Tag Archives: novel

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.

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Unprotected….a novel

In the winter of 1999-2000 I had been a child protection social worker for nearly six years, and I felt I was beginning to develop some wisdom about my (somewhat) chosen career.  I had survived being called every swear word that existed.   My clients had hugged me and thrown things at me.     And I had seen and learned enough to make me feel like I finally knew what I was doing.

While it is impossible to generalize or stereotype the typical child protection worker, or the typical child protection client, it had become clear to me that those two groups are generally mutually exclusive.  That is, social workers usually were not previous child protection clients, and most CP clients did not become social workers.    The two groups are usually distinct and separate.

So the seed of an idea began rattling around in my head as I met with families, attended court hearings, wrote reports.  What if a social worker had been a child protection client in another life, or was never part of that system, but probably should have been?     Would it change how the social worker viewed the families with whom she worked?   Would it make her more empathetic, or perhaps less?  Would she be ashamed of her past, or possibly even proud?

While this–a child protection client becoming a child protection social worker–has most certainly occurred, it is not the norm.   It became a story I wanted to tell.

I had been writing stories most of my life;  or I should say I had been writing parts of stories.   I was always able to think of characters and scribble out a few pages here and there, but never much more than that.   In high school I was able to put together about 30 pages (at last, a story that had a beginning and a middle!), but eventually that fizzled too.   So many beginnings, a few middles, but never an end.

Over the next several months as that winter melted into spring, that seed of idea took root, and my story grew from a few paragraphs to several pages.   And in that process I got to know the star of my show–Amanda.    I will say now, and many times again, she is not me.

Amanda is young, strong, and alone.  She has spent Christmases at soup kitchens and birthdays unwrapping a single trinket gift wrapped in tin foil.   She has been dragged to house parties and left alone while her mother “disappears” into a bedroom with a stranger.    Amanda pushes through high school with an athletic ability that makes her a softball star, but she spends most of her high school life caring for her sick, narcissistic mother.  Again, this is not autobiographical and her mother is truly the opposite of mine, but that is a post for another day.

In creating Amanda, I grew to like her.   I gave her opportunities to make her life better;  but I also got to know her and knew she would push those chances away.    Amanda goes through college without a plan until she stumbles into social work, mostly because she can relate.    She graduates from college and finds an entry level job as a child protection social worker in a small Minnesota town.  Obviously, this is where my story and Amanda’s converge.

As my novel grew a solid and lengthy middle, Amanda evolved.   Amanda straddles the line between child protection clients and social workers because she is both.    Her struggle is how to reconcile her history with the person she is now, and she wonders if it is really acceptable to be both.

Amanda’s story grew in fits and starts.   Many days I wrote only a sentence or two, or nothing at all.   On my most productive days I would come home from work, take care of my family and everything that went with that (dinner, homework, practices, bedtime) and eventually I would  write a few pages before nodding off.    Amanda’s story had a full beginning and a strong middle, but I had not really given the time and attention to find her resolution.

In 2009, Amanda’s story was about two thirds told when my sister asked me to look at a manuscript she had written, and she asked me about my own.   I had only told a handful of people that I was working on a novel, because, in truth, I never expected to finish.  My history told me that I probably wouldn’t.   But my sister inspired me to view Amanda’s story with fresh eyes, and so I considered how to bring her story to an end.      I wrote more intently, and my story grew, branched out and became full.  My seed of an idea had  grown into a tree–a family tree–as I realized that Amanda’s story is really about her quest for family and the very human need to belong.

In 2011 I finished Amanda’s story, and in doing so I added to my own.   As a self-identified writer, I had finally completed my first novel with a beginning, a middle, and an end.   Amanda and I grew together, and we both ultimately found a resolution that created, for both of us, a new beginning.

I am excited and proud to announce that Amanda’s story, now titled Unprotected will be published by North Star Press in September, 2012.