Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Social Work Training and Writing Skills - Guest Post from Elizabeth Seckman

I've been on a bit of an unplanned blogging break in order to force myself to focus on writing, so I'm thrilled to have Fate Intended author Elizabeth Seckman here to help hold down the fort. Elizabeth and I are both former social workers, so it was fun for me to read her take on how this training can help with writing. I hadn't really thought about it before, but I agree with her points. Especially the one about the low pay. :D

Take it away, Elizabeth!

Hi Julie! Thanks for having me over. Running around the blogosphere and trying to come up with ideas can be hard, but every now and then, an idea feels like a perfect fit. Like with you! I know we share a background in social work, and I don't know if you agree, but I think this background has helped me as much as English class in developing writing skills.

1. Social workers see all sides of the human condition. The good, the bad, the unbelievable. No need for flat characters when you have met so many characters.

Not a social worker? Read true stories on the human condition. Read the kind that make you cringe, A Child Called "It" ,and the kind that restore your faith like Mother Teresa, an Authorized Biography.

2. Social workers are paid to listen, to absorb the person's speech pattern and reflect it back to them. Imitating dialogue becomes a natural condition. 

Not a social worker?  Active listening is a learned skill. Listen without the brain noise. Stop thinking about what you will say next or what you need to pick up from the grocery store. Just be still and pay attention.

3. Social workers are taught to be information gatherers and evaluators. It's easy enough to write down all the facts, but what do they mean; how do they influence the situation?

This is one of those things where practice and organization makes perfect. I like to keep a folder for each project, so as I print information or take notes, I can keep them all in one place with a notation on top about what it's about. For a book I might have: setting, character, plot, etc. 

 4. Social workers are trained in personality and family assessment theory. We know that the family condition at age two can have an effect on personality twenty years later.

Not a social worker? Read books on personality development. One of my preferred reads in that area is Erikson's Identity and the Life Cycle

5. Social workers are used to working hard for little money. Those tiny book checks barely phase the "oh so used to being poor crowd".

Now, that whole getting used to being poor thing? There is no book on that, but I suppose you could start sending your excess cash to Julie and me. We are natural team players, and we'd take one for the good of the group. 

Fate Intended is the third book in the Coulter Men Series.  Trip is the last of the Coulter sons to find love. He’s a handsome man with all the skills a young spy needs to succeed. But when it comes to love, he misses the target. Jane is a sweet beauty who may or may not be wanted for murder. She’s hiding out as a cleaning lady when chance brings her and Trip together. It looks like a happily ever after is in the cross hairs until reality tries to destroy what fate has intended.

Elizabeth Seckman is a simple chick with a simple dream…to write stories people want to read.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. That last one made me laugh! Good tips, Elizabeth.

  2. Hello Julie. I'm doing the same thing right now - posting less on my personal blog in order to focus on my writing (though I try to keep Traveling Cats going). I hope your new book is progressing nicely.

    And as for Elizabeth, I love her original take on writing.

  3. @Alex, do you need our addresses?

    @Vanessa, It is so hard to keep up with all sides of the writing game. I'm at the point where I just do what I can and try to enjoy the fact that I am doing what I love.

    Thanks for having me over Julie! Best of luck with the writing :)

  4. Good points Elizabeth. I find myself mimicking speech patterns when talking to people. And I always change my voice when commenting on posts or emailing different people!

    Hi Julie :-)

  5. @Annalisa, that's actually a sign of a very good listener. That is reflective listening at its core. You're a natural!

  6. High fives to Julie and Elizabeth from another social work-writerly type. Yeah, I laugh about doing social work so I can make ends meet to support my writing career. It's all good, though.
    Another one: Clients say the darndest things. I'm keeping a list, for some future book.


  7. Wow, social work and writing do have a lot of similarities! So cool to see the parallels laid out like this...

    And I can totally relate to the unplanned blogging break, Julie. I ended up going on one last week and never know when one will sneak up on me again! XD

  8. What awesome advice, Elizabeth! So true. I used to work tech support for my airline, so I know all about listening. My hubby would find that debatable. lol

  9. Good point Liz. Never done social work but hear it's tough.

  10. Fantastic tips. I've heard some horror stories from social workers.

  11. I really admire Julie and Elizabeth for being social workers. Your patience and understanding enabled you to help lots of people, as well as bring more depth to your characters. I noticed it in Julie's Polar Night. Great analogy Elizabeth!


  12. You forgot to mention that we're also little more than lawyers with all the court reporting! I probably would have turned the job down if I only I'd known . . .


  13. I admire you both for taking on that job. I don't think I could do it. Of course, the way our patient population is changing, some days I feel like I am. *shakes head*

    Good luck with your book, Elizabeth. :)

  14. Hi Julie - so pleased you got Elizabeth here ... I bet you've both met many 'characters' ... but the listening skills are so important. I think I might have improved over the years, and I certainly can relate differently to others seeing their side of things ... but I butt in too often!

    Yes many important jobs are underpaid and not highly thought of .. as they should be ...

    The Coulter Men series sound interesting and I must pick them up sometime .. cheers to you both - Hilary

  15. Fantastic advice and several of my buddies back home are social workers. It's heartbreaking to hear their stories.

    Good luck Julie with your book. You know I'm excited to read it.

  16. I'm a social worker! That being said, Elizabeth's book sounds fantastic.

  17. These are really true, aren't they? I never thought about this way, but Elizabeth is totally right.

  18. Some good tips Elizabeth.

    Let me introduce myself, I am, Yvonne Lewis one of Arlee Bird's Ambassadors for the A to Z Challenge. I noticed you have signed up for the challenge and hope all is going well for your preparations although on February.
    Look forward to visit you during the challenge.

  19. Thanks for this post, Elizabeth! I also have social work training and am glad it's put to use while writing. (On your last point, though, it may actually be more lucrative to stay a social worker.)

  20. Hi, Julie, Hi, Elizabeth...
    As always, Elizabeth your sense of humor is flawless!

    All the best with your newest creation!!!

    Good luck with your writing, Julie!

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. Great post! I never really thought about how a career in social work could be a great launching pad for a writing career, but it's hard to argue with the facts. Very interesting!

    Good luck with the new book, Elizabeth!

  23. Very good and informative. I'm not a social worker, but I know a couple of people who are.

  24. I don't know much about social work, but this seems so true. I'm glad I have both English and psychology degrees. The greatest thing is being a teacher since I write MG and YA. Inspiration and voice is all around me. I'm glad social work has tied into your writing.

  25. Social work is a tough job. Thanks for sharing this informative post.

  26. I think I need to go to Social Worker school. =) Or I guess I could just read all your links... But school would be funner.

  27. When my mom and then my son were in the hospital last year, I had a lot of contact with social services. They helped me through so much. Bless those people.

  28. My friend used to be a social worker. You're right in saying lots of hard work and so little pay... Love the cover of your book Elizabeth. Good Luck!

  29. I admire social workers. Two members of my family have been dedicated to that line of work, one with an award in her name given to a worthy recipient yearly. Keep up the good work!

  30. Great tips related to social work. And thanks for the links. I like the sound of your books. Do you need to start at Book One?

  31. So, meanwhile Julie, I hope you're writing up a storm...

  32. very nice blog...keep in touch
    plz join my blog :)

  33. @Robyn, I didn't know you wore the social work hat! Cool. Knuckle bumps.
    @Heather, working with people real or imagined is always fun
    @Pk, my hubs would arue my ability to listen isn't as keen as I think too
    @Sheena-kay, It can be heart wrenching and fulfilling
    @Christine, yeah, there is a very dark side to humanity. Sigh.
    @Julie, Thanks!
    @Donna, More knuckle social worker knuckle bumps! (we need our own convention...gather writing tips and CEU's all at the same time)
    @Hilary, I butt in quite a bit too. I'm a closet case know it all.
    @TBM, There is plenty of heart break, but the good moments make up for it.
    @Michael, we really need our own convention!!
    @Liz, If only I could get my kids to say that!
    @Yvonne, good luck with the A-Z
    @Jennifer, LOL. Sad, but true.
    @Michael, I just find a life without some humor to be no fun.
    @Susan, Thanks!
    @Carol, just ask your friends, I'm sure they have plenty of stories to share!
    @Medeia, you are in the prime location for research!
    @MJ, It can be tough, but rewarding.
    @Crysta, what you really would enjoy is some on the job training!
    @Lee, I did my shadowing in college at a nursing home. Working the elderly brought me so much pleasure. So many stories, so much wisdom...if only people would listen.
    @Cathrina, Thanks, I love it too.
    @Renee, That's so cool. She must be one impressive lady!
    @Denise, No, they are more like companion novels, not a cliff hanger series. But if you star at the end, it may offer spoilers for earlier books.
    @Sonali, cool name. How pretty.

  34. Stopping in to celebrate the small stuff

    - and now celebrating entering your contest! :)


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