Monica Wood has made a name for herself as a public relations and crisis management specialist. As owner of MWPR, she has represented a variety of clients, from Bishop Claude Alexander and The Park Church to Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Wesley Snipes. Now, Wood is trying her hand at something new: being an author.
She recently launched a series of children’s books written to help young girls and boys see value, love, goodness and beauty in all things.
Wood is hosting a book signing on Saturday, August 26 at Park Road Books from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. to celebrate the release of the first book in the series titled “What Does Beauty Look Like?”
“What Does Beauty Look Like?” tells the story of a young girl who, through one question to her mother, learns that beauty can be found in every experience. She also learns that she can find beauty each time she looks in the mirror. The second book, “What Does Love Look Like?” is a conversation between a father and his son.
Wood is releasing the books under her company Hiz Temple, LLC, which she created to inspire and encourage others in their “walk with the Lord.” Wood said Hiz Temple seeks to “inspire, influence and initiate spiritual enrichment, self-respect and expressions of bold love for God.”
Qcitymetro.com recently talked with Wood about her books, her reasons for writing them and why she is taking Hiz Temple off the back burner and giving the company the attention she feels it deserves. Here are excerpts from that conversation, edited for clarity and brevity.
Q. Your books are written for children in elementary and middle school. Why this age group?
Wood: At that age… the parent can still read to them. I also made the books easy to read so [young readers] can learn to read as they read through them… It’s also about reaching them at a teachable age… I wanted to reach them before they get to high school and deal with all the superficial stuff they’ll see on social media… If they have a confidence about them before they get to high school, then the social pressure they will face will not be as hard to deal with.
Q. Can you tell us about the first book from your series?
The name of it is ‘What does Beauty Look Like?’ It speaks to young girls. I wanted to create a book that helped to empower young girls to see beauty in all things and lastly within themselves.
Q. How old is the character in your book, and what can you tell us about her?
Ella is seven. She is a young girl who has a simple question that she wants her mother to answer and that is, ‘What does beauty look like?’ And through a series of answers that her mother provides, Ella begins to learn different ways that she can see beauty. However, she’s not satisfied until her mother realizes that this is more than just a simple question. This is something that goes deeper. She realizes that in order to really answer the question she must take a mirror and put it in front of Ella, and she answers the question by saying beauty is you. Ella is named after my niece, who is nine.
Q. Was there a catalyst that made you want to write these books?
Growing up, I was always an insecure girl. I suffered from acne… I was always really skinny. I never had a ‘body.’ I was always teased. That was before it was called bullying. I just knew that I would want to talk to young girls and give them what wasn’t given to me. I’m not saying that my parents didn’t love me or anything like that, but it’s just good to have another voice saying, ‘you’re beautiful. Look in the mirror, see yourself and recognize that you are how God created you to be.
Q. Young girls face many issues. Why did you address the issue of beauty?
In this day with social media, you have young girls – you have women period – who are teaching young girls to take all these selfies where you can barely see their faces because they are showing their backsides. The poses are always about being voluptuous, sexy and … it just seems like ‘beauty’ just looks the same across the board because everybody is trying to have that Kardashian look and they don’t recognize their own exclusive, one-of-a-kind beauty. That’s a problem. We are all trying to look the same. In the book, I don’t start off with looking at yourself. The character Ella finds beauty in everything she sees. In every experience that she has, there is beauty to be found.
Q. You are an African-American woman, but you did not write this book specifically for African-American girls. Was that an intentional decision?
There are a lot of books out there for young black girls, and… they are great and necessary. But young girls in general just need to have a different definition [of beauty] and I wanted to not just speak to one but speak to all. And this book will turn into another book in which Ella will go out into the world and come across other young girls who look differently than her, and they will go on a journey to identify what beauty looks like.
Q. This is your first published book. How long did it take for you to write it, and what was that experience like?
‘What does Beauty Look Like’ has been in my spirit for a couple of years. And it’s been done, but my challenge has been the illustrations for the past three years. What pushed me to get it out was over the Christmas holidays, a friend and former client of mine died unexpectedly. He was only 39 years old. It made me realize that a long life isn’t promised to anybody. He did so much in his 39 years, and me being 46 at that time and now 47, I knew that I couldn’t wait any longer.
Q. You recently released a second book –“What Does Love Look Like?” — about a conversation between a father and his son. Why did you choose love as the focus of the book for boys?
It goes back to social media. If young boys can recognize that the foundation and true essence of pure love has nothing to do with a big booty and a smile. And they can see that love is watching their parents hold hands or love is speaking to your neighbor… and the ultimate love is Jesus dying on the cross. I did go more spiritual with this one.
Q. What is the vision behind Hiz Temple?
I originally founded Hiz Temple 13 years ago. I was working out big time, and I was sick of wearing everybody else’s workout gear and wanted to do my own. HIz Temple is based on 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. It talks about your body being the temple of the Lord. This was before Under Armor and all these Christian workout lines. I did not have the time, resources or support to get a full line of workout gear. So I started with t-shirts… But Hiz Temple took a backseat because MWPR is how I ate. However, it’s always been in the background as a business of ministry. I’ve created workshops and other ways in which Hiz Temple was around and now, is starting to come around with more intentionality. Now, I’m giving Hiz Temple as much attention as I’m giving MWPR because I believe that’s my calling and my ministry.
Q. What can parents and children expect at your upcoming book signing?
I’m going to have some giveaways and ‘beauty bracelets’ as gifts. We are also doing giveaways on social media. I’m also going to talk about why I wrote the book and speak on the second one in the series. I’m also going to take some pictures. I hope mothers and fathers will come out and bring their daughters to the book signing.
For more information visit HizTempleTheStore.com or follow @HizTempleLLC on Instagram and @HizTemple on Twitter.