Call to Action: Let’s Save My Home

I’ve donated thousands of copies of my books—and I’ve never asked anything in return. Until now.

I’ve handed out my paperback books to friends and neighbors, coworkers and fellow BART passengers, libraries, schools, shelters for abused women, waitresses who gave me excellent service, and waitresses who simply looked like they were having a rough day. I’ve also given away thousands of free downloads, especially my memoir, Sister of Silence. (In fact, until recently, it had been free for more than one year.)

I’ve helped other people, too, like John, the man who sat outside in a snowstorm this year, trying to collect enough money from passing drivers so he could replace his broken wheelchair.

Now, faced with the prospect of losing my home, I need your help. Without it, I cannot keep writing the books you want. The ones about love and loss and depression and domestic violence. The ones that portray the darker side of life, while holding out hope and showing that laughter makes everything better.

Pretend I’m Harper Lee, since her friends gave the famous author enough money to live on while she wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. You can be my sponsor, benefactor, a patron of the arts, if you will. This centuries-old practice has helped support famous artists, musicians, and sculptors such as Beethoven, Vincent van Gogh, and Picasso.

So why not me?

Wikipedia describes patronage as “the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another. In the history of art, arts patronage refers to the support that kings, popes, and the wealthy have provided to artists such as musicians, painters, and sculptors. . . .”

This practice continues today, with NPR, the BBC, and great museums and art collections around the globe. As does the practice of artists giving back to their generous patrons.

I’m asking for you to be my patron, or benefactor. But not indefinitely, just until I save my home. And I will gladly give back to you!

In today’s world, a home is a precious commodity. Not everyone has one, and many people lose theirs every day. I know this well, having driven past many tent cities in Oakland and Berkeley, California, while searching for my own daughter in 2016. I could hardly drive by without crying, because it broke my heart to see those ravages of once middle-class families. Especially since the loss was through no fault of their own. Instead, it’s due in large part, my good friends there told me, to giant tech firms like Facebook, Google and Apple, whose presence in Silicon Valley has led to skyrocketing rental prices in the Bay Area.

Not many writers, or artists of any kind, can afford a home without help from their parents, a spouse, or someone else. People who joke about writers getting a “real job” are not always joking. They may believe that we creative sorts simply don’t want to work, that they enjoy having other people pay their bills.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I was paid advances of $12,500 and $10,000, respectively, for the last two true-crime books I wrote. Many days, for months on end, I worked 18 hours a day, simply to meet my deadlines. While working on the Skylar Neese case, I even wrote all night long, for two nights in a row. My literary agent all but ordered me to stop writing and go to bed. “You’re killing yourself,” she said, when she called from 3,000 miles away to chastise me.

I don’t like not earning enough money to support myself, but as a writer, I’m far from alone. And while my husband was alive, it wasn’t a problem. His income mostly covered my expenses. I say “mostly” because toward the end of his life, our income was dramatically reduced. With his death, it evaporated completely.

A local attorney, after hearing my plight, took this case. And he’s counting on me to pay him—but I need you to help me do that. Because I can’t. Not when my book royalties are less than $100 a month. Not when every day is spent trying to fight this battle, leaving me no time to even substitute teach. That’s why I’ve begun a GoFundMe page and I’ll keep it up for as long as I need to—but not a minute longer.

There, I offered to send a free ebook to everyone who donated at least $20. For $40 or more, I will send you a signed, printed copy of one of my books. I want to show my gratitude for your patronage. But to do that, you must send me your email or mailing address. GoFundMe does not provide it. Please don’t forget!

Until then, I think Alice Brown, who donated to my campaign, said it best:

Can everyone that sees this donate JUST $5? Five meager bucks. This weekend, you’ll spend five bucks on candy, booze, flowers for your mama, whatever. Can you spend $5 on someone who is about to lose her home?! I want you all, right now, to think of The Terminator (Arnold): ‘JUST DO IT!’ Daleen only needs 3400 more people with a heart/soul to send in $5. Hell, I’ve seen you all send out cute videos of your dog being chased by a chicken with views over 50K! Can you do any less here? PLEASE! Send this link to EVERYONE on your contact list and ask them to make a $5 donation AND ask them to forward the link onto their contacts. Would you want your mom to lose her home over a legal technicality? Do what’s right, right now. Don’t wait. Send $5 lousy bucks. It’s Easter for crying out loud! Don’t make me lose faith in humanity any more than I already have. $5 stinking bucks.

Writing is my chosen form of art, but I can’t do it without your support. Please consider becoming my benefactor, so I can continue writing the books you love.

* * *

Dear Readers,

My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 2016. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April 2016.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

It’s Official: My TEDx talk, “Silence Isn’t Golden—It’s Red,” is Live!

That just about says it all. But it certainly doesn’t tell the backstory.

I think I’ve been speaking in public since I was about ten. Rarely do I get nervous. My TED talk was different. Maybe that’s because you know the status given to TED talks. Okay, so this wasn’t for the TED conference, but for a mini-TED, or TEDx, as the college-related events are known. Still, the people who speak at these events have set the bar really high.

That could explain why I was nervous and afraid I would forget my “lines” when I got on stage. But I didn’t, and this is probably why. When I got the invitation, it was mid-February. I had another speaking engagement a month away. The two events were nothing alike, although there turned out to be some overlap in the topic. Still, I began brainstorming right away.

Without spoiling it for you, let me just say the invitation came because of my story, as told in my memoir, Sister of Silence. Because of the way I try to get people to realize we must act differently. Steve Garguilo heard that story and suggested I speak at the TEDx Connecticut event. Steve was a huge help throughout, even though he’s several time zones away in Switzerland. He helped me to focus, and urged me to let my talk reflect what I’m passionate about. As a result, this is not like any talk I’ve given before, so I hope you’ll watch it at YouTube. (And please rate it or comment afterward.)

Aditya “Adi” Harnal did a great job leading Team TEDx Connecticut College.

This talk really did take a village. A fellow writer friend, Diane Tarantini, was among those villagers. She helped a lot, and read every revision. By the time I left for the Hawaii conference in March, I thought I had it nailed. Even while I was gone, I continued revising. By the time I returned, TEDx Connecticut College was three weeks away. Diane suggested we do a dry run with some other writers. I practiced daily at home until then, with an audience of one. I thought it was good enough. But this was a TED talk, so good enough wasn’t going to cut it. Sure enough, the dry run showed my weak spots. A local arts spot donated space to practice and writers Diane, Dorothy Ours, Buddy Guthrie, and Ted Webb gathered round to listen. (My husband was the only non-writer among us.)

Their feedback was invaluable to what turned out to be one of the best talks I believe I’ve ever given. Which goes to show the importance of not isolating yourself, when you’re working on a creative project. Or of being so afraid of falling on your face, you don’t even let anyone else hear your ideas. Feedback is crucial, and lets you walk away with a work product that’s as good as it gets.

My husband and I boarded the Amtrak in Cumberland for an entire day’s ride to New London, CT. That gave me time to edit and rehearse some more, as well as a chance to relax. (Which I really needed, since I’d been working nonstop on my talk for what by then felt like months.) From the minute we arrived, students on the TEDx Connecticut College team became like the apostle Paul: they were literally whatever I needed. Chauffeur, host, midnight-errand-runner-extraordinaire, cheerleader, coach. You name it, they became it. Aditya, Amy, Ryan, Gabriella, Morgan, Benedikt, and others I’m sure I’ve forgotten, were all wonderful.

We arrived late Thursday for Friday’s rehearsal. That’s when I did forget part of my talk. But what’s most interesting is this: I was telling a story and when I became that character, the minute I opened my mouth, out came this southern accent that I never even thought to incorporate into the talk. It wasn’t something I planned to do; it just happened. All of a sudden, it’s like I grew up in Texas, not central West Virginia. Because here, people don’t have that much of an accent. Certainly not like our southern neighbors.

The day of the event, I walked into the auditorium to see a beautiful TEDx stage. Everything was in place. Team TEDx had outdone themselves. I was torn between wanting to hear the other speakers and wanting to wanting to polish my words again and agin. But I forced myself to relax and enjoy everyone else. Until lunch, when I grabbed a few bites and then went to practice. The next thing I knew, the tech crew was fitting me for a mic and a minute later, I was on stage. I don’t even remember what I said. I just know it went better than I expected—even for my high standards.

I didn’t learn until after we arrived in New London that many of the TEDx team were graduating seniors. That means they had one month left to finish their schoolwork and prepare for graduation. Which made what they did, and the level of attention they gave to all the speakers (and in some cases, the speaker’s spouse or other family member), even more impressive. It’s obvious these are young people with an exceptional work ethic, who take pride in what they do.

That’s because that’s what TED is all about: sharing ideas and striving for the best. So when the event ended, Aditya told us we could mull over our theme and even change it, before the video went live. Which is what I did, but only after putting out a call for ideas. Originally it was “We Must Act on Red Flags” but at the brilliant suggestion of Diane, it became “Silence Isn’t Golden—It’s Red.”

As it turns out, especially in view of the Cleveland story that broke last week, that’s the perfect title for my talk.

* * * *

My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

“I am those things because my mother . . . helped me to become them.”

NOTE: This originally appeared as “Cassandra’s statement: July 15, 2008” and was first published several years ago. –Daleen

I know some visitors to this site will be friends or even family members. Some of you will doubt the validity of my mother’s book; however, I can assure you, as one of the four innocents hurt most by the domestic violence that took place in our home on a regular basis, we lived this sad but true story.

My parents divorced in 1990 when I was 10, the oldest of four children. My mother claimed she was a victim of abuse but I was too young to understand or process that. Everything was so confusing to me. It seemed she was doing everything in her power to keep me and my siblings from seeing our dad.

Even though my father dated other women during the next nine years and eventually remarried, he always said that he would return to my mother in a heartbeat if she would take him. She wouldn’t and soon after the divorce, I grew to hate her for it.

During my teenage years, I came to realize that my father was an abusive person. Still, when my mother chose to move to California in 1997, in the midst of a bitter custody battle, my siblings and I chose to stay in West Virginia with our father.

Over the next two years, one by one, my siblings finally got fed up and moved to California to be with our mother. I stayed. It took me until 1999, shortly after my 18th birthday, to admit to myself that my father was a monster.

I remember it vividly. My sister, Courtney, 15, said something that upset my dad as we were getting ready for school. He began to swing at her wildly, hitting her repeatedly before I intervened—begging him to stop. At that point, he grabbed me and held me up by my throat; strangling me until my sister finally managed to hit him so many times that he released me.

We grabbed our things and ran to the waiting school bus downtown. There had been numerous other episodes of abuse but that was the point of no return for me. I realized he could have easily killed me. I moved out that night and finished my senior year living with a friend. Courtney was made a ward of the state, with temporary custody being granted to our grandmother.

I had refused to speak with my mother from August of 1997 until the fall of 1998. My relationship with her was almost nonexistent and severely damaged. Even so, she immediately made arrangements to return to West Virginia to care for Courtney and me. Our baby brother, Zachary, came home with her. My sister, Jocelyn, 17, refused to return to West Virginia. She had already cut off all contact with our father and was determined that her dreams of becoming an actress could only be fulfilled on the West Coast.

My mother and I began the long, slow process of repairing and rebuilding our relationship. We are two individuals with very different personalities and philosophies on life, so it was not easy. In December 2003, my husband and I had our first child, a baby boy. Only then could I understand just how strong a mother’s love for her children is. It took me that long to realize that everything my mom did for us was out of love, in an attempt to protect us.

Yes, she made mistakes along the way but no one is perfect. If she erred, it was always on the side of caution to her children’s benefit. I strive to follow her example. Though I am not in an abusive relationship, I will protect my son at all costs. It is for this reason that I refuse to allow him to visit his grandfather, my father, unless he is under the direct supervision of my husband or me, because my dad was abusive and neglected my siblings and me.

He had another daughter in November 1999. While I do not know if he physically abuses her, I witnessed physical abuse between both adults in the home that took place in front of my little sister, as well as verbal abuse to both my sister and stepmother.

Though I left my father’s abusive home early in 1999, I was still on the wrong track concerning relationships. These factors, combined with the lack of a positive father figure in my life, caused me to crave male attention. Do not misunderstand—I was not promiscuous. However, I wanted and needed someone to love me. I was dating an older man at the time. He was not physically abusive but he was not a “good” or nice guy. He would talk to me about the other women he was interested in and he was an alcoholic. I could not see that I was headed down a very dangerous path.
Fortunately, he broke up with me shortly after I moved from my father’s home.

While I was heartbroken at the time, I can look back and see it was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. In May 1999, a friend of a friend accompanied me to my senior prom, with only a week’s notice, because I couldn’t bear the thought of going alone, as I had for my junior prom. Never before did a man treat me so well. He opened doors for me, helped me in and out of the vehicle and refused to let me pay for anything—the perfect gentleman.

Our friendship grew and we began dating shortly after my graduation in June. Our whirlwind romance swept me off my feet. In October 1999, Wade proposed to me and we were married in July 2000. We have been happily married for almost six years. Wade is still a perfect gentleman and treats me with nothing but tender compassion, love and respect. He has never even raised his voice to me and he always considers my opinions and suggestions before making a decision. He has been my number one supporter these last seven years.

I am a domestic violence survivor. I am a sexual abuse survivor. I am a strong woman. I am those things because my mother, Daleen Berry, helped me to become them. Thanks Mom, I love you!

* * *
I have four books and am currently in Aspen, Colorado, working on my fifth. Guilt by Matrimony, about the Nancy Pfister murder, will be published by BenBella Books sometime this fall, in 2015. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”