About The Author
Mónica Enríquez Gómez was born in Casas Grandes, México. When she was three, her family moved across the U.S./Mexico border to El Paso, the westernmost point of Texas. Where, she's made her living in the arts, communications and broadcasting, and become an award-winning performing singer/songwriter, recording artist, writer and poet, teaching artist, motivational speaker, and long-time student and teacher of the martial arts.
Mónica is also a product of the local geography. The border environment is a confluence of cultures, ideologies, and conditions. Wedged between Juárez, México and New Mexico, El Paso marks the convergence of two countries and two states. The Rio Grande both divides and connects the lowlands, while the Franklin Mountains mark both the end of the Rockies and the center of the city.
The northeastern desert expanse of El Paso is home to the U.S. Army post, Fort Bliss, which in combination with Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range, make up the largest military installation in the world. This major military presence provides a constant churn of international populations and perspectives.
In addition, from amid southwesterly rocky outcroppings overlooking Mexico, the University of Texas at El Paso adds an academic element that attracts local and global intellectual examination and artistic expression of the social forces that gather here. This unique landscape along with the broad racial, socio-economic and philosophical mix all shaped Mónica's appreciation for diversity.
Mónica grew up in a bilingual household with three older sisters and two working parents where arts and music were integral to daily life. She became a naturalized citizen at the age of seven. With her first guitar - an old pawnshop Stella she got in 8th grade - Mónica became a self-taught guitarist and singer/songwriter, performing in local venues throughout her teens.
During her last two years of high school, Mónica studied karate (taekwondo) at the YMCA, picking it up quickly and soon teaching a beginners' class. After high school, she stopped taking classes but maintained her interest in the martial arts.
Following her 1969 High School graduation in the top 2 percent of her class, she worked in advertising and public relations before marrying in 1971. While raising her two children, Mónica became increasingly aware of how creativity, learning differences, and giftedness are connected. She also began to reconcile the haunting gap in her own abilities - excelling with words while floundering miserably with numbers.
In 1981, she began taking courses at UTEP as a Creative Writing Major. While in the Honors Program, Mónica recalls, "I was enjoying all my courses immensely until it came to the statistics portion of a basic psychology course. My initial belief that surely I had outgrown my fear of numbers was dispelled when, after hours of frustration and torment, the horrible realization hit hard - I still couldn't do the math. When I consulted my professor, he laughed and dismissed my request for remedial math assistance." After that point, she avoided requisite math courses and ended her college studies as a junior with a 4.0 GPA, but no degree.
In 1977, out of her appreciation for the children's programming offered by public television, Mónica had become a devoted advocate for public broadcasting and began volunteering at the local PBS affiliate. She went from writing copy, producing and working behind the scenes to on-camera hosting of a number of community affairs programs, including Inside El Paso and Spectrum.
Her experience on-camera served her well when, in 1989, she was hired as a reporter by the local ABC affiliate. In her six years with the station - covering El Paso; Las Cruces, New Mexico; Juárez, México; and outlying areas - she distinguished herself with outstanding research, writing and editing in her coverage of special education, health and medical issues, arts and culture, and human-interest features. In 1995, the El Paso Commission for Women inducted Mónica to the Women's Hall of Fame in the Professional Category for her work in the media and her contributions to the community.
From 1993 to 1996, Mónica also hosted a top-rated, live, weekly radio program Medtalk. For one hour every Saturday, Mónica interviewed local physicians - from psychiatrists and pediatricians to rheumatologists and urologists - while fielding listeners' phone calls. "It was like sitting in on med school!" she recalls.
In 1994, Mónica resumed her studies of the martial arts. This time, however, she discovered t'ai chi and began cultivating an understanding of the ancient martial art's application to everyday life.
In 1995, she left television news and through 1999, worked part-time with the City of El Paso Arts Resources Department (now the Museums and Cultural Affairs Department). For the first year, she was the Arts in Education Coordinator for an NEA-funded after school program. The next three years, as Arts Grants Coordinator, she administered sub-granting of city and state funds to more than 30 local arts organizations; wrote grant applications to state, regional, national and international funding sources; and revised and streamlined the ARD's grant application guidelines and forms.
During her time with the city, she launched her performing career in earnest, traveling extensively to present solo concerts, workshops, seminars, and readings. In addition to performing at major music festivals, from Kerrville to Napa Valley, she began conducting one to three-week residencies in communities throughout Texas. In 2001, she was the only solo U.S. artist invited by the People's Republic of China to perform in the Meet in Beijing Arts Festival, a 3-week, 7-city tour with artists from around the world, performing for audiences of more than 6,000.
Between 1994 and 2003, Mónica released three CDs - Storm before the Calm, Still Life, and Coming to My Senses.
At the peak of her performing and travels, from 1995 to 2010, Mónica was listed in the Texas Commission on the Arts Touring Roster, as well as the Heartland Arts Touring Roster and the Arkansas Arts Council AIE Roster. In 2004 and 2005, as the Texas Commission on the Arts' cultural emissary, she performed for the Texas Governor's Annual Trade Delegation in Mexico City.
As an arts advocate, she also served regularly on grant review panels for the Texas Commission on the Arts, the Texas Writer's League, the Arkansas Arts Council and the Kentucky Arts Council, contributing her expertise as a professional performing and teaching artist. She also served as judge for Arkansas' annual Poetry Out Loud competition. Before setting aside her music to pursue her writing career, she received consecutive annual Special Awards from ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) from 1995 to 2010 for the unique prestige value of her musical performances.
Over 45 years of performing, Mónica came to prefer venues where she could share a meaningful experience with listeners. Museums, galleries, libraries and living rooms attracted attentive audiences; however, even more engaging were the environments where people were not only listening, but also actively seeking answers.
Alternative programs, juvenile detention and adult incarceration facilities; programs for soldiers diagnosed with PTSD; psychiatric units, shelters and treatment centers; Alzheimer's units and retirement communities; the bedsides of hospice patients, alone or surrounded by their family and friends - these were the situations that inspired Mónica to develop innovative arts education and personal development workshops combining music, creative writing, elements of the martial arts, and laughter…lots of laughter. She knew this work mattered.
"For a performer, the spotlight offers rewards and torments. When you do well, you bask in the attention. When you do poorly, the blackness can be brutal. Either way, the spotlight goes out and you're isolated again. As many performers know, you can bring an audience to its feet and an hour later you eat dinner alone then go back to a hotel room for another night of re-runs." She confides. "I was dissatisfied with simply entertaining, devoid of any significant exchange with the audience. Teaching is different. It challenges you to become a source of light, to give your attention to each student, to examine honestly the human experience and willingly reveal yourself in order to create a helpful shift in someone else. Teaching lets you put not only your natural gifts, but also (and of equal importance) your natural failings, personal mistakes, excruciating mortifications, and painful lessons learned to good use. Teaching is the productive recycling of human experience and suffering, and only true teachers know the ultimate joy of encountering a beaming former student who remembers that by sharing your darkest moments, you shared your light."
The publication of EXPRESSERCIZE: Write Answers marks the coalescence of Mónica's diverse talents in a collection of writing exercises that focus on the power of creativity and the arts to transform lives. It is her personal effort to enable others to make the ephemeral, unconscious aspects of creativity into tangible, conscious reality.
To promote EXPRESSERCIZE: Write Answers, Mónica is working on "teaching the teachers" - conducting seminars for teachers, counselors, therapists, detention and correction officers and other personnel who work with populations who can benefit from using the workbook. She also continues to work directly with special populations through workshops and residencies.
As of 2007, her volunteer work with public broadcasting includes acting as producer and host of State of the Arts, a weekly radio program for local NPR-Affiliate. Since 1993, she has also moderated the local PBS National Issues Forums and continues to host other local programs.
Her credits as a professional on-air and voice-over talent for commercials and special projects include recording an award-winning series of animated educational video projects produced by the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, Center of Excellence for Neurosciences, Department of Psychiatry.
Her publishing credits include appearing in Red Boots & Attitude: The Spirit of Texas Women Writers, Quotable Texas Women, multiple editions of The Newspaper Tree, and El Paso anthologies Amphora, MUSSA, BorderSenses, Mezcla, Chrysalis, and Border Tapestry. As a member of the El Paso Writers' League, she received Best of Best poetry awards for two consecutive years, and her poetry has been featured on NPR's Theme and Variations.
While promoting EXPRESSERCIZE: Write Answers, Mónica is working toward publishing her first book of poetry. She says, "It's my dessert."