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Erica
Prize Winning Non-Fiction Writer
Journalist & Writing Instructor
Travels from: Portland, OR

“Berry’s braided approach renders Wolfish both a vulnerable self-investigation and a wide-ranging exploration of fear and, ultimately, an antidote to it. She makes a stirring case for walking alongside the symbolic wolf.” ― The Atlantic

Erica Berry is the author of Wolfish: Wolf, Self, and the Stories We Tell About Fear (Flatiron Books, 2023), a kaleidoscopic blend of memoir, science, cultural criticism, journalism and folklore. Researched over the course of a decade, the book has its roots in an Environmental Studies thesis she wrote about wolf repopulation in her home state of Oregon. Her academic project became personal after a handful of alarming encounters left Berry deeply rattled—not only afraid of being a woman in the world, but wary of the narratives she had inherited about fear, threat, and who could be predator and who could be prey. In untangling the mythos of the ‘Big Bad Wolf,’ Wolfish examines cultural narratives of wilderness, gender, power, and the body, offering new expressions for bravery in a warming world. With a family that includes hunters, a sheep farmer, and a former Sierra Club president, Berry’s exploration of how humans live beside wolves becomes a call for how we can better live beside one another.

Described as an “exhilarating” work (Washington Post) that should be “required reading” (The Los Angeles Times) and deserves “wide, global attention” (Psychology Today), Wolfish has been recommended by publications ranging from Scientific American to Vulture to Harpers Bazaar, with The Atlantic calling it “both a vulnerable self-investigation and a wide-ranging exploration of fear—and, ultimately, an antidote to it.” Berry’s work on the book was supported by the Ucross Foundation, PLAYA, Willapa Bay AIR, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, the Marble House Project, Monson Artist Residency, Minnesota State Arts Board, the Judd Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Tin House, and the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources.

Winner of the Steinberg Essay Prize and the Kurt Brown Prize in Nonfiction, Berry’s essays about humans and the environment also appear or are forthcoming in publications such as The New York Times, Orion, Emergence, The Atlantic, Literary Hub, The Yale Review, Outside, Wired, and Hazlitt. A former College of Liberal Arts Fellow at the University of Minnesota, Berry was the 2019-2020 National Writers’ Series Writer-in-Residence in Traverse City, Michigan, and is now a Writer-in-the-Schools and an Associate Fellow at the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters. She lives in her hometown of Portland, Oregon.

Wolfish: Wolf, Self, and the Stories We Tell About Fear

Flatiron Books; First Edition |
Memoir

“This is one of those stories that begins with a female body. Hers was crumpled, roadside, in the ash-colored slush between asphalt and snowbank.”

So begins Erica Berry’s kaleidoscopic exploration of wolves, both real and symbolic. At the center of this lyrical inquiry is the legendary OR-7, who roams away from his familial pack in northeastern Oregon. While charting OR-7’s record-breaking journey out of the Wallowa Mountains, Erica simultaneously details her own coming-of-age as she moves away from home and wrestles with inherited beliefs about fear, danger, femininity, and the body.

As Erica chronicles her own migration―from crying wolf as a child on her grandfather’s sheep farm to accidentally eating mandrake in Sicily―she searches for new expressions for how to be a brave woman, human, and animal in our warming world. What do stories so long told about wolves tell us about our relationship to fear? How can our society peel back the layers of what scares us? By strategically unspooling the strands of our cultural constructions of predator and prey, and what it means to navigate a world in which we can be both, Erica bridges the gap between human fear and grief through the lens of a wrongfully misunderstood species.

Wolfish is for anybody trying to navigate a world that is often scary. A powerful, timeless, and necessary book for our current and future generations.

Authors Unbound

Changing Earth, Changing Stories: Finding New Models of Environmental Storytelling

In this buoying talk—which I can tailor specifically toward audiences of students, journalists, nonprofit workers, or scientists—I apply my own experiences reaching audiences of different backgrounds to explore how we can tell uplifting stories in this age of global warming. All stories today are environmental stories, and writers can still do what AI cannot: we draw surprising connections , craft human-driven narratives, and, in first-person writing, help model for readers how to metabolize what we are going through.

Incorporating examples from my own work as well as others’ journalism and literature—and informed by my experiences volunteering on the communications team for a climate activism organization—this talk invites listeners to consider their role as members of both natural and narrative ecosystems, offering a number of takeaway strategies and ideas not only to reach new audiences, but to empower storytellers working for a better tomorrow.

Authors Unbound

Omnivorous Research: How Facts Jumpstart Creativity

In this talk geared toward students or writers of all experience levels, I make the case for research as ‘fun,’ reframing the process as one of generative innovation and creativity that is applicable across discipline. Research is not just a tool for building arguments or confirming factual details, but for associative brainstorming and jumpstarting ideas, un-jamming writer’s block, and effectively applying tools of storytelling (scene, character, etc) to new genres. Showing a few examples from my own and others’ texts, I’ll talk about my own process of building a ‘kaleidoscopic’ understanding of a topic, and give tips for doing research that is both immersive and archival, sometimes across academic disciplines. Depending on the needs of the booker, I can also walk audiences through a few out-of-the-box digital resources, and offer a generative research/writing exercise that models how to apply these techniques.

Authors Unbound

To Face Your Fears, Confront Their Cultural Roots

When I began studying wolves as a college student, I didn’t think I’d be writing about anything but the real animal. I imagined myself having a distant, objective, environmental-science perspective—then life got in the way. It wasn’t one assault, but the splinter-like accumulation of experiences under patriarchy: man writing threatening letters to me on a sleeper train while I traveled to a writing retreat, a stranger who grabbed me on a dark street at night. I became unrecognizable to myself, checking under the bed when I got home, and refusing to hike alone. Suddenly I was thinking a lot about a different sort of wolves, the “Big Bad Ones” I’d grown hearing about in fairy tales and never trusted. I had always believed myself a fierce, independent woman who traveled and camped alone, and because I was resistant to the idea of feeling like a victim, I struggled to absorb my discomfort.

In this talk, I reveal how studying predator-prey dynamics in a scientific sense helped me confront and overcome the fear responses in my own body, coming to terms with how we evaluate, discard, and walk beside our fears.
Biologists I interviewed explained to me how an animal’s body transforms the day after it experiences threat, and our bodies do this to protect ourselves, rewiring our chemistry. In our current state of late-pandemic and climate crisis, where life has felt like an emergency for years, I look to animal science to make sense of–and thus accept and move past—my own anxiety responses, and how I have learned to find resilience and peace even beside my perceptions of threat.

Authors Unbound

Between Wolf and Self: What Kaleidoscopic Thinking Can Teach Us About Interconnectedness

Weaving science, history, journalism, folklore, anthropology, cultural criticism, and personal writing, Wolfish is a genre-breaking book that explores not only the biological wolf, but the very human emotions (fear, freedom, ferocity) that Berry grew up associating the animal with. In this talk, which includes a short reading, she will discuss why she took this “kaleidoscopic” approach to the subject, making a case for why writing and thinking associatively—porously moving between disciplines, and between self and subject—is critical in our age of environmental crisis.

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Honors, Awards & Recognition

Steinberg Essay Prize Winner
Kurt Brown Prize Winner

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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