“Water Mask” is about Monica Devine’s specific experiences working as a speech therapist in dozens of villages throughout Alaska. But the recently published book is also about the universal feelings she experienced during that time.
Devine, who was born and raised in Michigan and moved to Fairbanks in 1978 before moving to Eagle River and is now retired, said it was a joy shaping her experiences into the 15 autobiographical essays in the book. One of those is about approaching the Prince William Sound in a 42-foot Taiwanese trawler.
“There’s a story in my book called ‘The Inside Passage,’ that’s about that trip,” Devine said. “But I’m also looking at other things other than just the experiences themselves. Things that are about the human heart like fear and longing and perception and memory and family and all those kinds of things.”
“Inside Passage” is a braided story — a piece that intertwines separate story lines — about facing fear.
“Facing the fear of both the wily ocean, especially the Gulf of Alaska, which was a bone-shopping, 44-hour experience, and then the story is braided with another story about riding horses and getting over my fear of animals,” Devine said.
“Water Mask,” which was published by the University of Alaska Press, is Devine’s first non-fiction book for adults in more than two decades. Devine wrote a book about children’s speech development that was published in 1991, and she has written five books for children.
“I really enjoyed it and having so many different experiences in Alaska lent itself to taking notes on just about everything I did, like being with rookie pilots in bad weather, going out on the ice with whalers up in Barrow and Point Hope,” Devine said.
Devine said she is trying more new things, too.
“Currently, I’m working on fiction,” Devine said. “I’m working on hitting all of the genres, I guess you could say.”
“I’m just trying to challenge myself since I’ve done children’s work and adult nonfiction, I just think the next challenge would be adult fiction,” she added, “So that’s where I’m heading.”
The new effort is agreeing with Devine.
“I love it,” she said. “Now, I don’t have to be quite so worried about sources and bibliographies. Now, it’s making things up, which is so much fun.”
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt