Polak, Monique 1960–
Polak, Monique 1960–
Born May 20, 1960, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; daughter of Mazimilien (a criminal court judge) and Celine (a homemaker) Polak; married Chaim Melamed December 16, 1979 (divorced 1985); married Michael Shenker (a journalist), June 2, 1996; children: (first marriage) Alicia. Education: McGill University, B.A. (English literature), 1981; Concordia University, M.A. (English literature), 1984. Religion: Jewish.
Home—Montreál, Quebec, Canada. Office—Marianopolis College, 3880 Côte des Neiges, Montreál, Quebec H3H 1W1, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]
Educator and author. Marianopolis College, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, instructor in English and humanities, 1987—. Freelance journalist.
Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers.
Our Choice designation, Canadian Children's Book Centre, 2005, for Flip Turn, 2006, for On the Game; American Library Association Popular Paperback designation, 2005, for Home Invasion.
No More Pranks, Orca Book Publishers (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2004, Orca Book Publishers (Custer, WA), 2005.
On the Game, James Lorimer (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2005.
Home Invasion, Orca Book Publishers (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2005.
All In, James Lorimer (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2005.
Finding Elmo, Orca Book Publishers (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2007.
Scarred, James Lorimer (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2007.
Flip Turn (for middle-grade readers), James Lorimer (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2004.
Contributor to Montreál Gazette.
"I always wanted to be a writer," Monique Polak told SATA. "In university, I studied English literature, thinking that would help me accomplish my dream. Ironically, it didn't—well, certainly not at first. I was good at writing term papers, and eventually a thesis (on Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books), but I was daunted by all the great writers and I began to lose touch with my more creative side.
"I became an academic, teaching English literature and humanities at Marianopolis College in Montreál. Though I loved (and still love) working with young people, I felt something was missing. So, gradually, I came back to writing. At first, I worked in a journal, then I began selling book reviews and eventually feature stories to the Gazette, Montreál's English-language daily.
"When I finally felt confident enough, I returned to fiction writing. It took me more than five years before I made my first sale to Orca Books. Since then, I have published several novels (one for a junior audience; the rest are for young adults). Looking back at those years when I was unable to find a publisher for my stories, I'm really proud that I didn't give up. So that's my main advice to aspiring writers: don't ever, ever give up! I kept writing, kept reading, and kept trying to improve my stories and style. And eventually, my efforts paid off.
"In recent years, I have met a number of other children's writers, and their stories of how they got started are amazingly similar. They, too, refused to give up, even in the face of rejection.
"Regarding my stories, all of them have been inspired, in some way, by reality. That's partly, I think, because of my background as a journalist. My first book, Flip Turn, is the story of a competitive swimmer. I researched the book by tracking a Montreál area swim team for several months. And on a more personal level, I explored the theme of competition—something I've grappled with in my own life. A certain amount of competitive instinct serves us well, but too much can break down bonds between people.
"No More Pranks is set in Tadoussac, Quebec, where my husband and I have spent several summer holidays, kayaking with the whales. So you won't be surprised to learn that whales (and kayaks!) play an important role in the story.
"On the Game and All In are both inspired by events that took place in Quebec, the province where I live. On the Game is about a juvenile prostitution ring and All In explores the issue of teen gambling at a private school.
"Similarly, I got the idea for Home Invasion after there were a series of home invasions—break-ins that take place while the occupants of a home are present—in the Montreál area. Home Invasion also explores a teenager's difficult adjustment to his new stepfather. This element, too, comes from reality. In 1996, I remarried after raising my daughter alone for nearly a decade. In some ways, Clay, the stepfather in my book, is a little like my husband Michael. Just a little, of course!
"I continue to teach full time at Marianopolis, but I try to use my free time for writing. I have summers off, so that's when I try to generate new material. During the school year, I work on revising my stories. I've been fortunate to work with terrific editors, and I've learned a lot from the editing process. I still keep a daily journal, which I find helps keep my writing muscle limber. In my journal, I write about whatever's on my mind, and that sometimes includes story ideas. Then, on a day when I'm not teaching, I go for a run before I sit down at my computer. For me, running is another good way to get ideas and to think about how I want to tell my stories.
"Although I still read and admire classic children's stories (for instance, the ‘Alice’ books), I do my best to keep up with contemporary young-adult literature. There's so much good stuff around! Reading other writers' work inspires me to work even harder at my craft."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Canadian Book Review Annual, 2004, Sylvia Pantaleo, review of No More Pranks, p. 518; 2005, Deborah Dowson, review of Home Invasion, p. 514, and Dave Jenkinson, review of On the Game, p. 515.
Kliatt, January, 2005, Claire Rosser, review of No More Pranks, p. 17; January, 2006, Sally Tibbetts, review of Home Invasion, p. 17.
Resource Links, February, 2005, Evette Berry, reviews of Flip Turn, p. 20, and No More Pranks, p. 39; February, 2006, Heather Empey, review of Home Invasion, p. 49, and Evette Berry, review of On the Game, p. 50; October, 2006, Meredith Snyder, review of All In, p. 40.
Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 2006, Teri S. Lesesne, review of Home Invasion, p. 491.
Canadian Children's Book Week Web site,http://www.bookweek.ca/ (November 15, 2006), "Monique Polak."