Monica Devine – Renaissance Woman


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In today’s society it seems the norm to spread ourselves thin with responsibilities. And for most of us — whether we like it or not — living this way stresses us out. For Monica Devine, this kind of lifestyle keeps her happily afloat in many art forms.

The array of art this Renaissance woman produces includes writing children’s books, taking photographs, blogging and drawing. Where does she get the inspiration to accomplish the variety of art she does?

“Alaska is so intoxicating,” Monica said.

Her enchantment with the culture and stories of Alaska started when she worked as a Speech Therapist. She traveled throughout rural Alaska villages for her job. During this time she read a book about speech development and was not impressed with it.

“I thought, ‘Well I’m working with kids with special needs and I could write a better book,’” Monica said.

The first book she wrote was called Baby Talk, and in 1991 her academic book was published by a New York company called Plenum Publisher. Baby Talk is a book about developmental milestones children go through up to 3-years-old. After this accomplishment she was driven to write children’s books from her experience working in the villages of Alaska.

“Just seeing an Alaskan Native mom come into a clinic and carrying her child in her parka inspired me to write the children’s book, Carry Me Mama,” Monica said.

Other influences on her book writing were the funny things her own children would say to her when they were younger. She would write down what they said on an index card and stash them on a shelf with the intention of writing about the kids later.

Over the years, she also wrote other books for children, including: Kayak Girl, Hanna Bears Christmas, The Iditarod and Mountain Climbing.

“I love that ah-ha moment when I discover what the story is about,” she said.

Realizing that ‘moment’ may come naturally for Monica, and along with that realization comes getting books published. She goes to book writers markets to find publishers who might be interested in picture books.

“Getting one book published doesn’t guarantee you will get your next book published,” she said. “Sending out over 100 query letters is the norm for me.”

Monica’s advice to others who want to write is to sit down every day and write — even if it is only for ten minutes — and then one will realize there is content to expand upon.

“It takes discipline,” Monica said.

Another tip is to take lots of pictures.

“I never leave my house without my Canon 7D,” Monica said. “I love to blog about the photos I take.”

Her blog, “Between Two Rivers” (monicadevine.blogspot.com), ranges in themes from her Alaskan experiences to spirituality. Recent popular posts are titled, “Doodle Mind,” “Writing” and “Quiet Solitude or Lonely Isolation?”

On her blog you can view some of her unique richly colored photos and some of her abstract artwork. She works with acrylics, oil paint or pastels. The idea for her latest painting on her blog originated in Italy. After she observed a tiled, stylized cross in a church, she discovered the shape reminded her of Native American capes people wear at village dances and potlatches.

What creativity is ahead for Monica? She plans to start a Writers Read program in Eagle River.

“Enriching each other by reading our own works or a favorite author’s work lifts us up, especially during the dark months of winter,” she said. “All genres are welcome.”

Monica will start the group in November because she plans to travel to New Mexico to stay at a writer’s retreat called Ghost Ranch. This is the same place artist and writer Georgia O’Keefe stayed to find creativity for her work. Monica finds great inspiration from Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings. While Monica is at Ghost Ranch she will write a non-fiction work that compiles stories about her travels to many Indian and Eskimo villages.

If interested in participating in the Writer’s Read program, please email her at monicadevine@gmail.com.

A great iPhone app is called Bloglovin. This app helps you follow all your favorite blogs and discover new ones.

 

This column is the opinion of Elisa Fleener. Write to her at editor@alaskastar.com.

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