Wood, Monica 1953-

views updated

Wood, Monica 1953-


Born August 16, 1953, in Mexico, ME; daughter of Albert (a paper mill worker) and Margaret (a homemaker) Wood; married Daniel Abbott (a teacher), 1977. Education: Georgetown University, B.A., 1975; University of Southern Maine, M.S., 1981. Politics: "Liberal." Hobbies and other interests: Singing, bird watching, Literacy Volunteers.


Home—Portland, ME. Agent—Gail Hochman, Brandt & Brandt, 1501 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.


High school guidance counselor in Westbrook, ME, 1980-86; freelance writer and editor, 1986—; teacher, 1988—.


Pushcart Prize; Fellow at MacDowell Colony and Virginia Center for Creative Arts.


(Editor) Short Takes: Fifteen Contemporary Stories, J. Weston Walch (Portland, ME), 1992.

Secret Language (novel), Faber & Faber (London, England), 1993.

Description, Writer's Digest Books (Cincinnati, OH), 1995.

My Only Story (novel), Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2000.

The Pocket Muse: Ideas & Inspirations for Writing, Writer's Digest (Cincinnati, OH), 2001.

Ernie's Ark: Stories, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Any Bitter Thing (novel), Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2005.

The Pocket Muse: Endless Inspiration: New Ideas for Writing, Writer's Digest (Cincinnati, OH), 2006.

Author of short stories, including "Wish." Work represented in anthologies, including Four-Minute Fictions, Word Beat Press, 1987; and Sudden Fiction International, Norton, 1989. Contributor of stories and articles to periodicals, including Redbook, Yankee, Manoa, North American Review, Fiction Network, and Confrontation.


"Wish" was released on audiocassette, Christine Sweet Reads, 1993.


Monica Wood writes character-driven, emotional stories about the different ways in which relationships can change a person's life. Her debut novel, Secret Language, tells the story of sisters who, despite being distant as children, manage to grow together and develop a close relationship later in life when hardship forces them to lean on each other. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly appreciated Wood's ability to imbue with "sensitivity and intuitive insight about relationships coming apart and the walls people erect to keep others out." In a later novel, My Only Story, Wood introduces readers to Rita, a Massachusetts hair salon owner who has a soft spot for lost souls. At a zoning hearing, Rita meets John, whose sad story touches her heart, and she sets out to reunite him with the young niece he has lost touch with due to family bickering. Rita and John's subsequent relationship is both funny and tender. In a review for Library Journal, Starr E. Smith wrote that "this finely written romantic novel is well suited for a summer afternoon's read." Booklist contributor Deborah Rysso called the novel "a compelling and unusual tale that combines humor with tragedy, heartbreak with promise."

In Ernie's Ark: Stories, Wood links a series of nine short stories through the environment of a paper mill in a small town in Maine. Each stories revolves around someone working at the mill or linked to it in some fashion, including the title character, Ernie Whitten, who finds himself laid off a mere three weeks before his retirement. As a testament to his dying wife, and to keep himself occupied, Ernie builds an ark in his backyard. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt that the author "does a remarkable job of illuminating the characters' inner lives." Writing for Booklist, Bonnie Johnson observed that Wood's tales "reaffirm faith in human resilience, even when adversity brings out the worst in human nature." Kevin Smokler, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, remarked: "Wood handles each voice with such grace that she disappears inside it right away."

Wood once told CA: "I strive to create characters who seem real, no matter how unusual their circumstances, and to make my readers care what happens to these characters as if they were looking after their own brothers and sisters. If I have any obsession as a writer (they say all writers have one) it is the notion of the power of our ‘first’ family, the family into which we were born: that collection of people who accompanied us, for better or worse, through the process of learning how to find our way into the world. Our first family remains with us, in ways both damaging and redeeming, through our entire lives. It is this family that must be alternately escaped from and returned to, over and over, in the family dance."

This obsession is obvious in Wood's novel Any Bitter Thing. The book starts when the protagonist, Lizzy, is nearly killed in a hit-and-run accident, setting off a series of events that shed light on a number of mysteries and losses from her childhood. Orphaned at two, Lizzy was sent to live with her beloved Uncle Mike. But when Mike was falsely accused of molesting Lizzy, she was removed from his care and later informed he had died. Now, as an adult, Lizzy begins to learn the truth behind twenty-year-old lies that kept her from her family. "Wood's story unassumingly builds in power, right up to its moving final page," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Lorie Paldino observed in Kliatt that "Monica Wood's prose is poignant and touching, and its many layers will provoke thought and compel discussion."



Booklist, July, 2000, Deborah Rysso, review of My Only Story, p. 2011; May 1, 2002, Bonnie Johnson, review of Ernie's Ark: Stories, p. 1511.

Kliatt, September, 2006, Lorie Paldino, review of Any Bitter Thing, p. 30.

Library Journal, June 15, 2000, Starr E. Smith, review of My Only Story, p. 119.

Publishers Weekly, January 11, 1993, review of Secret Language, p. 54; May 6, 2002, review of Ernie's Ark, p. 38; April 18, 2005, review of Any Bitter Thing, p. 41.

San Francisco Chronicle, May 19, 2002, Kevin Smokler, review of Ernie's Ark, p. RV4.


Monica Wood Home Page,http://www.monicawood.com (April 30, 2007).