Monique Polak

Monique Polak

Montreal, QC

Quebec Writers' Federation Prize for Children's and Young Adult Literature (Winner, 2009)


Straight Punch (Orca Book Publishers, 2014)

So Much It Hurts (Orca Book Publishers, 2013)

Pyro (Orca Book Publishers, 2012)


Young adult (YA) Fiction (Ages 12 and up)


Monique Polak loves stories. She loves hearing, reading and writing them. In fact, Monique collects the stories the way some people collect stamps or shoes. Even as a kid, Monique dreamed of becoming a writer. But it was not easy for Monique to break into the world of YA writing. Monique credits much of her success to the fact that she never gave up -- a lesson Monique likes to share with young audiences.

In addition to writing YA novels, Monique teaches at Marianopolis College in Montreal, where her courses include Writing for Children and Print Journalism. She is also an active freelance journalist whose work appears regularly in the Montreal Gazette and in Postmedia publications across the country. Though it is true that all these activities keep Monique very busy, they are all inter-connected. Monique&;s work both in the classroom and as a reporter have often provided material for her novels.

Monique is fascinated by secrets. Her 2008 novel, What World Is Left, was inspired by a secret her mother kept for over 60 years: how she and her family survived the Holocaust.

Monique&;s fall 2013 title, So Much It Hurts, which is about violence in a relationship, draws on a difficult experience in Monique&;s teen years, one which she, too, kept secret for a long time.

Monique has made seven trips to Nunavik, where she has worked on writing projects with Inuit students. She has also traveled several times to the James Bay region to work with Cree youngsters.

Monique gets some of her best story ideas when she is not at her desk. Some of the ideas come when she is out for a run. Since 2011, Monique has been taking a private weekly boxing lesson. Her spring 2014 title Straight Punch is about a girl boxer. Monique plans to bring along her boxing gloves during her Book Week visits!

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Hunting for Stories

Monique Polak adapts her presentations to suit each group with whom she works.

Monique generally begins with an overview of how she became a professional author. Here, she stresses the importance of reading and writing (Monique always brings her journal to demonstrate that she begins every day by writing three pages!) and also, the importance of not giving up. Like most published authors, Monique says that though she was occasionally tempted to abandon her dream of becoming an author, she didn&;t give up — and that persistence has been an important element in her success.

Next, Monique talks about inspiration — where story ideas come from. So Much It Hurts is Monique&;s 14th YA novel, and it&;s the first time she&;s written about domestic violence, a subject about which she has firsthand knowledge. As a teenager, Monique was in an abusive relationship. If the teachers think this would be an appropriate subject for discussion, Monique would be glad to share how her difficult past provided material for this novel. Monique&;s spring book, Straight Punch, is about a girl boxer. While Monique was writing So Much It Hurts, she began taking weekly private boxing lessons. Her experience at the boxing gym served as research for Straight Punch.

Monique will explain how she goes about doing research, how she plans her stories with a detailed outline (though often changes happen) -- and how she spends a great deal of time re-writing her work.

If time permits, Monique will get students to do one or two writing exercises. Monique has been teaching college in Montreal for 30 years — she has developed exercises to help students of all ages draw on their own sensory memories, as well as techniques to help young writers find their voice and the voices of their characters. And of course, Monique will take a little time to read from whichever book the group is most interested in.

Presentation type: Workshop

Recommended levels: Junior (4-6), Intermediate (7-8), High school (9-12)

Fees: $250 per reading, plus GST (and QST in Quebec). Travel expenses charged if the reading or workshop is outside Montreal.