Blogging in 2015

I can’t thank you all enough for caring about me and about my blog!  I love blogging, and I love interacting with blog readers, and I want this to be a safe space for dialogue and discussion.

Twice a year, I ask for your input to help make my blog a better experience for you all!  It’s that time again!

If you would be willing to take this short survey (five open-ended questions and you can skip any you don’t want to answer!), I’d be so grateful to you.

As an incentive, I’ll be giving away a free book to one survey-taker!  The survey itself is anonymous, so if you want to be considered for the drawing, leave a comment on the post that you took the survey. Thanks!

Click here to take the survey!

Dear Diary: November 2014

DD nov 2014I can’t decide if November 2014 was the slowest or fastest month of my life. What I do know is that it was an important one: I finally reached a breaking point and made a really, really huge decision … which I’ll tell you about on the blog in the next couple of days. Stay tuned. (I know, I know: so mysterious!)

I celebrated my friend Ashley’s birthday AND the birth of Ashley’s sweet baby girl.

I went to a musical, an art show, and a party celebrating The Scorpio Races (I know you’re jealous). 

I spoke for Northwestern’s chapel about OCD. The students were a perfect, receptive, empathetic, fun audience.

I celebrated the one-year anniversary of my book deal

I spent a week writing in Duluth. Yes, that same beautiful condotel that I always go to. So perfect. (Did you know I started my second draft of Truest there, as well as my second-to-last and last drafts? Now it was time to spend time with new characters in that lovely place.)

How was November for you? Please visit my blog again over the next few days to learn what huge decision November pushed me into!



When the Book Deal is Only Step ONE

I was offered my two-book deal with HarperCollins in November 2013. The first book will be released September 2015.

Everyone keeps asking me, Why does it take so long?

So, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what’s been happening since my book deal.

Tired AuthorFirst of all, it took months for my agent and my publisher to iron out all the details of the deal. I didn’t sign the actual contract until February 2014. That was also when my editor and I started working on revisions. I did significant developmental revisions till the beginning of September. Then, in a quick turnaround right before October, I did line edits (24 hours of work crammed into just 48 hours!).

Next, the manuscript spends 4-6 weeks with copyediting, where it is looked over for mistakes, inconsistencies, typos, formatting. We’re fixing all that now, then there will be advance reader editions created– and galleys.  Plus, the book jacket will be finalized. (So exciting! I’ve seen it, and it’s breathtaking!)

I just recently had to fill out a ginormous questionnaire for my publisher too– an 8-part massive survey that will help the marketing, sales, and publicity folks come up with a plan to roll out the book in the best way possible.

I’ll keep you posted as I go through it, but I think what has surprised me the most was just how much editing came after the book deal. The core of my story is still very much there, but almost nothing was left untouched. It makes you wonder a little, doesn’t it: I feel like Truest was purchased based off of its potential, not precisely based off of what was actually there.  If that makes sense.

It’s an honor.

Also, a ton of work.

As I’ve said before, I thought getting the book deal was the hard part. I learned very quickly that the post-deal developmental revisions were much harder. My manuscript was refined by fire.

But what was left is pretty golden.

Nine more months!!!

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!



The Bible & Creativity

The Bible starts with creativity: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth” (emphasis mine).

God is referred to as a potter (Isaiah 64:8), a weaver (Psalm 139), an author (Acts 3:15; Hebrews 12:2), and a singer (Zephaniah 3:17*).

In the Old Testament, God carefully describes his plans for the tabernacle, and it involves art. In fact, one chief artisan is even called out by name for his incredible work: “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur,of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts” (Exodus 31).

Then, of course, there’s Christ and his many parables.

Not to mention the extensive space given to the Psalms, beautiful poetry/lyrics that were often set to music.

Or that the Bible itself is a written work of art.

God is lauded as the Creator, and then we are told we are created in his image.

Christianity and creativity have held hands ever since the world began– actually, even before that.


*Some people believe where this verse says God will “rejoice over you with singing” that rejoice over you means he dances.

Image credit: Anders Sandberg

Is what I fear possible?

uncertaintyAhhh, that’s the big question for those of us who suffer from OCD!

If you ask your friends, they will probably try to reassure you and say no.  This feels good. For ten minutes. Then you want to ask someone again.

If you really want to heal from your OCD, you have to start answering that question with a yes.  Through ERP, my refrain became, “It’s possible but not likely.”

I know you think uncertainty is your enemy. It’s not.

It’s actually your liberator.

For (lots!) more about the ERP therapy that teaches you to accept uncertainty, check out

Image credit: Russ Allison Loar

More Questions from Blog Readers

questions from blog readersHave you ever doubted your ability as a writer?
Yes. Usually daily.

Would you ever consider writing a biography or non-fiction book?
Never say never, but for right now, I’m only interested in writing fiction. I am in love with the power and freedom of it.

How did you begin your journey to writing?
First by telling stories verbally and through pictures as a child– and then eventually using words once that trusty alphabet entered my life. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love stories. I wrote through childhood and my teen years, then studied creative writing in college. After undergrad, I spent three years reading book after book to cultivate myself for future writing, and then I jumped.

When does your book come out?
September 1, 2015!  Add Truest on Goodreads! By the way, I cannot wait to show you guys the cover.  Stay tuned: the big reveal will likely be in February.

How do you have such an active writing life without drinking coffee?
Ha! Good question. I just have never been a coffee drinker. I actually don’t drink anything with caffeine in it. Creativity energizes me. (Though, let’s be honest, it can exhaust too!)

Is writing fiction something that should be left to “writers,” or are people from other walks of life wise to try?
All writers were “people from other walks of life” until they started writing.

Have you ever had paranoia or hallucinations in addition to your OCD?
Not hallucinations, but yes, paranoia. And it was ugly, ugly, ugly. I was trapped inside distrust, fears, and hellish lies. The paranoia is what finally prompted me to seek help– shortly thereafter, I was diagnosed with OCD. The paranoia inspired Truest.

Do you think the Bible is literally true, and do you think someone needs to believe that to be a Christian?
I think most of the Bible is literally true, though I think that some parts of the Bible are stories and poems with truth in them. I think that someone needs to believe the gospel (the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ) is literally true in order to be a Christian.

How do I protect people in my life if I’m writing a memoir?
Change names and details. Wait till people die. Or take Anne Lamott’s advice: “You own everything that happend to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

What makes you an Evangelical?
Well, Evangelicalism is “a world-wide Protestant movement maintaining that the essence of the gospel consists in the doctrine of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ‘s atonement.” I fall decidedly into that category. Evangelicals generally believe in the concept of being “born again,” the authority of the Bible, the critical importance of Christ’s death and resurrection, and about sharing this good news with others. That’s me all over, though I will stipulate that my “sharing the good news” might look different than others’ evangelism. Some people go door to door or give our tracts on street corners. I chose to write a book that expresses my worldview.

What else would you like to know?

3 Tips for Being Intentional with Setting & Description

3d interior render of empty white room with big windowAs I’ve said before, I’m not naturally good at description in my writing. It’s an area of weakness of mine, but since I’ve identified it as such, I can make intentional efforts to supercede that weakness.

1. I try to choose a location– or a location within a location– that lends itself to sensory detail. Instead of setting the scene in a regular old room, why not on the roof? Or in a church belltower? An abandoned greenhouse? A former-insane-asylum-turned-boarding-school? (My friends were creeped out by that one and steered me away from it. Ha!)

Figure one. I really believe this place is going to find its way into one of my stories one day.


2. I use photos, lots of photos, for reference. The internet is my friend: Pinterest, Tumblr, Google Images, We Heart It. I actually think people would be shocked to learn how much time I spend looking for images– but the pictures help me find the words.

Figure two. I’d have a hard time describing such a scene as below without the image.


3. I write the senses at the top of a document and go scene by scene, asking what the characters could see, hear, taste, smell, or touch in that particular scene. This sensory document for Truest ended up to be fourteen pages. Then, back through the manuscript to graft the details in so that readers don’t see the seams.

Figure three. The red means that I ended up using the detail.


Your turn, writers: what are your best tools for setting and description? Does it come naturally to you, or do you have to “fight for it” the way I do?

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt


by kittisak by kittisak

Well, I had an interesting week. I was impaneled on a jury for a criminal case, and was also selected as the forewoman for that jury. (Before you get too impressed, I was chosen at random).

Each of us on the jury listened intently, not only to all of the evidence presented in the case, but also to the words of the judge, who continually stressed to us that in order to arrive at a guilty verdict, we had to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did  indeed commit the crime for which he was accused. The judge went on to say that while most people know what beyond a reasonable doubt means, it is a difficult concept to actually explain.

Not surprisingly, my thoughts turned to obsessive-compulsive disorder. As we know, doubt is what fuels the fire of OCD, so much so that…

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Talk Therapy vs. ERP Therapy

Therapy through Magnifying Glass on Old Paper.Sometimes I give talk therapy a rough time on this blog– but, please know that I am not against talk therapy (I see a talk therapist weekly for panic and adjustment disorder). I am merely against talk therapy for OCD.

I spent about four years meeting with talk therapists about my OCD. Once a week, I’d sit down, talk about my fears and confess my struggles– and my therapist would reassure me.  In other words, it was a one-hour compulsion fest.

Not good.

Every single OCD expert will tell you to skip talk therapy and do exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy.

Look, I get it: talk therapy is easier. In fact, in comparison to exposure therapy, it’s a walk in the park and ERP is a walk in hell.

But it’s not effective for treating OCD.

Talk therapy, which is lovely and helpful and beneficial for so many other disorders, naturally enables many OCD compulsions.

Four years in talk therapy didn’t make a dent in my OCD. Twelve weeks in ERP therapy mastered my OCD.

It’s just about know what treatments are effective. Band-aids go on scrapes, insulin is used for diabetes, chemotherapy for cancer, ERP for OCD.

I do love my talk therapist, but I don’t ever let us venture into the realm of treating OCD. Yes, we draw parallels– all the time, actually!– but I know that if my OCD flares up, I will turn to an exposure, not to a compulsion.

Have questions about ERP therapy vs. traditional talk therapy?  Let’s chat!

The Darkest Days

artwork  in retro style,  woman and cup of teaThere is a little Caribou Coffee in Long Lake, Minnesota, where I sat one morning since I’d arrived too early to my visit to Orono High School. I stared at my steaming hot cocoa and repeated to myself: You are going to hell. 

Swallow that down, I told myself. You are going to hell, and there is nothing you can do to change it. This realization is your eternal reality.

In the car, I’d been listening to “Spirit” by Switchfoot on repeat: I’ve found all that I want, all that I long for, in You.

It was true then. It’s true now. But in those days, it was a truth that I imagined fell on deaf ears. Spirit, come be my joy.  It was the cry of my heart, but I knew I was damned and that joy would be forever inaccessible to me.

I can’t detail exactly how creepy it is become a cardboard person.

To ride the rollercoaster to the deepest depths and then to climb off there.

A reader asked me if I’d ever felt like God wasn’t with me through the storms of my life.  Have I felt that way? Yes, intensely.

But I was wrong.

Praise God I was wrong.

All these years later, God has stormed in, torn off my blindfold, wrapped me in his arms, and repeated truth to me till I came to believe it.

Do I still have moments where I doubt? Yes.

But my anchor holds.

I wrote this to remind myself of the truth– the truth that no disorder or devil can withhold from me because my God is stronger:

anchor manifesto