#55strong: As Strike Continues, Teachers Reflect on Their Roles as Educators

Part 3Final Day 5 of Teacher Walkout

Note: I am a substitute teacher who works part-time in Monongalia and Preston counties. I’m also writing a book about the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. This book will look at our culture and the state of failing education—and examine what contributes to such tragedies, while exploring how we can stop them.

Update: As of noon today, teachers meeting with officials in Charleston are so angry that it’s possible the strike may continue tomorrow, Thursday, March 1, even though I wrote this based on media reports saying it will end today. If you are a parent, I’ve included a link showing state school closings. If you need food for your children, please reach out to the local agencies mentioned below. As I learn more, I will update my blog accordingly.

Update: At approximately 10:44 p.m. the last holdout fell, and all of West Virginia turned red. The statewide strike continues. As of 10:39 p.m., only Jefferson County schools remain open tomorrow. As of 9:50 p.m., only schools in Hampshire, Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties remain open. As of 9:28 p.m. schools in only 7 counties remain open. As of 9:05 p.m., public schools only remain open in 17 counties tomorrow. As of 9 p.m., public schools in 18 out of 55 counties are now closed tomorrow. As of 8:37 p.m., public schools in 33 out of 55 counties will be closed tomorrow. I look for that number to grow, as the night continues.

* * *

Having a shortage of more than 700 teachers throughout the state means it isn’t uncommon for a substitute to receive six calls a day to teach. My own phone begins ringing at 5 a.m. But in a simple case of supply and demand, where the demand greatly outweighs the supply, there aren’t enough substitutes to meet the need, either. This leaves classrooms without teachers.

What happens to the unsupervised students? They’re sent to other classrooms, increasing the teacher to student ratio. That may not seem like a problem—until you realize that some of those overfilled classrooms contain students with behavior problems.

Behavioral disorders are on the rise, leading to high rates of troubling behavior in public schools. As details emerged about the school shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the world learned of a very troubled young man, who before that was an extremely troubled child. After being struck by a violent student while working in one of my substitute assignments, I began reflecting on the various factors that must have coalesced, long before Nikolas Cruz became a school shooter.

Sadly, I’m not alone. Many teachers and aides who work with this population leave school sporting scratches, bruises, broken glasses, or worse. This is one reason teachers are in short supply—and why more might leave the profession.

Li Cheng is one such teacher. Before coming to the Mountain State, she taught in her native Taiwan. Cheng has 15 years experience. “It’s very challenging . . . I have more kids and their behaviors are so difficult to deal with,” Cheng, a Chinese teacher at Mountainview Elementary, said. “I love the kids here, and the people . . . (but) the kids here deserve a better education.”

As a long-time crime reporter, I know that verbal threats meet the legal definition of assault. Battery is when a student physically strikes a teacher. Every day teachers are victims of assault and battery in West Virginia schools. As they are in all 50 states, leaving the nation with an acute shortage of teachers—and substitutes.

If an average citizen filed criminal charges after such an assault, the accused could wind up behind bars. Rarely does that happen to students, though. They’re simply sent to the office—where administrators often send them right back to class. Time and again, one Mon County teacher told me Tuesday. Why? In part, because there’s a lot of red tape involved in dealing with this population. Red tape that few administrators have time for these days.

Take one principal who texted me. This man, who requested anonymity, has already accumulated 182 uncompensated work hours this year. Last year he accumulated 243. This doesn’t include the two hours per work he spends working from home—a limit he set “to save my marriage.”

So teachers aren’t the only ones whose salaries are sharply reduced, by continuing to work long past a normal 40-hour workweek. Principals likewise suffer.

Given this, and the fact that—hour for hour—teachers here earn less than the state minimum wage, that they are regularly attacked by students, and don’t always have support from administrators, why do they do it?

In a word, love.

In spite of all the above and more, teachers dearly love their students, whom they view as their own children. I know this because I’m a fourth-generation teacher. Before the onset of Parkinson’s, my mother was a regular classroom teacher, as were her mother and grandmother. Mom was in her late 40s when she began her teaching career at West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind, driving all over the state to help preschoolers who had special needs. I recently met the mother of one of my mother’s former students in a local school where I was subbing. “We loved Miss Eileen,” this parent told me.

And “Miss Eileen” loved her students right back. As do most teachers. I already knew this, but when I asked fellow teachers to send me personal stories testifying to that love, one teacher’s words stood out. In telling what her workday is like, she speaks for all teachers. That teacher, who requested anonymity, sent me the following raw and unedited text message:

“I arrive at work up to an hour early each day. I spend most of my planning period answering emails, following up on notes from colleagues, or preparing for the afternoon classes so I do planning and grading at home, usually an hour each week day, and I set aside 5-10 hours on the weekend to finish it up and review the prior week’s progress or what needs reviewed. Some grading sessions are longer than others because of the projects I like to assign. I have graded papers during my daughter’s lacrosse game. I have held parent conversations via text message while sitting in a thin hospital gown with an IV in my wrist and a monitor on my unborn child. In fact I’ve had parent conversations everywhere from standing at a gas pump to the checkout aisle of the grocery store, from waiting in line to watch my kids in a parade to literally having to shush someone because they wanted to talk about their kid while we were in church. My husband often laughs when we go to local football games because I never see the game… I am always talking either to parents or students and making sure to be there for them all.

But the thing is…I do not mind any of that. I only begin to mind when told how teachers are lazy and don’t deserve reasonable health care or an adequate income. During the summer I regularly review my lessons and standards, researching additional things of interest, shop for kids and classroom, stockpile some things I keep on hand, such as snack packs of crackers, feminine hygiene items, and deodorant. WV does not require parents to provide supplies, so each summer I keep an eagle eye on every possible back to school sale. I purchase no less than 100 spiral 1-subject notebooks. I also purchase pencils, highlighters, my own copy paper, sanitizer, clorox wipes, kleenex, index cards, etc. A local church often supplies some things when we have a severe deficit, for which we are grateful. I have also purchased posters, resources, videos, and games related to what we are learning. I also pay for a quizlet teacher account, along with planbook, and a few other things. My classroom has over $1000 of my money on bookshelves, invested in scholastic books and yard sales so I can provide reading opportunities for my kids. I like using scholastic, because accrued bonus points can be spent on special items or supplies. Until recently I worked a part time job in addition to make sure what I spend didn’t impact my family negatively.

Also as for time spent- I have begged on donorschoose for books and supplies. Many teachers I know go to World Vision (at least an hour’s drive, after working all day) up to 4 times a year to take advantage of their free supplies for teachers and we share freely with teachers, students, counselors, and programs that need them. I can’t calculate what I spend in money or time, but my kids are worth it. However, my colleagues and I are worth more than our lawmakers think, too.”


That educator is far from alone.

Teacher Stacy Borror works “at least 55 hours a week at my teaching job if not more . . . I rarely leave before 5 most days, even Fridays.” She does lesson plans at home during weekends, and researches “better ways of presenting lessons to my students.” In addition, Borror spends an annual $300-400 out of her own pocket on students.

“Our students are like our own children. We care deeply and want the very best for them,” Borror said. “This is killing me to be out of school for the reasons that we are. I’m not sleeping well and I have a high level of anxiety right now. By no means is this fun, exciting, or something we look forward to . . .”

Kristy Shinkovich is just as dedicated. So dedicated, in fact, her young son, Casey, joined her on the picket line in Sabraton. Among the ways she has gone above and beyond is to replace a student’s broken book bag; pass along all of her own and her children’s outgrown clothing for less fortunate children; bring in items to use for Halloween costumes; and buy popcorn, hot cocoa and other supplies for “sharpen the saw” parties—designed to reward good behavior in the classroom, and based on Franklin Covey principles.

“The things I do are not unusual at my school,” Shinkovich said. “We all are there for the right reasons—all 760 of them.”

The following account of real-life educators who are heroes to their students comes from Mon County teachers who wish to remain anonymous.

“One of our students at Mon County Technical Education Center didn’t have running water for a few days during . . . the frigid cold days,” one teacher said. “Our carpentry teacher and building maintenance teacher went to his house and tried to fix it. They couldn’t get the hot water fixed. But they could get the cold water so (the family) could use the bathroom and brush their teeth.” Those two teachers were so concerned, she said, by “the conditions the student lived in, we had a food drive and clothing drive for him and his siblings.”

Another teacher has taken “papers to grade, lesson plans to write” to doctors’ appointments, soccer games, and even her own child’s basketball games.

“As a school we collect money from the staff so we can buy Christmas gifts for students. The ones we know won’t have any thing to open,” said one teacher. “We always have bread and peanut butter at school, for those students that may not get lunch.”

Our teachers “helped a student a few years ago go to prom. I contacted a local business and they donated the tux. Then we asked for donations from (fellow) teachers to help him buy a corsage, get a haircut, and pay for . . . dinner and gas.”

Such love for students is what prompted WV teachers to make sure their young charges were well fed during the work stoppage. “West Virginia is known for generations of hardship and poverty, and many children simply don’t have enough food,” Julia Hamilton, director of Monongalia Extended Day Learning, said.

After their father was laid off from the coal mines, my four children qualified for free hot lunches. Those meals were crucial since my own kitchen cupboards were then almost bare. This national program has grown in recent years, especially here in West Virginia. In 2011, according to the West Virginia KIDS COUNT program, 53-percent of West Virginia schoolchildren received free or reduced meals. (In Mon County, that number is 37-percent; in neighboring Preston, it’s 49-percent.)

But we also have an abundance of people who can and do help the less fortunate among us—especially when children are involved. Appalachians do not let children go hungry.

“It’s been phenomenal to see the support we’ve received from the community because,” Hamilton said. “It takes a village and this particular community has proved that we can provide for, not only our students and families, but our staff members who are struggling at this time.”

Parents, this state website tells you if your child’s school is closed.

When it became obvious teachers would walk out, the first thing they did was begin collecting foodstuffs to prevent hunger. Here in Monongalia County, that effort began one week ago. “Donations of food came from parents, from teachers, from other students. As the food was collected, teachers were responsible for bagging and distributing that food the Wednesday before we left,” teacher and Mon County Education Association (MCEA) rep Heather DeLucea-Nestor said. Westwood School collected 55 bags of food; South Middle rounded up another 69 bags. “After we knew we had a surplus of food and kids had what they needed, the rest of the food was taken to (local churches to hand out),” she added.

Hamilton took the lead in getting all that food to where it needed to be, dropping it off at places like Scott’s Run Settlement House, Pantry Plus, and Kingdom EMC Church. While other Mon County teachers drove to the statewide rally in Charleston held before the walkout began, Hamilton was a one-woman food maven.

Several schools contacted her last week, saying they had a surplus of food that “most of (the) elementary and middle schools could distribute. We’re very fortunate here in Mon County, that we have . . . four extra boxes of fruit (so) where are we going to take this?” Hamilton said. “But UHS (University High School) had about 900 meals they were unable to get out before school dismissed (last) Wednesday,” the same day Hamilton posted the distribution locations on her agency’s Facebook page, so parents would know where to find free food.

Parents, you can apply for free or reduced meals for your children here.

On Thursday morning, on day one of the walkout, Hamilton, UHS administrators, and maintenance staff transported those meals to her office. “We had boxes and boxes of (perishable) fruits, so I contacted (local agencies, churches, and food pantries) so they could give out to students in their care, or students who came in specifically so they would have a lunch meal.”

One of the distribution points is Atomic Grill, located at the Kingwood Pike and Greenbag Road intersection. The restaurant, under new ownership, is a favorite spot for many locals who favor farm-to-table cuisine and gluten-free fare. Owner Teddy Edwards was happy to help. “I’ve always been a supporter of the teachers . . . especially in Morgantown, and I wanted to show my support and this is my way of doing it.” Edwards said. “We teamed up with them to have a centralized location at Atomic Grill for parents to come by and for (teachers) to distribute the food.” That distribution site will continue until the work stoppage ends tonight. As of 9 p.m., Mon County schools remain open tomorrow. That is subject to change, however.

Edwards also wanted to help because he’s father to two sons who have their own opinions about the strike. In addition to wanting West Virginia teachers to have healthcare that’s “on par with the rest of the country . . . (my boys) do feel like teachers are underpaid and they should be paid a wage that reflects their civic duty and … their dedication and obligation to the schools and kids.”

Edwards pointed out that many teachers are a family’s primary breadwinners, unlike how society views the profession. “It’s almost looked at as an alternative income in some places . . . That’s what’s sad about it,” he said.

Unlike teachers here, Edwards said, “with their tips, (my staff) earn much more. They average closer to $16-18 an hour with us.”

The four-day work stoppage has finally resulted in what looks like a decent pay raise for teachers. But the last week has also reaffirmed some vital lessons about Almost Heaven itself.

“West Virginia is a state that’s pretty well known for its struggles and Appalachia is a place that’s routinely suffering, most notably economically,” Hamilton said, “but it’s encouraging to see our state leading the charge in … addressing labor concerns and economic inequality.”

Too, she said it’s “heartwarming to see not only that, but the response from the communities we served. Because the Appalachia I grew up with is one that had endless neighbors that are willing to pitch in and help when times get tough, even if they themselves are struggling.”

Hamilton speaks for many of the business owners, parents, and even students who have shown support for the state’s educators. The last week “has been no exception. We’ve had endless lines of parents and community members who are dropping off breakfast and coffee and ponchos to our teachers who are standing on the picket lines or calling our office to see how they can support kids during their time away from school. So no matter what kind of struggle it is that we’re facing—and it seems to always be something—we do have a tendency to face it together.”

* * * * *

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

Destination South: My Long and Winding Literary Trek

I’m on a long and windy literary tour, which, thanks to Hurricane Hermine, has already featured one unexpected detour. While not taking Route 66, which is what I once planned to do, years ago, I am stopping to smell the roses where I can, meeting and writing about people who inspire me along the way. Yes, this is another trip altogether. An entirely different journey.

It felt as hot and muggy in Morgantown, W.Va., (when I hit the road August 31) as it does now in southern Florida, where I arrived Saturday night. Having just returned from a 7 a.m. walk on the beach, I can tell you the air hangs heavy around me, as warm and wet as tepid bath water.

My first stop when leaving my beloved Almost Heaven was Coonskin Drive in Charleston, where my cousin and I made an exchange: her books, which she loaned me, for my pearl earrings, which I forgot at her place in July. My window was open as she reached inside to hand me a tiny package. “Since I wrapped them in tin foil, we don’t want anyone to think we’re doing a drug deal,” she said as we both laughed. (In southern West Virginia, drugs are no laughing matter. Just ask state officials, who sued big pharma for piping the deadly opioids into the state.)

My first week on the road included a five-year overdue stop in Raleigh, N.C., to see friends I met in 2005, who have since become family. There, I heard the most fascinating stories about 1940s North Carolina, when segregation was still a way of life, as a young black woman from the North tried to acclimate to the South, after moving there to live with her husband’s sharecropper family.

My next stopover was in Myrtle Beach, S.C., to visit a friend whose husband is very ill. I landed just ahead of Hermine, which had, by then, been downgraded to a tropical storm. We watched as the rain and wind blew in, and pools of water rose high enough for neighbor children to frolic in. While there, I was again reminded how no one can advocate for your health and welfare better than a family member. And in today’s medical minefield, they must — or risk the consequences of wrong diagnoses and other serious mistakes.

Seeing a fisherman try to reel in a stingray, only to cut the line after a lengthy battle with the giant creature so it could escape, was the highlight of my time there. Next to seeing my dear friends and chatting over ice cream cones while walking along the beach.

After a small mishap involving melted coconut oil that leaked all over my toiletries (Does anyone remember my 2009 honey-in-my-suitcase incident?), and two broken nails – one on my foot, another on my hand – I left Myrtle Beach later than planned, arriving in Charleston, S.C., Wednesday afternoon. There, I stopped to see the DuBose Heyward House, which is on the National Historic Register. Heyward wrote Porgy, the novel that later inspired George Gershwin to create Porgy and Bess, the opera. (I have yet to see it, but it is definitely on my bucket list.)

I took another detour to drive through Botany Bay, a wildlife preserve which features live oak trees lined up along the lane leading to it, stationed like bowing butlers facing. I hadn’t eaten since morning, so I drove east a few more miles, stopping at the edge of the ocean at Edisto Beach. There, I had a meal at a little place where the décor was bright and cheery, and reminded me of my sister, Lisa, who would have turned 50 that day, but for the drugs that ravaged her world.

Because I didn’t make Savannah, Ga., until 7 p.m., I missed seeing Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home. Instead, I stepped through a triple-hung window and onto the balcony, fully enjoying my “room with a view,” as day turned to dusk. Thursday morning, I took a tour of the splendid old city, and did so in a pair of slacks, a loosely woven blouse over my tank top. By 10 a.m., I had shed the blouse. By noon, I shed my pants, after buying – and donning – a sundress. Still, the temperatures were sweltering, and I was reminded of the scene from Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, where Vivi Abbott Walker and her friends try to cool off in a convertible one sweltering summer night.

Looking at the gardens from my room with a view in Savannah, Georgia.

I had so much fun walking around the shops and watching the people, and winding my way down (and then back up again, nimble as a billy goat with my new knees) some very steep stairs to River Street, that I barely made the last O’Connor house tour of the day. And that would have been a shame, for there I learned that Mary Flannery and I have in common a book that surely helped formed her into the writer she became, and possibly did me, as well. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, which the tour guide said Flannery performed as live readings for her friends in her bathroom as a little girl. (I also love peacocks, although I’ve never raised them, as she did.) I could not leave without purchasing a copy of the book whose title made such an impact on me as a short story, A Good Man is Hard to Find. It is sad that she died so young of lupus, but what an incredible wealth of written works she left behind.

Next time, please join me as I make my way to other points south, as this literary trek continues.

Flannery O’Connor childhood home

The bathroom where Mary Flannery entertained her friends as a little girl; “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” is in the background.

The mantle in Mary Flannery’s bedroom features family photos.

My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. 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. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

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) and Pretty Little Killers , released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18, 2014, issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at 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: Ms. 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.”

A ‘Kid In a Candy Store’—On the Palm Beach County Bookmobile

Recently, I felt just like a kid in a candy store, when I did something I haven’t done since childhood—I climbed aboard a big bus filled with books. When I heard about the bookmobile, I had to check it out in person. This is what I found:

Mike Barto had to spend $120 from his own pocket to get a job, but 23 years later, he still says it was “absolutely worth it!”

April marks Barto’s anniversary as a library associate, but you won’t find him inside an office. Most days he’s behind the wheel of a big, brightly painted bus that brings books to readers. Each month, the Palm Beach County Bookmobile makes more than 40 stops, traveling 1,200 miles—and some days, it delivers as many as 400 books.

Mike Barto and Marianne Herd

Year round, except for weekends and some federal holidays, Barto, Marianne Herd, and Francisco Contento, with some help from supervisor Ronald Glass, keep local residents reading. Barto is on the big bus most days, driving from Jupiter to Boca Raton to Belle Grade, while Herd and Contento switch off. They alternate between the Bookmobile and the Library Annex, where they care for the behind-the-scenes operations.

“We handle the ordering of the books, processing them (and weeding out books that don’t do well),” Herd said. “We have to pull from holds that other libraries want to borrow.”

The Bookmobile operates year round, but the schedule changes every six months, based on the number of books in circulation, which is the number checked out at each stop. Declining numbers, says Herd, call for a change. “If a stop isn’t doing good, we’ll drop it and add a new one. But our good stops, they stay.”

Listening is a big part of this job. A job that required Barto to obtain a commercial driver’s license. When the county called him for an interview, he was already in the process of getting his CDL and had spent $120 of his own money. “I even rented a truck to take the test,” Barto said.

And he loves his job, which feels more like fun than work. Discussing books and having a flexible schedule are just two of the perks. Then there are the people he interacts with. “The clientele are very nice,” Barto said.

In fact, the clientele determines which books the library staff orders. “We’re definitely listening to what people are saying,” Herd says.

After talking to readers, Barto determines which books are in demand. He created “Mike’s Favorites,” a list of about 50 titles. It’s impressive, comprised of books that have topped the New York Times Bestseller List for many months, such as All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr; The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak; The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult; Molokai, by Alan Brennert, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett; and several others.

When readers talk, Barto pays attention. “When they return, they say (that book) was great and I ask ‘why’ . . . (and) they give me tidbits about the book.” Barto keeps that in my mind and then, when someone else comes on the Bookmobile, “I listen to all the synopses of books, and then pair books with readers.”

A voracious reader since childhood, “Mike’s Favorites” has come to represent “books I know . . . books that have depth to them,” he says.

But Barto doesn’t just know which reader likes mysteries. He knows their specific tastes—down to the type of mystery, and whether they prefer English or Scottish or hard-boiled New York City police detective stories.

Alice Weiss, who reads at least four books a week and is a regular, agrees. She says Barto “gets a feeling for what we like. He’s very good.” As a child, Weiss says a librarian took her “by the hand, took me to the children’s section . . . and I never stopped going to the library. Ever.”

A retired woman over a certain age, Weiss seems the epitome of many readers who come aboard the Bookmobile. Then there is the other end of the spectrum—the children who visit the Bookmobile.

“It’s fun to watch the kids come in. Their eyes light up (at all the books),” Barto said. “It’s like kids in a candy store.”

* * * *

Boy, have I been busy! My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir will be released May 7. 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. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

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.”

Shatter the Silence Book Cover Arrives!

Drum roll, please, for my newest book cover!

If you’ve read Sister of Silence, you might recall that I ended my memoir on a cliffhanger. I promise, it was not intentional. Many readers later wrote, asking what happened after I left “Eddie”—because I simply didn’t say. I was so focused on the positive outcome of having escaped that I failed to outline what happened next. (And since, as statistics show, many women who leave abusive men often later return again, no doubt readers wondered if I did that. Suffice to say, I did not. #WhyILeft)

Shatter begins in 1990 where SOS ends, after I took my children and left Eddie. I hope it answers all your questions. Here’s a synopsis of what promises to be a great departure from the normally dark themes I write about:

Shatter the Silence is the romantic and long-awaited sequel by New York Times Best-Selling Author Daleen Berry. The sequel to Sister of Silence, Ms. Berry’s 2011 breakout memoir about surviving abuse, Shatter the Silence takes place in Preston County, West Virginia.

This romantic memoir weaves accounts of the true crimes Ms. Berry covered while working as a news reporter with details of her divorce, her ex-husband’s ongoing harassment following their divorce, and finally, her love affair with the police detective who became first, a colleague, then a friend, and ultimately, the man who helped save her life.

Readers will weep as they learn about the collateral damage Ms. Berry and her four children sustained, following ten years trapped in a violent marriage. They will cheer when they see her refusal to live the rest of her life as a victim, and will be overjoyed when Ms. Berry realizes she has, as a single mother of four at the age of twenty-seven, fallen in love for the very first time. Finally, Ms. Berry’s loyal fans will be moved by the tender, intimate moments she shares, as they join this award-winning author on her journey to love and healing.”

You can pre-order Shatter the Silence through Smashwords, which distributes books to places like Apple iTunes, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and elsewhere. (Sister of Silence is also available at these locations.)

And if you order now, Shatter is only $2.99. But right after its May 7 release, the price goes up to $3.99.

* * * *

My fifth book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released 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.”

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.”

West Virginia Writers: We Came, We Saw, We Wore Red (And Won Contests!)

We live at a time where one might wonder if books are going the way of the dinosaur. Not because there’s a shortage—I can’t imagine when there was ever more of a book glut than now—but because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to eek out a living writing them.

That’s me, speaking at the panel session about “Pretty Little Killers,”
at the 2014 West Virginia Writers’ Conference.
I’ve heard story after story of even well-known writers whose success has been measured by the number of books they sold on the New York Times, USA Today and other best-selling lists, facing publishers who can’t or won’t pay these authors enough money to write their books.

The writing occupation has always been a bit of a gamble, so the phrase “starving writer” is apropos. In the 26 years I’ve written for a living, I only made what was truly a middle-class income for 11 of them. The rest of the time, I qualified for some form of government assistance, whether it was food stamps (now called SNAP) to feed my growing family or a medical card for my children’s health-care needs.

Writing is a solitary profession, which I enjoy, but it can also be a discouraging one. Especially in today’s economy, where companies like Amazon have both helped level the playing field and changed the book publishing rules. If you’re a professional writer, or hope to become one, it’s important to rub shoulders with people like me who have done it for decades. Who haven’t given up on this intrinsically rewarding way to earn a living.

I’ve gone to conferences and other literary events most of my adult life and can confirm they are essential for professional development. Not only do you learn basic writing skills, or how to hone the natural ones you were born with, you meet people who are rooting for you to succeed. Like Pam and Ralph Hanson, former beloved WVU journalism professors and, in Pam’s case, an author with more than 40 published books to her name.

West Virginia Writers’ Conference was probably the first such conference I attended, somewhere in the late 1980s or early ‘90s. Held the second weekend in June at Cedar Lakes in Ripley, it boasts a peaceful, picturesque setting, but it also offers interaction with some top-notch professional writers who love paying it forward.

All I had to do was say I was trying to finish the sequel to my memoir, which my writing friends tell me is a romance (I know, imagine that!), for one such veteran, multi-published author to pipe up: “I’ll help you!” All I had to do was walk into Karin Tauscher Fuller’s hotel room at the conference, for her to insist on giving me the cutest red dress to wear to the awards banquet.

We are woman, hear us roar . . . in red, or black and white polka dots.
All I needed to hear was that another author had no ride to the airport, and I volunteered to play chauffeur. These were just three examples, but I know other writers displayed such generosity of time and spirit throughout the weekend.

Writers are some of the best people in the world to pay it forward. Kambri Crews, a publicist and comedian whose own book about her deaf father, incarcerated for trying to kill his ex-girlfriend, spoke about this during her workshop. Kambri encouraged aspiring authors to never be afraid to ask other successful, even—dare I say it—New York Times best-selling authors, for book endorsements. That’s because Kambri learned firsthand how willing most of us are to help newbie writers break into this elite, albeit not necessarily financially lucrative, business when she began asking for book blurbs herself.

So did I, when I reached out to Asra Nomani (formerly of the Wall Street Journal), Jacqueline Campbell (of Johns Hopkins University), and Bob Edwards (of NPR and Sirius Radio fame). In addition to some pretty amazing blurbs, they actually also offered helpful feedback I haven’t forgotten. Most important, their help instilled within me a sense of accomplishment that kept me writing.

With that I’d like to follow suit, and give a shout-out to Jessica Nelson and Anastasia Knudsen, two award-winning teen writers. Jessica, from Morgantown, W.Va., was 14 when she garnered her first West Virginia Writers’ award. Last year she carted off four. Now 18, it’s obvious Jessica’s future has writing in it. Most immediately, it has West Virginia Wesleyan in it, since Jessica won a scholarship to attend the private college.

Ana is 14, homeschooled, and also from Morgantown. Saturday night she set a record for West Virginia Writers. When she first entered, Contest Coordinator Eric Fritzius told me Ana was nervous about submitting in what is normally considered an adult category. “She said, ‘I probably won’t even win,'” Eric said.

She has a right to be happy; at 14, Anastasia Knudsen is the youngest person to win in the book-length prose category. She’s shown here, left to right, with Mary Lucille DeBerry, a veteran of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and Sarah Robinson, whose memoir is soon to be published. All three women took home awards from Saturday’s banquet.

Then Ana—who has won some other writing contests but does not have a cell phone, which I think might just account for her award-winning writing—went on to do what many adult entrants have never done: she floored everyone at the awards banquet when she walked away with second place. For what looks like a very intriguing book about time travel. That was judged blind, from among 32 entries, by none other than the Pinckney Benedict. Wow!

Even though some of us didn’t win this year—Marie Manilla, whose book, The Patron Saint of Ugly, was just published by Mifflin Harcourt; Diane Tarantini, nominated for a Pushcart Prize; Karin, whose weekly newspaper column consistently offers fine reading; Sheila Redling, a best-selling Amazon author, Carter Seaton Taylor, who’s on tour for her newest book about West Virginia artisans, Hippie Homesteaders; and me, who hit the New York Times list in March—it’s because we were simply so busy with our writing careers we didn’t have time to submit an entry.

Which just goes back to paying it forward to teen writers like Ana and Jessica. We’re here because someone helped us. And because we’ve sharpened our skills at one of the best annual writer’s conference you’ll ever find.

At a conference that is sure to turn out even more great authors, who are destined to ensure that books never become dinosaurs.

 

* * *

I have three books, soon to be four. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is being used in colleges and some high schools; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, 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), due out July 8, 2014.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella BooksNellie Bly BooksAmazon, 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 the first 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 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.”

 

When Chronic Pain Hurts Your Performance

After promising my readers not one but two books—Lethal Silence and To Shatter the Silence—by February 2013, and failing to deliver either book, I fear I’ve lost my credibility. So it’s time to come clean.

I should confess: I did just finish one book, but it wasn’t either of those titles. It was Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, a memoir about the life of Eloise Morgan Milne. I was under contract to write this book, so it had to take precedence over my own books, including those already in the pipeline.

I hate not keeping my word. After all, a promise made is a debt unpaid. I grew up with that belief, and still live by it. Of course, I also issue far fewer promises these days.

Like all good surgeons these days, he marked the correct arm prior to surgery. In this case, it’s my left one.

Having cut my writing teeth doing deadline work, it isn’t about missing my own deadlines. No, the problem has been from chronic pain, something I’ve been living with for the last two years. Until 12 days ago, when I finally bit the bullet and had carpal tunnel surgery. I feel like I’ve been given my writing life back. Thanks to Dr. Glen Buterbaugh, at the Hand and UpperEx Center, in Wexford, Pa. Dr. Buterbaugh has worked with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins and Pirates—which should tell you how good he is. I gave him a big hug and a sincere thank you yesterday, when I saw him for my first post-op visit. Because, for me, he performed a miracle.

In the interim, though, while living with pain that forced me to put down my pen or stop typing long before I was ready, I’ve missed posting a lot of news here, too.

Not for the faint of heart, this is the incision site, 10 days out.

Like the final story about Shannon Stafford’s murder. (The one that blasts government agencies for leaving Shannon’s toddler daughter, Faith, in danger for more than a year.) That story’s been on the back burner now for many months. Much to my—as well as other people’s—chagrin. Recently, I received some information that will allow me to publish that piece—but first I must update it. That’s because Faith went missing recently.

Nor have I written as much about the Steubenville rape case as I would have liked. But the story I stayed silent about is the one that’s in my own backyard. Literally. Skylar Neese, then 15, went missing last July. Police said they couldn’t issue an Amber Alert because they believed the Star City teen had run away. In the meantime, Skylar’s parents, Dave and Mary Neese, have fought for passage of Skylar’s Law.

That bill now awaits Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s signature. As reported in the Beckley Register-Herald recently, “Under the bill, State Police would have discretion in deciding to add a missing child to Amber Alert, regardless of whether an abduction is suspected.” Legislators are questioning why Gov. Tombin has not yet taken action, especially in view of new developments in this case.

Dr. Buterbaugh and me. He wore a blazer during patient rounds before surgery. Looked really spiffy, too.

In January, Skylar’s remains were found in Pennsylvania. By March, authorities announced the University High student had been murdered. Last week, two of Skylar’s friends were charged with her fatal stabbing. One girl, Rachel Shoaf, 16, pled guilty to second-degree murder. She awaits sentencing.

Normally the names of underage defendants in criminal cases are not released to the public. But Shoaf agreed to be charged as an adult. The name of the other teen, already in custody, hasn’t been released.

Editor’s note: Berry is the executive director of Samantha’s Sanctuary, Inc., a new 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to helping empower abused women and their children. Berry’s TEDx talk, given April 13 at Connecticut College, will be live any day.

Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read an excerpt, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout”.

Free E-book Promotion, or How My Book Went to #2 Beside E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades Darker” in 3 Days



Actually, Sister of Silence sat in the #3 free spot on Kindle for most of the second day—right next to E.L. James’ third book in the best-selling trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed, before climbing one more notch to #2, where it sat beside Fifty Shades Darker.

Which is why I’m asking: Readers, can you help me get it to #1? In just over 48 hours, the Sister of Silence e-book (which is also available in paperback for traditional book lovers like me) will be free. Again. This time I’m hoping we can send it straight to the top. And I’m pretty sure we can at least equal the 33,703 downloads that occurred in late May. Except this time, we only have two days.

That’s why I’m asking everyone I know, and who knows me, to please download the e-book if you haven’t already. And ask your friends to do the same: send them an email with the link, post it on your Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler or even Pinterest pages, and let’s see what can happen with such a concerted effort.

Last time, even the number of Amazon reviews increased: there are currently 75 reviews, with an average of 4.5 stars. Prior to the May giveaway, there were 47. Now there are 28 more! I’m hoping the same thing happens this time, because reviews are key to selling books for authors like me.

A quick word about the Fifty Shades trilogy. Last week I was writing (on speculation they would accept it) a piece for The Daily Beast about the books and what I think their incredible popularity says. It initially looked like the Beast was going to take the piece, but then the editors nixed it. At the time my book (also about sexuality, among other things) was sitting beside two of E.L. James’ books, I had no clue about their similar connection. Otherwise, I would have included something about it in the blog I posted just after the free promo ended.

Since then I’ve done my research. So I now realize the significance of that ranking. (At the time, as I commented on Facebook, I thought it rather ironic since Fifty Shades of Grey, the first book, is about a fictional woman who wants to be dominated; mine is about a real woman who wants anything but.)

Not coincidentally, the first promo occurred Memorial Day weekend, as a tribute to the women and children who end up as prisoners of war—the domestic kind—in their own homes. That’s domestic terrorism at its worst.

The promo I’m asking you to participate in this time is different. It starts at 12 a.m. July 24 because that’s Amelia Earhart Day. While many readers know my book is about overcoming abuse and empowerment, people who haven’t read it yet won’t know it’s also about the huge role aviation played in my life.

While one Sister of Silence reader remembered that my dad promised to teach me to fly but then didn’t, that isn’t the most important aviation element: it’s that the lure of flying was so strong, the desire to reach that goal so intense, that I eventually accomplished it myself. That isn’t in the book, of course, but reading between the lines, the reader might realize that that’s exactly what I would go on to do.

A male friend told me he believes the Shades of Grey trilogy ultimately finds its fictional heroine, Anastasia Steele, “progressively empowered.” Perhaps that’s something these two books have in common—a progressively empowered heroine—and the deeper reason Sister of Silence found a spot beside Fifty Shades Darker.

I’m happy to give readers something more than fantasy and an unrealistic view of female empowerment. And personally, I’d take a real-life empowered heroine over a fictional one any day.

* * * *

Daleen can be reached at daleen.berry@gmail.com.

Editor’s note: Daleen Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change, for her second book, Lethal Silence, to be published sometime in 2012. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country.

Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read the first chapter free, please go to Goodreads. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.” To read her award-winning memoir, Sister of Silence, in e-book format (or any other e-book), download a free app from Amazon for your phone, tablet or computer.

If you want to read more than 70 reviews, go to Amazon. To view the Sister of Silence book trailer, go to her VintageBerryWine Youtube channel.

What Pearl S. Buck, Blueberries, and Bovines Have In Common

This morning I woke up from a dream in which I was trying to find a colorful clause to go with the verb “giggled,” as in “like a little girl.”

That’s what happens when you go to a writing workshop taught by Jim Minick, author of several books, including The Blueberry Years. (While at Jim’s site, be sure to check out his wife Sarah’s baskets; they are exquisite!)

The workshop was held yesterday, in conjunction with Allegheny Echoes, at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace in Hillsboro, W.Va. And it was wonderful, educational and hopefully made all of us better, stronger writers.

“Giggled like a little girl” is a metaphor, but it’s also a cliché, which is a worn-out, overused metaphor. Good writing doesn’t have clichés. At least, it shouldn’t.

Now a confession: when Jeannette Walls looked at Sister of Silence, she kindly pointed out a few clichés—which I didn’t even realize I’d used. (That was offset by Walls saying the writing in a piece about my father’s ashes reminded her of Nora Ephron, may she rest in peace.)

So a workshop that focuses on how to write better by using strong metaphors, rather than weak clichés, is rather important. (Plus, I finally saw Buck’s birthplace, and finished reading The Good Earth while in Hillsboro, which seemed apropos.)
I also met Courtney Smith, a New Yorker who migrated here and whose friends ask why on earth she would want to live in West Virginia.

“Because when you pass someone in a car and they’re waving at you, all five fingers are engaged,” Smith, a Lewisburg resident, said.

Smith is the playwright who wrote Welcome Home, about Pearl Buck, Oscar Hammerstein, and James Michener. Together, they created the Welcome House Adoption Program for Asian children born to American servicemen.

There were several highlights during this trip into the bowels of West Virginia, where you could easily get lost in the mountains, if you’re not careful. One such highlight involved my overnight lodging, in a quaint little home perched on the side of one of those mountains in Richwood. Jolie and Jay Lewis live there with their two children.

I met Jolie at the West Virginia Writers’ Conference this year, and she encouraged me to attend the writing workshop. It seemed fitting that I do so, since I could also see the house where Buck was born. In addition to seeing the house, I learned that she would write (and pluck grapes) while sitting in the upstairs balcony, and that she won her Pulitzer for The Good Earth when she was 40, her Nobel when she was 46. (Just more proof that older is better!) I also learned she had a daughter who had to be institutionalized, and who could have been the basis for O-Lan and Wang Lung’s own daughter, known as “poor little fool.”

Tour guide Ruth Taylor didn’t tell our group this; I just surmised it as I reflected on the story while driving home. What she did tell us was that Buck wrote her short stories to help pay for her daughter’s care, which makes her no different than many writers I know, whose chief concern is just being able to pay the bills.

But back to the Lewis homestead. Light pollution doesn’t exist in their corner of the word: when I went to bed, I saw a sky full of stars. Neither does noise pollution: when I woke up, I was surrounded on all four sides by West Virginia forest, which effectively blocked any noise that might have come from nearby people or vehicles, and provided a serenity unseen by city dwellers such as myself. (Ironically, the Lewis property is in city limits and will be for sale soon, at quite a good price.)

I thought I would be back on the road much earlier than I was, but a stop at two local places slowed me down. The first was the Pretty Penny Café, which was once an old general store. The food is great, as is the wait staff. My waitress, Eva, who had also read (and loved) The Good Earth, gladly snapped a photo of me as I finished up the book.

Then I had to get one for the road—a coffee to keep me awake—and Jolie recommended the Dirt Bean in Marlinton. She said it was a coffee shop and a mountain bike shop. She didn’t tell me there was a swimming pool inside. Turns out the owner uses it and the massage table there in her other business, involving the healing arts. (There’s a wall separating the coffee customers from the bikers; it effectively hides the swimming pool from view. I wouldn’t have known about it, had I not needed to use the loo, located all the way in the back.)

To reach Hillsboro the day before, I drove down Interstate 79 and Route 19, then routes 39, 55 and finally, 219 south. For the return trip, intent on a visit with my mother, I opted to drive through Elkins for a change of scenery. (Driving on Rt. 219 and then Rt. 92 north, it’s fewer roads and miles, but not really any quicker.)

I was still in Barbour County, not having crossed the Preston County line, when I saw them in the distance and decided it might be best to slow down: bovines, big and black, lumbering precariously close to the road. I slowed enough to notice the open gate that enticed first one, then the others, to escape in pursuit of what was, undoubtedly to them, an exciting evening field trip.

I looked behind me as I passed and sure enough, the first one was in the road. The biggest problem was the upcoming knoll in the road, which would block them from view as easily as a solid wall hides a swimming pool from a barista. (I hope you’re proud of me, Jim!) So I pulled off the road at the very next house and sure enough, it was the home of the farmer whose cows had gotten loose.

After the initial shock of learning his runaway cows were content to stand smack dab in the middle of a long straight stretch of Rt. 92, and that the gate was open, the kind but harried farmer yelled for his wife, grabbed his britches from the porch and thanked me for stopping. Very pleasant fellow, britches or no. When I left him he was wearing his britches and running toward his cows.

Several minutes later I arrived in Independence. Mom was sitting in the back yard playing on her iPad and sipping a beer when I arrived. We sat and chatted for awhile, then we went inside so she could show me her new kitchen.

But first she had to take care of the dogs. There are five, and they are loud. So while we sat outside, they remained inside. She went to put them outside when we went in, leaving only the two true house dogs inside. One of the two is “Mama,” a four-year-old Puggle (pug and beagle) my mama rescued from the pound. She’s hefty, weighing in at 19 or 20 pounds. And she’s shown no inclination to bite before. (Maybe she didn’t like my perfume.)

We were entering the front door when Mama growled and jumped, high enough she could sink her canine teeth into the flesh above my right knee. On the bad side, it did break the skin. On the good side, Mom is in tight with the local animal control officer, so of course all Mama’s shots are in order.

I’d like to say the evening ended on a high note, but that’s as high as it got. Thus ended my mountain sojourn to Peal Buck country. If you haven’t been, you really should go. As Lewis said, although Buck only spent a few years in West Virginia, her Presbyterian missionary parents, Absalom and Caroline (Stulting) Sydenstricker, grew up here, and as their daughter, she was profoundly affected by their Appalachian heritage.

There are some people who would say the good folk of Appalachia are not so different from the poverty-stricken Chinese Buck wrote about. I am one of them.

PS: If you’re interested, a few pictures are posted at my Facebook page; I have yet to figure out how to insert them into my blog posts, without creating textual problems in response.

Disclaimer: Daleenberry.com is a Website that doubles as blog, which means it’s a combination of hard news, like the kind I reported on during my journalism days; commentary, which means my opinion—good, bad or indifferent—will be found sprinkled liberally throughout; and op-ed, which is a combination of facts and opinion. Enjoy!

* * * *

Daleen can be reached at daleen.berry@gmail.com.

Editor’s note: Daleen Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change, for her second book, Lethal Silence, to be published sometime in 2012. She has expertise in overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment.

Berry speaks at conferences around the country, most recently at “The Many Faces of Domestic Violence,” the 18th Annual Conference of the Association of Batterers’ Intervention Programs in March 2012.

Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read the first chapter free, please go to Goodreads. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

To read her award-winning memoir, Sister of Silence, in e-book format (or any other e-book), download a free app from Amazon for your phone, tablet or computer.
If you want to read more than 70 reviews, go to Amazon.

To view the Sister of Silence book trailer, go to her VintageBerryWine Youtube channel.