Dear Diary (April 2014)

april 2014April has been all about self care.  I took time away from my manuscript.  I went to the chiropractor.  I started a weight loss program.  I spent time with my favorite little kiddos (see: cuddle therapy).

And, you know what, I feel ready to dive back in for another round of revisions.  (I must be crazy.)

Easter was awesome, as usual.  My church had two baptisms, including one of a young man I met the Easter before, which was really special because he comes from a totally different walk of life (and indeed has been shunned by some of his family because of his decision to follow Christ).  I’m really proud of him and even more proud of God’s incredible work in this young man’s life.

This month, I gave a percentage of my author advance to non-profit organizations– to my Compassion kids and their families, my church, Campus Crusade at my brother’s college, a Chinese orphanage, a mission trip to Peru, an urban and anti-sex trafficking ministry, a friend teaching overseas, an at-risk youth ministry, Bible translation in Papua New Guinea, and the University of Northwestern.

It. was. a. JOY.

Let’s see, what else, what else?

I shared with UNW’s novel writing club, which was so much fun. They asked great questions and commiserated with me about the artist’s self-doubt.

I applied for a writing grant (#4 on my list of creative goals for this year; stay tuned for an update!).

I took my panic pill … three times.  I met up for coffee and conversation with my sweet best friend Eir last weekend, so good for my heart and soul. I also have spent a lot of time with God in prayer, and it’s been delicious. There’s basically nowhere on earth I’d rather be than in my bed with my prayer journal.

I’ve gotten some more revision suggestions from my editor, and I’ve been thinking about them a lot and tiptoeing toward them while waiting for a marked-up manuscript.  One month away from my novel has been interesting: it’s probably the longest break I’ve taken from writing in the last six years.  It was good, and probably necessary, to rest after that frenzied six-week revision– but guess what?  I miss it.  My writer-heart feels out of rhythm.  I plan to fix that murmur this May.

How are you?  How was your April?  I wish I had more wild stories and events to share with you, but April 2014 was just one of those keep-it-together months for me.  We need those sometimes, don’t we?


Books & Happiness [or Books ARE Happiness]

buying books2

I pre-ordered:
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

I bought:
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
She is not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams
The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling
Stories in an Almost Classical Mode by Harold Brodkey
Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
The Last Forever by Deb Caletti
Sorta Like a Rockstar by Matthew Quick
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Adverbs by Daniel Handler

I won:
How to Promote Your Children’s Book by Katie Davis (thanks, Kathy Ellen!)
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (thanks, Anna!)

I also have 8 books in my “save for later” cart on the B&N website.

P.S. I got three B&N gift cards this month. I sure do love B&N gift cards. 🙂

Choosing Treatment: a Parable

bandaidOnce there was a man named Mr. Jones.  Mr. Jones found out he had a brain tumor.

Experts told him, “Mr. Jones, you need to have surgery, followed by chemotherapy.”

But Mr. Jones said, “No thank you.  Surgery is hard.  Chemo is hard.  I’d prefer to just meet with someone to discuss my cancer once a week.  Also, I’ll apply a fresh bandaid to my forehead every few days, for good measure.”

“That won’t help, Mr. Jones,” the experts told him.  “You really do need a very specific treatment for your condition.”

But Mr. Jones was insistent: he preferred the easier “treatment.”

So he met with a therapist to discuss his cancer, and he applied and reapplied bandaids whenever he was feeling worried.

It didn’t work.

And the moral of the story is this: ERP is the best way to treat OCD.


For (lots!) more about OCD and ERP, go to

Image credit: F2 Images

Writing and/or Life, Both Hard


Either I’m not doing it right and still need to learn the universe’s secrets, or else the truth is that writing is masochism.

No, stop. I shouldn’t say that. Believe me, I love to write. Sometimes.

But it is really, really hard.

Why does it so often seem like other writers have their acts together?  They feel confident in their abilities.  They are clever and funny and smart … gahhh, I know I can be those things too.  But mostly I just feel insufficient and terrified that I’ll be found out.

Not just writing either.  Life.  I’m 32, and I feel like I know so little about how to be successful at Life.  I retreat in fear to my favorite things night after night: my bed, my prayer journal, my Jesus.

A few lines from Truest (as it stands today):

And while I sit in the stand and pray, I have the same sensation—that I am being outlined, defined, and that the definition doesn’t come from me.

I am trying to hold so many things—and failing—but this one thing is holding me.

Please tell me, people: do any of you get so overwhelmed that you become paralyzed? Have you fallen in love with a vocation that gnaws on your heart? Have you figured out any ways to be still and yet productive?

All I know is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus— thankfully, he’s more than enough.


Easter is over – now what?

My friend Rachel’s important thoughts on what we do after Easter. Loved this.

Fellow Passengers

IMG_5142 I always imagine the day after all of Jesus’ friends discovered that he was alive to be a little, well, weird.

I mean really, what do you do with that?

One of your best friends, a person you’ve admired and followed and tried really hard to be like, dies a horrible death. You’re shocked. Numb. Scared something similar might happen to you, given the political climate.

And then, a few days later, he’s standing in front of you.

Your mouth goes dry, agape. You hug, but you still don’t know how to believe the truth of what you’re holding. And then you’re sitting down on a mountainside, having supper and saying things like, hey Jesus, will you pass the cheese?


Lent is over. Easter is finished. I’ve been reminded. I’ve remembered. I’ve worked really hard at giving up my anger to be more like Jesus. And meanwhile, my…

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YA Junkie [& proud of it]

A few odds and ends from the Land of YA Lit …

I joined Oblong Insider because I EVEN WANT BOOKS I DON’T KNOW THAT I WANT.  Yes, it’s true.  I signed up for a YA book subscription where someone else chooses books for me because WHY NOT.  I filled out a form that asked for my favorite books and authors so they could get a feel for what I liked, and then– voila!— the other day, I got my first package!

Look at this stuff!  I got Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens (a book for which I’ve read great reviews!), an awesome “I read YA” book bag, and a matching button.  Too cute!

ya swag

Yes, of course I love buying and choosing books on my own, but this is so fun and exciting, like unwrapping a birthday present!

Also, someone muttered some fightin’ words online:

fighting back

Seriously??!  What is wrong with people?

Also, thought Teen Librarian’s Toolbox posted an interesting article about how we guide teens into a safe discussion about sex in literature.  You can read it here.

Also, my friend Mary has got me thinking and dreaming about what the cover of Truest will look like.  (Note: I will likely have no say in this.)  But an author can dream, right?

Also, Maggie Stiefvater is going to be at the SCBWI summer conference.  I thought about going, but in the end, I think I’ve decided to stay put.

Also, Buzzfeed’s 19 True Struggles of Being Addicted to YA Books as an Adult.

Also, also, also … !

I love YA lit.

OCD, Medication, and Genetic Testing

Super interesting! In my case, “trial and error” took five years and a near-death allergic reaction …


mrpuen mrpuen

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, it’s no secret that my son Dan had negative experiences with medication used to treat his OCD. He was overmedicated, wrongly medicated, and improperly weaned from various combinations of ten different medications over a fifteen-month period. Medication didn’t help him; it hurt him. For him, the best meds turned out to be no meds at all.

There are, however, a good number of OCD sufferers who are helped by medication (usually in combination with Exposure and Response Prevention therapy). But even for those who benefit from taking medication it is often a long, frustrating journey to find the right medication, or combination of medications, that work. We’ve all heard it before: trial and error is the only way to find that often elusive “right combination.”

But is trial and error really the only way?


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Writerly Thoughts on Predestination, Conflict, & Rescue


It’s an old debate: do humans have free will, or are “choices” predestined by God?

I have a friend who thinks the former while I lean more toward the latter (honestly, I most prefer to live in the gray area between the two), and we were talking briefly about this.  The Big Question, of course, is If there’s no free will, then why would God predestine the sinful fall of man?

My response was that I think that rescue and redemption are more valuable to God than there being no need for them, that somehow God gets more glory from saving a fallen world than from not needing to save a perfect one.

My friend didn’t buy it, didn’t think it made sense.


My writing critique group met recently, and it was a great evening.  We didn’t actually critique anything, only shared about our current projects (and a couple people shed some tears, it’s true).  One of my friends is writing a young adult novel for her MFA program, and the problem she keeps running into is that she loves her characters so much that she doesn’t want to hurt them.

“It’s what I always used to yell at you for, Jackie!” she said to me.  “And now I’m doing it myself!”

If you’re not a writer, you probably can’t understand, but trust me– it can be hard to create characters you adore and then force them through hell.

But we have to.


If there’s no conflict, it’s not a good story.


I started to think about that in terms of the story of the world.  God is the ultimate creator, the supreme artist, and the universe and its inhabitants are his masterpiece.

Is the same principle at work here?  Did God as an Artist determine that the great Story of the world would not be good without conflict?  Every good writer knows that a story needs a conflict and a climax.  Could that be the very simplest of explanations for the fall of man and the cross of Christ?  God was writing a story, and he wanted it to be great.

You’re welcome to chime in in the comments!


Image credit: fotomachine

Resurrection Joy

I love Easter.  This is– hands down– my favorite holiday.  This weekend, I have taken some time to reflect on the cross of Christ, the darkness of the Saturday in between, and the power and rejoicing of the resurrection Sunday.

As someone who often finds it hard to ground myself in the present time– one who is always anxiously anticipating that which lies ahead for me– I stand in awe of my savior, who knew for all eternity that the cross would be the climax of his story.  How could he bear it?  Death must have been such a relief.

Perhaps it was that he not only knew what was ahead in the cross– but even further ahead, in the resurrection.  I am unspeakably proud of my rescuer.

Blessings on your Easter, friends.  May you find deep joy in this mighty rescue, peace in knowing that God understands our deepest sufferings, and power in the realization that the spirit that raised Christ from the dead is the same spirit that desires to live and work in us.

I am so proud to say that I belong to Jesus.