Dear Diary: December 2014

dd december 2014December is traditionally a hard month for me, especially right around the holidays. This one was pretty great … right up until Christmas. I got sick on the 23rd and ended up delaying my trip home for Christmas by a day. Then, at my parents’ house, I had an allergic reaction to their sweet puppy and woke up on Christmas Day with my right eye comically swollen. I spent Christmas in bed.

But let’s talk about the other parts of December!

I met up with some amazing fellow writers to discuss our novels, which was so fun and encouraging. We laughed a lot, and everyone left eager to write!

Speaking of, I wrote a LOT. I try to write 1000+ words a day, with the exception of Mondays. I feel creative and limber and excited and terrified– though sometimes the terror abates and I just get to revel in the art of creation. Mmm.

Hunger Mountain posted an Prizewinner Issue of their literary magazine online. You can read my story “Covered Up Our Names” on their siteIt’s about teenagers living and dying in hospice care, and I’m really proud of how it turned out. It was one of those stories that I sat down to write and just … wrote it. It was nearly all there in the first draft, which almost never happens for me.

I’m going to teach a class on the art of querying at the Loft’s Children’s and Young Adult Writing Conference this upcoming spring! I’m so excited and I’ll be sure to share more information when the event details go online.

How was your December? What are you looking forward to in January? Do you create new years resolutions, and if so, care to share?

OCD, Our Brains, and Us



by smokedsalmon by smokedsalmon

Why is it that the idea of “mental illness” is so much scarier to many people than any other illness? We talk freely about cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, yet whisper about Bipolar Disorder, schizophrenia, and OCD. Of course the media portrayal of these illnesses doesn’t help, but surely there must be more to it than that.

While the “physical illnesses” mentioned above are seen as diseases that happen to us, the “mental illnesses” are perceived as us. We get cancer, but we are obsessive-compulsive. Cancer is separate from us. OCD is us. Indeed, many people incorrectly believe that those with “mental illnesses” typically have no insight or understanding as to what is happening to them.

Why do we think this way? I believe it’s because “mental illnesses” are illnesses of the brain. And we are our brains, right?

Well, no. We are not our brains. Our…

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Reflections on 2014, Hopes for 2015


Oh you incredible, horrible, overwhelming, rewarding year.

I could sum it up as The Year of Revisions.

I’d never experienced such an intense, prolonged critique journey. It incited panic in me and pushed me back into therapy. But MY GOSH, PEOPLE, I am so proud of Truest. I’ve said before– and I’ll say it again now– that my editor at HarperCollins is a genius and she pushed me beyond my own talent into a whole new level. I am so, so grateful for her. Jill, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU. I’m so honored to have worked with you on Truest, and I feel so blessed to get to partner with you again for the next story.

2014 was also The Year of Asking for Help. Over the years, I’ve gotten better and better at acknowledging my own shortcomings and issues and needs and then reaching out for help. And not being ashamed to do it either.


The year I debut as a novelist!

I’m so excited– and nervous– to share my novel with everyone. Certain things are starting to occur to me, like WHOA, MY BOOK WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER and WHOA, MY BOOK WILL BE ON SHELVES and WHOA, MY BOOK WILL BE REVIEWED ON BLOGS. I about had a heart attack when I saw Truest appear on a list of books this blogger is looking forward to.

SO much to look forward to:

The big cover reveal! (I love it so much and cannot wait for you all to see it! Teaser: it has bright, beautiful blues and greens and a hand-painted title!)

A book release party!

Writing and revising my next book!

(Hopefully) hearing from kind people who enjoy Truest!

2013 was The Year of the Book Deal. 2015 will be The Year of the Book Release. 2014, as you can imagine, was a bridge. Or maybe a tunnel.

It’s so exciting to see the light.

tunnel end light


For the Next Time I Start Writing a New Novel

Rereading this one tonight.


Dear Jackie,

By the time you start writing your next novel, you will have forgotten a few things, and in those moments, I hope you’ll come back to this post and be reminded.

* Writing a novel is hard.  The beginning stages kind of suck.  You barely know your characters until you’ve written the whole first draft, and so for a couple months, you’re essentially writing blind.  You forget that.  In those difficult days of editing, you think longingly of the “carefree” days of freewriting, having forgotten that you felt completely lost and simultaneously terrified that you were wasting your time.

* This is just what it is like at the start of a new novel.  You feel lost and lonely, and every scene feels stilted and confused.  You haven’t yet figured out your character’s deep-seated desires, let alone their surface ones, and you certainly aren’t aware of their…

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Merry Christmas, Friends!

Things will be quiet here on the blog till after Christmas! I’ll be headed to my parents’ farm to spend time with them, my sister Kristin, my brother Kevin, and the new puppy Casey.


I know that Christmas is a hard time for a lot of people (including myself, usually). I will say a special prayer for you that God will hold you this holiday and that you’ll be filled with incarnation marvel and joy.

merry christmas3

Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman

unwind dystologyI’m an unlikely fan of Neal Shusterman’s Unwind dystology. I don’t normally go for the high-octane, super-intense, action-packed books.

But I love this series.

It’s set after the Heartland War, a war between the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice movements, and the compromise that they’ve arrived at is to ban abortion but to allow teenagers to be “unwound”: every organ used in donation. Since all body parts are still alive, this is not seen as killing the teenager; rather, they are “living in a divided state.”

Totally creepy, right?

I loved the characters in this series. There are three main ones, although every book adds more POVs, more well-drawn characters. Connor, the Akron AWOL, on the run from his own unwinding; Risa, a ward of the state being unwound due to budget cuts; and Lev, a “tithe” who has been raised his whole life to believe that his unwinding will be giving his life back to God.

Book one: awesome.  (Bonus: includes the most disturbing scene I’ve ever read in YA ever.)
Book two: even better. (Bonus: Miracolina.)
Book three: love this series. (Bonus: frenemies/rivals/awkward love triangle!)
Book four: everything at stake. (Bonus: all your beloved favorites make an appearance.)

This was a really thought-provoking series for me, and I’d love to talk it over with someone who has read it. What did you like? Did anything bother you about the ending? Who was your favorite character? Which scenes made you sick to your stomach? Was the premise hard for you to believe?

Obviously, if you haven’t read this series, avoid the comments section due to SPOILERS!

Random Facts about Me

unsplash7.21. The only countries I’ve been to outside of the US are the Dominican Republic and Canada. Both of those trips were in high school. I’d very much like to see others, but I don’t want to travel alone.

2. The nurse who helped deliver me as a baby was also the nurse who gave me my shots for college, and I kept thinking how she was probably thinking how much of a baby I still was. (I really hate needles.)

3. My favorite hardwood is cherry. There’s a lot of it in my apartment.

4. My college friend Yexy was an international student from Venezuela who called me by a nickname for most of college. When I finally asked what it meant, it was “Jackie from Hell.” Thanks, Yexy.

5. I like visual art a lot. You should check out Loui Jover.

6. I grew up on a tiny beef farm. Sorry to my vegetarian readers.

7. My car’s radio is most often tuned to the 90s station on satellite radio. Love me some Gin Blossoms.

8. In college, I wanted to create a commune and live with all my friends. These days, that sounds horrible.

9. I think I’m funnier in real life than I am in my writing.

10. My favorite sports teams are the Wimbledon Wimbly Womblies and the Swindontown Swoodilypoopers. DFTBA.

I Repeat: Mental Illness IS Physical Illness

brain disorderPhysical illness: an illness that affects the physical body and its organs.

Mental illness: an illness that affects the brain.

The brain: a physical organ.

Therefore …


This has been a Jackie Lea Sommers Uses Logic PSA.

Image credit: Dierk Schaefer