Brownstein: Former broadcaster Richard Dagenis finds an outlet for children’s books

“Versatility is definitely an asset,” says the former Global TV and MAtv host.

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Richard Dageni has long known that a career in broadcasting can be especially risky and risky – as many are now discovering.

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So Dagenais, who worked for most of the major English radio and television stations in Montreal, decided to veer in another direction when he left the profession: lit for children. Specifically, picture books rhyme for children.

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It turned out to be an excellent emotional release. Even better, it found the most appreciative audiences for children and their parents.

Dagenais has penned and published five children’s books available in bookstores throughout Montreal. To celebrate International Literacy Day on Thursday, he will be reading from his latest work, Link the Skink on Facebook. He will also read and sign books on Saturdays at the Librairie Clio in Plaza Pointe-Claire and on Sundays at Indigo Pointe-Claire.

Dagenais’ voice is not only familiar to many from radio, television and commercials, but also as a singer-songwriter who has performed for adults in the city. In addition, he has sung national anthems at the Alouettes and Expos of the past.

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“It’s all about survival,” Dagenais says. “Versatility is definitely an asset.”

But the rhyme of children’s books?

“Writing rhymes has been with me since I was in elementary school,” he explains. “When a teacher puts an assignment on the board for a composition or a poem, I’ve always chosen to write a poem. I just always like the rhyme.”

“At McGill, the last assignment for the children’s lit course I took was to write a children’s book. So I wrote a children’s book, and that was the only A++ I got in my academic life. I think it all came from listening to Dr. Seuss as a kid. Then as an adult, with my wife, I loved reading a lot of stories to my son.”

It will all kind of click when Dagenais, while working on Global TV for years, interviews the owner of the Exotarium Reptile Farm and Zoo in St-Eustache.

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“He brought in a pink skunk (of the family of lizards), and I thought that would be a fun book,” Dagenais recalls. “It took me a while, but it was the inspiration for my series of rhyming books, even though I only got to the fifth, Link the Skink, this year.”

Dagenais has been working frantically, producing five books in the past four years. His debut was Lowell the Mole, followed by Kate the Skate, Zack the Yak, and Pam the Lamb. The first four books of Dagenais were drawn by Stephanie Lambert, while Link the Skink was done by Joanie Bertrand.

Broadcaster/children's author Richard Dageni with his books in the Cleo Library in Pointe Claire.
Broadcaster/children’s author Richard Dageni with his books in the Cleo Library in Pointe Claire. John Mahoney’s photo /Montreal Gazette

“I’ve been lucky, but it’s not easy to break into the children’s book business,” he says. “It’s still harder if you’re doing rhyme books. Publishers aren’t really interested in rhyme. I’ve been getting a lot of rejection letters telling me there’s no market for rhyme books, and they can’t be translated. So I decided to find an illustrator and self-publish, and I had no regrets.”

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“It’s the joy of writing and all the positive comments I get from people I meet at readings and signatures in bookstores that keep me going.”

The trip wasn’t always a blast for Dagenais – considered by his peers to be an accomplished professional – on the broadcast front.

“I was hired as a news anchor at AM60 (CFCF) in 1984 and was laid off a year later. I was hired a month later by CHOM/CKGM as news anchor, host, interviewer and editorial writer and was nominated twice for the ACTRA National Radio Awards in the Best Opinion/Commentary category, but I was laid off after 17 years.”

He was later hired at Global TV as a sports broadcaster, but went on to become a featured news reporter on the station’s daily morning program, then worked as a late news anchor, and later, hosted the morning show. This extended tour lasted five years. Other media gigs include two years as a CJAD news anchor, two and a half years as a part-time news anchor at Corus and seven years as host/moderator/interlocutor on MAtv’s CityLife Current Events program.

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In addition to children’s books, Dagenais also works for pay as a communications specialist for a multinational manufacturing company.

“When I applied for the job, they looked at my resume and asked why I wanted to do it. I said I just wanted a little bit of stability in my life, and that I was looking for a job where I don’t always get laid off,” he told them. “Now I sleep better at night.”

bbrownstein@postmedia.com

twitter.com/billbrownstein

Quick overview: In celebration of International Literacy Day Thursday, Richard Dagenis will read from his latest children’s book, Link the Skink, Thursday at 7 p.m. on Facebook (facebook.com/Richard.Dagenais.01). He will also sign book Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Librairie Clio in Plaza Pointe-Claire and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Indigo Pointe-Claire.

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