pans in the fire

Today is my spiritual birthday!  I gave my life over to Jesus Christ on this day seventeen years ago.  Best decision of my life.

I have a lot going on in my life right now– things I’m really excited about– but it’s a little stressful at times.  Here’s the download:

1. The Big Sur Writing Workshop is held each March and December, and it focuses entirely on children’s and young adult literature.  I have been wanting to go to one of these for a long time now, and I finally took the plunge.  Signed up, bought my airline ticket, got really excited to go when the following happened.

2.  Remember when I told you I purchased a mentorship with a Minneapolis editor?  He has been awesome.  He appreciates my vision for the novel and enjoys my characters.  He also asked me to make some pretty intense changes, which amount to a total re-structuring of my novel.  I have been working so hard at the revision because I really want the draft to be polished before Big Sur.  That gave me six weeks for the revision.  SIX. WEEKS.  Yikes.

3. I am also thinking a lot about going to grad school, and I’m looking specifically at a program that focuses on the writing of children’s and YA lit.  It looks incredible.  I’ve been crunching numbers and processing the idea of returning to the land of student loan debt and homework.  I have had my reasons over the last 4-5 years for not going to graduate school, but this program seems to eliminate the big ones (like not getting to work on projects that I deem important).  I’ve been going back and forth, trying to decide if I would resent grad school once I was actually in it and having to churn out drafts for homework again, but my friend Hannah asked me, “Would you go if it was free?” and my immediate response was, “YES!”  She said, “So it’s the money that is the real issue.”  Talk about a revealing moment!  I needed that split-second question to show me what I was really thinking!  If I do go, it will probably be in January 2014.  In the meantime, I have to apply and see if I can even get in!  (It’s a selective school.)  And, of course, I have no time to apply until after Big Sur.

4. My roommate Desiree got engaged!  It’s very exciting, and I’m really happy for her and her fiance.  Des and I have lived together for about six years, so her marriage will really change both of our lives.  I’m in the market for a new roommate for the first time in a long while.  (I thought about living alone, but I just don’t think it would be healthy for me.)

5. I am planning an event, and I am the world’s most stressed-out event planner.  I am pulling together an Easter arts experience with music, poetry, and art, all connected to the death and resurrection of Christ.  (I’m an Easter fanatic!)  VERY excited about this, but I’m also pretty nervous about pulling it all off.  If you live in the Twin Cities and want to come, let me know, and I’ll get you more details.

So that’s life in a nutshell for me.  I’d appreciate your prayers– and advice, if you have any!

Just realized that in my spiritual life, today I am 17, the age of most of the kiddos I’m recruiting.  Gosh, it feels good to be 17.  Good and busy.

to do


in which I weigh in on the topic of profanity

I’ve been thinking lately of the topic of profanity.  I have a weird history with it.

I grew up in a home where “shut up” was strictly outlawed and, if uttered, would result in Mom scraping a bar of soap across your teeth.  My undiagnosed OCD latched onto this sin, and I spent some of my younger years tormented by swear words lambasting my mind.  I remember feeling sick and sinful and guilty, and I would confess to my mom that I was “having bad thoughts.”

Years and years later, OCD had strengthened its grip on me like a vice, such that I conditioned myself to “counteract” these bad thoughts with a repetitive prayer.  It started with curse words (most especially the f-bomb) but also words that sounded like curse words (class, bit, switch, luck, etc.) and eventually any word that started with the f sound.  All of these would trigger my compulsive prayer (so that I would avoid the intrusive thoughts the words would also trigger).  I remember one day realizing just how far it had gone when I walked by a stranger who was lightly biting down on her lower lip, and I started praying (for, of course, that is what your mouth does when you make the f sound).

In 2008, I underwent cognitive-behavioral therapy, during which I had to listen to an audio recording littered with curse words, as my doctor attempted to re-wire my brain (with success!).  I didn’t know what my conservative family would think of this therapy, but my mom was supportive and understood this was essentially my last chance to get my life back.  I didn’t talk details with my dad or sister, but my brother was disgusted when he heard about my therapy.  He was really disappointed in me, but I knew better than he did that this necessary.

CBT broke the spell for me around profanity.  For the first time in my life, I could hear it without an overwhelming reaction.  I could even say those words!  They found a home in my fiction as I realized how they added an element of realism to my story.

I do not have a filthy mouth, not by any means.  But after a lifetime of assigning too much meaning and influence to profanity, I have now found freedom from that and power over it.  It doesn’t bother me to share a curse word with a friend either in a joke or for emphasis.  I feel like I’ve escaped that cage I was in.

The other week, I used the phrase “time the hell out” on my blog, and my sister called me on it.  It bothered her, and she let me know.  We were at our parents’ house, and Mom said that profanity in my stories didn’t bother her, but it did in my real life.  My sister said both were an issue for her.  I told them then that neither bothered me and that I even felt a little profanity actually worked well for a powerful emphasis when needed and that it could even improve my witness as a Christian because I didn’t seem so much holier-than-thou.  They disagreed, citing verses like, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.”  (The version of scripture I read is ESV, which reads, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths,” which is a more literal interpretation and one that doesn’t particularly strike guilt in me.)

I do believe it wrong to use the Lord’s name in an offensive way.  That one does grate against me.

Personally, I choose not to say things like “holy cow” or “holy buckets” or any one of the slew of phrases people use in this way.  This is, to me, more offensive than profanity.  I think that language that tears someone apart is more unwholesome than words we have a special veto on simply because they are pronounced differently than their “approved” synonyms.

What are your thoughts on this?  Both sides are welcome.

Why I’m Not Reading The Hunger Games

Three reasons.

1) I don’t want to.  I’m quite literally just not interested in the premise of the books.  A game of survival among teenagers just doesn’t sound interesting to me.

2) The last two books where I have felt this way about and was  convinced to read the books anyway were Twilight and Redeeming Love.  And I was right then.  (Oh how right I was!)

3) I have so many books I want to read, so why should I relegate those to the bottom of my to-read pile in lieu of books I don’t want to read?

I’m not saying that everyone who likes these books is an unsophisticated reader.  I’m not even saying these books are bad.  My friends know how annoyed I am that Suzanne Collins doesn’t know how to use who vs. whom, but that’s a forgivable offense.  From the time I did spend with the first book, I did get the impression that they are not exactly the most well-written books ever.  But there you have it.  Thoughts?  Want to convince me otherwise?


publishing peace (and conflict)

I just read Nahum after realizing that I’d forgotten Nahum was even in the Bible.  Whoops.

“Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace!” (Nahum 1:15a)

Such an interesting choice of words– “who publishes peace.”  Definitely makes this writer stop and think.  In my writing, do I bring good news, do I publish peace?  Juxtapose this question with all I have been learning lately about conflict in stories: how we need conflict in stories even when we avoid it in real life.

Think of the gospel– the word gospel itself means “good news”– and yet it is full of conflict.  The climax of the story involves a death.

And a resurrection.

While I’m still sorting out my thoughts on this, what this means to me is that while a Christian author needn’t shy away from the conflict (and, in fact, should embrace conflict in the story!), there should also be a nod toward hope, toward peace.  The story might not end with sunshine or weddings or all the questions answered (I think I’d be annoyed if it did), but I think there should be a peek, a pinch, an inkling of hope.

I want to be a writer who brings good news, who publishes peace.  And conflict.  All of it.


Jerk, a poem about a real boy who won’t read my blog in a million years


You walk backward,
flashing a powerful success
that wears vintage jackets
and not business suits.
You raise a finger and command the stars, and I
once loved you for the mighty stoicism your life preached.
melt your bricks like ice,
and sometimes a pretty girl, for one week at a time.
I pity you for the power that provokes adoration
without affection.
I once thought you so strong for the way your hands
could hold so much power without spilling.
Now I name you Selfish and am annoyed
when blonde-haired children make you smile.

walk away 2


a few of my favorite links

My favorite OCD blogs: | Tina is so real and honest and brings you right into the experience of OCD, always with a hopeful message. | Janet is so knowledgeable about OCD; she introduces the most fascinating OCD-related articles and topics on her blog. | Sunny is pure loveliness and discusses OCD through a Christian lens. | Lolly finds or creates the most wonderful OCD- and anxiety-related graphics!

My favorite other blogs: | Here, Addie’s goal is to “reclaim and redefine a faith that has been oversimplified, jammed into a specific set of terms and phrases.” | Judy blogs about the intersections of  faith, beauty, creativity, and culture. | At Inksplotch, Elyse writes about reading and writing. | Mary tackles poetry and faith with a heart so mature you’ll forget she’s in high school. | I just wish Stacey would post more often!

My favorite YouTubers: | John Green, one of my favorite authors, and his brother Hank vlog Tuesdays and Fridays, and every single video is brilliant and funny. | “Miranda” is a great singer, so “haters, back off!” | Craig is the ultimate entertainer; watch for a couple weeks and you’ll find yourself in on about 50 inside jokes. | Get to know Arturo, Nancy, and Jose Luis, and you’ll fall in love with them all. | Alex Day is essentially a cheeky bastard, and I adore him.

My most used sites: | For my blog graphics! | To manipulate blog graphics! | To create blog collages! | I basically live on this site, and since I’m a member and get free shipping, I purchase entirely too often (if that was even possible when you’re talking about books!). | Love this site … it’s like a crafty/homemade Amazon. | Ahhh, and here’s the original!

What are your favorite websites, blogs, and vlogs?


Reblogged: Spiritual Journey: The Cold Season

I love my friend Addie’s post today and hope you’ll check it out.  Here’s a teaser followed by a link where you can read the rest.

Spiritual Journey: The Cold Season

It’s that sudden fall from winter to winter that always catches me off guard.

We live in Minnesota, and it happens every year. It really shouldn’t surprise me all that much when the ticker on my phone tells me it’s -12 but it feels like -26 and we won’t get above zero today. But it always does.

We haven’t had a measurable snowfall since that magical December blizzard, and the whole world feels raw, exposed without its thick blanket of white.

The trees are stripped bare, and the homemade hockey rink on our pond is empty, and we have to pile on the layers and run fast from the warm car to the warm grocery store because the air all around is break-you-open cold.

These are the days I think about running away.

To read the rest, click here.

no one really wants to talk about HOCD

HOCD stands for “homosexual obsessive-compulsive disorder,” and I think it’s about time I wrote about it on my blog.

HOCD is essentially when someone has intrusive thoughts and worries that he or she might be gay, even though they have been straight for years with no doubts … and even though they are attracted to the opposite sex and want to be with the opposite sex.

A better term would actually be “sexual orientation obsessive-compulsive disorder” because these worries sometimes torment gay people who suddenly wonder if they might be straight.

Just to be clear … this post is not about homosexuality and is not meant to spark debate about homosexuality.  This post is about questioning whether you’re gay when you’re not (or vice versa), and that is a common thread amongst obsessive-compulsives, one I feel that most people would rather not discuss.  People can argue till they are blue in the face about what to think about homosexuality, but there is only one way to look at a disorder that makes you question something that never needed to be questioned: that disorder is a liar.

Why don’t people want to talk about it more?  I confess, I myself don’t, especially not in a platform like this blog.  Because no one understands an obsessive-compulsive like another obsessive-compulsive, and it’s so hard to explain the internal riot occurring while going through any obsession.  Many OCs are upfront about their obsessions with those they are closest to … then they (we) use those friends to solicit reassurance from.  Do you think that was bad?  Do you think I cleaned the dishes well enough and the kids won’t get sick?  Do you think it was stealing when I took a paperclip home from work today?  The friends tell us, No, it wasn’t bad; yes, you cleaned well; no, you’re not a thief.

But when an OC is struggling with HOCD, it’s very hard to ask friends, Do you think I really might be gay?  We are less worried about their answer than about their secret judgments toward us after the question is asked.

I remember in 8th grade thinking that my friend looked pretty one day, and it set me off on a trail of questions and doubts: did that mean I was gay?  Did that mean I liked her?  Was attracted to her?  I was the most boy-crazy girl that I knew, and inside my head, I was asking these questions.

Now that I am on the other side of cognitive-behavioral therapy, it is so unbelievably clear to me: If I liked only men and wanted to date only men, then I was not gay.  But I can remember the questions: But do you only want to date men?  It’s crafty, OCD is.  It plays dirty.  It makes us second- and triple- and quadrupal-guess ourselves.  It’s all so exhausting.

I just wanted to write a post on it to explain what it is and to say that it is such a common obsession.  I think the more we can see how it’s just the same old story with OCD, the more we can see clearly that we are not alone and that OCD is just that old liar who only has a small bag of tricks.

Related posts:
Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
Another Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
A Closer Look at HOCD
A Big Ol’ HOCD Post
A Third Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer

accidental novelist

I never meant to become a novelist.

While pursuing my creative writing degree, I took the stance of an archer and aimed my arrows at poetry.  Sure, I took a semester-long class in fiction and even one in the writing of young adult literature, but when the time came for me to set my goals for my senior project, it was all poetry and creative non-fiction.

Years later, in the throes of an intense, prolonged obsession, I found myself jotting down tiny thoughts here and there.  Just chicken-scratches really.  I was heartsick and frantic and depressed, and I couldn’t handle much more than a thought here or there.  Perhaps a month or so later, I looked at that collection of lines and thought, What if I collected them into a book?  Thoughts, poems, short stories, all related to OCD.  Someone would want to read that, right?

For six months or so, I collected stories from life: my thoughts and experiences, poems I wrote about my obsessions, little stories from life.  It was more like a journal than a manuscript, but it felt great.  I was writing every day, a regular at the coffee shop near the university where I work, their very own “writer-in-residence,” as the baristas would tease me and ask me to include them in my book.

It was a mess of thoughts, with little order to it.  I printed off the whole shebang, cut all the parts up, and quite literally sorted each into various categories, trying to force some semblance of order onto it.

cutting apart

After it was all re-grouped, I gave it to my friend Anna for her review.

She said, “Yeahhhhh … it doesn’t work.  Why don’t you ever include real dialogue from your life?”

“I might not get it exactly right,” I told her.  “And that would be like lying.”  It could have become an obsession so easily; instead I avoided it completely by not including dialogue.

“It needs dialogue,” she said.  “It needs to be more of a story and less of a collection of random thoughts.”

But I was months away from the therapy that would give me that kind of freedom, and I knew that I couldn’t make it my own story because I wouldn’t get every detail right, and that would be wrong.  So I decided to make it fiction, which would allow me to invent as much as I wanted.

It took years to transform that original journal into a novel.  I had no idea what I was doing.  Anna kept telling me I was still writing like a memoirist instead of a novelist, and I thought, What’s the difference?  I honestly didn’t know.  I plowed through that like someone wading in a foot of water with cement blocks strapped to her feet.  It was really hard.

But somewhere in the midst of those years, something both incredible and strange happened: I became addicted.

Addicted to writing fiction, to the limitless creativity available to novelists, to the act of creating something out of nothing— trying my hardest to in a small way mimic God in those earliest days of earth.

One year ago, and hooked beyond rescue on fiction (and with no desire for such a rescue), I started a young adult novel.  I gave myself six months for the first draft, and when six months was over, I was shocked that it was a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end.  At the end of six months with the first story, I had a jumbled collection of journalled thoughts.

So I was learning.

Now, a year into this writing, I asked for help from an editor.  Sometimes my life feels like it’s on repeat: he said, “Yeahhhhhh … it doesn’t work.”  Essentially.

It’s okay.  I know that I can massage it into something workable, something publishable, something excellent.  It’s just going to take a lot longer than I first thought.  I want to plead the excuse, “Well, what did you expect?  I’m a poet.”

But not really.  I still love, read, and write poetry, but it’s not the right descriptor anymore.

I am a novelist.

On accident, but a novelist nevertheless.  A clueless one, but learning every day.  Discouraged, but never enough to stop.

I love this identity.