My Answers

1. Your name.
Jackie Lea Sommers!  My friends call me Jack. My dad calls me Jacob. A select group of friends calls me Jav.

2. Something you want.
To see my book on a Barnes & Noble shelf.  To impact readers.  To be the best writer I can be.  To honor God and delight in him. To be a great friend, sister, daughter, roommate, auntie.

3. The song you can’t get enough of.
“Find You” by Zedd.

4. Your favorite word.
So many!  Journey, cavalier, valor, crux, applause.

5. A challenge you’re facing.
Revisions to my novel and finding the energy to tackle them.  Took Monday off and am hoping to fall into a rhythm this weekend!

I want to know YOU.

So far in 2014, I’m averaging more than twice the daily views I had in 2013 … and yet, my readers are pretty anonymous.  I know you’re out there, friends!  Would you humor me and leave a comment?  It will only take you a minute, and it would delight this poor old writer who has the winter blues and whose manuscript is going to be the death of her.

Here’s what I want to know:

1. Your name.
2. Something you want.
3. The song you can’t get enough of.
4. Your favorite word.
5. A challenge you’re facing.

I’ll share mine too in a blog post soon!



Dear Diary (February 2014)

deardiary february 2014Oh February.

Thank the Lord that February is the shortest month we’ve got because it’s also one of the hardest ones for anyone who works in recruitment for the University of Northwestern.

… that would be me.

Early in the month, I had a reading where I shared excerpts from Truest with an audience for the first time.  It was such a fun experience.  I felt like a real author.  (I guess I am a real author!)

Photo credit: Tracy Lair

Photo credit: Tracy Lair

I talked to my editor and her assistant about some major revisions to my manuscript, and we set a goal of having a new draft in six weeks.  Let me be clear: when I say “revisions,” I am not talking about simple line edits (i.e. fix this typo, add a comma here, etc.).  I’m talking about giant structural changes, about beefing up characters, about modifying scenes for better impact.  It’s hard and it’s scary and sometimes it feels too big for me to handle, but I tell myself, butt-in-seat-hands-on-keyboard.  Six weeks of that, and it has to come out shinier on the other side, right?  Right???? 🙂

Since feelings are so deceitful, I’ve been going with what my head knows: that even though my manuscript is a torn-up mess right now, it will not always be that way.  In fact, with daily attention, it won’t even be that way a month from now.

Our admissions winter visit weekend was super successful– and also utterly exhausting.  Especially for an introvert.

We had yet another snowstorm in Minnesota– a lot of snow.  We’ve had 57 inches so far this winter.  You have to know we’re pretty sick of winter here.  My heart longs for spring.  I almost got stuck in my parking lot yet again the other day.  I got out of the car, kicked the snow around the tires, got into my vehicle, and just pleaded with God, “Please, please let me get out of here.”  I was able to back up a little and get some traction.  Readers, are you used to snow where you are?  Are your winters like mine?  The weather keeps ruining my plans with friends, and everyone seems to be sick.  Everything takes so much longer because the roads are nightmarish and slick, and you have to start braking about ten miles away from where you actually want to stop.  The snow outside right now is piled so high that it would break your heart.  I am consoled though by the days stretching out longer and longer.  The sun still out at 5:30 PM makes me feel ready to break into song the way they do in Disney movies.

Image credit: Torque News

Image credit: Torque News

I bought a new car.  A red 2014 Dodge Dart.  Thank you, author advance.

I’ve been using so much lately: sending notes into the future to encourage myself.  It’s a great reminder that I will not always be where I am in this moment.  I usually only send notes into the foreseeable future, but last week I sent one five years into the future.  Doesn’t 2019 just sound impossible?  I wonder what life will look like then.

On the OCD front, I’ve been struggling a little with intrusive thoughts when I lie awake in bed at night.  It’s been quite manageable though.  I bully my little black dot and make it sleep on the [freezing cold] apartment balcony.  (What the heck is this black dot I’m talking about?  Read here and here and here.)

I’ve been using Twitter a lot lately.  A lot a lot.  If you’re on there, you should follow me: @jackieleawrites.

The Value of an Education: Paying for College

moneyWhen I chose to attend an expensive private college, my parents didn’t bat an eye.  Okay, maybe they did behind closed doors, but in front of me, they never complained, never argued with my decision, never made me feel guilty for choosing a school that cost far more than any of the state universities.

Not only that, but they helped me to pay for it.  Growing up, my dad set aside college money for me every year on my birthday.  (I remember while growing up thinking I’d so much rather have new toys than these mysterious dollars deposited into an account somewhere.)

I graduated with student loan debt– but not much.  I wasn’t saddled with a burden too big for me to bear.  In fact, I paid off my loans about three years after I graduated.

I’m blessed.  I know it.

And that’s the point: I am so grateful for this incredible gift, this huge sacrifice my parents made to help put me through school– not only school, but the school of my choice!  As a college recruiter, I so often see parents who refuse to help their children pay for a college degree.  For some of them, it’s not a choice: they simply cannot help.  There is no money available to help put their child through school.  But for others, it is a decision.  These parents believe that their child will not understand the value of an education unless they put themselves through school on their own.

It frustrates me.

Perhaps when I was 18 years old, I couldn’t understand this, having been so coddled and supported by my amazing parents.  But I certainly did at 21.  And more and more every year since then.  I never, ever take my college education or experience for granted, and I am so terribly grateful to my parents for their sacrifices.  (If you were to ask them, they would say, “It was no sacrifice.”  That’s the kind of people they are.)

In the US, the family is expected to assist the student in paying for an education.  Even the terminology of the index number the FAFSA is coming up with shows this: it is calculating an expected family contribution (EFC).  I’m not sure when it became popular for parents to ask their children to tackle the cost of college on their own, but it frustrates me when families say that students won’t understand the value of an education unless they foot the bill.

That simply isn’t true in my case.

There are a about a million caveats to every side of the debate, I know.  But I just wanted to throw my thoughts out on the table.

And, Mom and Dad?  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for never making me feel guilty for choosing Northwestern.  Thank you for the years of hard work and saving.  These things, more than anything else, showed me the value of an education.

Love you.

Image credit: Pixabay

OCD in Remission: Eyes on OCD or Eyes on the Journey?

I recently received a fascinating email from a young woman with obsessive-compulsive disorder, who posed a question that made me stop and think.

I would love it if you could offer me your take on this: is it better to keep my eyes on my feet (IE journey), or is it a good idea to keep an eye on my OCD?

Essentially, she was asking if it was smarter to keep an eye on the illness (knowing that OCD is never cured, only managed) or if it was better to ignore OCD while she could and just enjoy the journey.

periphery2Here’s what I said:

Such a good, thought-provoking question.  I imagine that the answer might be different from person to person, but as for me, I think the answer is a little bit of both.
My OCD has been in remission since ERP five years ago.  These days, I don’t pay a terrible amount of attention to my OCD because it’s no longer intruding on my life on a regular basis.  That said, if I have an off day, OCD is the first thing I “check”– did I take my meds, am I having intrusive thoughts and need to practice some exposures again, etc.?
I think it’s BEST to keep your eyes on the journey.  But you still have peripheral vision. 🙂

For more about the ERP therapy that set me free, go to

Image credit: toxicbarbie13

No Fear, Just Love

Loved these thoughts from my friend Anna!

writing Young Adult fiction

snow My alley. Hope the plow comes soon!

I’m 100% snowed in which is perhaps a good thing since I have 40 pages of my novel due on Sunday, and I realized yesterday that I’m short one book somehow (I have to read 13 by Sunday. I only read 12).

But the miracle is that I actually have 40 pages to revise. I pounded those out over the last two weeks. And I owe it to Gracie Gold and her couch, Frank Carroll.

Gold wasn’t even in contention until six months ago when she started working with Carroll and let go of her fear of being imperfect. During an interview, she said that Carroll has been teaching her to skate like you love to skate.

Because I’m constantly turning my writing life over in my head like some neurotic compost pile, I heard Write Like You Love To Write.

View original post 127 more words

The Magic of the Gospel

I posted something about Harry Potter on my Facebook page recently, and a Christian friend of mine made a comment about how she was against witchcraft, just as the Bible insists.

I’ll be clear: if something is invoking evil and Satan, I’m against that too.

But to me, the magic of Harry PotterMary PoppinsThe Wizard of Oz, etc., is not the same thing as what the Bible is describing as witchcraft.  Who knows.  Maybe I’m wrong.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

I said to my friend: “In Narnia, both the good side and bad side use magic.  Just like in Star Wars and many others.”

She asked if I was saying there is a “good” magic and a “bad” magic.

My response? “Of course there is a good magic– Christ’s miracles!  What else would you call them?”

Am I way off?  I think the amazing, supernatural, miraculous works of God could be described as “good magic.”

I don’t know how to explain it, so I’ll call upon J.R.R. Tolkien’s words in his essay “On Fairy Stories”:

The Gospels contain a fairystory, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, selfcontained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe.

deeper magic masikarainIn Narnia, there is a Deep Magic from the dawn of time … and there is a Deeper Magic from before the dawn of time.

I like that.

Image credit: MasikaRain

The State of the Blogger

My admissions team just hosted 200 high school students for an overnight visit event.  It’s a wonderful event, and the students have a great time.  It’s probably our most fun event of the year: games and worship and chapel and classes and tours and lots of good food!

But for an introvert, it’s a type of annihilation.

I spent most of today sleeping.  My battery was on less than empty, and I needed today to recharge.

So tonight I had a bowl of Lucky Charms, took a hot shower, slapped on some Valor essential oil, and prayed.  Lately, I feel a sense of being held together only when I am in prayer or writing a letter to my future, calmer, more-accomplished self through

I’m reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, and it’s so amazing that it makes me feel like I write drivel.

My to-be-read list is out of control.

What should I read next???

What should I read next???

I chose to watch the final episode of season 3 of Downton Abbey tonight.  No spoilers, but UGH.

My next draft is due March 24th, and I need to find a rhythm.  I made myself a three-step to-do list tonight, which sounds easy enough, but each step is flabbergastingly huge and one is nearly inconceivable.  Writing is so hard.

I wish I could just push pause on life for a few months– to catch up on sleep, to catch up on reading, to learn to be a better writer.  But I am trying to have faith: I will find a rhythm, butt-in-seat will mean a better manuscript a month from now, and God will not abandon me or our book.

I think I need some chocolate milk.  That’s step zero.  Then I dive back in.

All In: Ideas & Writing

I try to take this quote of Annie Dillard’s deeply to heart as I write fiction:

“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

If I have a great idea, and if it fits into the story I’m working on, I don’t hold back, don’t reserve it for another time.  Remember when I plotted out that giant multi-storyline monster (and then subsequently abandoned it)?  In my current WIP, I am using some of the ideas from this story, even though they “fit” better with this whole plotted-out beast.  Who is to say if those other projects will ever see the light of day?  Better to spend my currency now before I’m in a country where it’s no longer acceptable payment.

For me, it’s about faith.  Faith that if I use my best ideas now, new ideas will come later.  It’s about having a generous spirit, about rejecting any parsimonious parts of my writer-heart, knowing that that sort of frugality reflects fear.  I want to write out of faith instead of fear.  Always.

all in2


Image credit: original from, edited by Jackie Lea Sommers.