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Carla Damron book cover03.10.2016

The Stone Necklace might not feature a social worker character, but Carla Damron’s background in the field nonetheless informs her writing. Damron, an alumna of the USC College of Social Work’s MSW program, is the author of the Caleb Knowles books which follow a clinical social worker as he solves mysteries, so her most recent novel is a bit of a departure.

The Stone Necklace is set in Columbia, SC, and follows the intersecting lives of a diverse cast of characters, including a nurse, a homeless man, and a teenage girl. Just published in February, The Stone Necklace has already received acclaim: in addition to being called “masterful” by renowned author Pat Conroy, the novel was selected for the One Book, One Community initiative this year. The purpose of One Book, One Community is to engage Richland County residents by reading a book together, generating discussion, and participating in events centered on the book.

As this year’s One Book selection, The Stone Necklace has been serialized in The State newspaper and been the focus of numerous cultural events. Damron recalls being shocked by the first book event, held at a small library branch. She expected perhaps a dozen people, but almost 100 showed up. The purpose of One Book is to bring a community together, and Damron feels that the One Book organizers have been incredibly creative in this regard, sponsoring an improv night, a jewelry-making class, and a photography show, in which three photographers captured images of people and locations around Columbia inspired by the novel.

In addition to staying busy with One Book events, Damron serves as the Executive Director of the South Carolina chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-SC). Prior to her role with NASW-SC, Damron worked at the Department of Mental Health. Her experience as a social worker informs both the content of her writing and the ways in which she approaches the writing process. “Because I’ve worked in mental health for so long,” she explains, “I use the same approach I use when I work with clients in working with the characters” in order to create fully-realized people with compelling back stories and motivations. With The Stone Necklace, Damron wanted to pull from her social work knowledge and write about recovery. “I’m a great believer in recovery,” she says, “so that was a thread I wanted to be there.” As it turns out, the main characters of The Stone Necklace “are all dealing with their own recovery story in one way or another.”

Social work informs Damron’s writing, but is the reverse true? Damron’s work with NASW-SC requires a variety of writing, including editorials, newsletter articles, and letters. The work of advocacy, in short, demands a good writer. Damron believes that writing, whether a novel or case notes, “teaches you to think creatively and problem-solve creatively.”

Creativity is an aspect of social work that Damron appreciates. “One thing I love about social work is that it’s such a wide field,” she says. “There’s so many different things you can do,” she notes, running through the various roles she’s held over the years, including counselor, therapist, program manager, and administrator. For now, though, she’s happy as a novelist/advocate, using her gift with words to make a difference: “I feel like it’s my job to be a voice for all of South Carolina’s social workers and the clients we serve.”

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