Open Book Blog Hop: Lessons Learned, Lessons Worth Sharing

So, this week’s Open Book Blog Hop topic encourages me to remove the writer’s mask to reveal my ‘other’ side. Funny how this topic comes a few short weeks after I have come to finally accept the job I’ve been doing for the past 20 years.

But before I get there, here’s the topic:

July 24, 2017 – What Kind Of Lessons Could Anyone Learn From What You Do In Your Career?
Are there life lessons that people who aren’t in your career could learn from? You might be amazed.

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Rules:
1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.



Baby Steps

When I chose my program at university, I’ll be honest: I had no idea what I was getting into. I was 19, had finished CEGEP (a kind of pre-university, for those who don’t know about the Quebec educational system), and had no idea what I wanted to pursue as a career. I just knew that the only things I was really good at were writing and working with people. I didn’t believe I could build a career out of writing, so I did what any young person who likes working with people but couldn’t do math to save her life would do.

I became a social worker.

Trial by Fire

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What was I thinking?!

I’m an introvert by nature, but every activity in the program required me to work in groups, organize groups, or interact on a deep level with people through counselling. I was totally out of my comfort zone. I mean, I wanted to help people but the profession wasn’t anything like what I had expected. By the time I graduated, I was a qualified social worker, but let’s face it: I was still basically a kid with barely any life experience. (It’s not for nothing that a good number of social work students were what we called ‘mature students’).

I managed to find a job in a youth center that I really loved, but after a while I decided I needed to take the plunge and get some real experience. So, what nightmare did I throw myself into next?

I got a job in youth protection.

Youth protection workers get a bad rap, and I understand why. But as someone who’s done the job, I can say that they are needed, and that the job is bloody hard and, usually, thankless. I lasted two and a half years, but just barely. The stress and anxiety knocked my off my ass, and set off physical and emotional stress responses I still feel today. That said, I am grateful for the experience because it did what it was supposed to: it prepared me for the real world. The life and professional lessons I learned are still a part of my life today.

What now?

So, I’d survived my trials by fire. Everything else should be a snap, right?

Hell, no.

I work in a health and social services government agency with people who have physical and intellectual disabilities, and autism, and their families. It’s challenging work. There are so many needs and never enough resources. Stress is high. The burn out rate for social workers right now is through the roof.

If I’m being honest, most of the time I’m frustrated. Frustrated with the system, and frustrated because I feel utterly powerless. I listen to people for hours a day, empathizing, supporting, strategizing, organizing, counselling, and so on. There is so no end to the pain, heartbreak, and hopelessness. Families regularly fall apart, and kids lose control. Mental health problems abound. The environment is a perfect recipe to develop anxiety.

So, what do I do?

Turning Things Around

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I do what I can. Untangling situations, accessing resources, and problem solving  are key. But a lot of the time I just do what I have always done best: listen and encourage. Active listening is deceptively hard. It takes practice and genuine concern for the person being listened to. Empathizing is another skill that is harder than people think. It requires the listener to not judge and to purposely try to understand the situation through another point of view. Encouragement, no explanation needed, is another skill I find valuable. Honestly, I don’t always have the answers when I begin an interview. But after listening and empathizing, determination kicks in and off we go.

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I used to see social work as a burden. There were times the job made me sick. Since my last sick leave a few months back, I’ve been evaluating my situation, wondering why I do what I do, and if I should do something else. After praying about (a lot), I came to accept that this is where I should be, and if I’m going to remain here, I had to make it work. I realized that focusing on the problems with social work was the problem. So, I listened to, empathized with, and encouraged myself. And decided that I am not a social worker for myself, but for the people who pass through my door or with whom I talk to on the phone. I’m there for the families who don’t know where to turn, and for those on the edge of despair. It’s about putting other people’s needs before my own and doing my absolute best as a professional to help them.

I also accepted that I’m a social worker, not a miracle worker. That validating another’s experience and partnering with them to find a solution is in themselves powerful. Sometimes, looking someone in the eye and saying in a confident, supportive voice: “Listen, the situation is complicated, but don’t worry. We’ll figure it out,” makes all the difference.

So, What’s the Point?

What to take from my work experiences? I think one is remembering that people are our most important asset and that we must take care of one another. Two, that when we help someone in need, we show the world our best. Three, that everyone falls at some point. When it’s your turn, what kind of professional (person) do you want assisting you? Someone who’s just going through the motions, or someone who genuinely cares? Four, remember that the helping profession is hard, and those doing the work are human, just like you.

Supporting and caring for one another, and showing compassion and understanding, are some of the tools we all have at our disposal. But they just might be the most important.

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From blog.faithlife.com

Thanks for reading my experiences. I’d love to know your thoughts, or what lessons you’ve learned from your job or hobby. Please leave me a message below.

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Crossroads and a New Direction

Sometimes we come to a crossroads in our lives where we have to make a choice and/or change direction. For the last little while, those of you who follow my blog might have noticed a sharp decrease in the number of posts and overall level of activity. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the foremost reason is that I have been steadily coming to that Crossroad in my life personally as well as creatively.

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I am a writer, and I am a Christian. The latter isn’t something I broadcast with a bullhorn, as I’ve always felt more comfortable just living and doing my best to show who I am by actions rather than words. Words not backed by actions are empty anyway; I guess I figure why waste precious breath?

I’ve been online for years, participating in various groups and interacting with numerous people, and one thing has struck me: there are a lot of Christians Creatives like me (artists, writers, actors, musicians) floating around cyberspace. I can really only speak to the writing world since I know it best, but I’m thrilled to see the variety and innovation of what these Creatives have produced. I was never a fan of the ‘western’ Christian romance novels that were all the rage (and standard) throughout my teen years, for example, and I craved the imagination-stirring visions offered in my favorite secular science fiction and fantasy novels. Over time, quality offerings in these genres became more common in Christian bookstores (yes!). However, when compared to Bibles and devotionals, fiction, and more specifically, speculative fiction, remain but a small portion of what is consumed in the marketplace.

So where am I going with this?

I want to do my part to change this. I know how hard I’ve worked over the last few years to learn my trade and to improve my craft, and I know I’m not the only one who wishes to make more of an impact with my creations. Also, despite all the contacts and connections I’ve made, I’ve never really found ‘my place’–I often feel caught between the secular and Christian worlds. I figure I can’t be the only one. So, I’ve been turning over a bunch of ideas of how to better support Christian Creatives (and not just authors) and I have some thoughts, including the start of a new blog and other services for that purpose. But I’d also like to hear from other Christian Creatives out there: What do you think would be helpful in order to improve exposure, support, community building, etc?

For those who are wondering, this blog will remain but it will continue to be writing-oriented and independent of my new endeavor. 🙂

Thanks for reading! If you have comments, drop me a line below. Have a great week!

Trying Something New: Author Mailing List

Hi everyone! I’m trying something new to better connect with you. Some of you contact me here, others of Facebook and Twitter or Google, but I figured the best way to keep you updated about what’s new is to start an email list. I also figure it is a better way to communicate directly with people. For example, if you’ve read my books and have questions or want to make suggestions, or want to drop a word of support, join up so we can chat. Also, knowing people are signing up will probably motivate me to offer more freebies and discounts, or look into other creative ways to thank you for your support. So, how about it? You game? Click on the link to give it a go. 🙂 Dyane Forde Author Mailing List 

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5 Star Review for The Purple Morrow!

It’s always a wonderful surprise to do a search for my books and discover a new review. Read the latest one here! 5 Star Review for The Purple Morrow!

Thanks to EVERYONE who reads my books, and extra thanks to those who go the extra mile by supporting me by writing reviews!

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Appreciate the love!

6 Tips For New Authors Writing Novels

Writing novels when you have experience is daunting. Writing a first novel, then, can seem like an impossible task, especially when you have nothing going for you except desire and a head full of ideas.

I recently commented on a book from someone who asked for a review through my Review Exchange offer. I could tell after reading only a few sentences that this person was new to writing. At that point, I had to make a decision. I could have said, “No way, come back with a revised draft.” But I decided not to. I know how hard it is to write and how terrifying it can be to have my work reviewed by ‘someone who knows what they are doing.’ Also, new authors are told all the time to “get experience” or to “go back to the drawing board”, but don’t they need guidance and support in order to do that?

I decided to read the book, and rather than write a review, I wrote feedback in the manner of a beta read, which I hope the author will see as constructive and motivating. It was while I was writing the feedback, that I thought it might be helpful for other authors starting out to read the notes.

Now, I am not an authority on novel writing. I’ve been lucky that people who read my stories and novels enjoy them. But like the author above, when I started out I had no support network; I just wanted to write. People reading my early drafts must have rolled their eyes and gone, “Oh great. Another wannabe.”

For those who don’t know my journey, here’re a few lines of intro: I started writing short stories, poems, and plays when I was a kid, but when I got serious about it about 5 years ago. Essentially, I learned by reading and reviewing. Before I wrote my first book, I read classics to remember basic sentence structure and what ‘proper’ writing was. Then I got joined an online writing site and, by reading and reviewing short stories, learned to break them down to find out what worked and what didn’t. Then I moved to another site where novels were broken down the same way. Along the way, I met helpful writers, editors, and beta readers and learned from. Often, they tore apart my books–and it hurt A LOT–but I learned a ton. I’m still learning, almost 5 years later.

When I do a beta read, my goal is to be constructive but honest. No one learns when they are told that everything is ‘wonderful’ and ‘perfect’. Every book out there, for the most part, can be improved in some way. And, I figure it’s best to get feedback from someone who cares about the story and an author’s growth than from those who seek only to destroy (i.e. Trolls).

Anyway, let’s begin. Below are some points I think that any new author should keep in mind when crafting a book:

  • 1) Edit/proofreading: Solid editing/proofreading can make or break a book. If the novel’s readability is compromised by punctuation problems, misspelled words, weird quote marks—anything that messes with a sentence’s clarity—it must be resolved. If a reader has to work too hard to understand what is being communicated, they risk becoming confused, or even frustrated, and quit reading the book. Not good.
  • 2) Content editing: 1) Nice settings and world building go a long way, but what is the central theme or story being told? Is it clearly told, or is there too much fluff (over-writing, too many tangents or sub-plots, etc.) getting in the way? Are the characters well-rendered so that we care about X or Y? Is the genre clearly defined so that we know if it’s a mystery, a love story, or a thriller? Here’s a hint: if a reader can’t tell what the story is about from the first chapters—some say as early as the first chapter–then you might want to rewrite. 2) Also, people’s motivations are important. Why do they do what they do? And do their motivations match their actions in the story? Nothing is worse than when a character does something that doesn’t make sense for him or her. When that happens, the story feels forced which can work against it. 3) Lastly, a quick point on characters: carefully consider the struggles/risks they face as these are critical for building necessary tension. Done well, those elements capture the reader’s attention so that they want to see what happens next.
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  • 3) Structure: Novels needs structure. A beginning, a middle section, a climax and a resolution. The story arc. Not every book must have a nail-biting build up and climax but it should feel like the reader is being brought from one place to another through the narrative. Knowing where to put that climax is key: too soon and the book feels finished before it even begins, and too late and the ending might feel rushed.
  • 4) Dialogue: This can make or break a story. Dialogue should be believable. It should sound like how normal people speak. Consider the times/era and physical setting so that the speech patterns are consistent. Listen to how real people speak. Read your dialogue out loud. If it sounds corny or unrealistic, it probably is.
  • 5) Decide what kind of book you want to write: Knowing your genre and setting the right context for your reader is important. For example, I hate when I pick up what is billed as, say, a ‘sci-fi romance’ and discover it is a ‘romance with sci-fi in it’. For me, that is cause for teeth gnashing.
  • Also, love stories, thrillers, mystery novels, etc. all have their own structures and tropes which help situate readers so they know what to expect. Of course, there are books that break or combine boundaries, but I’ve found that the good ones are well-conceived conceptually so that the reader can easily adjust to the new ground laid in the story.
  • 6) Practice writing your pitch/book blurb: Ugh, this is notoriously hard to do well, as it’s important to give enough information so that a reader can, in a few short words, grasp the genre, basic story without giving away too much (or not enough), as well as include a hook to motivate them to buy YOUR book instead of the millions others out there. My advice is to find people who know what they are doing and ask them for help.
  • From chronicle.com

    From chronicle.com

  • What about you? Do you have tried and true tips or suggestions for new authors? What was your experience like, learning how to complete your first book?