Monica Wood grew up in Mexico, Maine. Most people know her from her memoir “When We Were The Kennedys”. On Tuesday night, the author brought her new book “The One-in-a-Million Boy” to the Windham Public Library. With readings and stories about how the book came into being, Wood entertained and enraptured the audience filled with fans and fellow authors.
Her latest book is the story of a 104-year-old Lithuanian woman, an 11-year-old Boy Scout and a 42-year-old man. The foreign rights have been sold to 30 countries. Its universal theme is about “the saving graces of friendship,” said Wood. The book took four years for her to write and was interrupted by the Kennedys book when it wouldn’t sell.
“I’m a really slow writer,” she said. Her books were sold to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and she worked one-on-one with her editor in Boston, which she described as very unusual this day and age. Everything is done online, she said. “The One-in-a-Million Boy” was rejected the first time around by many editors and publishers, she said. When she asked for the feedback from her agent, the agent responded by saying, “I don’t think that would be productive.” It was 2008 and the economy had just hit a major rough patch.
“Timing is everything,” Wood said. When the book was sent on submission again, it was a success. They sent it on Friday and had a deal on Monday.
Wood’s story telling technique is engaging and vivid, often bringing tears to the eyes of the audience. “Every sentence has a little twist in it,” she said, discussing her technique where she goes back over the story again and again so each part sings.
“She draws people so well, so real,” said librarian Barbara Kelley. “It’s fun to read.” The lure for people to come see her was that “she writes about people and her relationships and Portland,” Barbara added.
Wood talked about getting criticism and praise and how she handles it. “I can’t control [the book] once it goes out into the world,” she said. “Once 100,000 books are out there, that’s where the book lives.” She added that she comes half way with what she brings to the book and the reader meets her half way with what they have for experiences. Those experiences color how the reader interprets the book.
“I’ve read some of her books and was looking for her new book,” said Nancy McNulty. This was her first author talk she’s attended. “It’s great to hear an author read their own writing,” she said. She was excited when the librarians told her that Wood was speaking.
Wood has held many jobs including working in a nursing home, at a bank and as a guidance counselor at Westbrook High School. She didn’t start writing seriously early in life, but waited until she was 30 years old. She took a two week program at Stonecoast Writer’s Conference where she learned about structure, POV and how to craft a scene, she said. In 1986, she took a leave of absence from Westbrook High and went to an artist colony in Virginia for six weeks to write.
She had her first novel published at age 40 and got a Master’s degree in counseling.
“It’s been a little bit of a windy path, but it’s worked out,” Wood told the group.
Wood stayed to sign autographs and talk to her fans. For more about Wood and her writing, visit www.monicawood.com.