Florida Friends and Sunshine Welcome West Virginia Author

Published by Daleen Berry on

It’s a two-day trip, but I made it in three.

I arrived in Florida on a Thursday almost three weeks ago, having fled West Virginia two days earlier during a snowstorm that followed me south, where it coalesced into ice-covered roads, forcing me to spend the night in Charleston. Which was nice, since I had dinner with a good friend. The next morning, I stopped to see my dear Aunt Helen and Uncle Les, and then got into my car and headed for warmer climes. It was 18-degrees.

In fact, it was so cold that I didn’t thaw out until Wednesday afternoon, when I stopped at a rest area in Lowgap, North Carolina. It was probably only 45-degrees, but it was sunny! I drove and drove, reaching Columbia, S.C. by 8 p.m. But I couldn’t find a hotel, so I contacted some dear friends two hours away. They sent me to their relative’s house in nearby Aiken, S.C. Finally, after two full days of packing and travel, I had a restful sleep—and gained three new friends!

After leaving Wednesday morning, I managed to locate a car wash. My poor car, covered in road salt and storm debris, was the dirtiest car on the road, so it desperately needed one. Hand wash, mind you, from a local gentleman who’s been in business for 40 years. I could see why: my Prius just gleamed afterward, so clearly he has repeat business. And my little car was never happier.

Then the most wonderful thing happened. I stopped at a roadside convenience store—and met Melissa Moody. As I often do when I paid for my purchase, I asked if she likes to read. She does, so I gave her my business card. Before I knew it, Melissa asked me if I had any books to sell. I did, of course, and she bought one copy of each, gifts for her daughter, Aprail. It was, I predict, the beginning of another great friendship, with writing and books and shared experiences at its core.

By 4:30 p.m. I was at the welcome center in Yulee, Florida, where I snapped some selfies but forgot my complimentary glass of orange juice. An hour later I hit rush-hour traffic going through Jacksonville, and when it finally unsnarled I continued south on Interstate 95, meeting up with a dear writer friend for dinner. On the last leg of my journey, I turned my car west and crossed Florida on Interstate 4. Two hours later I reached my destination: Bradenton.

Where I spent the next two weeks catching up with Linda and Delbert Benson, whom I haven’t seen in several years. The former publisher-editor team owned The Preston County Journal and News, where they gave me my first job and the steppingstones that would lead me to become a New York Times best-selling author. Linda was the best editor (and mentor!) any green reporter (who lacked college training) could ever hope for.

That weekend, Linda joined me at my book signing at the Bradenton Books-A-Million, making it the most enjoyable one to date. (The staff treated us like royalty, which was wonderful.) During my stay, we talked shop and collaborated on a project or two, and basically picked up where we left off in 1991, when I took a job as editor at The Record-Delta in Buckhannon, W.Va.

Another gift came in the form of Brenda Kennedy, a fellow author and romance writer who wanted to, but couldn’t, attend my book signing. But Brenda wanted to meet me and buy my books, so we arranged a lunch meeting. As it turns out, Brenda knows a lot about marketing books, and we had so much fun we spent half the day together. Thanks to her, I saw Florida’s one of beautiful beaches—the first time since 1995.

Leaving Bradenton was harder than I thought; I came away with new friends and yet hadn’t seen many local attractions. Nor did I make it to nearby Sarasota, which I’m told has a lovely downtown. Plus, there’s a book club or two interested in my books. All of which is, I confess, a great reason to return.

I left on Saturday, after Linda’s youngest daughter, Mary, delivered two boxes of Toffee-Tastic, the delicious (and gluten-free) Girl Scout cookies I ordered. Mary was one of the first, and most loyal, readers of my Vintage Berry Wine columns. I will never forget the day she stopped by the newspaper office, shyly telling me how much she enjoyed reading my column about our shared dislike of sunbathing.

I arrived in West Palm Beach Sunday, where the weather couldn’t be better, where the sound of water lapping against the docks is so soothing—and where I am so happy to be, as my Florida book tour continues.

* * * *
My next Florida book event, complete with a discussion about my latest book and why innocent people end up in prison, a Q&A, and a reading, is at 7 p.m. Friday, March 4, at the Barnes and Noble in Wellington. The following Friday, March 11, you’ll find me reading at the open mic at The Stage, right here in WPB, and finally, Saturday, March 12, I’ll be at Barnes and Noble in Jensen Beach. More dates will follow, which you can find on my Facebook page.

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.”

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Daleen Berry

Daleen Berry (1963- ) is a New York Times best-selling author and TEDx speaker who was born in sunny San Jose, California, but who grew up climbing trees and mountains in rural West Virginia. When she isn't writing, she's reading. Daleen is also an award-winning journalist and columnist, and has written for such publications as The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and XOJane. Daleen has written or co-written eight nonfiction books, including her memoir, "Sister of Silence," "The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese," "Pretty Little Killers," "Cheatin' Ain't Easy," "Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang," "Shatter the Silence," and "Appalachian Murders & Mysteries," an anthology. In 2015, West Virginia University placed "Sister of Silence" and "Guilt by Matrimony" on its Appalachian Literature list. You can follow her blog here: https://www.daleenberry.com. Or find her on Facebook and Twitter, as well as email her at daleen(dot)berry(at)gmail(dot)com. She loves to hear from readers.

2 Comments

Daniela Ferraz · March 1, 2016 at 9:45 AM

Wow..this travel is being great! I’m so happy coz lots of people can read ur books and meet u! 🙂 Luckyyyy peopleeee! \o/\o/
The best thing in life is having good friends everywhere.
You shine Daleen! You are 5 stars ☆★☆★☆
It’s a joy reading ur books and see how great you are :*

Barbara Whittington · March 2, 2016 at 10:53 AM

Daleen,
I felt I was right along in the car with you on your travels. So proud of you, WV girl. You’re doing great. I envy you the ability and courage to hop in your car and travel all those miles along, meeting people along the way who will become lifelong friends. Cheering you along from the sidelines. Hugs Barb

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