10 July 2009

A Conversation with Author, Julie Berry

We had a wonderful evening of sisterhood last night visiting with Julie Berry, author of the delightful novel, The Amaranth Enchantment (and many more books to come from what we learned). Julie was generous and candid as she shared with us her journey as a writer and how that fit in with her role as a mother and wife. She said that over and over again people would ask her why she wrote a book about a girl when she is a mother of 4 boys. Her reply is, "Because I AM A GIRL!" Motherhood doesn't require that all we do be for our children. Writing for Julie has been, and still is her creative outlet and part of who SHE is. Writing brings her joy in her personal journey.

We asked about the writing process, and it was interesting to hear Julie reinforce in front of the Young Women in our group that she uses the mechanics taught in English from the elementary school level on up. Just as these young women have learned in school, the writing process for Julie is quite mechanical, and involves a lot of research. Illustrating Julie's research in The Amaranth Enchantment, Deb asked, "So, 'sure as Gibralter' wasn't a slip?" (pg. 162) Precisely.

We had an interesting conversation about criticism. Julie noted that the 10 or so people in her "acknowledgements" in The Amaranth Enchantment were all people whom she loves and trusts, both important factors. We also talked about having your eye on your goal...if you want to publish a book, you have to be able to take intelligent, thoughtful criticism in order to polish your work. Julie noted that there are writers critique groups that are valuable if you are trying to improve a manuscript.

Since the theme of enrichment was "Creative Outlets," and there is great potential when we as women support one another in our creative endeavors, I asked Julie what other women, in the church or beyond, did to support her writing efforts. Julie said that the women in her ward were a tremendous support. Her visiting teachers, both older women, would come visit and Julie would apologize for her house, etc. after a late night writing, and she would question aloud whether she was on the right path. {Haven't we all had days when we've second guessed ourselves and felt like we've fallen very short in one way or another?} Julie's wise and inspired VTers would invariably say, "Write your book!" They recognized Julie's need to write, and supported her whole heartedly. Sisters, when we visit teach do we preach our priorities and ideals, or are we genuinely supportive of our sisters' choice of creativity and personal development? Julie Berry found that the support from her Relief Society sisters was so great that when The Amaranth Enchantment was published, it felt like a group effort and a success that Julie shared with these women.

On a personal note I want to share my favorite part of The Amaranth Enchantment, found in chapters 28 & 29. Lucinda, the protagonist, is taken by Beryl through time back to the garden in Lucinda's childhood home. The garden is blooming and beautiful. Sitting on a garden bench are Lucinda's parents, who have since deceased. Lucinda took in this treasured scene as it was an especially fond childhood memory of hers regarding her parents. As I read this, my mind traveled back to my childhood to sweet memories I have of my own parents. I vividly remember them coming home from the temple and appearing happier than when they left. I remember them kneeling for morning prayer, just the two of them at their bedside. I remember them spending some time in the car in the driveway after date night. They would talk and talk since that was the quietest place of privacy on our property. My mind moved forward to the present and I wondered what memories are Wayne & I offering our children? Are we showing them through our interaction and conversation how we value and love one another? I hope so. I think that Julie Berry and her husband are offering their boys a great example supporting your spouse in their personal development. Whether you are married or not, what memories are you offering your loved ones? Hard work? Persistence? Sacrifice? Faith? Continual education? It's something to think about.
Do you have a favorite part of The Amaranth Enchantment? Was there something meaningful that you took away from our gathering last night? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Our creative interests and goals for achievement naturally will be varied, and that is what makes our sisterhood so beautiful. There is no one cookie cutter form of a Mormon woman or mother. Great joy is found as we take the time, whether we have 15 minutes or 8 hours in a day to invest in and develop our own unique creative interests, and support the women we associate with in their unique journey.

Julie's journey is a beautiful illustration of President Uchtdorf's words, "Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty- and I am not talking about the process of cleaning the rooms of your teenage children....What you create doesn't have to be perfect. So what if the eggs are greasy or the toast is burned? Don't let fear of failure discourage you....As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you, but also the world within you...Improve, smile, cultivate, develop, beautify, and extend."

Julie Berry continues to feed her creativity through reading and studying good literature, as well as writing books to be published. She lingered with us after our discussion, signing books, and answering questions 1-on-1. That she is generous and kind with her time and talent is a blessing to each of us. May each of us continue to cultivate our minds & talents, and share what we learn and create.

In regards to Julie Berry's journey, we were all thrilled to hear about her upcoming projects, including the Spelling B series (from Scholastic) & Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys (through Penguin Books) & will spread the word once they are on the market (some as soon as this fall)!

Julie gave us information on how to arrange visits to local schools, which she has done in the past and is more than happy to continue doing. For more information, go to her website, http://julieberrybooks.com/.

With love,
The RS Presidency
Sheryl, Jan, Rebecca, and Tammy

PS. Deb M. was thoughtful enough to bring some edible amaranth from her garden! Did you taste it? It's kind of like micro-popcorn.

PPS. Again, sincere thanks to all who came (including the young women who were there). We had a wonderful turnout. The interaction, learning, and love that was there is what enrichment is all about. Thank you. We hope to see each of you sisters at our next enrichment gathering in September! We love you.