Dear Diary: September 2015 (Five Truths About My Novel’s Debut Month)

dear diary sept 2015

  1. It was a watershed month. I crossed that invisible line from “writer” to “published author.” It was a turning point in my life, and I’ll always remember September 1st, 2015, when my dreams became reality.
  2. It was amazing. Everyone was so happy for me. I got to celebrate with nearly 200 people, most of whom have walked this incredible journey with me and love me dearly. I cannot explain to you the way it felt to go into three bookstores that day and to see my book on shelves at every one. Especially that very first time. Cindy and I were searching for it and couldn’t find it; then from a row over, I heard Cindy say, “It’s here.” And there it was. A published book that I wrote. Characters that I had breathed into life. Even the booksellers at all the bookstores were so excited for me, had me sign copies, displayed them proudly.
  3. It was scary and hard. It was a supernova of action … and then the silence of space. It’s hard to go from having EVERYONE talking about your book to basically radio silence. It’s this tremendous build up and an explosion of interest and then, relatively, nothing. It’s terrifying. You start to wonder, “Did I spend four years of my life on something that people cared about for fewer than three weeks?” You start to compare yourself to the other novels that debuted the same day (one of which rocketed up to #1 on the NYT Bestseller List almost immediately). You start to cry.
  4. It was a month where kind words at the right moment made all the difference. In the midst of fear and negative reviews and dead air, people spoke up at the exact right moments and each one was like a miniature rescue. A sweet comment, an enthusiastic review, an excited tweet … these mattered this month when I was teetering on the edge of hopelessness. Please never underestimate how much your kind words mean to the authors who write the books you enjoy. It’s like an instant battery-recharge. It’s the strength to continue. It’s, as I said, a miniature rescue mission. Tell artists when you love their art.
  5. It was step one. Sometimes I, in my ultra-dramatic ways, felt like, with the debut day come and gone, that it was all over. But I’m wrong: everything has just begun.

Book Review: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

everything everythingMadeline is allergic to everything. In fact, she hasn’t left her home since she was about four months old. She spends her days with Carla, her nurse, and her evenings with her mother, who is a doctor. Everything in her life is sterilized and according to a strict routine. She’s not unhappy– this is just the hand she’s been dealt, and she has a good attitude about things.

Then Olly moves in next door, and suddenly Madeline wants more.

Olly is adorable. So is Maddy. Their IM conversations are hilarious and flirty and fun. I just love them!

Initially, I didn’t want to read this book because– looking at the book description– I thought, “There’s no way this can end well.” Then I read a review that essentially said, “Just trust me. Read it. It will be okay.” So I did.

And I’m so glad I did.

I really loved the characters in this one (obviously), though I was a little put-off by Maddy’s selfishness in some situations– but I gave her grace because she’d been unselfish for her whole life, ya know? Early on, I guessed the twist. Then, stuff happens and I thought, “Oh, I guess I was wrong.” But I was right in the end.

All in all, this was a great, happy, interesting, sad (at times) novel that I really enjoyed reading! If you’re nervous about the ending, don’t be. Just read it.

I’ll be interested to chat in more depth in the comment section with anyone who has read it! (So AVOID THE COMMENT SECTION if you don’t want SPOILERS!)

Confession Time

Okay, friends. Confession time: I need your help. I’m floundering in a lot of different areas. I’m not too proud to say so, and I’m not too proud to ask for your help. Please take THIRTY SECONDS and read through my list of needs and sign up if you think you can be a resource for me. I deeply value this brilliant community.

Book Review: The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick

boy most likelyThis. book. was. great.

First of all, it’s the sequel to My Life Next Door, but it also works as a standalone novel– in fact, I had read Next Door so long ago but Boy Most Likely To got me all caught up!

It’s about Tim Mason, who is a MESS: he’s a recovering alcoholic at age seventeen, and his distant father has just kicked him out. He has a few months to get his act together or he’ll lose his college fund. So he moves into the garage apartment at his best friend Jace’s house. It doesn’t hurt that he’s crazy attracted to Jace’s older sister Alice, who is trying to keep the family afloat while their dad is in the hospital.

I thought the “recovering alcoholic” thing was going to be the big hurdle of the book, but I was SO WRONG. Crap hits the fan in a major way– and there’s nothing in the book description to prepare you for it! But WOW, it was so amazing. I didn’t know how Fitzpatrick was going to be able to resolve it all. BUT SHE DID– in a very satisfying way!

The characters. Oh my gosh, the characters. I LOVE TIM MASON. This guy is a WRECK, but he’s freaking hilarious and brutally honest and really cute with … the spoiler. 🙂

Just read this book. You won’t regret it.

Here is a quote to whet your appetite:

“Tim, I’d chew you up and spit you out.” She slants forward, yanks the straps of her bikini behind her neck, ties them, and settles back. God. I almost can’t breathe.
But I can talk.
I can always talk.
“We could progress to that, Alice. But maybe we start with some gentle nibbling?”
Alice shuts her eyes, opens them again, and gives me an indecipherable look.
“Why don’t I scare you?” she asks.
“You do. You’re scary as hell,” I assure her. “But that works for me. Completely.”

Upcoming Events

Saturday, October 3, 10-11 am: reading and book signing at Kimball Library

Saturday-Sunday, October 10-11: Young Adult Literature Conference in Chicago


Tuesday, October 13, 7-8:30 pm: OCD Awareness Week event with OCD Twin Cities
Ask the Experts: Gail Bernstein, Matt Kushner, and Chris Donahue with special guest Jackie Lea Sommers
Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, 451 Lexington Parkway North, Saint Paul, MN 5510

Saturday, October 24, 1-3 pm (open house): book signing at Maple Grove Barnes & Noble

A Little Rest

This week was crazy.

Tuesday night I had a recruitment event and got to spend time with some lovely young writers and future English majors. It’s fun to get to chat with people who remind me so much of myself at their age! Then we all heard Karen Swallow Prior speak about how important it is for people of faith to read, and not only that, but to read great literature, even if it includes content that may be contrary to our faith. She talked about the Areopagitica, a speech given by John Milton, in which he says that truth is truth, wherever we find it. That’s a paraphrase of a paraphrase, but it was just what I needed to hear this week.

On Wednesday, I had writing group. It’s always so good to get together with these lovely, talented women. They are so smart, and their fiction is so sharp. I’m so blessed to benefit from their brilliance.

Yesterday, I taught a biblical counseling class at Northwestern– I spoke about OCD and brain disorders, better defining what OCD is, debunking myths, and talking about treatment. It was really great; the students were wonderful and responsive, and they asked very thoughtful questions. Then, last night, I spoke to the Emerging Artists Collective about faith and writing and their intersections in my life. It was a great crowd, and again: great questions. I read them a pre-parable draft of a scene in Truest as well as the parable-ized version. I think everyone agreed it moved in the right direction.

So, then, of course, today I was sick. I spent basically the entire day in bed, finally crawling out around seven PM or so. Now I have Deathly Hallows pt 1 on while I work on my blog and eat pizza. Self care. Love.

I hope you’ve all had a great week. I did. It was just a lot!

I Miss Blogging + Blogging Survey + Truest Giveaway

I miss blogging. I miss engaging daily (or, okay, three times a week) through fresh content. I miss my blogging friends. I miss getting a slew of comments. I really miss the excitement of generating fast, new content and putting it out there, especially when I’m doing so much writing behind the scenes that no one is seeing, you know?

That said, I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with my website. Will you help with my direction by taking a brief survey? All the questions are optional, and you’ll get five entries into my giveaway just for taking it.

So, two steps.


Take this short survey. Four questions.


Enter my giveaway for a signed copy of Truest here. (There are a couple other ways you can get additional entries. Use them if you’d like to up your chances.)


Thanks, everyone. Miss you guys.

HOCD: A Letter to Loved Ones

I hope this helps someone.


Here are a couple hard truths:
1) I hear from more OCD sufferers dealing with HOCD than with any other theme.
2) Many of these sufferers are quite young, still in school, unsure how to seek out help, and scared to share their hard-to-explain concerns with parents or other trusted people in their lives.

I want so much to do something meaningful to help them find their footing.

So, I’m writing here a letter that they can show their parents/trusted advisors. I’m hoping to be a voice if they can’t find their own.

Friends, feel free to share this as needed.

hocd letter

Dear friend of a reader of my blog, hello.

You’ve likely been sent to this blog post by someone who wasn’t able to articulate what he or she is going through– suffering from– or someone who was too scared to trust their own voice and explanation. I hope I…

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A Humble, Hesitant Defense of Pantsers


I know I’ve been spewing on this blog since last night, but I have a hundred million emotions, and I haven’t been blogging, so in some ways, these hundred million emotions have been locked up inside me, and I need to get them OUT OUT OUT. I’m a mess, to be honest.

So, lately I’ve been a little (or more) stung when one of my favorite authors has really been slamming the whole “pantsers” process. For those unfamiliar with my terminology here, it’s a term you hear in the writing word: some are plotters (they plot and plan prior to writing a book) and some are “pantsers” (they write by the seat of their pants). I write my first drafts as a pantser. It’s the only way 1) I know how and 2) I can. I’ve tried to plot before, and then I lose all the energy around the…

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