By Dan Naumovich
As a child in Jacksonville, Danual Berkley liked to do the same things that kids are still doing, although he and his pals preferred the live action version of the video games that are popular today.
“The best memories I have from growing up in Jacksonville involve playing a game called ‘War’ on the school playground after school, and playing in the creek with my friends,” Berkley said. “The ‘War’ game was just a bunch of us kids from the neighborhood running around with Nerf guns and rattle guns, while playing our own version of what kids today do online.”
Berkley grew up to be a Springfield fireman, a job that many young boys aspire to hold. But he’s never lost touch with what it’s like to be a kid, so he’s taken his experiences from childhood and adolescence and channeled them into stories.
This past spring, Berkley released his second children’s book, “Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure.” The book is being praised for its delightful story and colorful illustrations, but also for its positive depiction of African-American families. For Berkley, he’s just writing about what he knows.
“A lot of my childhood is reflected in my work,” he said. “I grew up with a huge imagination. My friends and I would always be on some kind of world-saving, life-or-death, top-secret mission. I bring that same childhood imagination into my writing and create some pretty cool adventures.”
These days, Berkley’s two sons – Davion and Kai – serve as inspiration for his stories. His love of writing, however, goes back to his Jacksonville days. He first realized he had a gift with the pen when Mrs. Homer, his 11th-grade English teacher, required all students to enter the Young Author’s competition.
“I went on to win third in the state for a poem I had written. I would have never known about poetry if it wasn’t for her,” he said.
After his school days were over, Berkley enlisted in the Army, where he served stints in Germany and Iraq. Although he never lost his love of writing, he had pretty much given up on the dream of being a published author. Then fate intervened. While on vacation, his wife came across an article about a famous author who didn’t get published until later in life. She shared the story with her husband and encouraged him to keep chasing his dream.
Berkley self-published his first book, “Wonderful Magical Place,” in 2009. He’s written over 80 poems, several of which are adaptable to book-form and he continues to come up with new stories as life’s adventures present him with new material. He also writes to entertain his co-workers, who have taken to calling him “the Poet.”
“I’ve written some pretty funny and serious poems for everyone to enjoy on the job that still circulate through the firehouses,” he said. “I’m just happy to shine a positive light on the Springfield Fire Department and love working with such a great group of men and women.”
Berkley isn’t sure where his writing will take him next, but he’ll never forget from where it came. Jacksonville remains forever in his heart.
“I enjoyed riding my bike up to Shooters with my cousin in the mornings. I forget if it was a bar or a pool lounge, but in the mornings, they served the biggest pancakes. My cousin and I would ride our bikes up there first thing in the morning and eat pancakes before starting our day. Great times.”
Danual Berkley’s books are available for purchase online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and more information about his work can be found at www.danualberkley.com.