Where in the world is Julie Berry?
Where am I? Somewhere over Arkansas. (Remember Carmen Sandiego?)
Hello, my lovelies. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Julie Berry, which, if you ask me, sounds like a fake name for an author for young readers. If you wanted to come up with something that sounded very innocent and young and sweet, you might just choose Julie Berry. Very tutti-frutti. Have you ever noticed how anytime a character in a book for little kiddies is meant to be super nice and trustworthy, she/he gets a name like Mrs. Honeyberry or Mr. Teaberry or Miss Woodberry? It’s a thing.
When I was a little girl, my last name wasn’t Berry, but everyone said I had strawberry blond hair. (See the pic.) I played devotedly with my Strawberry Shortcake dolls. Not too proud to admit it. After my marriage, I constantly needed to explain to people how to spell my surname. Not B-A-R-R-Y, but B-E-R-R-Y. “Like strawberry,” I’d tell them. “Like the fruit.” In fact, when I got my start as a writer, before I’d scrounged up the courage to try my hand at writing novels, I wrote humor columns for the local newspaper. My web presence was called, “Like the Fruit.”
Strawberries seem to follow me throughout my life. Fortunately, I’m fond of berries. And Berrys. (Meaning my husband and kids. I have four sons. I’m the only female in my home. Please pity me.)
The truth is, Julie Berry is my real, honest-to-goodness name. I did not make this up. And I am in the business of making things up. And let me assure you, I am not quite so nice and innocent as my name might sound. Or, at least, my stories are not. I don’t think I’m evil, or at least, not most days. But I don’t hesitate to go for blood. In stories, at any rate.
Here is my official, fussy, big-girl-underpants author picture. My hair’s longer now. Guess I should update this photo. But ick, I hate posing for the camera. I have a glamorous niece who’s a good deal younger and hipper than me who helps me look my least embarrassing when pics must be taken. She more than earns the lunch I buy her afterwards.
But I digress. I asked the question, where in the world is Julie Berry, and the answer is now, somewhere over Oklahoma.
I began the day in Boston – in fact I began the month there. And for the last 13 years of my life, it was my home. I was born and raised in New York State, but now I make my home in California, in the Los Angeles area, which is where I’m headed now, in this plane that’s about to hover over … Texas.
But the real answer to the question, “Where in the world is Julie Berry?” is this: Nowhere. Or perhaps, Elsewhere. I’m a writer today for the same reason that I’ve been a reader for years. I’m a little too fond of trading in my reality license for my passport to other worlds. I prefer to live inside a story.
Why do we do this? Have you ever wondered? If you love to read like I do, and I’m guessing you do, since you’re here, do you have the same crazy appetite that I do to chuck three-dimensional, ultra high-definition reality for the hazy murk of a fictive world? To disappear like a drop of ink soaking into paper into an altogether imagined place?
Middle Earth. Baker Street. Hogwarts. Panem, District 12. Himmel Street in Molching. A forest, dark and deep.
I’m not simply speaking of fantasy or speculative worlds. The story could be as gritty, as hard-hitting, as realistic as public toilets, but still, if it was conjured by writing, it shimmers with unreality. It comes to us via the dream of the mind, which is whispered from one brain to another, via words on the page. It came from a mind, not from the senses, and it penetrates a mind. It’s transmitted via coded symbols, and then bursts forth upon the brain, rich with detail, with color, with sensation, with emotion, with longing, with danger.
I eat it up like rainbow sherbet. It’s where I’d rather be.
But the screen on the seat back in front of me tells me I’m somewhere dangling between Dallas and Tulsa.
Writing is just as immersive as reading. It’s the same kind of deep dive, the same thrill, the same high. Only with a lot more grumbling, and revision, and deadlines.
We’ll talk about all those things together this month: grumbling, revision, deadlines. Deep diving. And lots more. I’m really excited.
While I’m rambling on and on at you all month, I hope you’ll chime in with comments and questions you may have about me, my books, the writing process, the writing life. Why am I traveling, you may ask? To promote my latest book.
You may know me as the author of All the Truth That’s in Me, which was lucky enough to be voted the Silver Inky Award winner for 2014. (Thank you, my lovelies!) Here’s me stammering out my thanks for that.
And here, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is a page on the publisher’s site telling all about it. http://www.harpercollins.com.au/9780732298067/all-the-truth-thats-in-me The world of this story evokes an early colonial setting, loosely based on America’s colonial past. One thing I’ve wondered about, and I’m betraying my ignorance here, is whether the colonial elements had any particular resonance in Australia, given its colonial past. Do tell!
For now, though, look for me here, twice a week, throughout the month of March. I’ll keep reporting my whereabouts, talking about writing, and bombarding you with irrelevant facts. You can always find me on Twitter at @julieberrybooks. Stay tuned!
P.S. - Making finishing tweaks over Nevada.
Three Irrelevant Facts About Me:
- I’m the youngest of seven kids.
- I grew up on a farm where we grew & raised a lot of our own food.
- I had my first date in kindergarten. My sister took me and my little beau for pizza. When asked how I enjoyed it, I said, “It only made the love grow stronger.” Yep