Intimate Conversation with author Rachel Berry
Author Rachel Berry grew up in Newark, East Orange, and Orange, NJ. She is a wife, proud mother of four adults, grandmother of two gorgeous girls, a published author and poet, motivational speaker, radio talk show host, columnist for SORMAG and community leader. As founder and president of a social group, this artist juggles a full schedule. "Black Pearls United INC" (an African American sister-circle) was founded in 2000.
Rachel is an alumni of Toastmasters International where she served as Sergeant at Arms, earned her CTM and Toastmaster of The Year award. Rachel’s book ‘Family Pictures’ made the EDC Creations 2009 best books list and she is an AFLA 2010 nominee. Mrs. Berry's speaking engagements include ILMW (The International League Of Muslim Women), Hampton Social Services, Heritage Elementary School, Healthy Family Partnership, The Red Hat Society, Norfolk Methodist Church, Sixth House and Everest College to name a few.
Rachel puts family first and enjoys life in Virginia. When she's not writing, she also enjoys reading, dining out, traveling, and watching movies. She accredits her gain in blessings and achievements to her relationship and guidance from her creator, association with great women, positive family members, loyal friends, the upbringing of an amazing woman-her mother, and the support and love of her husband and children.
BPM: Rachel, introduce us to your book, A Slip In The Right Direction, and the main characters.
RB: A Slip In The Right Direction – The Clifton Henderson series is a coming-of-age book written especially for tween and teen boys. The story takes place in Chicago and speaks to you through the eyes of 14 year-old Clifton Henderson aka Slip. Slip isn’t happy about his recent move, or having to start all over in a new school, and make new friends.
Also, a crush on a schoolmate who in the beginning doesn’t notice him, the yearning for his father’s approval as a young man, sibling rivalry, the gift of premonition, and a certain mysterious neighbor, all add color to his daily life. However, things really heat up for this young man when he’s kidnapped by gang members and his home training and family values are tested. Slip’s parents are Evelyn and Morris Henderson, and they too find themselves dealing with a few familiar challenges of their own as a couple, parents, dealing with career changes, and personal struggles.
BPM: What specific situation or revelation prompted you to write your book?
RB: I wrote this book because I want young men to have more available to read than just sports, comics, and SCI FI. I want young men to read and rise above the stigma that they don’t. I want our young boys to have someone to relate to that’s going through some of the things they’re experiencing and to know good guys have a life too and it’s alright to have values and principles. And, I want young ladies to understand some of the things young men go through.
BPM: Take us inside the book. What are two major events taking place?
RB: One major event that takes place is when Slip is kidnapped by gang members and unwillingly becomes involved with a robbery. Since he has been raised with family values he knows stealing and robbery is wrong. But when he finds himself in a good place at a bad time, he does what he believes is in the best interest of the people being robbed and goes along with the robbery as if he’s a willing participant. Once he’s alone and in the company of this bad influence he experiences what so many youth find happens to them, he begins to question his home training.
Also another ongoing event or more of a growing revelation throughout the story is the relationship and challenges that Slip’s parents discover, face, and eventually resolve. The father is very strict and believes his wife babies their son, yet he spends very little time with him because he’s trying to make money for the family. The mother is unhappy having given up her career for the move and has become a housewife looking for fulfillment. However, I’m proud that both situations provide enlightenment and growth for Slip, his parents, and other people around them.
BPM: Who were your favorites? Are your characters from the portrayal of real people?
RB: Slip is definitely my favorite because we get to see him grow. We watch him go through some of the natural occurrences of young manhood and also see him help others. I like the fact too that through him we get to witness how our young people sometimes see, feel, and experience their family life. I also like Zena, the object of his puppy love: she’s a feisty character like many young ladies her age. Evelyn Henderson I think surely portrays the thread of her family, I like her spirit. And yes, I think these characters portray people most of us are familiar with in one way or another.
BPM: What are some of their specific issues, needs or problems addressed in this book?
RB: Well this is a coming-of-age story so I wanted to address a few things 14 year-old boys go through at that age. Things like: first kiss and puppy love, sibling rivalry, wanting to be heard, recognized and understood: in this case Slip wants all this from his dad. The story also briefly addresses and without being preachy the importance of staying a virgin until married, the perils of bad association, drinking, and smoking. Also, I show how family issues affect our children whether they speak on it or not. As parents we can’t be with our children all the time and there are times our kids are faced with tough people and touch choices, but if we raise them right most of the time then can prevail over them. This story shows that and also shows how we as parents have growing to do as well.
BPM: What do you think makes your book different from others on the same subject? Share a few of your reviews.
RB: My story is different because I chose to write it from a child’s point of view and simply show realistically that as parents and a family unit that we all have growing to do. I also feel my story is different because it also shows that while a two parent home is best for a child, providing is not all there is.
A child needs a parent’s attention and time as well. Then, to add entertainment and excitement for the young curious mind I gave Slip the whimsical gift of premonition, an asset that adds a bit of mystery to his life almost as much as his quest to discover who his mysterious neighbor is. So you have a mixture of real life issues and discoveries, sprinkled with a little mystery and suspense. I’ve also included 10 workbook questions at the end of the book to query the reader about what they got from the story and to address some things going on in their own life. Also, as a poet I wanted to entertain the reader in another way and did the synopsis poetically and included another poem at the end.
Early reviews for Young Adult Novella: A Slip In the Right Direction
"A Slip In The Right Direction speaks to an all too familiar reality of America's Black and Brown folk who are in a day-today struggle to survive."
---Bruce George, Co-Founder of Def Poetry Jam and Founder of The Bandana Republic
"...Thought provoking and well written. Young readers will be texting their friends about the book and eagerly awaiting the sequel."
----Brian W. Smith, bestselling author of the novel BEATER
BPM: What makes you powerful as a person and a writer? Who are your mentors?
RB: I believe my power comes from the love of people and getting to know the “human condition.” I care about people, who they are, and why they do what they do, what motivates and drives them. I try to relay what I learn through my characters. My greatest mentor is my mother. Even now as a senior citizen she’s teaching me and showing me about how the twilight years of ones life can be. But seasoned writers like Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, J California Cooper and Zora Neale Hurston are on my list of admired wordsmiths. But trust me, that list is extended by a lot of new artists too, too long to list here.
BPM: A Legacy is something that is handed down from one period of time to another period of time. Finish this sentence: My writing offers the following legacy to future readers...
RB: My writing offers the following legacy to future readers... write from your heart & soul, believe in yourself, and your message will touch the heart & soul of others.
BPM: Share with us your latest news or upcoming book releases.
RB: I am working on a few things which include two adult novels. How Easy We Forget which is the story of a bored housewife and mother who goes outside her family looking for gratification and brings back serious problems for herself and family, but ultimately learns the lesson of being thankful for what you have or you can lose it. Also another family saga, Between The Tears And The Laughter, which takes place in Louisiana and is about the squabbles, lives, loves, and lessons of five siblings and how they gain insight into the real relation and secrets between their parents.
Also, I’m working on another chapbook of short stories and poetry entitled, It Just Ran Across My Mind. The Clifton Henderson series also continues next year with part 2 – A Stranger Called Me. This time Slip is about 16 in this story, now he’s got the girl, he’s a little cockier, a bit wiser, very popular, and just like his family and friends sometimes he doesn’t recognize who he has become or his own actions. His gift of premonition has increased and he’s weighed down with the knowledge of what to do about his neighbor who is no longer a mystery.
BPM: How can our readers reach you online?