There’s a magnetism about her that starts with the naturally warm smile that’s always on her face. That’s probably the first thing I noticed about Mary Alice Monroe. She has a warmth about her that her expression can’t fight, even on a gloomy day full of interviews and impending deadlines.
Then, there’s her hands. It’s hard to believe that all of the passion, and more importantly the compassion that’s so prevalent in her writing, spills out of her mind, then so eloquently out of her fingertips to the paper we receive it on. Though she never said it, I think her hands are the reason she’s a writer…because she moves them. She doesn’t just dream; she acts. The hands that write the novels have helped raise seven younger siblings, have saved countless endangered sea turtles, have pinched the adorable chubby cheeks of her grandbabies, and have grown the ability to make others move. This so very nod-worthy LowCountry resident says, “what makes a hero is the decision to act.” She is always encouraging others to get involved and join groups. She doesn’t just talk the talk either. She serves on the board of the SC Aquarium and The Leatherback trust, and also volunteers for Charleston-area literacy projects. Recently she’s spent time learning about the effects of PTSD on veterans, and has donated her time to those who serve. This is the motivation behind her first holiday novel, A LowCountry Christmas, that comes out October 25th! My sneak peek at this project has shown me it is filled with as much truth, love, and hope, as anything she’s ever written….maybe even more.
Many people have empathy, but Mary Alice has a way of conveying it to the world, of gifting it to others; and I think it’s because she still believes in magic, in her own words, “100%.” There’s a belief sewn into her skin that many of us tear off our own sometime around junior high. There’s a hope in her that often only exists in the heart of a child after watching Peter Pan fly Wendy to Neverland for the first time. It’s no surprise that this was her favorite story growing up (of those that she didn’t make up herself).
There’s a part of the award-winning novelist that sees everything like it’s the first time, and finds something divine in everything she encounters. I’m considering grabbing a mason jar and dashing out to catch lightning bugs with her later today while I listen to more of her philosophies on life (seriously).
I’m not writing about Mary Alice Monroe to simply highlight another person who is kind of good at something. I want our community, our women, our world, to dig down inside, even on the darkest day, and find that light. What I’ve done is recognize an example of someone who actually practices that introspection time and time again regardless of circumstance. She hasn’t been without struggle, has had ups and downs in the writing world, and a near death experience to boot. But what she has had all the while is faith, and the unyielding choice to rely on her intuition.
Mary Alice isn’t just a happy family matriarch who happens to have dogs, babies, and birds singing various songs all throughout her home. She isn’t just quirky. She’s connected, and draws these things in like a wounded eagle she nursed that found her house and still has a nest on the roof today.
Mary Alice says, “there’s a God power I can’t fully understand, but it’s at the core of my work.” I challenge the women of Charleston, South Carolina, or Timbuktu to consider what this is, dig down, and make something in your world a little better with whatever medium you have available to you. Mary Alice Monroe has used her way with words to do just that, and I encourage everyone reading to check out one of her publications. I can’t wait to get my copy of her latest next month, so that those potent fingers of hers can reach out and strum my heart-strings once more.
The final thought Mary Alice leaves me to ponder is that we weren’t put on this planet alone. We were put here with other humans, animals, and natural wonders. Shouldn’t we reach out and touch them for ourselves? Shouldn’t we summons that eagle to sit upon our own eaves?
by: Lorna Hollifield
For more on Mary Alice Monroe visit these sites: