Questions from Blog Readers

questions from blog readersWhat is something you really want to learn but haven’t had the time to learn yet?
I’d love to learn to be a visual artist, whatever that might look like for me. I wish I could draw, paint, sculpt, photograph, design, and/or animate.

Have you or do you plan to be part of any collaborative writing projects?
I am writing a poem right now with my brilliant friend Mary. You can read some of her poetry here. I imagine that I’d have a really, really difficult time trying to collaborate with someone on fiction. I’m a bit too opinionated and headstrong for that to be a good experience.

How long have you worked at UNW? Have you had the same job there since you started or has your job changed? Is it difficult to write and work at UNW?
I’ve been working at the University of Northwestern since September of 2003. I work in the admissions office, and I’ve held three different positions while there. I started as an admission counselor; then, for a time, I was both an admission counselor and the recruitment manager. These days, I am a senior admission counselor and so glad for it. It was very, very difficult to manage my writing life and my recruiting life when I was in management. Now that those duties are no longer on my plate, I have a lot more free time and space to write!

If you could choose any genre to write other than YA, what would it be and why?
I would probably write adult contemporary fiction. I would love to be able to write fantasy, but I just don’t seem to have the capacity for that. (Maybe one day!) I’d also love to write short stories. That is not an area I excel in, though from time to time I have an idea that seems to demand the medium. But in a lot of ways, short stories are harder for me to write than novels.

If you could marry anyone in the whole world, who would it be?
Augustus Waters. Or Silas Hart. Unfortunately, they are both fictional. And seventeen.

What is your favorite food?
Chocolate. Cheese.

Why did you start this blog?
I started my blog originally as a platform for my writing career. That, and to help lead people with OCD to freedom.

What do you like to do when not writing?
Spend time with friends, read, shop online (the online part is very important– I rather dislike shopping in stores!), play with my favorite kiddos, and learn (I love poking around on Quora and Wikipedia. I also subscribe to Today I Found Out and A Word a Day. I also read reference books. Really. And I will get excited about an idea and check out about 20+ library books about it and read up.).

Do you want to be a full time writer someday, without a day job?
I’d love for writing to one day be my day job!

What are some movies that you like or hate (especially book adaptations)?
I love the Harry Potter movies. I love the latest rendition of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and am excited for The Silver Chair to come out (not till 2017). I really liked the adaptations for The Book Thief, Divergent, and The Fault in Our Stars. I cannot wait for the Jellicoe Road movie to come out!

Do you have kids?
I do not. But I have kids in my life who own my heart. My friend Tracy’s four little kiddos are the ones I’m always referring to on my blog. This fall I will add two new little girls to that queue, as two of my other best friends are having their first babies!

When did you accept Jesus into your heart?
When I was 14 years old, in 1996. I finally was set free from the bondage of OCD in 2008 and have truly delighted in my Christianity since then.

These are great questions. If you have others, never hesitate to ask!

Jonah Griggs’ favourite Footy team has made the Grand Finals

YES to anything Jonah Griggs.

Melina Marchetta

In honour of South Sydney making the NRL finals for the first time since 1971 (I shouted myself hoarse on Friday night at a pub in Jonah Griggs’ territory) I thought I’d share mention of them in my work.

They are a true working class underdog’s footy team. My friends, Ben and Patrick who came along on the Jellioce research road trip back in 2005 are so fanatical that we’re not allowed to reference the colours as merely red and green, but cardinal red and myrtle green.



On the Jellicoe Road (the novel) Taylor’s discussing one of the few times Jonah Griggs is out of Cadet uniform.

He’s wearing boxer shorts and a long-sleeved South Sydney football T-Shirt)


(On the Jellicoe Road the filmscript – Cadet laundry day

Unless you can identify his bloody underwear, we haven’t got a hope of knowing where his tent is.


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the writer of faith

As a Christian writer, this blog post fascinated me. It is something I worry about: how will the faith community react to the “savagery” in my writing? But, in the end (and beginning and middle), it is between me and God.

Also, I too recommend Mystery & Manners!

Write at Your Own Risk

Some time ago a friend who is of my faith said to me, without any sort of prompting, “I’m sorry, but I can’t allow your books in my home.” She did not elaborate. We both knew what she was talking about.

Some of my students who love their religion have asked me how I, as a writer, cope with the expectations of people in a faith community. These young writers have no desire to rebel, and yet in an effort to portray the truth, sometimes fiction offends.

When I am writing, it is between me and God. I don’t allow anything, not my parents or my religious leaders or my children or my neighbor whom I am obligated to love, to interfere with what happens when I am putting pen to paper. I find that every book I write demands that I wander in the wilderness for a time. I’ve…

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Dear Diary: September 2014

dd sept 14September was a wild ride. A roller coaster, if you will.

Truest is almost done. I sent a final-ish draft to my editor at the beginning of the month, received line edits back just this last Friday, and will make small revisions and turn it in yet this week. It gets better and better with every draft. I can’t believe that after this, there will only be copyediting to do!  I’ve gotten to see some mock-ups of possible book covers, and I’m really excited about them. The release date hasn’t been set yet (or at least I don’t know it), but it will likely be around this time next year. I can’t wait!  A whole year!  I hope it goes by fast, but I also hope that I can take lots of time to enjoy it.

I met Peter S. Beagle, the author of one of my favorite books. It was a hilarious night. Full post coming later this week!

I hosted a baby shower … and also attended a baby funeral. The first delighted my heart; the second absolutely broke it. I’ll admit my faith was quite shaken, and God and I had to have a lot of talks in the past couple weeks as he sorted my thoughts and theology out.

I listened to a review panel debate the merits of my grant proposal. They basically hated me. I’m not counting on that grant money at all.  Oh well. I’ll try again next summer!  (I can be quite relentless sometimes.)

I got the best email I’ve ever gotten, maybe in my whole life. My editor said (among other wonderful things):

I don’t know why it took me so long to finish this version. But I just did and all I can say is WOW. I just think it’s the kind of book that will change kids and adults, too–forever.

A whirlwind month. How was yours?

Jackie, the Child Writer


Some of my stories from growing up:

In third grade, I invented the Pononia family and spent time exploring the romance between Billy Pononia and his girlfriend Kate. When they left for college (a concept I could hardly fathom), they didn’t know how to find one another (because obviously a dating couple wouldn’t share where they were each going, right?) and Billy had to search long and hard for Kate, who had given up on him and was starting to love another man. But when Billy tracked her down (on her college campus!), he fought that man (of course!) and ended up marrying Kate. That’s romance right there, people.

Around sixth grade, my sister Kristin, neighbor Amber, and I started the Story Society, which was to meet weekly in our awesome clubhouse (a room in our motorcycle shed that I’d cleaned out and whose walls I adorned with a freehand painting of a castle with just one light on in one of the turrets). We were supposed to write one story each week, read them aloud to one another, and then offer feedback. My first story was about a jealous best friend taking archery lessons who ended up shooting her best friend’s boyfriend– but her best friend jumped in front of the boyfriend, and the arrow pierced both their hearts.  Tragic. Then the Story Society disbanded.

In junior high, I authored a soap opera. I’d write “episodes” in a green notebook labelled “Sunnyside High,” which my friends passed amongst themselves before it would end up back in my hands. Then I’d write a few more episodes for everyone. This soap opera was full-on drama: a teen pregnancy, a long-lost twin, a rebel who’d gotten AIDS from a tainted blood transfusion after his motorcycle accident. Sheer gold.

I also wrote a story about two best friends competing for just one spot on the track team. (Note to self: maybe stay away from writing sports stories, mmmkay?) I also penned a stunning mystery where a girl kept seeing her dead boyfriend. Hot.

Then there was my novella about a teen cheerleader who developed emphysema. Let me tell you; this was intense. I finished the story around 2 am in the dark in our family room, only the light from the computer screen to illuminate the tears that flowed down my cheeks.

In high school I turned my attention to bad, melodramatic free verse poetry, but that’s a whole other post. I’ll spare you for now. 🙂

If you’re a writer, do you remember some of your earliest creations? Were they dramatic and over-the-top like mine?

OCD Intervention

interventionSomeone asked me, “How do you talk to someone about OCD if you think they may be dealing with it?”

That’s a great question. A tricky one too.

I’m not even sure I know the answer besides carefully, gently, and with compassion.

I thought I’d pose it to you, my blog readers: does anyone have any advice for how to stage an OCD intervention?

Lots of posts about OCD and ERP at

Image credit: emdot

Truest: An Editing Timeline

A lot a lot a LOT of work goes into writing a novel. Here’s what went into the writing of Truest, my debut novel. Please note that when I say “editing” or “revising,” I am not referring to correcting grammar and typos but rather things like adding storylines, beefing up characters, changing the structure of the novel, writing new scenes, etc.

Broken pencil fragments on yellow paper
January-June 2012:
first draft
June-December 2012: self-edits, assisted by my local writing group
December 2012: hired a local editor to do developmental edits
January-March 2013: frantic revisions/re-structuring* based on editor’s feedback
March 2013: attended Big Sur Writing Workshop for additional editing help
March-April 2013: more editing based on Big Sur feedback
April 2013: hired local editor again for line edits
April-July 2013: line editing
July 2013: signed with a literary agent and made major (and difficult) revisions based on my agent’s feedback
November 2013: literary agent sold my book to Harper
February-September 2014: re-structuring* and MAJOR, MAJOR revisions based on my editor’s feedback

After this will come copyediting. 🙂

And, let me tell you, it was all worth it. I love the characters and the story and the plot so much more than I could have ever imagined back when the idea first was born.

*The original draft had a chronological timeline. The local editor suggested I change it to a back-and-forth past-and-present timeline; I had six weeks to completely re-structure it before Big Sur. Then, later, my HarperCollins editor asked me to change it back to chronological order. She also gave me six weeks for the re-structuring.

There’s pre-ordering … and then there’s PRE-ORDERING.

processingOne of my therapists once talked to me about healthy ways to reward myself.

“For example,” she said, “maybe if you meet such-and-such goal, you can buy yourself a book. Don’t you think that would be a great option?”

I didn’t know how to tell her that would never work for me because I buy every single book I want.

Buying books is one area where I never hold back. I have so many books delivered to Northwestern that the loading dock workers know me as “the Barnes & Noble girl.”

To the right is a list of some of my most recent purchases. Wherever it says “Processing,” that indicates a pre-order. I pre-order books as soon as I’m able– sometimes months and months and months in advance.

And in the case of Melina Marchetta books, I’ve taken to purchasing Australian copies because I’m too impatient to wait the extra six months for the books to come out in the US.

Am I obsessed? Yes. And not a bit ashamed!

What’s your biggest indulgence?

Related posts:
Spotlight on Melina Marchetta
Books & Happiness [or Books ARE Happiness]
My Bookish Bad Habit
Things That Make Life Easier for Readers

The [Beautiful] Paradox of ERP

paradox of ERP2Exposure and response prevention therapy. ERP.

The hardest thing I have ever chosen to do in my life.

And one of the best.

But that’s not actually the paradox I’m talking about. The paradox of ERP that fascinates me most centers around uncertainty.

The whole point of ERP therapy is to teach someone to learn to live with, accept, even embrace uncertainty. ERP actually re-wires the brain to help the OCD sufferer with this. Before I went through ERP, I wanted to know everything with 100% certainty. Anything less would cause intense havoc in my mind, heart, and body. Because of this intense desire to know everything with certainty, I so often felt gobsmacked by uncertainty. I lived as if, without total certainty, I could barely know anything. Doubt pummeled me like a linebacker. My life was ravaged by uncertainty.

But once I went through ERP therapy and learned to accept uncertainty, the bizarre thing is that my confidence returned. I suddenly felt surety and certainty again– after I realized I didn’t need it.

When I demanded 100% certainty, what I ended up with was often something in the 25-40% range. Or lower.

When I abandoned the need for 100% certainty, I ended up in the 90-99% range. Sometimes less, but usually way, way up there.

That’s weird math. Backward logic. A paradox.

One I love.

99% sure,
Post-ERP Jackie

P.S. If the need to know for sure is ruining your life, you need ERP. Read more about it at

P.P.S. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, and I can’t help but be struck by the similarity of this to “Lose your life to gain it.”

Image credit: Nicu Buculei, modified by me