HOPE VALLEY — Lori Stanley Roeleveld’s fourth and latest book, "The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks That Matter," has been named the Golden Scroll Book of the Year. The Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, a national Christian writers’ group, announced the award on Aug. 27 at its annual conference in Tennessee.
Released in 2019 by Kregel Publications, "Hard Conversations" is in many ways a product of Roeleveld’s work as a facilitator with at-risk families at the Tri Town Community Action Agency. Roeleveld holds a degree in psychology and biblical studies from Barrington College, which has since merged with Gordon College in Massachusetts.
“I spend my days having hard conversations with people and what I’ve learned is, a lot of people in their lives wanted to have those conversations or saw the need for them but didn’t feel equipped to have them, and as difficult as it is to have them, I really believe that positive change generally results,” she said.
“I wanted people to see that there are things that you can learn about preparing for hard conversations or ways to be inside a conversation that help make it effective and take away some of the fear," she said. "You don’t have to have a degree in psychology to be good at having hard conversations.”
Roeleveld, who is 58, described her latest book as a culmination of what she has learned in her work as well as insights gained in her personal and spiritual life.
“That was really the first merger of everything in a book, that was my first opportunity to say ‘OK, this is what I use in my day job and my personal life and my church and now I have the opportunity to write about it,’” she said. “Obviously, I don’t share stories from the day job, but those are the skills that I use in my day job.”
Roeleveld, who is married and has two adult children, writes every evening when she gets home from work. She continues to write all day Saturday, but takes Saturday evenings and Sundays off.
“I do some writing before my husband gets home, then I cook and then I write,” she said. “I put in at least two or three hours a night and usually all day Saturday…It’s just one of those things. The reality of 99-cent e-books and other stuff — it’s challenging to make a living as a writer, but that’s where I live and breathe.”
Roeleveld is the daughter of two prominent Hope Valley residents, Hope Valley-Wyoming Fire Chief Fred Stanley, who died in March, and Sylvia Stanley, who serves on the Chariho School Committee.
“I actually tell a lot of stories about my dad in this book, because even within our family, there were always hard conversations,” she said.
Roeleveld remembers her early relationship with her father as being difficult because of his demanding work schedule, but it improved as she grew older. There were many hard conversations that took place in the years before her father’s death in March 2019.
“He was a great role model for 'Hard Conversations,'” she said. “At the end of his life, he had all of his deputy chiefs come together with a chaplain and he explained to them why he wasn’t going to get treatment for his cancer at the end and told each of them how much he valued them.That was really hard, so I learned a lot from him.”
While her father wasn’t the sole inspiration for the book, Roeleveld said he ended up being prominently featured.
“He became a bigger part than I expected him to be because it’s full of stories, it’s full of real life examples of having hard conversations, probably because I wrote the book from hospital rooms and rehab centers and my parents’ living room,” she said.
Stanley said her father had a chance to read the book when it was released just a month before his death.
“Of course your family, they have to read the parts that are about them and sign off on them, so he knew what was in it and he was aware of its release,” she said.
Sylvia Stanley also appears in the book.
“She really loved it,” Roeleveld said. “There are a couple of stories from her childhood that are in there.”
Roeleveld said the Bible had also strongly influenced her writing.
“The Bible has a lot to say about how we talk with one another and the church isn’t always a great example of that, but if we really did what the Bible said, it gives a lot of instruction that’s very wise about how to have conversations… Jesus was an amazing conversationalist and able to communicate amazingly well, so I use a lot of examples from his life and from other conversations in the Bible to show people that there are ways to communicate. In our country now, we need to learn how to talk with one another."
"The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks That Matter" is available at Amazon.com