Dear Diary: July 2014

Dear Diary July 2014Does anyone else feel like 2014 is flying by? I can’t believe we’ve already reached the end of July. This month was very, very good to me for two different reasons.

First, I finally met my editor! She was a lecturer during the MFAC residency at Hamline University, which is just down the street from Northwestern, where I work. I went to hear her speak about an editor’s perspective on publishing, and she was bright and funny and wonderful, all of which I already knew from my phone conversations and emails with her. The next morning, I met up with her at a coffee shop and a list of questions I had about her suggested edits, and we had a great conversation about Truest. She had mentioned the day before that she wasn’t sure debut authors knew they were allowed to give a little pushback to their editors, and– while I definitely want to be easy to work with– it gave me a little permission. It felt as if the vice-like grip that’s been squeezing my heart for the last few months relaxed a little.

We also talked about several ideas I had for my next book, one of which I’ve written a first draft. She was excited about both ideas! Meeting and visiting with Jill was just what my tightly-wound, tortured little heart needed. I can already see how meeting her in person has improved my anxiety: the next time she contacted me with major revisions, I didn’t experience the same panic that I typically would. That, my friends, is PROGRESS.

The second thing that was fantastic about July was that I went on a “literary vacation” with my dear friend Elyse. We stayed in a condo in Duluth, and we spent most of the time working on editing, writing, and research (me for Truest and my next novel, her for a freelance editing project she had and for her master’s thesis). I’m not sure I have anyone else in my life who would be willing to go on such a “boring” vacation. I put “boring” in quotes because, though most people would have found it to be so, Elyse and I had a blast! Our condo was magnificent, and we two introverts were perfectly happy to spend most of the day on our respective laptops, clickitty-clacking on the keyboards. She is a true gem. We went on our first literary vacation last summer and decided to make it a tradition. To be honest, I’m already excited for next year. (How wild is it to think that next summer I will be [hopefully] finishing up my next novel and preparing for Truest‘s impending release date??)

butterbeer3We made butterbeer and watched Harry Potter.  Next year, we’ve decided we’re going to make Dauntless cake and watch Divergent.

One other little update for you all: I am trying my darnedest to get healthy. I have lost 18 pounds; I’m working hard on combating my trichotillomania; and I met with a therapist last night to start working on my anxiety issues; I had my desk at work ergonomically fixed up and I bought a laptop wrist pad since my wrists have been acting up (for years now, due to overuse!). I still practice ERP therapy whenever my OCD flares up. And I’ve also spent time with my favorite kiddos too– play therapy? All in all, I’m just really expecting 2015 to be a REALLY BIG year for me, and I’m doing my best to get myself ready for it. I feel great about these decisions and actions and would love your support and encouragement!

One last thing. I’m working on final edits to Truest, which has been alternately anxiety-inducing, depression-inducing, lethargy-inducing, panic-inducing, and exciting. I’m hoping August will be high on the exciting and low on the anxiety … but I’m not holding my breath.

Recent Reads

smoke and bone2Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor | These books are full of some of the most beautiful prose available in YA lit! The world-building, the characters, the humor, the beautiful imagery: this was the fantasy series I’ve been waiting for. Karou is a young artist living in Prague, and she was raised from birth by several chimaera “monsters.” They love Karou, and she brings them teeth. (Yes, you read that right.) So, what does a super-hot angel, an old love story, wishes, and all the teeth have to do with Karou? Please read this trilogy to find out. You won’t regret it. I think the second book was my favorite, and the third one my least (because of some detouring storylines, which I’d be happy to whine about to anyone else who’s read the series), but the writing in all three is full of over-the-top gorgeous imagery, the kind you typically can’t get away with except for in fantasy writing.

midwinterbloodMidwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick | This being the most recent Printz winner, I knew I wanted to read it– especially with that amazing cover! This was a novel in seven parts– seven short stories that are connected to one another through a little thread that you will search for the whole book but only discover in the end. I thought the execution of the format was done masterfully, though there were some stories I loved more than others. The hard thing for me with the short story format was that it was harder for me to truly connect with the characters. But it had the definite feel of a psychological thriller, something I don’t often encounter in the books I read, and I liked it. I finished this book in only a few days.

help thanks wowHelp Thanks Wow: the Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott | I’d read Annie’s grocery lists if she’d let me. She’s one of my favorites, and this short little book didn’t disappoint.  Yes, it’s definitely hokier than most other Christian books you might read, but she has a good heart and deeply loves Jesus, and I give her a pass on some of her more “out-there” ideas because she is able to reach so many crowds this way. What an impressive platform she has! Anyway, this book was about the “three essential prayers” that she’s mentioned in other books, and she takes time to meditate on each type of prayer while also sharing some of her amazing stories that fit the theme. I drank this one down in quick gulps and would be happy to drink up again.

unstrungUnstrungan Unwind short story by Neal Shusterman | I’ve written before about the Unwind dystology that has me so enamored, and this short story about Lev’s time on an “Chance folk” reservation reminded me how freakin’ excited I am for the fourth and final book in the series to come out this fall!  This short story also helped me to better understand and appreciate what happened in the third book. Obviously, don’t read this unless you’ve read or are reading the whole series, but if you are, this is a deep and profound little extra!

chaos walkingThe New World: a Chaos Walking Prequel by Patrick Ness | I’ve also written about how much I ADORED the Chaos Walking trilogy, so this was a fun (but sad) little opportunity to peak into Viola’s perspective before she and Todd met and began the journey of their lives. Viola seemed really different in this short story than she did in the entire series, so that was a little stranger, but then again, an event that happens in this prequel is a life-shaping, life-altering one, so that sort of makes sense Another little extra– but not necessary in order to enjoy the series!


What’s up next for me?

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater (even though I only read the first book of the Shiver series, this book can be read as a standalone, and I’m loving it.  It’s intense though, and emotionally draining, so I can only tackle it in small doses!)
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill (started today and am already quite enjoying it!)
Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Have any awesome YA contemporaries to suggest? I’d love a list. Also, as far as fantasy series go, should I next read the Lunar Chronicles or the Grisha series or the Throne of Glass series?


Tip: #mswl

tweetmswlWriters, do you know about #mswl on Twitter?

MSWL = manuscript wishlist, and from time to time, literary agents will post what kind of stories they are hoping to be queried about. Sometimes, the #mswl gets trending, and there’s a massive influx of insider knowledge into the minds of those agents you desperately want to represent you.

For example,

Some of the wishlists are ultra-specific, and some of them are more open-ended (i.e. “I want a character-driven MG with strong friendship themes.”), but in any case, they give you that extra insight into the mind of an agent and something you can comment on in your query to show you’ve done your research!

Good luck!


Image credit: Shawn Campbell, modified by me



comorbidDo you know the term?

Co-morbidity is the presence of one or more other disorders co-occuring along with the primary one. For those of us with OCD, our OCD is often co-morbid with depression. The depression seems to usually be a result of the OCD (as opposed to the other way around).

On their website, the Stanford School of Medicine writes:

Patients with OCD are at high risk of having comorbid (co-existing) major depression and other anxiety disorders. In a series of 100 OCD patients who were evaluated by means of a structured psychiatric interview, the most common concurrent disorders were: major depression (31%), social phobia (11%), eating disorder (8%), simple phobia (7%), panic disorder (6%), and Tourette’s syndrome (5%).

They also say:

In Koran et al.’s 1998 Kaiser Health Plan study, 26% of patients had no comorbid psychiatric condition diagnosed during the one year study period — 37% had one and 38% had two or more comorbid conditions. These proportions did not differ substantially between men and women. The most commonly diagnosed comorbid conditions were major depression, which affected more than one-half, other anxiety disorders, affecting one-quarter, and personality disorders, diagnosed in a little more than 10%.

OCD is enough of a beast on its own, but the truth of the matter is that many who struggle with OCD are fighting other demons too.

In my experience, OCD and depression teamed up against me, though, as I wrote before, the depression was secondary to the OCD (in that it was caused by the OCD). Some days I would be full of intense, manic fear caused by OCD, and other days all my sharp edges would be dulled by depression and a feeling that nothing in the world sounded exciting or worthwhile.

I’m so grateful that when ERP helped me steal power away from OCD, the upshot was that depression was defeated too.

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


Image credit: Gerald Gabernig


The Mournful Sound

Jamie Engelhardt 4It breaks my heart, she’d said that day.
But it’s a heartbreak I’d choose.

And then gone.

She had smelled like pressed cotton
and Listerine, had dressed for executive success
but with a twist of her lips to suggest regret.

So he plays each day now,
in that same spot, hoping for her to
choose again so that he can
choose again too.

Image credit: Engelhardt Photography

This month I featured photography by my friend Jamie of Engelhardt Photography; would you like me to feature yours next?  Email me some of your photos, and maybe I’ll write poems about them!

Head Canon

Note: this is spoiler-free, because these “truths” exist only in my head, far beyond the books …


Hannah and Jude are married, and Taylor stays with them when she comes home from uni in Sydney, where she and Jonah are friends with Frankie, Will, Justine, Tom, and Tara. Ben, of course, introduced them all.

Puck lives with Sean in his father’s house; they raise horses together.

Ron almost has a heart attack when Rose brings home her boyfriend Scorpius.

When Leo asks Stargirl to marry him, she hands him the same note she got from him years before.

And when she is older, the book thief falls deeply in love with a Jewish fist-fighter.

Cor eventually knocks Corin down– when it comes to Aravis.

Viola is there when he wakes up.

And, of course, Eleanor and Park live in Minneapolis … in the apartment across the hall from mine.



Image credit: Ulf Bodin

Book Characters on a Deserted Island (with me!)

island21. Jonah Griggs: this cadet knows how to set up camp and survive in the woods.

2. Evanjalin of the Monts: full of self-sacrifice and clever riskiness that pays off.

3 and 4. Peter and Edmund Pevensie: always good to have along for an adventure!

5. Peregrin the Savage: to keep us safe.

6, 7, and 8. Harry, Ron, and Hermione: um, duh. You always want this epic trio on your side.

9. Josh Bennett: he could build us an awesome treehouse to live in.

10. Marco Alisdair: when we got sick of the island, he could use magic to get us home.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Image credit: Don McCullough, modified by me

Not a Therapist, Just a Resource

unsplash5It’s true: I know a fair amount about OCD. I experienced it for 20 years, I successfully went through ERP therapy, I wrote an (unpublished) novel about a character who struggled from it, I am part of the leadership team for OCD Twin Cities, and I blog about it regularly.

But I’m not a therapist.

I’m only a resource. I can tell others what I know, what I’ve experienced, what to look for in an ERP therapist, what books might be helpful, etc.  But I cannot walk them, hand-in-hand, through exposure therapy. I have to remind others AND MYSELF of this. Often.

To those of you who blog about OCD and ERP, do you have this same problem?  How do you handle it?

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

Image credit: Unsplash