Guest Post: Daleen Berry, Author Of “Sister Of Silence”

by Greg on November 27, 2012



Today’s guest post is from award-winning writer Daleen Berry, author of Sister of Silence. Make sure to check this one out if you are a fan of memoirs (and even if you’re not). Not only is it a highly rated book but you can get it today for free!

 

Are you the type of reader who just reads the book? Do you begin with chapter one and put it down when you reach the end of the story? Or do you read other things within a book? I often wonder which of my readers will take time to read the front and back matter of my book—the foreword (which recently became the afterword in the e-book) and the acknowledgments, in particular.

It’s important you see, because the front and back matter often contain critical clues for aspiring authors, or helpful tips for readers in general. I’ve blogged about Ken Lanning, one of the most well-known former FBI officials ever to cross that agency’s threshold. Lanning wrote the foreword (which comprises part of the front matter in the paperback) for my book, so trust me when I say his eight pages are well worth the read. If you’re a parent it’s essential reading, as it will help you protect your child from the bad guys out there who want to hurt them.

I’ve said little to nothing though, about the other people who helped make my book a reality. These are the folks I listed in the acknowledgments. Writers hoping to become published authors are often told to read other authors’ acknowledgments, since that’s where most authors name and thank their literary agents, if they have one. Then, if that book is the same genre as yours, you might query that particular agent, hoping he will drop everything he’s doing as soon as he reads your submission and realizes you’ve just written the Next Great American Novel. Why he might even call to offer you representation, and the promise of a six-figure advance.

Well, those days are mostly gone. Such advances aren’t happening with any great regularity these days, and many agents are desperately scouring online book sites, trying to find the Next Great American Author. Or else they’re standing in the unemployment line, because so many really good authors have soured on traditional publishing, and are instead going the indie route. Like I did.

But this isn’t a blog about publishing. This is about the people who inspired me and kept me writing, for several years, until I finished my memoir. Who never gave up on me and therefore, kept me from giving up on myself. One of those people is a classmate from high school, whom I refer to only as Lisa Jan in my acknowledgements. There wasn’t enough room to say why I was acknowledging her there. That would have taken many pages or a chapter, at least. In high school, she was Lisa McHenry, a cheerleader, a budding writer and journalist, and a quick-witted candy fiend. (Raisinets in particular. You should hear the story she tells about that day in English class, when the teacher discovered our hidden stash.) But back then, Lisa was probably best-known for her moving and powerful theatrical performances.

Long about the time I was trapped in a violent marriage and trying not to kill myself, Lisa was fighting for her life from a hospital bed. She had graduated college and was working as a copy editor at a local newspaper when she crashed her car one rainy morning. She spent months in a coma. When she woke up, Lisa had what doctors now call a TBI (traumatic brain injury).

She was in good company. Among the actors or journalists she might have gone on to emulate later in her career are Natasha Richardson, Della Reese, Bob Woodruff, and George Clooney. All of them have also sustained a TBI.

Lisa’s TBI left her with a temporary speech impairment, a limp and very limited use of her right arm. Thankfully Lisa is left-handed, so she could still write with her good arm. Most of all, though, even though much of her memory had vanished, and she would live the rest of her life with the label “disabled,” Lisa Jan was anything but.

That’s because her acerbic sense of humor was still intact. As was her basic personality. While the world looked on her as a cripple, those of us who love her—and there are many—know she was still the same Lisa from high school. That’s why we’ve stuck by her when others have not.

She lost her job as copy editor and struggled for years with plans to reenter the workforce. She lost her boyfriend. She had to move into a subsidized apartment for the elderly and disabled. She battled severe depression. And because of that, our own bond deepened. I couldn’t know what it was like not to be able to hear keystrokes dancing like tap shoes on a keyboard, or to see the letters forming words on a computer monitor so slowly, it was painful for her just to watch. Nor would I—someone whose looks had gotten me too much of the wrong attention—know how it felt to have people turn their heads away in pity when they saw me.

But Lisa Jan did know what those awful things felt like. And she handled them admirably, with all the aplomb and dignity she always had. Because of that, because she didn’t let her tragedy get her down or keep her from encouraging me during the next several years as I battled my own heartbreak, I wanted to acknowledge her. Seeing the way she fought to live the fullest life possible, seeing her succeed through sheer determination, gave me the determination to live, too.

So the next time you pick up a book, you might want to read all of the front and back matter. I have a feeling those pages are filled with several such people just like Lisa—being acknowledged by authors just like me.

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