Sherie Monk historical novel now available

David Peck

Sherie Bridges Monk has always loved to write. As long as she can remember, she loved to write poetry, stories and now, her first book.

“The Button Necklace” is a historical novel Monk has been working on for about five years, and after years of writing and editing, she was recently able to self-publish the book, which is based on the history of her own great-great-grandmother, Mary Ann Francis Green.

Sherie Bridges grew up in Riverton, Utah, until the
family moved to Frannie when she was 15.

“I always say, ‘I wasn’t born here, but I got here as soon as I could,’” she said with a laugh. “I graduated from junior high with a class of 300 kids and moved to high school in Deaver, and we had 19 (in her class) when I got there. It was kind of a culture shock.

“What a blessing that was. I can’t explain what that did for me. It’s been a blessing my whole life to have a family that was also my schoolmates. That was different than what I was exposed to before.”

After her graduation from Deaver-Frannie High School in 1976, she attended Ricks College for three semesters, then finished up at Northwest Community College. She married Dave Monk and went to work in area schools as a paraprofessional, substitute teacher and librarian, then finished her teaching degree at Eastern Montana College in Billings, commuting weekly from her home
in Meeteetse.

She taught kindergarten and third grade in Meeteetse, then moved to Cowley in 1991. She taught sixth grade language arts – reading and English -- at Lovell Middle School, and through the English curriculum she started a writing program. She spent 30 years in education between Meeteetse and Lovell.

“I’ve always written; I love to write,” she said. “I wrote when I was a kid and kind of took a hiatus in college, because all you do is write papers, but when I was able to teach sixth grade language arts, I went to a workshop on a writing process, so I started a writing workshop in my classroom, and it just brought back the joy of writing to me and, hopefully, to the kids.

“I started writing seriously again – poetry mostly. I love to write poetry, kind of cowboy poetry, and tell stories. I’m a storyteller. I always wanted to write a book, so after I retired I decided it was time.”

“The Button Necklace” came into being.

“This is my first book,” she said. “I’ve written lots of poetry and things, but this is my very first book.

“I’ve always had this idea about the button necklace,” she continued, noting that her grandmother gave her an index card with significant buttons from family history glued to the card.

All she needed was a jump start.

“I was tempted to start this story several times, and when I was ill one time, my mom gave me a bunch of family histories to read, and all of a sudden it clicked that this history and the idea I had about the button necklace all just kind of meshed together,” Monk said. “So I started the story, started writing whenever I could catch a few minutes and got more serious about it. I would sit down every morning and write for a while.”

She started about five years ago and completed the book two years ago then set it aside.

“It’s kind of like a child, your book is. It’s a piece of you, and it’s kind of scary to put out there,” she said. “So I sat on it for a little while, then my daughter (Heather Rae), who has a degree in creative writing and a master’s in narrative studies, encouraged me to get it out there.”

Heather became her editor. Monk sent the manuscript to Heather in Texas, and the mother and daughter would get on the phone and go through the book chapter by chapter to “massage” the writing and fix word usage and grammar where needed.

“She was a great editor,” Monk said. “It was a great process, and it was fun to do it with her.”

Monk gave the finished product to a few people to read, sent it to some publishing companies, then ultimately decided to publish it herself.

Historical fiction

“The Button Necklace” tells the story of Monk’s great-great-grandmother on her dad’s side, Mary Ann Francis Green, who emigrated from England to the United States in 1862.

“It’s a piece of historical fiction, and I’ve used her life history and a pioneer database and found journals of people who were on the same ship she was on, the Manchester, or on the same wagon train she was on, with the Murdoch Company,” Monk said. “They wrote day-to-day things; every day they wrote a little something. So I could use those events to help shape the story.”

Monk said the book includes 106 footnotes of primary resources to properly cite the events used in the novel.

“Of course, it’s fiction, so I’ve massaged it, and I’ve made it my story, but it’s based on her and the events around what actually happened,” she said.

Monk said the book has been well received by those who have read it.

“People have told me that it reads smoothly, like you’re just watching something. It flows. And there’s sad things that happen, and there’s funny things that happen, and there’s happy times and hard times. Hopefully, it’s just a glimpse of real life.

“There’s also a spiritual element to it about her life and her membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how that impacted her and her decisions and choices.”

The book is the first book of a trilogy. “The Button Necklace” is about Mary Ann and her journey from England to Salt Lake. The next book, which is about two-thirds written so far, is about Charles Green, Mary Ann’s husband, and his journey from England to Salt Lake and the adventures he had.

Book three will tell about their life together and their children. One of those children, the next to the youngest son, was her great-grandfather, Joseph Goodliffe Green, who Monk knew as a child in Utah.

“I can’t imagine leaving my family and my home and moving to a far land and making your way without your parents and your support system,” she said.