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Robert Munsch sings 'Love You Forever' in online confessional

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Children's author Robert Munsch closes his eyes to sing Love You Forever, the song that inspired his now-famous story. He invented the tune for two stillborn babies he fathered in 1979 and 1980. (Spreecast/CBC News)

Robert Munsch, one of Canada's most celebrated and prolific children's authors, was himself an open book during the CBC's first online human library event on Saturday.

The writer, who has made fewer public appearances since suffering a stroke, fielded questions from viewers about everything from battling addictions to speaking out about mental health issues.

"I don't like it, but I put up with it because I think it's an important thing to help bring mental problems out of the closet," he said of his frank public speaking during a live web chat. "The reason I do it is because it's helpful."

The CBC human library project featured Munsch, as well as dozens of other volunteers in 15 cities across Canada, as living "books" that people could check out for unhurried, in-depth conversations on topics normally considered sensitive.

The human library movement was started by a group of young Danish activists to fight violence motivated by prejudice. They believe the sharing of lived experiences can help break down stereotypes and barriers between people from different walks of life.

Although most of the volunteers were ordinary people who made themselves available for in-person conversations, a handful of well-known Canadians appeared in a 7-hour marathon broadcast run online by and hosted by the community team's own Lauren O'Neil.

Also featured were mental health advocate Margaret Trudeau, rapper Shad, wrongfully convicted mom Tammy Marquardt, soprano Measha Brueggergosman, journalist Susan Ormiston and actor Grace Park.

Each revealed challenges from their personal lives in chats that lasted roughly 30 minutes each.

Public life, personal struggles

Munsch, who was born in Pittsburgh, offered advice about adapting to life in Canada as an immigrant, obtaining forgiveness from an angry child, dealing with stress and finding support when coping with struggles.

"I think when you have a mental illness it's really essential to find groups of people who share that same mental illness and can talk to you about it, because otherwise you feel very isolated and crazy," said Munsch, who been diagnosed with bipolar and obsessive-compulsive disorders, and has struggled with addiction.

'I never wrote when I was high on drugs or alcohol.'

-- Robert Munsch
"I'm an addict, and I belong to narcotics anonymous and I go to about three meetings a week," he added.

Munsch also cleared up a few misconceptions, such as the notion that mind-altering substances fuelled his creative work.

"I always found drugs and alcohol to be a drag," he said. "I never wrote when I was high on drugs or alcohol, so I looked forward to getting clean because that would help my writing."

The best-selling, world-renowned author also said he is "not that good a writer" without the help of children. He said a "sense of self-importance" only leads to bad literature.

Love you forever

 A grown up son rocks his sleeping mother. (Sheila McGraw/Firefly Books) When asked where he came up with the tune for Love You Forever, one of his most celebrated books as well as his personal favourite, Munsch said "I just made it up one night out of thin air."

The book was originally written as a memorial for two stillborn babies he fathered in 1979 and 1980. The book was published in 1986.

The children's author closed his eyes and sang the song for Alison Smith of Victoria B.C., who said she had repeated it over and over for her own 8 year old since he was a toddler.

Munsch joked that during his public performances of the book, it's the adults at the back of the room dabbing at tears with their handkerchiefs.

"Kids think it's a funny story. When the son rocks the mother they think it's a real yucker."


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Tags: Canada, Community

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