry since I´m working on a little old computer in an Internet place in Mexico -- and it´s hard to find the right buttons. We´re in La Penita. It´s warm and sunny and we´re going to spend the whole day READING on the beach. Ahhhh!! Did I tell you I was planning not to write... can´t find the question mark. Not sure I´ll be able to keep that promise.
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Feb
28

Donde esta la playa?

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

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Feb
27

Phone Conversation with my Friends in Wemindji

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

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Feb
26

More Snow!

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

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Feb
25

Writers are Like Squirrels

The reason writers are like squirrels is that we don't let anything go to waste. Something strange or funny or sad happens and we JOT IT DOWN. Eventually, it'll find a place in some story or another. Tamar sent a comment to the blog asking whether I ever recycled any of my manuscripts that were initially rejected? The answer is YESSIREE!! My spring 2007 title, Finding Elmo, was based on one
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Feb
23

Link to Meg Rosoff Interview

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!! 

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Feb
22

Late Start

My goodness, it's already 12:55 P.M. and I'm really just settling in at the computer with my green tea -- though I did do a little work on my George River story earlier today. But after that, I went for a run, caught up with my very dear neighbours Liz and Kees, who were out of town for two weeks, and returned some other friends' phone calls. Sometimes, a writer needs to replenish her
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Feb
21

Teleconference with St. Willibrord Students

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

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Feb
20

Novelist Heather O'Neill Visits Marianopolis

Yesterday afternoon, novelist Heather O'Neill -- author of the prize winning Lullabies for Criminals -- visited Marianopolis, the college where I teach. Heather read from her novel and she also read a very clever short story that was a contemporary retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. It's always interesting to hear a writer reading something you've read and enjoyed -- you get to hear

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Feb
19

La Di Da

What's that I hear, La Di Da? I was just washing the bathroom floor (part of my pre-writing ritual... I told this to my Writing for Children class last week and I could tell they thought it was very WEIRD), and I heard myself singing "La Di Da."

"La Did Da? What is that strange song -- and badly sung, too?" you may ask. Well, it's the sound of a writer who'

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Feb
18

Pizza Lesson

We had friends over for dinner this weekend -- and one of them (his name is Ray) gave us a pizza-making lesson. I've always wanted to make my own pizza dough, so I was pretty psyched. We started by mixing yeast and tepid water -- we had to wait a while for it to bubble up. (I got a little impatient at this stage.) Then we added more water, some sugar, and lots of flour. Next came kneading the

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Feb
15

Still in my Pajamas!!

I know it's shocking, especially for someone my age, but I'm still in my pajamas -- actually, in my case, it's a nightgown. The thing is, it's already 2 P.M. But don't think I've been lounging around like some middle-aged lady of leisure -- no sirree! I've been marking and marking and I just just finished my profile of Meg Rosoff. And now, I'm feeling like maybe I should
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Feb
14

Meet Meg Rosoff!

So I'm on a bit of a high here because I just came in from interviewing YA author Meg Rosoff, who's in Montreal as part of a multi-city North American book tour to promote her latest novel, What I Was. Ever set eyes on someone and know straightaway you're going to get along? That's how I felt about Meg.

My assignment for The Gazette is to write a little profile about Meg and

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Feb
13

Preparing for Tomorrow's Interview with Meg Rosoff

Tomorrow morning, I'm interviewing British YA writer Meg Rosoff for a Gazette story -- so I'm doing some background research today. First of all, I just finished reading Meg's latest book, What I Was. I really loved it -- it's very atmospheric, funny in spots, and really gets you thinking. Here is one of my favourite bits: "now that I'm older I've seen how little it

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Feb
12

"Bird by Bird"

Today was a pedagogical day at Marianopolis College, meaning the students had a day off and we teachers had to be in for meetings. I went to three presentations -- one was given by my office mate, Mary Frauley. Mary was talking about designing course plans, which doesn't have much to do with what I blog about, but on the sample course plan she handed round there was a quote from American writer

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Feb
11

This 'n That

I'm calling today's blog entry "This 'n That" because that's the kind of day it is at my end of the computer. I have lots of this 'n that to do. I think it's because I was so focused on the rewrite that I put off a number of other tasks. The first thing I want to do is get cracking on the research for my next newspaper assignment: a story for The National Post

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Feb
08

Nearly Done!!

So it's 12:30 and I figure I'm an hour or two from finishing up the second draft of my historical novel. I've reviewed everything except the very ending, which I know still needs some work. Mostly, I feel good that I'm this far into the process... but you know, I think I'm going to be a little sad, too, when this draft of the book is done. Of all the books I've worked on,

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Feb
07

Revising Like Mad!!

Okay, I'm getting closer to the finish line... it looks to me like my revision of the historical novel will be done by the end of the day tomorrow. The part I'm doing now is actually kind of fun -- I'm rereading the entire manuscript and seeing how it sounds. Mostly, I'm liking it. The ending is going to need some tweaking, but I think that'll be tomorrow's work. 

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Feb
06

Picture Book Author Jane Barclay Visits Marianopolis

So, Jane Barclay came to school yesterday -- she was great! She spoke both about writing creative non-fiction and picture book texts. Jane is the author of three picture books, including the prize-winning How Cold Was It?

Here's some of what Jane had to tell us: "Learn to be your own editor." Jane discussed how difficult it is to find a publisher -- so that when you are ready

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Feb
05

Children's Writers Coming Our Way!!

Hello, hello! It's Tuesday morning at five to nine and I'm feeling very lively. Today, picture book author Jane Barclay is coming to speak to my classes at Marianopolis College. That means I should have plenty to report to you on this blog tomorrow. Jane, author of the prize-winning How Cold Was It? is going to tell us how she gets her inspiration -- and how she goes about writing her books

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Feb
04

Back at My Desk!!

Ahh, it feels nice to be back at my desk. I've already taught a class and I have a little school work to do, but soon I'll be back at work on that rewrite. My deadline is next week, so soon you won't have to hear about it anymore!!

Last night, I was re-reading a little of one of my favourite YA novels, Kit Pearson's Awake and Dreaming. The story is about Theo, a troubled girl

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Feb
03

Gookums

Did I already tell you that the Cree word for grandmother is "Gookum"? Well, my story about gookums in Wemindji is in today's Gazette -- with Monique Dykstra's photos. We made page one! Here's the link, in case you want to check it out: http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=b48ab6ca-f6d1-4bb3-97eb-543172be114a

Also, in case you're wondering

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Feb
01

Guess Where I am Now?

HOME!

We made it back last night -- which was a good thing since there is a big snowstorm heading our way and a flight today would likely have been cancelled. It was -30 in Wimindji yesterday; -45 with the wind chill factor. I still went for a run!! Afterwards, people stopped me in the street and asked me if I was that crazy lady with the red hat and pink scarf!!

I read all the comments

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Jan
30

Snowed In in Wemindji

So we're not on the plane -- the three of us (I'm with photographer Monique Dykstra nd filmmaker Louise Abbott) are snowed in!! I wouldn't mind so much if it didn't mean that I was missing another day of school tomorrow! If you're one of my stduents reading this, get ready to work like a dog next week!!

Unfortunately, I can't access my website email from here. I know

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Jan
29

Wachiya from Wemindji!!

Wachiya is Cree for "Greetings!" -- so I'm greeting you from Wemindji, a Cree community in James Bay, where I am visiting until tomorrow. I'm about to head back into the classroom. Photographer Monique Dykstra is giving a little lesson on using a digital camera and I'm going to do a talk about writing -- how I get ideas for my stories and stuff like that. It's pretty amazing

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Jan
28

Catching the Plane to Wemindji

The plane leaves at 10 to 8 this morning and I've got to catch a cab in 12 minutes. Just wanted to say a quick hello before I leave!! Talk to you soon!!
  1919 Hits
Jan
25

Watch the Body Language!

So, we made it through the first week of school! As usual, I've been discussing body language with my students, telling them how important it is to look alert and alive (and happy helps, too) in the classroom. I've also told students in both my Journalism and Writing for Children classes to pay attention to other people's body language since these details can really help bring a story

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  2006 Hits
Jan
23

Cool E-Mail!

This morning I got a very cool e-mail. It's from a Dutch woman named Moniek Polak -- so you see, our names are very similar, though she spells her first name differently than I do. Moniek is a photographer and she sent me the address of her website. If you want to check it out (I did, and she has some beautiful pics on it), it's:  Continue reading

  2010 Hits
Jan
22

Role Reversal

Last night, Karla Dobritoiu, one of my former students, interviewed me. It was a role reversal because usually, I'm the one who gets to ask the questions. Actually, it was kind of fun! I got to lie on the couch, while Karla (who did the interview by phone) did all the hard work! Karla, who is doing a double major in Communications and English Lit., at Concordia University, is taking a course

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  2023 Hits
Jan
21

Back to School! Yikes!

So classes started again today at Marianopolis College. Back to school -- and back to reality!! I only taught one class today, then I stayed around to do a little office work, and then I zipped home to get back to work on the rewrite. I'm going to have to make a major effort to protect my writing time -- especially while I finish up this rewrite that is due on Valentine's Day.

This

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  1796 Hits
Jan
18

Writing in the Shower

I write when I'm jogging and sometimes, when I'm in the shower. I know this sounds odd. But it's true. Not that I'm actually writing between strides, or while I'm soaping up... but I've found that some of my best ideas come when I am NOT at the computer. That's why, today, I want to talk about the importance of having a writer's notebook -- or at least some scrap

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  1784 Hits
Jan
17

Today's Visit to St. Willibrord Elementary School

I'm all charged up after our visit this morning to St. Willibrord Elementary School in Chateauguay. I went with my friend, photographer Monique Dykstra. But we were part of a much bigger team -- Florence Allegrini, educational program coordinator for Blue Metropolis Literary Foundation was there, too; so was Louise Abbott, a writer/photographer who is making a documentary about Quebec Roots (

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  2123 Hits
Jan
16

Some Thoughts on the Rewriting Process

Well, I got some interesting comments from readers about rewriting. Kim said she prefers working on a first draft, and that sometimes, during rewrites, she feels like trashing whatever she's working on. Rosa wrote about how she enjoys the crafting involved in rewriting.  I'm somewhere between you two, though perhaps I lean a little more towards Kim's point of view  -- and

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  1858 Hits
Jan
15

Time to Bake the Donuts!

"Time to Bake the Donuts!" -- that's the slogan for a donut shop commercial. I'm not a big donut lover,  but I do appreciate the sentiment of the slogan. In my case, "Time to Bake the Donuts" means today's the day I start the rewrite on Lotje's Story -- my historical novel based on my mum's wartime experience. I had a 2-1/2 hour phone meeting yesterday

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  2303 Hits
Jan
09

Major Rewrite Ahead!!

Yikes and double yikes!! You know how I told you I was going to have a phone meeting with Sarah Harvey, the teen editor at Orca Books? Well, it turns out Sarah wants some pretty major changes on my Holocaust manuscript. At first, I was a little ... well... taken aback. But by the end of the conversation, I'd come around quite a bit. All night I dreamed of the book, which means my mind is grappling

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  1831 Hits
Jan
08

Changing Gears

Only time for a super quick blog entry today. Lots going on here! For one thing, I've got five English teachers from Marianopolis coming for lunch. We're celebrating my office partner's birthday. It's a big number -- but I'm not allowed to say what that number is. In fact, when I head out for my run in a few minutes, I want to buy two of those candles with numbers on them --

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  2013 Hits
Jan
07

Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning to You...

That's the beginning of a kids' song I always liked. In case you don't know it, it goes like this: " Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning to you,/ Good Morning, Good Morning, and how do you do?" Ever just wake up and feel like singing that song? I am definitely a morning person and today, well, it just feels like a good morning. We had a lovely weekend (combination of

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  2256 Hits
Jan
04

Shame on Me!

Well, it's not such a shame... but I say so because I'm getting such a late start today. It's 10:24 A.M., and I haven't gone for my run and I haven't tidied up the house... all of which is part of my  pre-writing routine. My goodness, I haven't even made a cup of green tea yet! Funny that I got some interesting comments about tea from readers yesterday. I guess I'

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  2072 Hits
Jan
03

Green Tea and Me

I don't think I've mentioned my green tea habit. I almost always have a cup of green tea on my desk when I'm writing. In the old days, I used to buy bags of green tea in a box, then I moved up to loose green tea (it was called Gunpowder) that I bought in Chinatown... and then... (I'm trying to build a little suspense here... good practice for the scene I'll be writing later)...
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  2110 Hits
Jan
02

Happy New Year to You!

It's Wednesday, Jan. 2 and this is my first blog entry for the new year. I took the last two days off to basically hang out with my husband. But that doesn't mean I wasn't thinking about my book!! In fact, before we fell asleep last night, I got Mike to let me talk some of the plot details through with him. It's something I tend to do over the summer (when I am working full time

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  2123 Hits
Dec
28

Another Day, Another 500 Words

That's the quota I've been setting for myself over the holidays. It doesn't sound like much, but it seems to work for me. But just so it doesn't seem to you like I've got it too easy, I should explain that I start my writing day by reviewing and tweaking whatever I wrote the day before. 

This morning, I was writing in my diary about how much I am enjoying this time

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  1964 Hits
Dec
27

Expecting Another House Guest

It's a good thing I live with an editor. That's because I just asked Mike whether house guest is one word or two. So that saved me from having to check the word/s in the dictionary.

The house guest we are expecting is my friend's cat Frances. Frances is a Siamese cat and she has stayed with us before -- despite the fact that I am allergic to cats and dogs. The funny thing about

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  18710 Hits
Dec
24

'Twas the Day Before Christmas

... and all Monique wanted to do was WRITE -- but there were presents to wrap and a dinner to cook... and friends wanting to come by to visit. I did want to tell you a little about Hadley Dyer, formerly the children's editor at James Lorimer & Co. Hadley is now the very successful author of a YA book called Johnny Kellock Died Today (Harper Collins) and has left the editing world to write

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  2024 Hits
Dec
21

Another Quick Hello!

Here's the link to my Gazette story about how the snow has affected Christmas shopping here in Montreal: http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/business/story.html?id=bed00925-e759-417d-ba1b-4fb4661a78e5

Wish I had more time for a longer entry,  but I've got three friends coming for lunch today at one. Since I'm Queen of the Multi-Task, I'm about to go for a

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  1939 Hits
Dec
20

Ever Wonder What a Streeter Is?

Okay, so you never wondered. A streeter (in case I've piqued your interest) is a term used in journalism to describe a story where you interview people on the street. Today, just when I was about to sit down to work on my manuscript, I got a call from the Gazette Business editor asking me what I was up to. It turned out he needed me to write a story for tomorrow's paper about how local

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  2550 Hits
Dec
18

Quick Hello!

Today was one of those days when the writing went quickly and fairly painlessly. Also, I'm working on a section where my character, who is out on a winter camping expedition in Nunavik, wakes up to a terrible snowstorm. It helps that it is snowing again today in Montreal, though it's not stormy like it was on Sunday. So, all I've had to do is tilt my head a little to the right to get

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  2268 Hits
Dec
17

Monday Morning Greeting

Hello, out there! We got some snowstorm yesterday! The college where I work is closed for the day. No such luck for my husband, Mike, who's an editor at the Montreal Gazette. Unlike teachers, newsroom staff never get snow days! Speaking of The Gazette, my story about how people feel proprietary about parking spots they've gone to the trouble of digging out is in today's paper. Here
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  2125 Hits
Dec
14

How'd it Get to be Friday So Soon?!

It's not just Friday -- it's Friday at four minutes to five. This has been a very busy week. I'm glad I had nice long stretches at the computer. Some days, the writing comes more quickly than on other days. Those telephone interviews I did last week with Isabelle and this week with Mark really helped me gain momentum on my latest book project. Though I have kind-of-an-idea about where

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  2193 Hits
Dec
12

Quiet Writing Days... Ahhh!

So the last three days have been what I consider heavenly. Not much to do, except WRITE!! Though I manage to keep writing during the school semester, it does feel like I'm juggling a lot of balls when I'm teaching full-time... and now, I'm down to just one ball... or two. I've been moving forward on the George River project. Did I tell you that last week I had a very good phone

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  2008 Hits
Dec
07

Visit to John Abbott College

I spent yesterday afternoon at John Abbott College, where I spoke to Deirdre King's Journalism class. Lately, when I've been doing school visits, I've been speaking mostly about being a YA writer -- so this was a change for me. But part of what I spoke about was the link between being a reporter and writing fiction. Reporters have to get things right; fiction writers can play with the
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  2494 Hits
Dec
05

School's Out! Here Comes Writing Time!!

Classes are over at Marianopolis College. I've been marking like a fiend. Ask my husband who got a little miffed when I brought term papers with me to the grocery store on the weekend!! It's always a bit of an adjustment to go from teaching to writing full-time, especially over the holidays when there are so many other demands on our time. This afternoon, I'm going to phone my friend

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  1995 Hits
Nov
30

I Should be Marking Essays!!

My students submitted their final essays this week, which means there's a big pile of 'em on the living room floor -- and a smaller pile (those are the ones I've already graded) in my schoolbag. All this to say I don't expect to be doing any new writing until the middle of next week. When I'm not writing, I miss it -- it's kind of like not getting to be with your crush!!! <
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  1935 Hits
Nov
23

It's great getting feedback on this blog!!

Just time for a quick entry today, but I wanted to say thanks to those of you who've been posting comments on this blog. It's fun to know that even with the many things we all have to do, we're making time to read people's blogs. Darinka Popovic, teacher-librarian at Rockheights Middle School in Victoria, B.C., shared an interesting memory about clotheslines (she doesn't share
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  2193 Hits
Nov
19

Today's Visit to Westmount High School

I did another school visit today -- at Westmount High School in Montreal. Again, I'm feeling very inspired by the young people I met. The school librarian Susan Chau (Miss Chau to the students) arranged the visit. (She is the same librarian who helped me when I was writing a story for The National Post newspaper about bibliotherapy.) My friend and fellow writer Lori Weber also visited Westmount
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  1992 Hits
Nov
16

Stories, Stories Everywhere

Hello out there! I'm just back from a morning at Lindsay Place High School in Pointe-Claire, on Montreal's West Island. I certainly hope I inspired the students (I told them about how I got into writing, how I get my ideas... and I read a bit from my books), but one thing's for sure: THE STUDENTS INSPIRED ME. 
I spoke to three grade eight classes and though there wasn't much time
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  1916 Hits
Nov
15

Heading Out for a Run... and to think about my story

Hello, out there! Just a short entry, but it's about something I think is an important topic: how writers like me get our ideas. I find, and I've heard this from other writers, too, that my best ideas don't necessarily come while I'm sitting in front of the computer screen. 
I'm a bit of an exercise nut (I try to workout every day, either by going for a run or doing weights
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  1992 Hits