Hot Cocoa. Again. Please.

I just need to blather for a while, friends. Got your hot cocoa? Good. Let’s go.

I got some tough feedback on my novel last week. And I fell apart. Temporarily. As in, for about half an hour. This is improvement, folks. It’s just hard– so hard– so unbelievably hard– to pour your soul into something and then have it found wanting. (Nevermind that I myself find the manuscript wanting. It’s an entirely different thing to hear someone else voice it.) I tried to hold it together. I tried not to cry. Then I figured, what the heck, and let myself. Then I couldn’t stop for a while. I had a couple minutes where I thought, I can’t do this. This isn’t the life for me. I’ve moved on from that dark place. For now.

What sucks is that there’s more (and worse) coming. Last week were the preliminary thoughts. Soon there will be the smack-down. I’ll probably cry again, probably consider abandoning the life of publication for a while. But I’ll also probably bounce back, revise like hell, and come out on the other side with something I’m proud of.

I read somewhere that writers have to have thin skin in order to write well but thick skin in order to publish. How do you have both? I know I wrote about compartmentalizing. I’m trying. I’m trying.

Star Wars was amazing. I’m so ready to be in the “safe zone” where I can talk through things without worrying about spoilers. Let’s just say that it was so refreshing to see a female lead like Rey. Daisy Ridley knocked it out of the park, and tonight I found myself tearing up over this article. (Warning: spoilers!)

I got the sweetest message from a reader on Instagram. truest messageMoments like this make the pain of publication so worthwhile. And notice that I said the pain of publication. I’m starting to separate things a little bit: the writing is a joy. The publication process is what’s so hard, I think. (And don’t get me wrong– I have an editor with a heart the size of the ocean. It’s not her. It’s me.) Even above where I wrote about “considering abandoning the life of publication”– I wouldn’t consider abandoning writing. I have to write. It’s my calling. I would feel so vacant if I wasn’t creating.

But publishing. Man, is it ever hard. At least, it is for me. I wonder if I will still feel this way after I can no longer count my books on one hand.

I’ve read four hard books in a row. About mental illness. Abortion and depression. The Holocaust. Losing the physical ability to pursue one’s dreams. I haven’t reviewed them all. I’m not sure that I will. I really like for my blog to be a place where I can really sing about the books I’ve loved. Not that I want to read fluff! I’m never really one for fluff. But maybe I need a little fluff. The last four books just pressed me deeper and deeper into the earth. I need a book to hold out a hand to me, pull me out of the hole. Any suggestions? These are the next ones on my radar, but I’d love to hear your suggestions.

next reads

It’s snowing in Minneapolis tonight. It’s not supposed to stop until 6 pm tomorrow. And I’m okay with it. For tonight. For this exact moment.

How are you, my friends?



Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

brown girl dreamingBrown Girl Dreaming is a memoir in verse by Jacqueline Woodson, and it’s a treasure. Even if you haven’t read any other Jackie Woodson books, this one is still not to be missed. It’s a beautiful story about her childhood as an African American in the sixties and seventies.

My favorite parts were watching the author develop her love for stories and realizing the power of story and how to wield it. So lovely. It made me reflect on my own childhood as I was learning the same things.

Read it. You’ll be richer for it.

Review: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

CDChallenger Deep was another hard read. Hard– but incredible.

Meet Caden Bosch, a young man whose behavior has been growing increasingly curious to his family and friends.

Caden, who is on a ship headed for the deepest part of the earth: Challenger Deep, part of the Marianas Trench.

There are two stories but really only one.

This is a very well-drawn story of a boy battling a mental illness. There was so much I could relate to in this novel– the paranoia, the medications, the darkness.

I know that Neal Shusterman’s son inspired this story. It’s clear to see that Shusterman knows what he’s talking about. It mimicked my own experiences in such critical ways.

I highly recommend this book.



Christmas (Spoilers) & Star Wars (No Spoilers)

My Christmas was truly lovely. I spent it with my mom, dad, brother, and sister, and it was low-key and amazing and just what I needed it to be. The Christmas Eve service at my home church, which can sometimes give me anxiety, was really beautiful. We ate a lot of great food, but the best meal of all was the communion. I love that the cross was the center of our Christmas.

merry star wars

On Christmas Eve, we exchanged presents and watched Star Wars VI; on Christmas Day, we went to see Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. We thought it would be crazy-busy, but there were only three families in our theatre! It. was. amazing. Everything I wanted it to be. The acting was incredible, the story was excellent, and the nostalgia was intense.

(Belated) Merry Christmas, friends!

Staying with God

A long time ago, I got this question from a blog reader: How did you make the decision to ‘stay’ with God when your struggles came from that relationship?

I think I’m ready to write about that now.

White wall texture with a chair

So … for those of you who are newer to the blog, a bit of backstory: I battled with OCD– mostly of a spiritual nature– for about twenty years before I finally underwent treatment. While OCD has told me countless lies, the hardest one was that I was not loved and accepted by God and that I was going to hell. Nearly all of my battles with OCD had their root in this lie. It was– and remains– my worst thing imaginable (which, of course, is what OCD goes after).

I know that some people who have battled with OCD of a scrupulous or spiritual nature have eventually walked away from the faith. My understanding (though I could be wrong) is that the guilt and fear and, oh, lifestyle guidelines are too severe, so they end up having to distance themselves from it all in order to maintain some semblance of sanity and freedom.

As I said, I could be describing that wrong. The truth is that I’ve never understood it. My OCD centered around the idea that God was the most important person in my life and my fear was that I did not have him … or could not … or that he would refuse to have me. When that was my most intense terror, where would the relief have come from by choosing to walk away myself? I would have been willfully walking into that which was my darkest fear.

So, for me, clinging to Christ was my only hope in the midst of such darkness. Had I let go, I’d have been choosing the terror I was desperately trying to avoid.

Praise God that– while I was clinging to him, so afraid of falling– I was safe in his hands. I just didn’t know it. There is a difference between fearing that a chair will not hold you and a chair that will really not hold you. A huge difference. That said, the fear alone may keep you from enjoying the chair. But for those of us with OCD, our fears and our reality might be miles apart, but we’ve lost the ability to see that gaping chasm between them.

That’s where treatment comes in. Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy saved my life and gave me new eyes to see the difference between my fears and the truth. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but 5000% worth it. Today I get to enjoy my relationship with Christ in ways my OCD prevented me from in the past.

If you want to learn more about my faith, click here.
If you want to learn more about OCD and ERP, click here.

Review: A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith

sense of the infiniteThis book was really, really hard for me to read. It covers some difficult territory that– for a time– almost made me dread reading the story. Now, that said, I tore through this book, and in the end, I think it was tremendously well-written. Smith is a genius with words, and she made me feel a hundred different ways while reading this book.

A Sense of the Infinite is ultimately a story about Annabeth and Noe, best friends since ninth grade and now having a rough go of their friendship as senior year ensues. Wow, could I ever relate to this storyline. You could have substituted Annabeth and Noe’s names with mine and my high school best friend’s. It was so interesting to see Annabeth make all these college plans for the two of them and know from personal experience, Girlfriend, it ain’t gonna happen.

There were some really serious storylines in this novel, most of which are too spoilery to share. It is not a fluffy book at all; it is hard but incredibly rich– like life.

If We Were Having Hot Cocoa

Mine has a shot of coconut and one of almond: liquid Almond Joy. How about yours?hot cocoa.jpg

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you I’m so ready for 2015 to be over. The holidays stress me out, and most years I long for them to be behind me. I want to just curl up in my bed and wake up on January 1. But that’s not how life works, at least for this girl. How are you feeling about Christmas and New Years?

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you it’s getting cold in Minnesota. I only noticed it on Friday, actually. It’s been so ridiculously nice (thanks, El Nino!) that I sometimes feel like, “We’re not in Minnesota anymore, Toto,” but on Friday, there was such a crisp, deep freeze in the air. It made me feel depressed. I wonder if, when I’m older, I’ll be the kind of person who winters in a warmer place. So many of my friends love Minnesota’s four seasons, love the snow, even love the cold … but I can’t seem to share in that joy. Especially when I consider that– technically— winter hasn’t even started yet. What’s the weather like where you’re from?

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you that I’m surprised by [highlight for Truest spoiler] how many people think West cheated on Elliot by kissing Silas. I guess I never thought of it that way. And I even consider [cheating] one of the things I also dislike in books! I’ve been wowed by how many reviewers bring it up. Sigh.

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you that I have some exciting opportunities on the horizon. Unfortunately, that’s all I can say about that. But if you’re the praying sort of person, you could certainly pray about this for me!

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you my thoughts about compartmentalization are changing. Growing up (and especially growing up in an evangelical culture), I was always told that compartmentalization was wrong. I needed to be fully who I was at all times. It had to do with integrity, I think. Last Tuesday, the Fearless Fifteeners did a #15eradvice session on Twitter (if you have a book coming out, go look it up– lots of great stuff there!), and one thing that Victoria Aveyard, author of Red Queen, posted really resonated with me:

Compartmentalization as a healthy coping mechanism. I wanna try. What do you think about this– can you compartmentalize in a healthy way?

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you how much hope I have for 2016. I have a good set of realistic goals in place, along with a realistic plan for achieving them; I have new opportunities arising; I have finishing Yes Novel on the horizon and figuring out what I want to tackle next. What are you excited about in 2016, friend?

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Is this tweet enough or do you need more?

six of crowsSix of Crows is a heist novel set in a fantasy land (the same as that of the Grisha trilogy). Picture Ocean’s Eleven with only six players– and now make those six be teenage outcasts with nothing to lose and everything to gain. That’s Six of Crows.

What makes it are the characters. For me, characters are always number one, and these characters will woo you, delight you, break your heart, terrify you, and humble you. Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Jesper, and Wylan.

Lots of great action and surprises. On one hand, I’m thrilled it’s a series so that I get to spend more time with this crew. On the other, now I have to wait!!!!

It’ll be worth it.

2016 Poetry Campaign

white blank picture in the roomWell, my 2015 poetry campaign hit an unexpected snag when I moved in April and didn’t get to unpack my books for months.

Trying it again next year, and you’re welcome to join me. Here’s what I’ll be reading:

January: Mouthful of Forevers by Clementine Von Radics
February: It Becomes You by Dobby Gibson
March: Siphon, Harbor by Brooklyn Copeland
April: Aimless Love by Billy Collins
May: Incarnadine by Mary Szybist
June: My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman, pages 1-60*
July:  My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman, pages 61-120
August: My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman, pages 121-end
September: Halflife by Meghan O’Rourke
October: Best Thought, Worst Thought by Don Paterson
November: The Poem She Didn’t Write and Other Poems by Olena Kalytiak Davis
December: The Madness Vase by Andrea Gibson

Maybe you want to read more poetry but you’re not sure where to start. Why not start with me?

* Everyone I’ve talked to who has read this says to give myself plenty of time to chew on this book.