why you need to read Melina Marchetta’s books

Having just read Gorgon in the Gully, a children’s book by Melina Marchetta that is not available in the United States (thank you, Fishpond!), I can now say that I have read every single one of Marchetta’s books.  And you need to read them too.  Here’s why:

1) The writing is unbelievable.

“Guess what?’ Fitz said.
‘I don’t know,’ Jude said. ‘What? Narnie smiled?’ He glanced at her for the first time.
‘When you guys see a Narnie smile, it’s like a revelation,’ Webb said, gathering her towards him.
Jude stopped in front of her and, with both hands cupping her face, tried to make a smile. Narnie flinched.
‘Leave her alone,’ Tate said.
‘I need a revelation,’ Jude said. ‘And you’re the only one that can give me one, Narns.”

2) The characters are people you want to know in real life.

“We make weird friends,” I say instead.
“I’ve never been into the f-word with people.”
“I’m privileged, then? Why me?”
He thinks for a moment and shrugs again.
“You’re the realest person I’ve ever known.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“It’s fucking awful. There’s not much room for bullshit, and you know how I thrive on it.”

3) The books are laced with wonderful humor.

“…what was it like out there? Kind of describe it to us,” Jessa says, beaming at them and then at me. Trini beams at her and there’s a lot of beaming happening.”

4) You can’t guess what will happen next.

5) She knows how to write about teen romances without being cliche.

Finnikin of the Rock – Sun and Moon
deviantART by ~leabharlann

6) She is consistently good.  Every. Single. Book.

Start with Jellicoe Road.  Then choose Saving Francesca or Finnikin of the Rock, depending on whether you want to stay in Australia or enter a fantasy world.  The Piper’s Son follows Saving Francesca, and Finnikin is the first of a trilogy (Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn round it out).  Looking for Alibrandi was her break-through novel, but it’s probably last on my personal list. Gorgon in the Gully is meant for younger readers.

Every single one of them is like eating an incredible fruit– but all of different flavors.  Her talent is incredible and enviable.

my sister’s powerful dream

On the night of March 1st, 2004, my sister Kristin had this incredible dream that I’d like to share with you.  Here she describes it in her own words:

Jesus is thrown into a whipping cage and I am thrown in with him by accident. He lays on me and says “I do not want anything to touch you. I love you SO much and because of that love I am going through this. I do not want that whip to touch you at all”. As he is saying this he is being whipped over and over again. I am crying and trying to hug him, but he won’t let me because he does not want any chance of the whip touching me. Blood is dripping on me, and there is so much because of how long they keep whipping him. I am seeing this up close and he is telling me over and over even with the whip hitting him, that he loves me so much and is going through this horrible death because he loves me. I am sobbing by this time. 

Can you imagine?  To experience this protection of Christ in a firsthand way like that?  Living in this century, when we view Christ’s great rescue, it always seems to be from the spectator seat, not looking up from the base of the cross while His blood drips onto us.  Even though it was sad and intense, I wish the dream had been mine.  That is an experience to hold onto for life.

letting go of certainties


I thought this picture was particularly fascinating because you can replace “creativity” with “cognitive-behavioral therapy.”    And those are two of the most important things in my life.

I always thought that certainty was the goal and that doubt was the adversary, but it was just another lie.

What do you think of this quote?

the two biggest liars I know

The two biggest liars I know:

1) Satan, the father of lies.

2) Obsessive-compulsive disorder.

And one of the most often-repeated and terrifying lies is this: you will always feel this way.

It’s not true.  It’s not only a lie but a dangerous one– it pushes us to do something to relieve the anxiety.  And then those compulsions become their own monsters.  We build our lives on this ugly foundation of deception.

Thoughts are just thoughts; they do not necessitate actions.  OCD tells lies like you will hurt your child, you will cause someone to kill himself, if you don’t do that just right then something bad will happen, it is all your responsibility.


You do not keep the world spinning on your own.

In fact, you don’t keep it spinning at all.

Learn the enemy’s voice– and when you hear it, know that what it says is a lie.  It’s the only language it speaks.

holidays are hard for some of us

Last year, I posted that Christmas isn’t fun for everyone, and today I am thinking again how that is true.  And not only Christmas, but other holidays too.

Thanksgiving is just behind us, and to be honest, I am glad.  Mine was fine, very lowkey– I spent it with my sister and brother, eating pizza and banana cream pie, watching the Dallas game and hushing my voice when the Cowboys fell behind the Redskins and my brother raged at the TV screen.  It was fun, very chill, lazy, and we all met up at Mom and Dad’s house, even though the parents were in Missouri to see Grandma and the rest of Mom’s family.

But it’s these winter holidays that do me in.  While everyone else is giddy with anticipation, I am anxious mostly for them to be OVER.  Somehow there is an expectancy surrounding the actual holiday, something that stresses me out and makes me just want to return to normalcy.

I think, for me, it’s a combination of the cold weather (it snowed all afternoon in Minnesota on Thanksgiving), the claustrophobia of bundling up in jackets and scarves, real or imagined seasonal depression, and memories of high school, when the holidays were the hardest.

1997.  Thanksgiving.  It was the first real breakdown of my life.  I can remember it like it was yesterday and not fifteen years ago.  Was God real?  How could anyone ever really know?  And if I didn’t know, then wasn’t I hellbound?  (Such a paradox, I know– if there was no God or heaven, then there would also be no hell.)  I was in 10th grade, and OCD was swallowing me whole, and it would still be another seven years before it would even have a name.

I was in Missouri with the rest of the family, breaking away from the games and conversation and cooking upstairs to retreat to Grandma’s basement, lock myself in the bathroom, and sob.  The ground had been taken from underneath my feet, and all I could do was weep– all while hiding it from the rest of the family, all those happy Christians upstairs, secure in their beliefs.

I can picture myself now, doubled over on the bathroom floor, lost and sad and scared and not understanding that God Himself could supercede my disbelief and make Himself known to me.  It was a dark year that followed.  I was scared of everything, especially of dying without knowing that God was real.  I held my breath when I’d pass a car on the highway, knowing I was inches from my death– and maybe eternal death.

OCD, you thief.  I hate you with such intensity.

For years after that, I could not return to Missouri without being triggered into a complete relapse which would take weeks to recover from.  Once I went to college, I refused to return.  I wonder what my mom’s side of the family thought– if they wondered if I was stuck-up or selfish for not making that 11-hour drive to see them.  It was only once a year, for goodness sakes.  They didn’t know any of the background, didn’t know the way that just crossing that state border into Missouri had become the instant switch for me to question my faith.

Christmas stumbled along after Thanksgiving, and it was just as hard.  And so, these holidays over the years cemented themselves into difficult seasons that I would have to survive.  And even though November and December are nothing like they were even ten years ago, those memories are strong.

I know there are a lot of people out there who will have such a hard time this season, those of you who have Christmas hang over you like a stormcloud, who will breath a sigh of relief when you return to “life as usual” on the day after New Years.  I’m so sorry, and I totally understand.  I hope that this year will be different for you– that God will supernaturally supercede your painful memories and depression and general feelings of wrongness, and that He will give you joy in your hearts instead of these.

As Christmas approaches, my prayer for you is this: Jesus Christ, You are the Word that became flesh, a holy incarnation that blows my mind every time I stop to consider it.  Please overwhelm us with the sacred mystery of it all in ways that memories, depression, OCD, anxiety, and other mental illnesses can’t defeat.  Jesus, be the mighty redeemer that You have been and continue to be and REDEEM this holiday season for those of us who need a rescue.  Hold us in real ways that we can feel.  Amen.

the colors

As far as colors go, my favorite is a thick, heavy red – a deep red, a red with a spoonful of brown.  Then an olive green, sage, light-colored but strong enough that it could never be mistaken for a pastel.  Then gold – but not yellow – true gold, goldenrod, a marigold tiptoeing across the line toward a field of pumpkins.

I love muted blues that seem so rare and precious, a petrol, for instance.  That particular mix of blue, green, and gray reminds me of a picture of the Tulsa sky I saw in a book.  That blue hit me so hard it landed a line in one of my poems.


I love when white is washed in a watercolor, just a slight trace of the concentrate left to whisper to the otherwise blank canvas.


I love terrific greens that knock you senseless.  I love the purples that really are too good for you (and know it) but abide you anyway, notably the plums.


Navy is an old friend, a good listener.  Brown is like the sexy girl in glasses you never noticed until today.

Holy Communion

I am not even joking, every Sunday morning after the pastor has preached and prayed and the band begins to play, it is all I can do to keep from running down that aisle toward the communion table.  I am always eager for that bread and cup, that holy reminder of my Savior’s body and blood, and as I swallow in the pew, I think, This is the best meal of my week.

I am so grateful for Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, and I think this eucharistic sacrament is a beautiful and sacred way to celebrate it.

what I call good writing

There are essentially three reasons I will like a book:

1) The writing is beautiful.  If the writing is lyrical, or the prose almost reads as poetry, or if the writer has great diction and uses sounds to her advantage, I’m captured.  When an author does a dance with words and creates images that burst like berries on the tongue, I’m sold.

2) The plot is fascinating.  I love books that have twists and turns and surprises.  I don’t need them to be action-packed, just interesting, with interesting scenes and a great storyline.

3) The message is profound.  When the story tugs at my heart or opens up my mind to new ways of understanding something, the book touches (and sometimes changes) my life.

Some books fall under one of these categories, and it is enough to make me love it.  For example, Annie Dillard’s book For the Time Being is beautifully written (for that matter, pretty much anything she writes is!), but there is not really a plot to it, nor did its message truly change my life.  Harry Potter has a thrilling storyline that completely pulled me in, and the series also has a wonderful theme of good versus evil, but I wouldn’t say that Rowling (in those books) is a lyrical writer, although she does have her moments!  Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard is an allegory, and as such, the plot is pretty obvious, but the message deeply touched me and wrenched tears from me left and right.  As you know, The Chronicles of Narnia are my absolute favorite for their fun plots and the deep truths in them, but the writing is not as beautiful as some other things Jack Lewis has written.

To me, some of the best writers are those who combine all three of these elements.  Some of the best examples I have of this are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (gorgeous writing, super fun storyline, excellent message), C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy (the writing is so masterful it makes me want to curl up inside of it, the plot is riveting, and the takeaways are tremendous), Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (literary writing at its very finest, interesting characters and storyline, an underlying message that is like a rock to stand on), and The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle (breathtaking writing, intriguing fantasy plot, message that lingers long).

Your turn.  What makes you like a book?  Are you drawn to one of these three reasons over the others?  What are your best examples of books that fit these categories?

I am thankful for

the sacrificial death and mighty resurrection of Jesus Christ | my parents and siblings and the fun we have together | being rescued in my life over and over and over again | CBT | the writing life | my roommate Desiree | Nutella | my little sweeties Emma, Ava, and Elsie | Northwestern College | my co-workers | my bestie Eir | The Chronicles of Narnia | Silas Hart | the gift of creativity | all my dear friends* | great books | great opportunities | the Holy Bible | lunches with Elyse | Facebook | online shopping | Friday nights | Trinity City Church | Pine Haven | sliced apples | Etsy

And you?

*It’s always hard to name names in something like this because I have a million people that I adore, and I know I will always leave someone out.  That said, I will say that I am grateful for coffee dates with Ashley and internet chats with Kristin Luehr.  I love being a total nerd with Dora and meeting up with Anna to write.  I love Tracy’s sense of humor and Cindy’s deep way of thinking (and all the writing feedback!).  I miss Megs’s infectious laughter.  Des, I love being your roomie and friend, and I am so grateful for all the chats we have before your early bedtime!  Eir, you are a true delight.  Elyse, a ten-hour conversation wouldn’t be long enough.  Cait, our unfiltered friendship is totally weird and wonderful.  I am so blessed to know Brooke and Lauren and Stacey and Mary and Jessica and Brittane and my writing group and all my lovely former roommates.  The Voye girls are like a medicine to me.  And everyone else who wasn’t mentioned by name, I love you too!  God has truly blessed this writer with an amazing and encouraging community!

this artsy life

May I just say that I love living in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, which boast the nation’s second highest number of arts opportunities per capita (after New York City)?  Well, I do.

Here are my most recent adventures:

First, my friend Anna and I went to the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul’s oldest theater, to hear Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus, be interviewed for Minnesota Public Radio and the Star Tribune’s “Talking Volumes” event.  You may remember that I posted earlier this year about The Night Circus, which blew my mind and was one of my favorite books I read this year.  It tells the story of two magicians in a competition who end up in love.  Morgenstern was so sweet and unassuming, and she seemed legitimately surprised that so many people would show up to hear her interview.  She talked about how the book is being made into a movie, and how the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is making a Night Circus line of perfume.  Some musicians at the event had written a song called “Morgenstern’s Circus in C Minor.”  It’s like fan fiction in different media!  Absolutely loved it.  Spin-off art!

I was very encouraged to hear Morgenstern speak because she was so real and told us that The Night Circus didn’t even have a plot when she first wrote it!  It reminds me so much of the writing of Lights All Around, when, day after day, I would just sit down and write whatever was on my mind, hoping it would all eventually be “book-shaped,” Morgenstern’s word for it.

The next night, I went with Eir to the Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis to watch the musical “Next to Normal.”  A musical about bipolar disorder … I wasn’t sure how it was going to be, but it was unbelievable!  The music was beautiful, and the story was heart-breaking.  I held in my tears for the whole two hours– but barely!  To show such a deep depression through the evocative power of music just rended my heart.  And for this obsessive-compulsive girl who has fought such similar battles, it struck so close to home!  The depression, the sadness, the way it hurts the people you love, all the pills and the therapists and grasping at straws.  If you ever have the opportunity to see this musical (which has been on Broadway in the past), please do.  It may very well change you.

I love my cities.  I never believed this smalltown farm girl would say something like that, but it’s so true!

I always think of Mpls as masculine and St. Paul as feminine. Is that weird?