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Greenville & Hockessin Life

Local author explores the creative side of writing

Dec 21, 2020 11:11AM ● By Tricia Hoadley

By Betsy Brewer Brantner
Contributing Writer

After years of working in the insurance field, marketing internet companies or, more recently, writing legal findings in the corporate world, Terry Berry is now writing for her own enjoyment.

The years of technical writing certainly taught her how to write on a schedule, but Berry always longed for something beyond the daily consumer communications she prepared.

She had always been keenly aware of her creative side both in art and in writing, and that realization led her to writing and art classes. She immersed herself in both, and made some interesting relationships along the way.

Berry admitted, “I have been writing since I was in grade school. As I got older I did sales writing, and insurance proposals. Writing has been my strength and success in my working life. I take technical documents and turn them into consumer documents.”

And, looking back, it is not a surprise that she is comfortably fitting in with other accomplished short story writers. Still, she was excited when she entered a short story contest and actually wound up winning the honor of being a “published” short story writer. Even more pleasing, she was one of the authors who earned the Judges’ Award in the writing contest.

“I was content with just being published,” Berry explained, “But I was very surprised to hear the judge’s comment on my work.”

That comment was the following: “Tight beginning, an interesting setting, and a strong narrative arc. Dialogue moved both plot and character forward. Overall a well-constructed and executed short story, enjoyable as a beach mystery read!”

Writing a short story can be a daunting challenge, especially coming from a technical writing field, which often requires a long, detailed explanation. Berry explained, “In this contest, I had a 3,500-word limit. The theme for the anthology of short stories was mysteries. And with a mystery there is a lot to tell. You have to go back and utilize dialogue to convey information that you would normally tell a reader. It is a very different writing from what I had done in my writing career.”

Berry added, “This is my first published work. I have plenty of unfinished work just waiting for my return. I actually targeted this contest as a way to force myself to complete something. I have been part of writing groups for a couple of years. I first met Nancy Sakaduski, the publisher and owner of Cat and Mouse Press, as part of a book and art show that comes to Hockessin. Her group was very welcoming, and I have taken several writing classes through them. They teach one called self-checkout where you write stories about your history. It was an opportunity that really changed my life.”

She explained the short story mystery that she wrote.

“The character I created was a 12 -year- old boy. The story takes place in the 1960s, at the beach town of Rehoboth and much of it takes place on the ferry. I used to ride on the Chester Bridgeport ferry, so I remembered the breeze, the smell and taste of hot dogs, and the sounds of the crowd. I was able to bring my own experience into the story to describe what it was like to the reader,” Berry said. “I was taking a prep course on short story writing and it was my teacher who told me about the contest. When she found out I was one of the winners, she sent her congratulations. I was surprised. I have several books from the previous series of Beach Reads. The contest occurs every year. They announced a theme for this year, which was mystery. I never thought of myself as a mystery writer. The genre is called cozy mystery. As its name suggests, it's a comfort read that leaves you satisfied and at one with the world, rather than scared to sleep alone with the lights out.”

Although she has taken many writing classes, Berry was surprised to discover she was a natural at mystery writing. She intends to continue writing other stories, utilizing her character and is setting up a website as a way to introduce Thadeus Zoone to more people as he continues his travels.

Writing may run in the family. She and her 44-year-old daughter recently collaborated on an Irish tale.

“My daughter is working on her degree,” she said. “Collaborating with my daughter was fun, even if she killed off a lot of my characters. I hope we do more.”

When asked if she would continue to create short stories, Berry quickly answered, “Yes!”

She explained, “I didn’t know a lot of people were fans of the short story, but they are. It is a challenge with the constriction of words, but I enjoy that challenge. I’ve gained a new respect for the short story genre.”

Berry has had quite the variety of interests—everything from owning a horse farm to making glass beads, and the mind-boggling craft of felting. In the world of crafting, needle felting is one of the most fascinating activities around. It's simple in concept, but looks complex in execution, and the results are intricate sculptures made completely out of wool. Essentially, the activity uses a special needle to fuse fibers together in a stiff form. Berry continues felting and had actually thought of raising her own sheep.

However, she soon learned that she would need a guard animal that would look after and protect her sheep. She was even considering acquiring a llama, since they make great guard animals. After further research, she discovered you can only have one llama, because if you get two, they may get so enamored with each other they forget to take care of the sheep.

So somewhere between creating glass beads and securing one lonely llama, she realized focusing on writing was less cluttered than arts and crafts.

She gives much credit to Sakaduski and Cat and Mouse Press for moving her onward and upward.

“As far as Nancy, I don’t know she does it,” Berry said. “It wasn’t until she notified me of winning that we realized we knew each other from the Center for Creative Arts.”

Sakaduski founded Cat & Mouse Press to support local writers and create “playful” books with a connection to the Delaware shore. Her husband, Joe Sakaduski, is her business partner and helps with several aspects of Cat & Mouse Press.

She enjoys working with writers to help them perfect their writing and experience the joys of publication. She takes that part of her job very seriously.

“I was annoyed with other publishers when I was working with them on my books,” Sakaduski explained. “I felt like I had no control. It was then I thought about being a publisher. Having gone through my own troubling publishing experiences, I thought I could work well with authors. There are lots of writers that live in the DelMarva region. There are also a lot of non-fiction authors. But I couldn’t find books specific to the area. I believed there was a need and supply for that. I came up with the publishing company and wanted to write high-quality stories. Then I developed the Rehoboth Beach Reads Short Story Contest. The Beach Reads series is going into the ninth year.”

The series is a professionally designed and edited paperback book.

A vital part of Sakaduski’s mission, she explained, “is to make our books inclusive. For example, our children’s books include illustrations of disabled children, different races, and same-sex parents. We try to always remember that Rehoboth Beach is home to a very large number of LGBTQ+ people and families. Even our romance collection (Beach Love) included a gay romance. My feeling is that acceptance grows when differences are not treated as differences but, as just part of the tapestry.”

Sakaduski feels they have built a winning formula. “We welcome authors that know Rehoboth, no matter where they live or regardless of their background as a writer. Stories are judged blindly, and they vary greatly each year. Judges know nothing about the author and the author knows nothing about the judges. Their story will be chosen or not chosen based on the criteria we post on our website. When I got one of our contracts back I was amazed to find out it was high school student. The ages of our authors span from 18 to 80,” Sakaduski said.

She added, “There are contests out there that are scams. Mine is not. Some contests will grab the rights without giving the author credit. Here, everyone has a level playing field.”

Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, Del. is one of the largest independent book stores on the East Coast, and sponsors the contest by providing the prize money for the winners. First prize is $500, second prize is $250 and third prize is $100. Among the authors chosen for prizes, several were never published, several were published, and one is the vice president of a Writer’s Guild. The writers come from all backgrounds.

Sakaduski said, “We get a lot of older people that retire here. We include the authors’ bio in their background. The back stories are astonishing.”

The cover illustrator, Emory Au, lives in Hockessin and he is a professional artist. Sakaduski also believes in supporting local illustrators.

“I’m lucky that I don’t have to support myself on this. However, to be honest, for the time I put into it I feel a great satisfaction,” she said. “I receive incredibly nice letters for helping them. Winners cry or scream when I tell them they have won. It is fun and rewarding to bring joy into their life. And our readers thoroughly enjoy the stories. It is fun to read about places you are familiar with.”

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