An Announcement

The first time around it took twelve years.

I wrote paragraph by paragraph with only the vaguest sense of where it as all going. I was eighty percent done without realizing it, and forced myself to finish because I actually thought I could.

And so my first novel, unprotected was released in September, 2012. I have never forgotten the great privilege and honor it is to have my novel published, and to have people actually buy it and read it. unprotected can be found on Goodreads and Amazon, and at select local book stores. When it was released, I had an incredible book launch, held book signings at half a dozen book stores, attended scores of book clubs, talked at libraries, and gave a few newspaper interviews. While book promotion has been a crazy ride, the part I really enjoy is the writing.

So I got to work on my Next Book.

I was attached to the social workers at Terrance County, but I wasn’t sure how much more I could add to Amanda’s story. She had her happy ending, and I wanted it to stay that way. So I turned my attention to another worker at Terrance County–Leah.

Leah is a little older than Amanda, but I’m not sure I could say that she’s wiser. She’s only been at Terrance County for about 5 years after spending her early 20s in a drunken haze. She sobered up by attending AA meetings with her anxious, needy mom, and then got her social work degree and found herself a place at Terrance County Social Services as a child protection investigator. Leah is edgier than Amanda, cynical and lonely, but also a fiercely loyal friend. Leah is also a gifted, intuitive interviewer who helps kids feel safe enough to tell their stories, and can coax an admission out of the most reluctant abuser.

But outside of work, Leah is a hot mess. She doesn’t trust anyone but her closest friends, and sometimes not even them. She insists on being alone, refusing to get to close or trust anyone. She is desperate to remain unattached, despite the best efforts of her friends, family, and a certain police investigator named Pete Kemper.

Unattached….not a great approach to life, but it makes a pretty cool book title.

I am thrilled to announce that my second novel, unattached, will be released by North Star Press in September, 2015.

Posted in writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Red Wing Public Library Event!

Please join me on Saturday, June 29 at 10am at the Red Wing Public Library where I will discuss my novel “unprotected”, social work, publishing, and we’ll see where the conversation goes from there!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Blink

Don't Blink.

Posted in writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Blink

As a writer, I try to avoid clichés. But in parenting, and especially during graduation, clichés are everywhere:

“As one door closes, another opens…”

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life…”

“The future is in your hands…”

I feel like my own graduation, when I squirmed and sighed through clichéd speeches in that temperamental mortarboard and papery red gown, could have happened just a few years ago. Certainly not 24 years ago. I now understand why people embarrass themselves by trying to look and act young–we still feel that way. Those days of struggling through chemistry and Friday night football games feel like they just happened.

Friday night, I squirmed and sighed through another graduation ceremony, but this time as the tearful mom in the bleachers, and my oldest daughter was in the papery gown–in Winger purple. And while I tried to wrap my brain around what was happening, my head was full of clichés.

“They grow up so fast…”

“Before you know it she will be ready to leave the nest…”

“Don’t blink!”

Apparently I blinked, because I just brought home this wide eyed baby girl (7 pounds 10 ounces, 20 inches long), and now in what feels like the blink of an eye, I am watching this beautiful young woman collect her diploma, move her tassel, and toss her cap in the air.

Now I am left with another cliché: If only I could turn back the clock….

Of course I can’t, and even if I could I would never put her through some of those painful years again. But if there was a way to relive it all, I would do it in a heartbeat. Sometimes I would just take it all in, other times I would whisper in my ear (or hers) to calm the heck down because it’s all going to be OK.

If I could turn back the clock…

…I would relive those first days, when her daddy instinctively new that pressing her tiny head against his chest and gently bouncing up and down would soothe her to sleep anywhere.

…I would slow down time so I could watch her stretch her tiny arm up to that cornsilk tuft on top of her head and run her little fingers through her hair until she lulled herself to sleep.

…I would exhale through that moment when she woke up after the dreaded tonsillectomy, with her swollen tongue and blood crusted on the edges of her mouth, and I would laugh again as she exclaimed at the TV, “Little bear!” and gingerly sucked on popsicles in her hospital bed all afternoon.

…I would convince both of us that she was just fine at kindergarten, even though she clung to my hand every Tuesday, Thursday, and alternating Fridays until Mrs. Jackson looked down at her and said, “Good morning Abby” and she reluctantly let go of me and entered her classroom.

…I would have reassured her that she doesn’t have to answer all the questions that her second grade teacher can ask, and it’s OK to let someone else raise their hand.

…I would find a way to show that increasingly insecure adolescent not to lose her confidence, because all those fabulous things about her are the things that matter anyway.

…I would tell myself never to second guess the money we spent on vacations, because I will forever remember freezing at the Wisconsin Dells, marveling at the rocky mountains, gazing over Chicago at the top of the Navy Pier ferris wheel, and basking in the sun and the sunset over the gulf of Mexico.

…I would cheer even louder at those jump serves in her last competitive volleyball game, not only because she landed every one, but because they show that she ended her volleyball career with sportmanship, poise, and class.

…I would insist on even more nights that all six of us at eat together at the dinner table, loving how ridiculous and obnoxious we get in the way that only our family can.

…I would remind myself more often that our lives are so short, and the struggles that seemed huge at the time were fleeting and helped her become the pillar of strength that she is.

Time marches on, the cliché goes, and all we can do is look forward. And so I will try to worry less, trust more, and absorb every moment…without blinking ever again. Happy Graduation my baby girl. We are so proud.

Posted in writing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

How Rewarding to be Rewarded

How Rewarding to be Rewarded.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How Rewarding to be Rewarded

I received my very first writing award at the tender age of 10 when I won a second place ribbon for my essay, “What is beer and how can it hurt me?” I believe I received a $10 check from the American Legion or some such organization, but I’ll admit the details are fuzzy.

The writing accolades continued when a poem I wrote in 8th grade English was published in a South Dakota journal for elementary and middle school aged students. The poem was about a chair and it didn’t rhyme, so my very literal husband would call it a “descriptive paragraph” instead of an actual poem. But since only one of us has published poetry, he can keep his opinions to himself.

I was skipped over for the award of “All State Journalist” in high school, which was rather painful since I was the editor of the high school newspaper, and several of my fellow journalists and best friends were called to accept their awards one by one while I stayed at the banquet table and pretended not to care.

And now, 25 years later, my first novel, unprotected, has been chosen as a finalist in the Midwest Independent Publishers Association’s Midwest Book Awards in the category of Contemporary Fiction. I’m honored, to be sure, and excited for the opportunity to get buy a new pair of shoes and eat a fancy dinner. I’m also surprised since it’s the first nomination for anything that I have received since my high school journalism days.

As I was contemplating college majors, I vacillated between psychology and journalism. I had been writing stories in spiral notebooks in my bedroom as long as I could remember, so writing was familiar while psychology just seemed cool. I settled on psychology, which was the career that brought me to social work, and I left writing behind until much later.

Social work was the right choice for me, but while journalism and writing are full of opportunities for awards, social work goes largely unrecognized. Other than one organization that presents a Social Worker of the Year award, what could the accolades be? Best Court Testimony? Outstanding Ability to Remain Calm When Barraged with Verbal Insults? First Place in Safe and Successful Reunifications?

Most people never get any visible recognition in their careers, but some professions are more revered than others. Surgeons and fire fighters are respected, teachers and nurses are applauded, and lawyers are the butt of endless (and often hilarious) jokes. But how about factory workers and dishwashers? How about the dads who work for decades in miserable jobs because that’s what it takes to support a family? I would love to give some recognition to the people who stand for 10 hour shifts in checkout lines dealing with inpatient jerks. I wish I could give a medal to every phlebotomist who can do a painless blood draw, and to all the aides who never lose the energy to nod and smile at their nursing home residents.

But if there were rewards for everything, then there may as well be rewards for nothing. Appreciation is great, but most of us don’t do our jobs for the praise. If we did, most of us would have quit a long time ago.

I wrote unprotected because I love to write, and over the course of 12 years a novel spilled out. The affirmation for that story and for my writing is such an honor, but I holding my published book in my hand would has been reward enough. Win or lose, I will continue to enjoy the ride my book has provided, and I will remember all people, much more deserving than I, who never get the chance to be nominated for anything.

Posted in social work, writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A revelation. Not the good kind

A revelation. Not the good kind.

Posted in social work | Leave a comment