Dear Diary (May 2014)

may ddMay. My gosh, May.

I’m super excited to announce here on my blog that Truest, my debut novel, went to auction in Germany, and the winning publisher was dvt/Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag!

For those unfamiliar with the publishing industry, “going to auction” means that there was enough interest in my book in Germany that several publishers there got to bid for my book. I’m so, so excited by the idea of my story being translated into German! My agent is a ROCKSTAR.

What a month. My baby brother graduated from college (finally), so I’ve been released from the shackles of editing all his papers! His graduation was on Mother’s Day, so we did a dual celebration. My mom has always wanted my brother to get his bachelors degree, so there was no way my sister and I could compete with Kevin’s gift.

Kevin, who can be a total charmer when he wants to be, made us all homemade thank-you cards. Here’s mine:

kevin graduated

Like that picture on the right? Apparently, that’s me, reading his papers and pondering his great intellect. HA.

Birthday girl showing off her purple tea saucer. Purple's her FAVORITE.

Birthday girl showing off her purple tea saucer. Purple’s her FAVORITE.

May also held my favorite little four-year-old’s birthday. She had a garden tea party, and I was tremendously pleased to make the guest list along with mostly 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds. Also connected to this was that I go to go toy shopping. I LOVE TOY SHOPPING. It’s so much more fun than shopping for grown-ups! I bought Aladdin and Jasmine dolls and Jasmine pajamas. Also, sparkly purple nail polish, along with the requirement that Mom helps with the nail polish. (Tracy, I cannot be responsible for any walls or floors that end up full of purple sparkles, lol!)

And then, of course, I went to Duluth to write. It was a wild ride, my friends. I am continually astonished at how difficult revisions are. Two things to say to that: 1) Getting the book deal is only the beginning, and 2) My editor at HarperCollins is the absolute best, most brilliant editor ever. She is so supportive and responsive, and her ideas and suggestions are going to make Truest something special.

Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m cut out for the writing life. I said so to my friend Cindy, who gave me this tough love:

Well, you’ve already proven that you are by a) writing a book, b) getting an agent, c) getting a contract, and d) pouring yourself into edits and taking them very seriously.

But let’s say, for argument’s sake, you’re NOT cut out for the writing life.  How will your life change?  You know it won’t.  You KNOW you’ll still write.

Don’t worry about whether you CAN do it and just DO it.  🙂

She’s right. I know I’ll still write, no matter what. So I need to quit whining and write.

Whomps, Eir, Whit, Ash, me

Whomps, Eir, Whit, Ash, me

When I came home from Duluth I had the joy of a mini-reunion with some friends from the summer camp where I grew up. Eir and Ashley I see quite often (as regular blog readers will know), but Whitney and Laura (whom we call Whompie) I almost never see! It was a fun afternoon. We got coffee and went for a walk at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, followed by dinner and Sebastian Joe’s ice cream! What a treat to catch up with everyone– especially after being tucked away from human interaction for the week prior!

How was your May, friends?

My Brief Interactions with Maya Angelou

My co-worker Steve had semi-regular interaction with Maya Angelou in his former job. Here is his sweet tribute to her.

Stephen Mattson

Whenever Maya Angelou visited the Twin Cities she stayed at the same hotel I worked at, and since I was the bellman, I was charged with pushing her around in her wheelchair.

So there I was, carefully steering her about and making sure I didn’t run into anything. Much of the experience consisted of just waiting for her to get ready, taking her to her room, meetings, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and basically wherever else she wanted to go.

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Boys in Books are Better

I wish.

I wish.

Allow me to demonstrate.

“Oh, I wouldn’t mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”
Augustus Waters of The Fault in Our Stars

“He stops and looks at me. ‘I’m here because of you. You’re my priority. Your happiness, in some fucked way, is tuned in to mine. Get that through your thick skull. Would I like it any other way? Hell, yes, but I don’t think that will be happening in my lifetime.”
Jonah Griggs of Jellicoe Road

“I say, ‘I will not be your weakness, Sean Kendrick.’
Now he looks at me. He says, very softly, ‘It’s late for that, Puck.”
Sean Kendrick of The Scorpio Races

“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.” 
Will Trombal of Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son

“I have a dream,” he said slowly. “I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footsteps of friends — and YOU!”
Gilbert Blythe of the Anne of Green Gables series

“Do you remember all of your audiences?”
“Not all of them. But I remember the people who look at me the way you do.”
“What way might that be?”
“As though they cannot decide if they are if they are afraid of me or they want to kiss me.”
“I am not afraid of you.”
Marco Alisdair of The Night Circus

Just saying.

Writing Process Blog Tour

I’ve been tagged for this blog hop by Sandra Waugh, whose debut book Lark Rising will be published by Random House this September. Lark Rising is a high fantasy novel, and you can read a description of it here. Check out Sandra’s website and follow her on Twitter!

lifeguard chair1. What am I working on?
Right now, I am revising my debut novel Truest, a contemporary YA novel about Westlin Beck, a pastor’s daughter in a small town whose relationship with the new boy is complicated by his twin sister’s mental disorder. I am dreaming about my next novel (yet untitled), another contemporary YA story about childhood enemies reunited six years later on the small island where they grew up. I’m terrifically excited about both these novels and desperately hope that my characters, who mean so much to me, will matter to the world.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Since there is so much amazing contemporary YA out there right now (Melina Marchetta and Jandy Nelson are two favorites), I actually hope that my writing is similar. I do tend to lean heavily into philosophy and ideas more than many others!

3. Why do I write what I do?
There is this quote by George R.R. Martin that I completely and utterly disagree with:

Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

I am sorry that Mr. Martin’s reality is so dreary. I believe that reality has its own magic. That is why I write contemporary realism– to show the beauty and charm of the real world.

4. How does my writing process work?
I start with characters. I create characters that fascinate me, characters who are complicated, ones I know that I can spend the next two years or so with and still not have them completely figured out, ones whose company I will still covet after all that time. After that, I toss them into a room together and see what happens.

I write my stories in layers, each draft focusing in on a specific area: first, characters/dialogue; next, plot; then, setting/description; and finally, language (refining it, adding in imagery, choosing better words for what I mean to say). This does not mean that I write four drafts and am done (that idea makes me smile), but after I have a solid draft, I have to seek critical feedback in order to improve.

And now, I tag Elyse and Mary! Your turn to answer these questions, my dears!


Image credit: unknown

Shades of Gray

grayI believe in black and white.  I do.  I think that there are some Truths that are as stark as that.

But I’ve made room in my life for a lot of gray too, many shades of it.  The more birthdays, wisdom, and freedom I get under my belt, the more I embrace those grays for their own incredible beauty.

That’s all for today.


For more about OCD, ERP, & uncertainty, go to

Image credit: Hengki Koentjoro

A Thought

paradoxSometimes I think that there is no way I can actually write a book as good as the book I’m imagining in my head. It’s like everything starts to die when I commit it to the page.

But then sometimes I think that my book is so much more than I could dream of, like sitting down to write is what made it come alive.

I don’t know whether to grieve or celebrate, so I guess I do both.

The writing life.


Image credit: Roxana Trifa


Thoughts from Places: Duluth

Silver Sea #narnia

Silver Sea #narnia

Sigh. It’s Thursday evening, and I have to go home tomorrow. In some ways, I’m glad: I’ve gone a little loopy and have hit a wall. On the other hand, if I had all day tomorrow to write, I think I could still hammer out a lot of work.

I didn’t get as much done as I wanted, but I did get a lot accomplished. I feel simultaneously proud of my work and also terrified of just how much more effort needs to go into this manuscript before it’s ready to show the world.

Space. It’s so nice. I don’t only mean physical space, but also head and heart space– it’s just that physical space can sure lend to that, eh?

Being alone with a manuscript can make you go crazy. Back in December of 2012, I spent a week in a small town working on (believe it or not) this same novel, and here is what I had to say about it:

When it’s just you and your manuscript in a tiny house for a week, both truth and lies are going to ricochet like crazy off those old walls and you know some barbs are going to get stuck in you.  You’ll go from imagining your impending wild success to realizing that you’re a complete fraud.  The only reassurances you can find are electronic—Facebook, texts.  You drink them like water, but even then, you think what do these people know anyway?

This has been happening a lot lately, you think. This up and down, this rollercoaster.  You’ve tried to tell yourself it’s just the writing life, the way things are.  And to some extent, this really has to be true.

Here I am, 18 months later, and that book is being published, and I still lived on that rollercoaster all week. I wonder if– for me– writing will always be a rollercoaster of emotions. Yesterday I hit a low low where I couldn’t fathom how Truest would matter to anyone. Yet, by that evening, I was re-writing a scene that I could not stop laughing over. I was honestly losing it laughing in my condo over things my characters did and said.

Tonight I feel stress creeping back in as I face returning to civilization tomorrow. (Honestly, it’s been so nice this week: no make-up, pajamas all day, I don’t even leave my condo.) I feel time biting back down on me; I feel the pressure of my contract all over again. I wish I could stay another week. I wish I could somehow have more space.

Interesting thing about this resort where I’m staying: I started writing my second draft of Truest at this place, two whole years ago. And now (please, Lord) I am writing my second-to-last draft (I hope I hope I hope). I have learned about a million things about fiction and the writing life and young adult literature and about the industry since then, and my book– my gosh, my book!— has grown and changed so tremendously that it’s nearly unrecognizable (in a good way!). But I am still the insecure writer who is trying to fake it till she makes it.

Some people would say I have made it. It doesn’t feel that way to me.

Time for more revisions. I really hope you’ll love my book.


Summer Required Reading … for me!

Help me choose what to read (and in what order) this summer!  You can choose more than one answer.  (Look below for quick JLS-hasn’t-read-these-yet descriptions of each book, i.e. what I think the books are about!)

Winger: a football player (who seems to get nosebleeds)

Cinder: a cyborg retelling of Cinderella

This Side of Salvation: a kid whose family joins a cult

All Our Yesterdays: one of those awesome books where two stories are really one

Daughter of Smoke and Bone: angels?  Angels and sex appeal??

Midwinterblood: nottaclue, but it won the Printz!

Better Off Friends: can a guy and girl be only friends?

Something Real: a girl who grew up on a reality TV show

What I Thought Was True: summer, a hot boy (can’t go wrong!)