Award-winning author Monica Wood talks Wednesday about her latest novel, “How to Read a Book,” at the American Legion Hall in Rumford. The talk was hosted by Friends of the Rumford Public Library. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

RUMFORD — Award-winning author and Mexico native Monica Wood talked for the first time Wednesday about her recently released novel, saying she was practicing “on the most forgiving crowd I could possibly ask for.”

Friends of the Rumford Public Library hosted her at the American Legion Hall, an alternative site because the library is closed for renovations. Dozens of people sat at tables listening to Wood explain what inspired her latest work, “How to Read a Book.”

“This one came as like a voice in my head, that persisted, it was night after night,” she said. She knew the voice was a fictional character, but at the time she didn’t feel like writing another book because she was writing plays. Eventually, the voice in her head, the book’s main character, Violet, won.

Prior to reading a chapter, Wood said Violet is a 22-year-old woman from a small town in western Maine. She is finishing a two-year prison sentence for a fatal drunken-driving accident. Another character, Harriet, a retired English teacher, volunteers at the women’s prison and runs a book club that Violet attends.

“… it’s about what all my other books are about, which is about forming families out of spare parts, which is what human beings do sometimes,” Wood said. “We search for connection, and this book is about the people who are dying to connect. And it’s also about the people to whom those people come for connection.”

And it’s also “about forgiving the unforgivable. Because Violet did a very bad thing and it’s not only about being forgiven for something you’ve done, it’s also the harder thing” of forgiving yourself.


Before her talk, Wood said coming to the River Valley area has special significance because the crowd included people she went to high school, as well as relatives and friends.

Award-winning author Monica Wood of Portland speaks Wednesday about her latest novel, “How to Read a Book,” at the American Legion Hall in Rumford. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

Wood, who resides in Portland, also spoke about the importance of writers joining writing groups. She said she joined her first one about eight years ago and has “discovered the joy and beauty of having a writing group.” It includes some very well-established novelists who have gone through a lot of the same things and have much in common, she said.

Since being in the group, she said she “can’t imagine ever writing another word without them.” They’ve “become a family, really, at this point.”

Asked what recommendations she has for aspiring writers, Wood said, “My only recommendation is just to read, read, read. Read widely. Most writers learn to write by reading.

“And I do think that online you can find a lot of writing classes and workshops and things like that,” she said.

She also suggests they join the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance in Portland, at It holds workshops and answers questions. “And it’s one of the few of its kind and in the whole country, so we’re very lucky to have it,” she said.

Wood’s other books include “One-in-a-Million Boy” and her memoir “When We Were the Kennedys.” She has also written several plays.

According to her website, Wood is the 2024 recipient of the Sara Josepha Hale award for excellence in New England literary arts; the 2019 recipient of the Maine Humanities Council Carlson Prize for contributions to the public humanities; and the 2016 recipient of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Distinguished Achievement Award for contributions to the literary arts.

Ginny Todd, president of Friends of the Rumford Public Library, introduces author Monica Wood, right, Wednesday at the American Legion Hall in Rumford.

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