State of the Blogger: Whaaaaaaaaaaat?

Remembering the launch of Truest today and all that has happened in the last year. Some high highs, some low lows. And onto a new project with new things to look forward to! I have a very sweet life, and I am always glad for the reminder that I am never in it alone.


September 1, 2015. Here in half an hour.

I wrote a book. Whoa.

I’m really proud of how it turned out– with so much help from God and Jill.

Cindy and I are sitting in my living room with a couple lamps on for ambiance. We’re each on our laptops in companionable silence that is sometimes interrupted when I sing, “I wrote a book. I wrote a book. I wrote a book, hey-hey-hey-hey.” I’m either charming or else really, really annoying.

But I’m not going to worry about it tonight. Tonight I’m going to be grateful and tired and wildly happy. Like that? I got an email from myself from this day last year that told me not to do anything this week that didn’t make me wildly happy. So today I got ice cream at Nelson’s in Stillwater. For those of you not from the Twin Cities, that means…

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Tuesday Q&A: Aaron Harvey

Folks, this is tremendously important. There is some imagery in here that will be disturbing for some (especially those with religious or sexual obsessions– or for people who have ZERO experience with obsessive thoughts), in which case you might skip over the question about his memories of his first obsessions. The imagery may be shocking for some blog readers, but remember: it is also agonizing for the OCD sufferer.

I’m grateful for such a blatant, honest, stigma-free interview

Alison Dotson

AaronHeadShotOn March 21, I shared a link to on my author Facebook page and said, “I am so excited about this new website!” And I really was. Not only was it all about the intrusive thoughts that plague those of us with OCD, it mentioned all the secret shameful ones like pedophilia and harm, and — and! — it’s gorgeous. Looks shouldn’t matter, but let’s face it: Important, life-saving information served up in an attractive package certainly doesn’t hurt.

Aaron Harvey is the man behind the site, and I’m honored to host him today. We met in person at the OCD Conference in July (haven’t I told you like a million times that you need to go to the conference?), and he was warm, smart, funny, and open. He’s been talking about things many of us are still keeping to ourselves. But Aaron doesn’t want anyone else to…

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Shattering Stigma as Book Advocates [Guest Post at It Starts at Midnight]

Today, I’m honored to be over on my lovely friend Shannon’s blog, talking about the power of book advocates to break the stigma of mental illness.

ShatteringStigmas-2-e1472245713311It begins:

My young adult novel Truest, which came out last year with HarperCollins, features a teenager with a depersonalization disorder that makes her question whether real life is actually real—or if she is just dreaming it all. To me, it’s a compelling concept, sparking thoughts around philosophy, reality, and the nature of existence, not to mention mental illness and depression. Although I’m not a doctor or psychologist, I still felt qualified to write this story. Why? Because I dealt with solipsism syndrome myself.

To read the rest, click here! Thanks for taking the extra time to hop over and read my thoughts.



Doors Closed, Doors Opened

Hi friends. I’m having a bad, hard day. One where it was a battle to even climb out of bed, and in fact, one where I didn’t climb out of bed till early afternoon. Things have been going much better with my sleep since meeting with the insomnia doctor two weeks ago, but then I have a day like today, and I feel like a failure.

I know I’m not a failure. But there’s still this weird shame for me to not be able to get out of bed. I feel like I let everyone, including myself, down. But I’m trying to show myself grace. So I decided to look through my goals for 2016 and see where I’m at. Even though I know that I have not met most of them, I still feel good about my progress.

collage photos of doors on the old districts of Europe

Behind Door 1: a final manuscript of Salt Novel 

I have finally gotten back in the groove of writing. I am writing every day and loving it. I feel like that hadn’t happened yet in 2016. Eight months in, I have found a rhythm. I feel good about what I’m writing. I want to write. I am sitting down every night to do the hard, fulfilling work of wrestling through a manuscript and its issues. I am solving them as I encounter them, giving myself time and grace to find solutions. I have hope that this novel might be really special.

Behind Door 2: a first draft of my next novel.

I realized I already have this. It’s called Yes Novel.

Behind Door 3: three new story ideas, just the bare bones.

I have very thin ideas for Fox Novel, Ivy Novel, and Glass Novel.

Behind Door 4: a writing retreat.

I did this, but very, very low-scale. I usually go to Duluth for around a week each summer, but it just wouldn’t work out with finances and PTO this year, so I did a long weekend in my beautiful home office, and even though it was all brainstorming and plotting and no actual writing during those four days, I ended up about a thousand miles from where I began. It was amazing.

Behind Door 5: a day of creative exploration.

Does it count that I went to a really cool restaurant the other day? I still really want to do this. Okay, I just asked on Quora for some ideas.

Behind Door 6: a pruned TBR shelf, via reading and weeding.

I started off the year STRONG. I was brutal on my TBR shelf and made several trips to Half Price Books. I was also really good at not buying new books unless I really, really, really wanted them and had a gift card. In the second half of the year, I’ve gotten bad again, buying buying buying. Though I am using the library more than I have since I was in high school, so that’s smart! Okay, I am recommitting to being smarter about my book-buying habits.

Behind Door 7: a book of poetry every month.

Not happening. No matter how bad I want it to happen. I’m just not in the right spot to make this a thing right now.

Behind Door 8: a healthier writing lifestyle.

See Door 1! I feel like I’m doing so, so, so much better. Trying to be smarter about writing in small, two-hour chunks instead of killing myself with a twelve-hour writing marathon. Just trying to move forward every day. Reading The Art of Slow Writing was so good for me.


Okay, so I’m not a failure. I’ve plodded through deep waters this year, and I haven’t drowned yet. In fact (if I set aside how low and icky today was), I am on my way toward tremendous health. My OCD is in check. I haven’t needed to see my therapist in months. I am taking real steps to solve my sleep issues and those steps are, for the most part, working. I have healthy relationships. I have a writing project that fulfills me. I have committed to staying in my role in admissions for now and have lots of ideas to improve my recruiting. I’m not a failure. Today was a setback, but those are normal. Back on the horse, Sommers. Forward.

5-Year Blogiversary

blog fiveMy blog turns five today!

Since I started this site, I have:

  • written and published a book
  • left management (which allowed me to write and publish a book)
  • written a manuscript (Salt Novel), set it aside, written another manuscript (Yes Novel), then set it aside for the earlier one
  • met and/or interacted with hundreds of brave people with OCD and other lovely people in advocacy
  • partnered with the International OCD Foundation
  • became the communications director for OCD Twin Cities, an IOCDF affiliate
  • recruited hundreds of students to my university
  • become a feminist
  • grown in my faith
  • bought a house and remodeled it
  • listened to the books in The Chronicles of Narnia at least 250 times (but probably more like 400-500) (and The Horse and His Boy makes up probably 33% of that, ha!)
  • successfully maintained my OCD remission
  • met and/or interacted with some incredible bloggers
  • had several incredible babies enter my life (i.e. my friends had kids!)

I’ve been so blessed by everyone who follows my site. Your support and comments and friendship mean the world to me! Here’s to year number six!

Humor me, folks: what accomplishment are you most proud of from the last five years?

Image credit: The Delicious Life

Why Meds?

A blog reader emailed me and asked, “If you are okay with sharing this, could you tell me why you chose to stay on your medication after ERP?”

My response:

For me, meds are a chemical tool to slow my serotonin reabsorption. ERP is a physical tool in that it rewires the brain and a mental tool in that it gives me a new mindset toward uncertainty. I’m grateful for ALL my tools. 🙂

 Also in my toolbox: prayer, deep friendships in which I can be vulnerable, essential oils when needed, Ativan when needed, talk therapy for non-OCD anxiety, and self-care (i.e. naps and ice cream).

 What I’m trying to say is that God has given me an extensive amount of assistance. Some tools only come with privilege or money (having insurance and a paycheck to pay for meds and therapy … and ice cream, ha!); some from transparency (I have the greatest friends); all are sheer grace.

I’m at a stage of my life and faith where my hands are open to all the grace I can get.

I’m an emotional tornado, but my mascara doesn’t run.

Hi friends! Hope you’ve all been well. Thought I’d offer a little update on my life, for those who are interested!

Salt Novel
I finished my synopsis. It’s a long, detailed, color-coded one.
Plotting is done. Brainstorming is done (for now). Research is (mostly) done.
Now I just need to pull all of this together into one smooth narrative.


My best work buddies just left the university, and I’m spontaneously a mess. I have kinda been overly emotional my whole life. When I used to come home from summer camp, I’d cry and mope for a week. I start to tear up at random moments these days. I’m tempted to say that I’m pathetic, but I don’t think it’s pathetic to care about people.

Going to the sleep psychologist this week. I’d love to be able to fall asleep at a regular time, sleep all night, and wake up well. Shouldn’t be THAT hard, right? Ha. Last “night” I was up till 6 am (I read a book, wide awake), then finally went to bed once it was light out. #sleepdisorder

So, I’ve sort of just believed that makeup is makeup is makeup and that people are foolish for paying an arm and a leg for fancy mascara when Cover Girl does the trick. But I was wrong. I’ve been using this Buxom mascara (Sephora, $20), and it’s UNREAL. I need to take pictures sometime to show you the difference. I also started using this Urban Decay makeup setting spray (Sephora, $30), and frankly, I’m shocked. I’m used to having my makeup sort of melt off my face throughout the work day. With this stuff, my makeup looks the same on my way home from work as it looked on my way to work– in fact, it looks the same even after dinner and writing and a nap. I’m a believer.

(If I can remember, I’ll take a picture of my makeup before and after the wedding/reception I’m going to tomorrow. I don’t know if anyone else cares about this at all, but my mind is blown. Ha!)

Wedding season is most definitely upon us. So happy for Brittane and Ben and for Emily and Joe. ❤

Politics & My Voice
My gosh, does my big mouth ever get me into trouble on social media! I try to always approach social media carefully, never posting anything that I might be later ashamed of. That said, I’m not a particularly ashamed person, not about most things. I think I’m smart and my voice is important. So I’ve been contemplating whether or not I should write a blog post about how I’m going to vote in November and why. I’m not sure. Letting the idea percolate. Crazy how much politics stir people up. Wish everyone would get that stirred up about, say, mental illness stigma.

I’ve read so few books in the past couple of months. I hate it. I’ve been far too busy for my own good, and as an introvert, I kinda hate it. I really want to settle into new routines this fall. This will be my fourteenth year of recruiting. How did I get so old?

How are you? I’d love to hear!




Review (& Thoughts On) The Art of Slow Writing by Louise deSalvo

slow writingSo, this book is called The Art of Slow Writing, but the truth is that I read it very slowly. It’s taken me months to finish this book, not because it wasn’t good (it was!) but because I’ve been so busy and overwhelmed, plus it has content I wanted to take in over time.

I really enjoyed this book– it was a constant reminder to let art run its course, to let books reveal themselves in their own time, to embrace the uncertainty of the writing life, and how important persistence is to she who wants to be an author.



Loved this:

uncertainty writing

I’m writing slowly right now. But that doesn’t mean I’m not working hard. I spent last Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday doing research, hammering out details, brainstorming, plotting, and finishing up my VERY LONG AND DETAILED synopsis, which is now up to thirteen pages, double-spaced. I could NOT have created this synopsis early on. I needed to spend over a year with this story and let ideas build and build before I could pull this blueprint together.

But now that it IS together, I have a map from the beginning to the end of my novel. I have 60K words written already, but SO MUCH editing to do … plus I’m imagining about another 20K left to write.

This page from deSalvo’s book is Where I Am At:

slow writing quote

It is one thing to amass 50 or 60 thousand words of prose. It’s an entirely different beast to shape those words into a book. I learned so much while writing Lights All Around— and learned even MORE writing Truest— but there is still so much to learn. Every new book is a new mountain. Climbing one mountain does not mean I know how to climb all mountains.

It’s fulfilling work, but it is most definitely WORK.