Opus on 1st: Ballad


prompt8She walks the cobbled streets,
thinking of Poe, of Nevermore,
and though he is beside her,
they are not together now.

He takes her hand,
helps her to sit, frees
the guitar and begins to sing.

It brings her back from silence,
from the dark places in which
the mind loves and hates to rest.

The song is the best rescue
this armorless knight can attempt.


Teenage Creativity

differentLast week, I shared about some of my creative childhood activities.  Today, I want to tell you about the (strange but) creative things I did while I was a teenager.  To truly understand some of these things, you have to remember that I grew up in a small town of about 700.  My class had about 70 people in it.

1. Question Book.
I carried around a regular old spiral-bound notebook, and inside it, on each page was a question.  Some were silly, some were interesting, some were huge (are people inherently good or evil?), and I passed it around in my classes, where people would add their responses and read those from others.  I loved looking through the pages and seeing all the opinions, especially when written conversations (or arguments) would take place right inside my notebook.

2. Memory List.
In sixth grade, I wrote down a half-page of things I wanted to remember about the Kimball High School class of 2000’s elementary years.  In seventh grade, I brought it to school, and word got out, and people started asking to read it.  When I got my list back, people had added their own memories to it, so I typed them up at home.  For the next five years, I’d bring a copy of the memory list to school for a couple days each year, circulate it around my grade, letting people add to it.  Upon our graduation, it was probably 12 pages long.  There is a copy of it in my dad’s safe-deposit box, and I hope my class will do something with it for a future reunion.

3. Thank You List.
I made a list of every person in my grade.  Across the top of the page, I wrote THANK  YOU, and next to each name I wrote one thing I was grateful to that person for.  I hung it up on my locker  during class one morning, and it was so fun to later find a big group of people huddled around it, looking for their names.  People said things to me that day like, “I didn’t know anyone even cared about that thing I do!” or “I had no idea that was important to you.”  Loved it.

4. Imaginary Organizations.
My poor, dear, delightful high school friends were subjected to my strange imagination.  I created a fake band for us (Tempest Pixy), including a theme song and stage names for each of us (my favorites were Chizel Smithbanger and Hexron Davis).  We also had a fake “Russian Spy Ring” where I assigned fake foreign names to each of my “spy” friends.  I should clarify, most of us were in the RSR, but we did also have Spanish, German, and Japanese arms to the group as well.  (Do you think I’m insane yet?)  In our senior yearbook, I even “bequeathed” presidency of the RSR to my friend’s younger brother, whom I had forced into the RSR.

5. Soap Opera.
Yup, I wrote one for a while.  It was about a group of friends from Sunnyside High who were dealing with little things such as AIDS, teenage pregnancy, love triangles, motorcycle accidents, and long-lost twins reuniting.  I’d write a couple scenes, pass it around among friends, and when the notebook returned to me, I’d write a few more.

During these years, I was also writing a lot of stories and poems (bad ones).  I had so many ideas, and I rarely saw stories all the way through to completion.  Can you tell what a strange kid I was?  And yet, I had amazing friends who loved me, loved my creativity (most of the time), and who thought I was smart and hilarious.  Again, it’s not hard to see how I became a writer, is it?

Bonus– my friends and I also did “gut checks.”  We live in a place that happens to have quite a few, um, murder sites and, um, “haunted” locations, so we would scare ourselves silly by visiting these places.  My dear friend Dustin would tell stories about children with glowing eyes coming out of the weeds, and then he’d turn off the car lights and slam on the brakes and we’d all scream, even though we’d just done the same, tame thing the weekend before.

How about you?

Random 5 Friday is a weekly meme over at A Rural Journal.

Dear Diary (Summer 2013)

summer2013I can’t believe it’s almost September.  Here’s the scoop on my life.

I signed with The Chudney Agency!  Steven Chudney, my agent, will represent me to children’s and YA publishers as the two of us attempt to find a home for my young adult novel.  This upcoming holiday weekend will be dedicated to revisions!

Desiree got married!  My beloved friend and roommate of six years married my co-worker.  She moved out but not too far: just two buildings away in the same apartment complex!  For those of you wondering, no, I didn’t feel like an ugly bridesmaid on her wedding day.  Hooray!

Chelsea moved in!  My new roommate just moved in last weekend, and she’s a master of organization!  It’s interesting to see how this place I’ve called home for the last five years is getting an overdue makeover.

I saw HANSON!  My sister and I just fulfilled a childhood dream by seeing Hanson live at the Minnesota State Fair earlier this week.  (Full post to come soon!)

I deferred another semester till grad school.  Although I am thrilled to be admitted to the incredible Vermont College of Fine Arts, it just didn’t feel like the right time of my life to start grad school this January.  I had been doubting myself and my decision for a while.  The money I planned to save this year did not materialize as I’d hoped, and I had this strange hesitation about starting school.  After prayer and seeking out the wisdom of friends, I decided that I shouldn’t jump into grad school half-heartedly.  I asked the program director yesterday if I could defer for another semester.  If nothing else, it gives me time to sort out my thoughts.  (Gosh, this could be another whole blog post too.)

I started working on a new novel.  A young adult story about a girl who, after losing both her parents in a drunk driving accident, returns to her boarding school for her senior year.  Though she shares the story of her parents’ death only with her best friend and the school superintendent, she is very clearly changed.  No one seems to understand her strange grief– except for the quiet boy who missed all of last year and has secrets of his own.

With grad school on pause, I am entertaining the idea of attending a conference or two.  (And everyone thinks in unison, What was that about saving money?)  I’d love to go to BEA and SCBWI and the national OCD conference.  And VidCon.  And LeakyCon.  Okay, probably going to have to make some decisions.

I began as a guest contributor to the International OCD Foundation’s blog.  I am so honored to be an official contributor to the IOCDF blog.  My first post can be read here; it tells the story of my excruciating but ultimately liberating experience with Exposure and Response Prevention therapy.

My favorite five-year-old is about to turn six and starts kindergarten in ONE WEEK.  I try not to say too much about my favorite little ladies on my blog to respect their and their parents’ privacy, but they are such an important part of my life, I feel I need to throw a shout-out to Miss Emeline, the smartest, sassiest, prettiest, most creative soon-to-be kindergartener in the world.

What else, what else?  Work is picking back up.  I will be traveling soon to recruitment events in Minnesota and South Dakota (oooh, exotic!) for a few weeks.  I am ridiculously eager to spend this holiday weekend alone with my manuscript (and I wouldn’t mind your prayers, if you’re the praying type).  I continue to meet with Monica, my mentor at the University of Northwestern.  The new students moved in nearly one week ago, and classes started on campus yesterday … and you’d better believe that in my office, we all took a deep breath and then starting recruiting the Class of 2014.

Oh, the life of a recruiter.


writingI took a quiz, one that will supposedly analyze my writing and tell me what famous writer my style is most similar to.  I don’t put a lot of stock in it because I did it three times and got three different writers, including Chuck Palahniuk, Dan Brown, and Cory Doctorow.

So, which writers do I especially want to write like?  Great question.

I want to have the lyrical quality of Jandy Nelson and Peter Beagle and Leif Enger.

I want characters like those created by Melina Marchetta.

I want to raise thought-provoking questions just like John Green.

I want catch-your-breath imagery like C.S. Lewis and Markus Zusak.

And I want to command the senses the way Erin Morgenstern does.

Your turn!


I have OCD!  I have OCD, and I don’t care who knows it!  (Can you picture me spinning around like Buddy the Elf?)


No, but really, I’m not ashamed of my mental illness.  Why should I be?

Illness is not shameful.

I didn’t choose it.

It gives me a platform to help others.


Most Memorable Secondary Characters


Jape Waltzer of Peace Like a River by Leif Enger | Most memorable?  Yes.  For being absolutely terrifying– the wolf to Davy’s squirrel.  I still can’t decide how I would answer his questions.

Severus Snape of Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling | For the ambiguous role he plays throughout seven epic books, and especially for all his secrets.

Ben Cassidy of Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta | At only 5’4″ this violinist sure has some guts.  Not to mention he is freakin’ hilarious.  I love that he is willing to go head-to-head with Jonah Griggs, even though Griggs is a tank.

Raffaela of Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta | “I can’t wait to tell him one day,” she says with a giggle. “‘Hey, Chaz, guess what? We knew where your precious car was all the time.’ I’d like to take a photo of his face. What do you think?” …

… “I reckon I’d smile really nicely in the photo,” Santangelo says behind me, yanking me out of the way, “knowing that you’ll be keeping it under your pillow for the rest of your life.” Gosh, I love the tension and hormones those two bring to the book.  | Chaz Santangelo of Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (noticing a trend here?) 


Thomas Mackee of Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (what can I say?  She creates amazing characters!) | A bit of a tool in that first book, I think Thomas needs saving, just like the rest of them.  And then in The Piper’s Son … oh Tom.

Jimmy Hailer of Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (last one, seriously) | I can’t get enough of Jimmy, the sort of stoner, intimidating, hilarious, mom-friendly, pushy mess-up.

Neville Longbottom of Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling | What character transformation!  Zero to hero.

Mr. Tumnus of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis | Tumnus appears in three of the Narnia books, and he will always have a special place in my heart as Lucy’s first Narnian friend.

Max Vandenberg of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak | Is it fair to call Max a secondary character?  (He’s probably my favorite character of the whole marvelous book.)  I want a Jewish fist-fighter/writer friend.


This post is a re-mix of one that originally appeared in March 2013.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Picture credit from deviantArt:
Mr. Tumnus by MedicineDoll
Max by ElakuDark

Bookish Superlatives!

Jamie at the Perpetual Page-Turner is at it again!  I love her fun bookish surveys.  You should do one too.



Most Likely To Change The World

Aslan from Narnia
(Is that cheating? :-))

Cutest Couple

Will Trombal and Francesca Spinelli from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son

“Come here,” she says.
“No, you come here.”
“I said it first.”
“Rock paper scissors.”
“No. Because you’ll do nerdy calculations and work out what I chose the last six times and then you’ll win.”
Will pushes away from the table and his hand snakes out and he pulls her toward him and Tom figures that Will was always going to go to her first.

However, Eleanor and Park sure applied the pressure.

Class Clown

Jace from The Mortal Instruments series

Most Likely To Become Famous For Their Athletic/Musical/Artistic Abilities

Athlete: Rudy Steiner from The Book Thief
(Go, Jesse Owens!)

Musician: Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere
(“This is what happens when Joe Fontaine has his debut trumpet solo in band practice: I’m the first to go, swooning into Rachel, who topples into Cassidy Rosenthal, who tumbles into Zachary Quittner, who collapse into Sarah, who reels into Luke…”)

All Around Good Person

Webb from Jellicoe Road

Biggest Flirt

Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere

Most Likely To Be Fought Over

Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere

Mostly Likely To Be Friends Forever

Chaz and Raffy from Jellicoe Road
Frankie and Justine from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son

Most Likely To Have Their Own Reality Show

Conner and Risa from Unwind.  It would be called “Inside the Graveyard.”

Most Unique

Stargirl Carraway from Stargirl and Love, Stargirl

Most Likely To Survive An Apocalypse

Katsa and Po from Graceling

Most Likely To Be A Villain

Tom Riddle from Harry Potter
(or Dolores Umbridge!)

Biggest Wallflower

Conrad from Ordinary People

Most Likely To Break Your Heart

Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars

Most Changed

Froi from The Lumatere Chronicles

Most Likely To Get Arrested

Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road

Self Proclaimed God/Goddess

Jace from the Mortal Instruments series

Best Person To Bring Home To Mom & Dad

Will Trombal from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son


Most Likely To Make You Cry

Duh.  The Fault in Our Stars.

Dares To Be Different (in world, plot, storytelling, etc.)

Everyday by David Levithan (fascinating, gender-bending premise!)

Best Dressed (pretty cover!)


Most Likely To Make You Swoon

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Loveliest Prose

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
tied with
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
tied with
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
tied with
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Most Likely To Be A Favorite Of 2013

(Very much anticipating the following:)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Aimless Love by Billy Collins

Most Likely To Change The World (or change your life)

The Fault in Our Stars really *did* change my life because it showed me that I wanted to write YA fiction!

Book You Are Most Likely To Keep Putting Off


Most Likely To End Up As Christmas Gifts For Everyone You Know

Jellicoe Road for everyone!

Most Likely To Be Thrown


Most Likely To Be Reread More Than Once
(I’m an avid re-reader!) (No, really.)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Most Likely To Make You Read Through An Earthquake Because It’s THAT Engrossing

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Most Likely To Be Passed On To Your Children


Most Likely To Break Your Heart Into A Million Pieces

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Most Likely To Brighten Up Your Day

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
(There has to be a reason I’ve read it six times in the last six weeks, right?)