Reviewer Chris Phillips: Chris is a veteran editor for friends
and family as well as most of his employment positions. He often
finds himself reading a book and correcting problems he discovers,
even after their works have been published by well-known
publishers. Chris enjoys writing to authors, when
possible, and discussing problems he has seen in the reading of their
work. And as he states, “there is always the chance for great
intelligent conversation whenever creative minds get together.”
Today, Chris Phillips, one of Bookpleasures' reviewers interviews Monika Mira, biologist, artist and, now, author of The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book.
Good day Monika and thanks for participating in our interview
How do you make the selections to include them in your book?
Which ones go in and which ones don't? (Note: in my review of
the book I mentioned that it seemed arbitrary.)
Originally, the list came from the most frequently asked about fish when I worked at the Sea Grant info desk at Hanauma Bay. Then in college, we had to learn to ID a list of the most common species of fish in Hawaii for research projects etc. So, I decided to start with a combination of these lists, but there were way too many fish, so some had to get cut. Most folks who snorkel want to know what fish they saw, so I included the most common fish for this reason.
While 25% of the fish in Hawaii are endemic and endemic species are important, those that are rarely seen got cut. And sometimes, I just had to cut fish out of a chapter, due to the signature in the printing process…if a chapter already had 25 fish (like the Wrasses which is the most dominant family on the reef), well, it could afford to lose a few. I also asked some of the experts from DLNR and the University of Hawaii. So, a lot went into the list.
Did you do all the illustrations in the book? How long does it take you to get a project like this done?
I drew every illustration in the book. The project initially took 2 years, but originally I cut and pasted everything manually. Then I had to digitize everything for press, which took a while. Then my layout program became defunct, so I had to learn new software; then I had a baby…so all in all it was 8 years to press.
What made you start writing and putting this and your other books together?
It’s funny, I never intended to be a “writer.” I always loved art, and drawing the fish when I worked at Hanauma Bay (which) was the initial inspiration for the book. But as time passes and my work asked me to write a “watershed restoration plan” or I had to put together a lesson plan for a marine science class…this book just came together.
I noticed in the back of the book is an order form for the next book. Can you tell me what is next and how long before it is released? (I was actually referring to the book, Sharks & Rays of the Pacific, an Educational Coloring Book. I presumed this was authored by MM).
Actually, the order form is for THIS BOOK….and since the baby, it may be a while before the next coloring book comes out.
Why do you write?...and draw?
I write & draw because it is a challenge and it inspires me to always be learning & sharing new things.
Do you have any formal training to write?
I didn’t go to college to become a writer, but a scientist…and scientists are trained to write (long, boring reports with lots of big words). I like to then simplify it for my readers a bit.
Have you written other books?
I have written a number of lengthy reports, such as watershed restoration plans, and a number of shorter articles for my work in conservation, but The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book is my first full-length book.
Tell your readers a little (or a lot) about yourself, please?
I’m also a mommy, with a mommy agenda. As such, I spend most of my time with my son:). AND I work & sometimes volunteer as an adviser for preschools, parents & daycares on baby sign language. Don’t get me started on this topic; there may be a book. (The tie-in with the coloring book is that both activities use a multi-sensory learning approach to improve the efficiency of learning & enhance memory). Multisensory learning is something I'm passionate about.
Monika, is a graduate of University of Hawai’i Hilo and long time resident of Kauai. She learned how to identify fish as a volunteer for UH Sea Grant Information Desk at Hanauma Bay. She found that it was easier to identify the fish by drawing and illustrating them. Monika’s first love has been art. She has been painting and drawing since she can remember. Her art has appeared in newsletters, on t-shirts and greeting cards. She is a proud member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.