The text came out of the blue: “Book goes to auction tomorrow! Been on calls with editors all last week. Several publishing houses interested. Fingers crossed.”

My response: “Sensational! Keep us posted! We are so proud of you.”

I was delighted but not surprised to get this amazing news from Erica Berry, a phenomenal writer and keen observer of the world around her. Erica, who hails from Portland, Oregon, was our host student at Bowdoin and has remained a good friend ever since.

Erica’s book, “Cry Wolf,” in the simplest terms, is a narrative essay about fear, a most timely topic during these chaotic times. As Erica writes, “Cry Wolf is a reckoning with fear and the stories we tell about it, told through the story of human relationships with wolves (both real and symbolic) through the centuries. Combining memoir, cultural criticism, journalism and history, ‘Cry Wolf’ complicates the narratives most often told about predator and prey.” Publishing rights have been purchased by publishing houses in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

I sensed that Erica was special when I first met her in the fall of 2010. Everything she said made good sense. And, as I soon learned, everything she writes sparkles with sheer brilliance, simple elegance. She did, in fact, shine at Bowdoin: Phi Beta Kappa honors in English and Environmental Studies; Editor in Chief of the Orient, Bowdoin’s newspaper; winner of the 2014 Pray Prize (awarded to top senior English major), winner of the 2014 Environmental Studies Prize (awarded to top senior Environmental Studies major), and winner of 2014 Paul Andrew Walker Prize (awarded for excellence as a newspaper editor).

Erica credits several Bowdoin professors for her growth as a writer, including Anthony Walton, Marilyn Reizbaum, Jill Pearlman, Aviva Briefel, David Hecht and Guy Mark Foster. Bowdoin’s interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning helped shape her approach to writing and her way of looking at the world.

Tina and I enjoyed many positive connections with Erica during her time at Bowdoin. We took her to dinners and, of course, on runs to Gelato Fiasco; played Fictionary (a creative word game) with her and her good friends; stored her luggage in our garage over vacations; drove her to the airport; visited her at Midcoast Hospital, when she was struck by a virulent bug; and visited her in Edinburgh, Scotland where she spent the spring of her junior year. During that semester, she stayed a few days with my stepson Andy and his family in Windsor, England. When Erica was Editor of the Bowdoin Orient, she invited me to write a piece for the paper entitled, “Bowdoin, Then and Now.” As it happens, Erica graduated in 2014, and I was celebrating my 50th Reunion that same year. During her senior year, she spent a “residency” of sorts at our summer cottage, where she worked on her senior honors project, which, as she now explained, served as the springboard for “Cry Wolf.”

After her graduation, we visited her at the internationally renowned Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School in Sicily, Erica was co-producing a documentary for the School that was shown at film festivals. Two years later, we visited her at the University of Minnesota, from which she earned her Master of Fine Arts and was designated a College of Liberal Arts Fellow.

I’ve also been keeping up with Erica’s spectacular accomplishments over the last five years. She’s published essays and articles in a wide array of prestigious outlets, including the New York Times Magazine; the Yale Review; the Columbia Journalism Review; Rumpus; the Guardian; and National Public Radio’s The Salt Blog. Every time she sends one of her essays to me, I simply think, “Wow!” She’s been awarded numerous grants and fellowships, a real blessing for young writers on the rise. And she’s received several awards and prizes for her outstanding writing, including citations in “Best American Essays 2019 and Best American Essays 2020.”

Erica Berry has always known she’s wanted to be a writer. As a girl, she preferred reading and writing fiction because, she says “I wanted to fall into imaginary worlds.” As a tenth grader, she was one of two American winners in an international poetry contest for teenagers. She flew to London to accept the award and spend time with the other 13 winners and rub elbows with established poets who, she says, “took our writing seriously.”

Erica is quick to point out that many many people have contributed to her success along the way, noting that, “You can’t do this alone.” Her advice to young people? “Be curious and keep learning.”

That’s sound advice for anyone, including us rounding-third-base types who consider ourselves “just a little old.” In the meantime, I suggest you keep the name Erica Berry in mind. And be sure to check out her book “Cry Wolf,” when it comes out. You won’t want to miss it.

(Note: Here’s a shout out to my friend Elizabeth Aaroe, Bowdoin Class of 1981, who helped steer Erica to Bowdoin and then connected her with us.)

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]

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