The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

October 25, 2013

international homecoming

By HOWARD BALABAN
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — Once upon a time, a young woman was making a nice living as a technical writer. 

But while life was good, there was something missing.

While reading to her children, it became apparent what that something was: She was missing out on her own dream.

And so with that, Julie Berry decided to follow her passion and figure out just how to write fiction successfully. The 1991 Medina High School graduate figured it out, and in 2009 she “graduated” again when her first novel, “The Amaranth Enchantment,” was published.

“I had been working for years, and my dream came true,” Berry told Medina’s seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-grade classes Wednesday morning in the auditorium at the high school. “It’s OK if you don’t figure out what you want to do by the time you’re 18.”

“It’s okay to put your dream on hold, because there’s always the possibility of making a change in your life,” she said, recalling her job change.

Berry was in town to promote her latest book, “All the Truth That’s in Me.” Since 2009’s debut success, she has written two more novels and a series of younger-skewing books called Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys. The latter is a series based on her home life with her sons, she told the students. Many in the audience had read some or all of the Splurch Academy line.

Then she told them what was possibly the most important lesson of the morning by explaining that the only thing stopping them in the pursuit of their dreams is the fear of embarrassment. 

“I had written All the Truth That’s in Me and submitted it five years ago, and was rejected,” Berry recalled. “I looked at it again, and I thought I would get rejected again, but my husband said, ‘No, this is your award winner,’ so I sent it to 10 publishers.

“I got six offers.” The book went to auction, and it will soon be available in 13 countries after receiving rave reviews.

The moral of the story? “Don’t give up,” Berry said.

Berry’s latest work is the story of Judith, who suffers a horrific tragedy and does not speak. Her silence leads to her living like a ghost as those in her small town mark her as an outcast. But when her town is attacked, Judith is forced to choose whether living in silence or shaking everyone’s world by rediscovering her own voice is the way to go. Berry said the story falls in the love, mystery, and suspense genres.

Her next book, due out in about a year, is “The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place.”

“I had a few years where I had nothing, and now I have a new release each fall for the next four years,” she told the youngsters, noting that persistence can pay off.

Later in the day, Berry spoke to Medina’s sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and in the evening she was at the Shirt Factory Cafe for a book signing and reading.

But Berry did have a break, and during that time she said how wonderful it was to be home.

“Whenever I come back here it’s like a flood of nostalgia,” said Berry, who now lives in Boston. “I’m so happy here, with the nature, the landscapes, the familiar places…I don’t have all that where I live now.”

Berry said her education at Medina was top notch, although she admitted she did not realize it at the time. “The teachers were the cream of the crop,” she said. “They helped me grow and develop, and they challenged me academically.” 

Being back in Medina, Berry said the vistas of Western New York — “I miss the trees, the sky, the sunsets…” — were only matched by the food.

“I think the produce is happier here,” she laughed, mentioning how the food in this area seems to taste different than her current home in suburban Boston. 

Berry said she enjoyed the opportunity to visit with students at her alma mater because she remembers being in their shoes.

“I was just a snot-nosed kid, and now I get the great privilege to encourage these kids to do what they want to do,” she said. 

As for Berry’s latest success, it served as a reminder that making her career choice work involved overcoming the fear of rejection.

“Learning to be an author means setting that fear aside,” she said. “You have to face it head on, and work with what you’ve got. If you’re constantly trying to please others, you wind up losing whatever it is that is uniquely you.”