My Fall TBR List

fall tbr

Where should I start?

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & the Bookish.


Filed under Uncategorized

OCD Intervention

interventionSomeone asked me, “How do you talk to someone about OCD if you think they may be dealing with it?”

That’s a great question. A tricky one too.

I’m not even sure I know the answer besides carefully, gently, and with compassion.

I thought I’d pose it to you, my blog readers: does anyone have any advice for how to stage an OCD intervention?

Lots of posts about OCD and ERP at

Image credit: emdot


Filed under OCD

Truest: An Editing Timeline

A lot a lot a LOT of work goes into writing a novel. Here’s what went into the writing of Truest, my debut novel. Please note that when I say “editing” or “revising,” I am not referring to correcting grammar and typos but rather things like adding storylines, beefing up characters, changing the structure of the novel, writing new scenes, etc.

Broken pencil fragments on yellow paper
January-June 2012:
first draft
June-December 2012: self-edits, assisted by my local writing group
December 2012: hired a local editor to do developmental edits
January-March 2013: frantic revisions/re-structuring* based on editor’s feedback
March 2013: attended Big Sur Writing Workshop for additional editing help
March-April 2013: more editing based on Big Sur feedback
April 2013: hired local editor again for line edits
April-July 2013: line editing
July 2013: signed with a literary agent and made major (and difficult) revisions based on my agent’s feedback
November 2013: literary agent sold my book to Harper
February-September 2014: re-structuring* and MAJOR, MAJOR revisions based on my editor’s feedback

After this will come copyediting. :-)

And, let me tell you, it was all worth it. I love the characters and the story and the plot so much more than I could have ever imagined back when the idea first was born.

*The original draft had a chronological timeline. The local editor suggested I change it to a back-and-forth past-and-present timeline; I had six weeks to completely re-structure it before Big Sur. Then, later, my HarperCollins editor asked me to change it back to chronological order. She also gave me six weeks for the re-structuring.


Filed under anxiety, creativity, ranting, real life, writing, YA

There’s pre-ordering … and then there’s PRE-ORDERING.

processingOne of my therapists once talked to me about healthy ways to reward myself.

“For example,” she said, “maybe if you meet such-and-such goal, you can buy yourself a book. Don’t you think that would be a great option?”

I didn’t know how to tell her that would never work for me because I buy every single book I want.

Buying books is one area where I never hold back. I have so many books delivered to Northwestern that the loading dock workers know me as “the Barnes & Noble girl.”

To the right is a list of some of my most recent purchases. Wherever it says “Processing,” that indicates a pre-order. I pre-order books as soon as I’m able– sometimes months and months and months in advance.

And in the case of Melina Marchetta books, I’ve taken to purchasing Australian copies because I’m too impatient to wait the extra six months for the books to come out in the US.

Am I obsessed? Yes. And not a bit ashamed!

What’s your biggest indulgence?

Related posts:
Spotlight on Melina Marchetta
Books & Happiness [or Books ARE Happiness]
My Bookish Bad Habit
Things That Make Life Easier for Readers


Filed under reading, real life

The [Beautiful] Paradox of ERP

paradox of ERP2Exposure and response prevention therapy. ERP.

The hardest thing I have ever chosen to do in my life.

And one of the best.

But that’s not actually the paradox I’m talking about. The paradox of ERP that fascinates me most centers around uncertainty.

The whole point of ERP therapy is to teach someone to learn to live with, accept, even embrace uncertainty. ERP actually re-wires the brain to help the OCD sufferer with this. Before I went through ERP, I wanted to know everything with 100% certainty. Anything less would cause intense havoc in my mind, heart, and body. Because of this intense desire to know everything with certainty, I so often felt gobsmacked by uncertainty. I lived as if, without total certainty, I could barely know anything. Doubt pummeled me like a linebacker. My life was ravaged by uncertainty.

But once I went through ERP therapy and learned to accept uncertainty, the bizarre thing is that my confidence returned. I suddenly felt surety and certainty again– after I realized I didn’t need it.

When I demanded 100% certainty, what I ended up with was often something in the 25-40% range. Or lower.

When I abandoned the need for 100% certainty, I ended up in the 90-99% range. Sometimes less, but usually way, way up there.

That’s weird math. Backward logic. A paradox.

One I love.

99% sure,
Post-ERP Jackie

P.S. If the need to know for sure is ruining your life, you need ERP. Read more about it at

P.P.S. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, and I can’t help but be struck by the similarity of this to “Lose your life to gain it.”

Image credit: Nicu Buculei, modified by me


Filed under anxiety, CBT, OCD, overcoming, uncertainty

10 More Random Facts about Me

unsplash7.21. I am more scared of the slow ride to the top of the rollercoaster than of the rapid plummet down.

2. I always thought I’d leave Minnesota for college, but when I started visiting out-of-state schools, all I wanted was to be back in Minnesota.

3. My siblings and I were always creating clubs while growing up. We had the Friends Forever Club, the Exercise Club, and the Story Society.

4. Science fascinates me, but it’s the hardest subject for me to understand. This dates back to fourth grade when I couldn’t hook up wires and a battery the right way to make a light bulb light up. That’s the first and only thing I failed in school, kindergarten through undergrad.

5. My strengths themes are learner, input, achiever, strategy, and ideation.

6. I have a German and Irish heritage.

7. I love being a writer and would never trade those skills– but I very much wish I was a visual artist as well.

8. I have a very strong interest in etymology, especially in onomastics, the study of proper names.

9. For most of my life, I’ve had a curiously strong memory, to the point where it shocks people.

10. I’m quite claustrophobic. My nightmares often involve tight, closed spaces. I can barely stand the idea of being underwater or in space.


Filed under real life, Uncategorized

The Beginnings of a Book

beginnings of a bookSometimes I let ideas come to me; sometimes I go out to find them.

Here’s what that looks like.

1) I start at, looking for the names of my next set of characters. I love names, so this is perhaps not a shocker. I have a penchant for short names that are uncommon without being ridiculous. It’s hard to explain how I know when I’ve found the right name– I just DO. Sometimes it feels more like archaeology than creation, as if I am simply unearthing what was waiting to be found as opposed to inventing what was waiting to be fashioned.

2) Armed with my characters’ names, I go looking for their pictures. Thank you, Pinterest. I’ll peruse board after board of faces till I find the ones that match my names. This part of the process feels like sculpture. I’ll find a picture and realize, “Oh, she’s got red hair!” then another and “Oh, and gray eyes!” All the while I am chiseling an image out of a block of marble until I find the “aha!” photo and say, “There. That’s her.”

3) I like to have very, VERY large-scale idea of the plot– even if it’s just one sentence: girl in foster care falls in love. Or wards of the state experience hospice care. Or girl runs away with the carnival. I’m completely okay with leaving this idea zoomed out to 10,000 feet at this point.

4) Meanwhile, my characters need to have something they care about. Preferably it will be something I care about– at least enough to research and write about and live with for the next couple years. This search often involves Wikipedia and Quora, the public library and the university one.

5) Now I need a hook. What’s one fascinating idea these characters can explore? Again, lots and lots of research, including books of anecdotes, philosophy, mythology, symbolism, trivia. I read and read and read until something fits and I think, “Those are deep waters, and I’m ready to go from the shallow end into the depths.” At this point, I usually request one trillion library books and read everything I can find about this idea online.

6) I need to get to know my characters better, so I fill out two specific questionnaires about them. The first set of questions comes from Gotham Writers’ Workshop.  The second set is from this Yingle Yangle post. By the time I’ve finished filling these out, I usually have a whole boatload of ideas for scenes.

Then, after all this …

7) I finally start to write.

How about you? What are your earliest steps of writing stories?

Related posts:
Idea Factory
All In: Ideas & Writing
Fiction: How I Start


Filed under creativity, real life, writing, YA