English Reading Series: Julie Berry

Julie Berry, award-winning children’s and young adults’ author, discussed the value of language and finding one’s voice at the English Reading Series.

Julie Berry ERSPROVO, Utah (October 17, 2014)—What is the value of language, and why is expression such a fundamental part of who we are? Author Julie Berry addressed this question in her presentation of her award-winning book for young adults, All the Truth That’s In Me, at the English Reading Series.

“I feel like I am a worshipper at the altar of language, “said Berry. “How fortunate we are that language is our human birthright, and that we have the opportunity to use it and make something of it.”

While completing her MFA in writing for children and young adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Berry wrote 3 books. Berry explained that the beginning of her writing career was a series of trial and error as she struggled to publish some of her best works.

“The third book that I wrote while in school was All the Truth That’s in Me,” said Berry. “This book sat on my hard-drive for about five years after I wrote it. As I wrote it my husband said to me, ‘This is your award-winner.’”

Berry continued, “However, we had shown it to my agent and editor at the time, and they both thought there were some aspects of the subject matter that were a little uncomfortable.”

With this perceived failure Berry went on to write her next novel, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, which also did not initially receive offers for publication. Determined not to let these setbacks define her, however, Berry decided to send All the Truth That’s in Me out to publishers once again.

 All the Truth That’s in Me went on to elicit a 6-publisher auction and is now published in 14 different countries, receiving many awards and recognition worldwide. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place later received 3 offers for publication as well, and was recently released in September 2014.

“The moral of my story is to just keep trying,” said Berry. “Don’t give up. Just keep working on your projects, keep starting something new, and keep finding that audience for them.”

Berry’s determination to use language in writing as a form of self-expression is a fundamental theme in her life. The idea of self-expression is a vital element that occurs in All the Truth That’s in Me, a concept in the novel that largely emphasizes the need to value women’s voices and bring them out of silence.

“All the Truth That’s in Me explores topics of silence of speech, of violence against women, and of obtaining an education as a path to using one’s voice in the world. Obviously this is a living reminder that these issues are not simply buried in our cultural and historical past but that they are alive and present still in the world today.”Julie Berry ERS

She concluded, “What I hope this book can impart to readers is the reminder that having a voice and cultivating the skills to use it effectively is a tremendous privilege, and one not to be neglected, ignored, or given away.”

For more information about Julie Berry and her work, visit her website.

Sylvia Cutler (BA English ’17)