Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers<br>La société canadienne des auteurs, illustrateurs et artistes pour enfants

NOTES from January 2018 meeting; SPEAKER: Mireille Messier

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 5:12 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

NOTES from January 10, 2018 General Meeting: SPEAKER: Mireille Messier

President Sharon Jennings welcomed us to the first meeting of the year, and thanked those volunteers present tonight: Michele Nidenoff, Holly Main, Theo Heras, Anne Thackery, Cathy Rondina and our Administrative Director Helena Aalto. She also gave a shout-out to Starbucks for their generous donation of coffee.


Cathy Rondina introduced speaker Mireille Messier, who was born in Montreal, raised in Ottawa, and has published over 20 books. The Branch is nominated for the 2018 Blue Spruce Award. Mireille’s topic was “Breaking In Through the French Doors”. Mireille started writing for children through television and magazines, and although she has published 27 books, only 4 are in English. She delighted her audience with the trials and tribulations – and successes – of moving back and forth from French to English. Her first book, Mirouille, was published in 1999, the second, Twiga, in 2003 and two more in 2008 – Charlotte au chocolat and Luca. This last book was translated into English and Mireille told herself, “This is it!” She was crushed when, a few years later, the English version was pulped.

After many failed attempts to get her books translated into English, Mireille realized that there was a barrier to doing so; perhaps those few picture book words didn’t resonate the same way; perhaps the illustrations didn’t work for publishers. Luca, which became Night Flight, also had a different illustrator and cover.

Mireille knew she wouldn’t have the same publicity, profile, or profit if she didn’t try to publish in English, and she spoke about her difficulties in doing so, and her own self-doubt. Certainly, she felt more comfortable with word play and humour in her mother tongue. But she took courses with Ted Staunton and Cathy Rondina and soon got her big break. She sent two manuscripts to Kids Can Press; they turned the first one down, and then came the email accepting The Branch. Is it irony that Quebec artist Pierre Pratt did the beautiful illustrations?

Mireille talked about translations, right sales, royalties, and that her mother wants to know why she doesn’t just write in French. Not to worry, Mom: she has two French picture books coming out this year, and three picture books under contract for 2019 with three different publishers.

We ended the evening admiring the display of books Mireille brought for us to enjoy.

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