Dear Diary: January 2015

dd jan 2015 2Today is my spiritual birthday! Nineteen years ago, I made the best decision of my life and signed everything over to Jesus. It’s been a wild journey with him ever since!

This month has been packed to the gills. I celebrated the new year with my best friend Eir, I watched Truest start cropping up for pre-order on online bookstores all over, I turned 33 and didn’t have a third-of-a-century crisis in any way.

I spent close to a week up in Duluth on a writing retreat, where I hammered out 10k words in three days. I’m absolutely thrilled about my work in progress! The characters are gripping my heart, making me laugh, making me cry. And the best thing is that I’ve been absolutely LOVING the writing process lately. 2014 was a bit harrowing, and– truth be told– there were many stretches where I didn’t feel like I was enjoying writing anymore. Over and over, I’d ask myself, “Is this still what you want?” Sometimes I’d have to really think about it, but my answer always was yes. And now: to enjoy it again? Delicious. Hard, hard work. But good work.

Some exciting things are coming up for me! I’ll be reviewing my galleys soon, making last-minute changes and corrections to the manuscript, and the cover will be revealed next month! I’ve been so eager to show the world– I hope you’ll all love it as much as I do!

Poetry 2015 Review: Polar by Dobby Gibson

I’m reading one book of poetry each month this year!

For January, I read Polar by Dobby Gibson. For February, I’ll be reading Stupid Hope by Jason Shinder. You should read it too. For a list of all poetry books I’m reading this year, click here.

polarDobby Gibson is a local poet. I’ve seen him around Minneapolis, tweeted with him a little. He used to be my friend Alison’s boss! I’ve read two of Dobby’s other books (reviews here and here), and I loved them both.

I think Polar is his first book, and I found it less accessible than his later two. That said, I still very much enjoyed it. To me, this collection felt like a blender of Billy Collins and Annie Dillard, whose poetry is nothing like the other. Dobby was a comfortable middle ground between the deeply accessible and the brilliantly obscure.

“Two hands for undressing, / one mouth for lies, / a moment for every question / we save only for ourselves.” Love this.

Or how about this? “It’s luncheon-meat cold, and even winter rain / isn’t anything new, but it hurls itself / at us like a smashed chandelier.” Yes.

One of the biggest things that stood out to me was his vocabulary, which is clearly massive. For Gibson, it’s like an arsenal that has every weapon available, and he need only choose the best one for the situation.

He does. Over and over again.

Did you read Polar this month too? What did you think? Feel free to leave a comment. If you blogged about it, include a link!

I hope you’ll track down a copy of Stupid Hope for next month!


Truest Behind the Scenes

Writers are weird. At least, this one is.

* I know my characters’ middle names, though they are not mentioned in the book.
* I have a couple important scenes written from multiple POVs.
* I could send you links to a couple of their very real outfit choices.
* I have already casted the movie version of Truest. Which is not a real thing.

And though John Green would emphatically disagree with me …

* I have a decent idea of what happens to the characters after the story ends.

But …

* There is one Big Question in the book that I don’t know the answer to.


Image credit: Justin Henry


I love that “twenty.”

I got my galley pages today; that is, Truest is starting to look like an actual book.

I need to read through these, make any last-minute changes, and then we’ll make my ARCs (advance review copies)! I’m still tracking down permissions for a few of the song lyrics and poetry in the story. Let me tell you, that part is not fun. With my current work in progress, I’m trying to stick mostly to stuff in the public domain.

Anyway, I know a lot of you say that you want to hear all the details on the publication journey– even the little ones– so I thought I’d better share this exciting step with you all!


galley pages2galley pages3


Faith & Truest

成功への鍵I wrote Truest with God.

That might sound crazy, but it’s true. From beginning to end, this book was a collaborative project. I conferred and brainstormed with God on a continual basis. Any time I got stuck, I would retreat to my prayer journal and talk it over with God. It was typically during these conversations that the Spirit would give me his best ideas. I was more than happy to take them.

I understand that for those of you who aren’t theists this sounds preposterous. You’re welcome to believe that those brainstorming sessions were actually between me, myself, and I, but I know my limitations. I was not alone.

One of the cool things about Truest is that it’s a story for everyone. People who aren’t religious can enjoy the story at one level, and people who are will enjoy it at a different one. How to make that happen was itself a revelation.

It was a Monday evening. I had plans later that night in Hudson, Wisconsin, about forty-five minutes from my home, and I was lying down in bed, thinking over how in the world to make Truest the story I needed to tell while at the same time the story my agent believed could sell. As I lay there, a word came to my mind: parables. The word burrowed in.

I read and re-read what Christ said about his parables: that they were the way they were so that people who were seeking the deeper meaning would find it and people who weren’t would not. I prayed about it a lot and sat down to re-frame some of my most important scenes.

While I, of course, hope that many people will read between the lines of my story, I know that many will not– and I believe that that is okay. The book is written (or rather, was re-written) so that anyone at any level should be able to jump in and participate.

I cannot wait for you to read it. September 1, folks. Get pumped. I am.

OCD Research: Call for Participants

Do you suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Do you own an iPhone, iPad, or an iPod touch?

Do you want to try a mobile app self-help treatment for OCD?


If so, you may have the opportunity to participate in an online study being conducted by researchers at Brown University/Alpert Medical School evaluating a mobile app for OCD. Each participant will receive free access to the mobile app and be asked to complete four online surveys over 12 weeks. For further information and study participation, please contact Jessica Lawton at401-455-6541 or via email at  If you have questions regarding participation, you may also call Dr.  Maria Mancebo at 401-455-6216or via email at

OCD & Truest

Cup of coffee and book pages- black and whiteTruest is deeply influenced by my experiences with OCD, especially the detachment and paranoia that first spurred me on to get a diagnosis. While Truest isn’t a book about OCD, there are strong themes about uncertainty and the nature of reality.

“Is it always this way?” I asked.

“What way?” Gordon asked back.

“Does life always have more questions than answers?”

“Oh, yes,” he said. “At least that’s my experience. And actually, the older I get, the more questions I have.”

“It seems so backward,” I said.

Gordon laughed a little and then said, “Does it really surprise you, Westie? Faith and uncertainty are accomplices.”

Truest is full of lessons I’ve learned from a life lived with OCD, in bondage and in freedom. I’m getting ridiculously eager to share it with you.

Click here to learn more!

My Blogging Well is Dry

Well in the gardenwant to blog. I feel like I have a lot to say. But when I think about sitting down and working it all out, I can’t think of what in the world I would write about.

I don’t want to take a break. I’m afraid of taking a break. If I took a break, I’m afraid it would turn into a Very Long Break.

I’ve been a consistent blogger for years now. In fact, in 2013, I blogged every day (424 posts!). Last year, I dipped down to three times a week, and that felt good. Sometimes it seemed unmanageable, but then I’d tell myself, “You stayed consistent through the hardest months of major, major revisions. If you could do it then, you can do it now.” Then I would.

But what is there to say? Okay, I know that’s a silly question. I’m an author. I have a million things to say– except now I’m saying them in books. There are other things I want to talk about on my blog, yes, but it seems like I’ve already talked about all of them. Even when I ask people what they’d like me to write about, they give suggestions, and I think, “I’ve written about exactly that before!” I wonder if all bloggers end up feeling redundant, or if it’s just me.

So, I’m in a slump. I don’t feel depressed in other areas of my life, but I feel really sluggish when it comes to my blog.

And this is a time when I absolutely don’t want to be a sluggish blogger … with a book on the horizon!

That said, you may or may not be hearing a little less from me these days. I’m going to put some thought into the blog and see what I come up with. I definitely want to keep doing my 2015 poetry campaign. I want to talk about all things related to Truest. I want to chat about writing and creativity. I don’t want to talk about OCD these days (just being honest!)– plus my work in progress is about OCD, so that’s a little overwhelming itself at times. I want to talk about books I’m reading. I want to update you all on my life.

Thanks for letting me share my heart and thoughts here. I’ll let you know what I come up with!

Random Facts about Me

unsplash7.21. I love online shopping. Probably too much.

2. I’m an editor for Crux Literary Journal.

3. I’m scared of nuclear war but still toy around with this nuke map.

4. I love Toad & the Wet Sprocket.

5. I used to have nightmares about the rapture. Now my nightmares involve claustrophobia.

6. The most challenging class I took in college was called Writing Theory & Ethics. It was fascinating, but most of the time I was in over my head. For my big paper, I argued that Kenneth Burke’s theory of the negative was incompatible with a Christian worldview. Again, in over my head. But it was one of my favorite papers I wrote in college and the one that made me proudest.

7. I like the experience of reading fiction and creative non-fiction … but with regular old non-fiction, I just want to learn. I wish I could upload the content directly into my brain.

8. I don’t watch scary movies after Minority Report made me afraid for something like three weeks. (I thought there would be pre-cogs in my car.)

9. I sponsor three children in the Philippines: Antonio June since August 2005, Jona since January 2007, and Bea since November 2008. I adore these kiddos and deeply believe in the mission of Compassion International.


10. I’ve had a lot of roommates over the years. At least 25.