I’ve witnessed terrible ugliness and pain. I’ve witnessed incredible beauty and love. Often in the same moment.
Working as a social worker for over 20 years, I have sat with people in hospitals, courtrooms, and public housing apartments. I’ve never taken for granted the honor people give me when they allow me to go along with them on their journey. And I’ve never assumed my role to be anything other than a partner and advocate. Sometimes all I can offer is a voice, a hand, a shoulder.
The human spirit astounds me. People rely on grace and humor to cope with tragedies that would otherwise crush them. I am continually humbled by these experiences.
It was these experiences that compelled me to write love stories with characters you don’t always get to see. But if I was going to be authentic to these experiences, I would have to include the ugly along with the beautiful.
If I only wrote what I “know” all my characters would be middle class Jewish cis-gendered women. I am in complete agreement that representation matters. We need diversity in books, not just in the characters depicted, but also among the authors. That said, I think I did my due diligence for Standing Up. I interviewed amputees and people with disabilities. I met with a prosthetics expert, had sensitivity readers, and relied on my professional experiences. This story is not going to be true for everyone with limb loss. But it could be true for some. Because not everyone with limb loss has the same experience. And not everything the characters think and feel will sit well with everyone. Just because one of my characters says something insensitive, doesn’t mean that’s my personal belief. I hope people see the evolution of the characters.
I’m a story teller, but I’m also a listener. If I had a super power it would be empathy. It takes a lot out of me to sit with someone through their pain. To be present and hold them in that space. That’s the job of a good social worker. To offer the non-judgemental support and advocacy. I’ve been telling people’s stories through court reports, case files, hospital notes, always with the conviction to get the person what they need.
I was tired of all the “perfect” characters in romance. Their only flaws being they are “too smart” “too wealthy” etc. I meet people all the time who find true lasting love, and they are far from perfect. We all need love stories. We all deserve a happy ever after.