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Author says people love a good story

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 November 2014 at 12:00 am

Julie Berry praises upbringing and education in Medina

Photos by Tom Rivers

It’s been a busy day for Julie Berry in her return to Orleans County. She led writing workshops and assemblies at Medina Central School earlier in the day, before heading to Albion for a book talk and signing at 3 p.m. at the Hoag Library.

She was back in Medina at 6:30 for another book event at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library.

Berry, a 1991 Medina graduate, is pictured in her event at the Hoag Library. She is promoting her eighth book, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place. That book follows the 2013 Viking release of her highly acclaimed YA novel, All the Truth That’s In Me.

“Loving stories is part of being human,” Berry told a Hoag crowd of about 25 people. “One of the things that distinguishes us from animals is we are a storytelling species.”

Berry shared some of her secrets to a good story: suffering and an underdog.

She develops characters who overcome struggles and challenges. She gives them friends and they are often outnumbered.

“Make them the underdog and pile on the enemies,” she said.

Berry reads from her latest novel, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place from Roaring Brook Press is a farcical Victorian murder mystery for ages 10 to 14. It tells the story of seven proper schoolgirls in a Victorian finishing school, who bury their dead headmistress in the back yard after she is mysteriously poisoned at Sunday dinner. To avoid being sent home, they carry on as if nothing is amiss. Deception, danger and mayhem abound in this rollicking middle-grade romp.

Berry said she was at a lecture when she heard the phrase “a regiment of maidens.” She thinks people think of maidens as being innocent. In her novel, they try to solve a murder.

“What’s important is coming up with stories that keep people moving the pages,” she said.

Berry said she is grateful for her upbringing on a farm in Medina and for her education by dedicated teachers.

“I had a phenomenal education in Medina,” she said. “I had teachers who cared. I had programs and resources available to me.”

Julie Berry said she enjoys coming back to Orleans County, calling it “a magical place.”

Berry lived in the Boston area for about a decade before moving to the Los Angeles area with her husband and four sons. She welcomes the chance to come to her hometown.

“Orleans County is a magical place for me because of all of my memories of the countryside,” she said.

She told the Albion group, which included many teen-agers, she has been fortunate to have a husband who encouraged her to pursue writing, even when there were “a lot of failures and disappointments.”

“I hope for each of you there is someplace where there are people who believe in you,” she said. “My husband believed in me and cared about me. I’m so grateful I listened to my family and husband.”

For more on Julie Berry, click here.