Dear Diary

run-overGood grief, 2017 is running me over like a Mack truck.

Then again, I’m still standing. I’m still moving forward. I can smile. I can (mostly) think straight. I’m doing really well with my creative goals. I know we’re only three weeks into the new year, but I’ve read a book a week, have blogged every week, am learning something new almost every day (though I need to be more intentional about writing things down), and feel really good about getting back to work on Salt Novel.

I had a great conversation with my editor on Wednesday, and I feel like we are on the same page (or pretty close!), and that is such a relief. Now I’m doing a little brainstorming this weekend and then BACK TO WORK on the story next week. I’m excited. I haven’t worked on it in nearly three months (!!!). It was a much needed break, but I’m ready to go again.

And my 35th birthday was wonderful! I felt very loved, and a handful of people even donated to help with the refugee crisis. I’m so honored and so in love with my crew.

So, you’re probably thinking: just what has been so hard about 2017 then, Jackie?

lot of panic and anxiety. Realizing I have old wounds that never healed properly. I’ve taken about 10 Ativan pills in the course of two weeks. That’s probably more than I took in the whole six months preceding it. It’s okay. My friends and coworkers have been so exceptionally kind and thoughtful and supportive.

That said, God’s got me. My friends and family do too. And Northwestern. And I am learning so much about myself– honestly, so much. Some are things I really like.

How cool is that: to like myself again.

Maybe 2017 will be good after all.

 

Perfectionism & Writing [& OCD Too]

messyYou’d think being a perfectionist would be beneficial for an artist, but I really don’t think that’s true.

(Neither, apparently, does Google: search “artists are perfectionists” and you’ll get the following:

 

For me, being a perfectionist means that writing a book can be a slow form of torture. You see, it takes a long time for a book to even begin to resemble perfection. You have to spend months, even years, sitting uncomfortably in the middle of a mess, working through sloppy drafts and chasing rabbit trails into very disorganized forests.

Or maybe that’s just me.

In any case, it’s a continual lesson in learning to enjoy the process and not just the product. If I only enjoy the product, I will get to be happy about 24 hours out of every three years. This is a journey of embracing uncertainty, letting myself wait in the cold water till I begin to adjust.

And that’s the story of my life with OCD too. Heck, the story of my life, period.

I– a perfectionist, an OCD survivor– want pretty things in pretty boxes with pretty bows on top. I– an artist, an OCD survivor– know that’s not what life looks like. Life is full of doubt and wrong directions, wasted time and imperfect choices. Life is full of discomfort and years and years and years of tolerating discomfort … with the hope there is a pretty thing in a pretty box with a pretty bow at the end. But it is not guaranteed.

So, is art in general– or writing specifically– a difficult career choice for a perfectionist? Heck yes. But it’s fulfilling, worthwhile, hard, dirty, beautiful work– and it is helping me appreciate this fulfilling, worthwhile, hard, dirty, beautiful world.

 

Life Indeed

Honestly, I’ve been heartbroken since the election, and when I try to blog, anything I say feels a little trivial in comparison to what this country is facing. But I trust in a God who personifies love and grace, truth and justice. That is not lip service. That is not a platitude. I really do trust him, or at least I am trying.

And so, while I will continue to fight for the underdog, today I’m not going to write about the election. I need to hammer out a few posts while letting the outcry for justice stir in my heart before I figure out how to put it onto my blog. I’m not sure if that makes sense to anyone but me. Just know that it is never far from my thoughts, even if I do not write about it for a little while.

Instead, an update on my life (for you sweet readers who care enough to wonder!):

Salt Novel

I turned in my draft about two weeks ago. It feels so good to have it out of my hands for a little while. I know it’s not there yet, but it is improving the way drafts do: slowly, and then all at once.

(Okay, couldn’t resist the TFIOS jab there.)

Of course, it’s not like I can just “turn it off” after spending 10.5 months in that world. I am still thinking of my characters, and I’m especially working on brainstorming titles. Titles are HARD, y’all. Makes me feel for the poets and songwriters who have to title each piece and not just the collection.

What are some of your all-time favorite book, poem, or song titles?

Reading

Right now, I’m about halfway through Illusion by Martina Boone. It’s the third book of the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy. I’ve also started or am starting a few books of poetry: Yes Thorn by Amy Munson, who teaches at my university; Ultra-Cabin by Kimberly Lambright, a friend from undergrad; and The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins, always a delight. I’ve purchased a small truckload of YA novels, but I still need to get myself back into reading mode after being in full-on writing mode.

How about you? What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Winter

I’m never ready for it. Snowed in Minnesota this weekend, and it’s snowing now. My book event for tonight (up north) was cancelled (my choice), and I’m fighting those winter blues, where all I want is to be in bed.

Do you like winter? Tell me why. I need to hear positive thoughts about it.

Anniversary

On this day in 2013, I had my first conversation with my editor at Harper and first announced my book deal on my social media. And then promptly had my first panic/anxiety attack that wasn’t OCD-related. So I think back on this day with mixed feelings. But OH how I have grown in the last three years. So much growth, so much healing. It’s maybe ironic that this morning I reached out to my therapist, not even because I’m in a bad place. I just felt prompted to contact her last night while I was praying. We’re gonna meet up next month and chat. I’m delighted.

Hope you are all well! I’m hoping to post a lot more frequently in the coming weeks. I miss hearing from you. Drop me a comment please. It helps to know you’re still there.

Dear Diary: Thoughts from the Couch

A photo by Amaan Hai. unsplash.com/photos/nqz4WOGDo4AHi folks! I’m typing on my laptop keyboard, something I haven’t done in a while, since I use an ergo keyboard at home and at work. Unfortunately, my home office desk chair is broken, and while I thought I could make due with another chair, it’s murder on my back. So instead I’m sitting on my couch with my laptop, how and where I wrote Truest.

I can’t believe my baby has been in the world for over a year now. It’s also crazy to think that I’ve written two other manuscripts since finishing Truest! My broken chair and my work schedule have put a kink in my writing rhythm as of late, but these things happen. Life goes on.

I’m feeling especially share-y tonight, so maybe I’ll just address a few things below. Skip anything you’re not interested in.

 

Wrist Issues

I’m reading a book called Pain Free at Your PC by Pete Egoscue, and he addresses how hand/wrist pain can’t be blamed only on the hands and wrists. The exercises I’m doing are actually more related to the hips and have made me think I need to ask my chiropractor to measure my legs and see if they are still different lengths like they were in elementary and high school. At first my left leg was just 1/4″ shorter than my right, but they assumed it would correct itself. However, when I was next tested for scoliosis, my left leg was now 1/2″ shorter than my right. To be honest, I’d forgotten about this, since the only time it was ever really noticeable was after a full day of intense walking (like a day at an amusement park, for example). But reading this book has made me wonder if this might be the root of some of my injuries.

Salt Novel

My gosh, I’m so close to finishing this draft, you guys. But I think that is sort of freaking me out and I’m self-sabotaging a little bit, scared to show it to my agent and editor, knowing that it is still very flawed. I need to find the time and drive to just hammer through it and turn it in. The sooner I get feedback on it, the sooner I can correct those issues. I went through a brief time in my life (post-undergrad) where critique didn’t faze me. I realize now that that was because the critique was all from peers at that time, whereas before that it was from professors and after that from publishing industry professionals. There is for sure a power imbalance (perceived or real) that affects that. Also, I’ve realized that I need to take into account the culture differences too. The difference between Minneapolis and New York City is far more than just 1,200 miles.

Sleep

I sleep with no sleep aid now. I’m so, so, so grateful to not have to rely on anything but good ol’ Circadian rhythm to sleep.

Reading

Halfway through Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom right now. Next up will likely be David Arnold’s Kids of Appetite, although Jennifer Nivens’s Holding Up the Universe just came in the mail this weekend! I also have a book by Cheryl Klein that I really want to start, The Magic Words. It’s about writing for children and young adults.

Election

I can’t wait for it to be over. Seriously, what a mess. I consider myself an advocate for the marginalized and will vote with that in mind.

Adulting

I paid to have my home deep-cleaned this weekend. I recognize that is a privileged statement, and I’m grateful to have the means to do so. Honestly, it felt like something that needed to happen in order for me to move forward with so many of my other goals. Next weekend, I have a handy man coming to the house to fix up odds and ends and my desk chair, and then I’ll truly be poised for success.

Northwestern

I honestly feel so grateful to be part of such a beautiful community. Right now I am especially loving the current writing majors and recent writing grads. It’s such an honor to be part of their lives. They are so talented, thoughtful, generous. They care so much about words and story and beauty, and they make me better person.

Your turn: a) What have you read recently? b) What are you looking forward to this week? c) What thing or person has added value to your life lately?

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

I love the writing rhythm I’m in right now. It feels good to sit down nearly every night and hammer through something. It’s been quite varied: some nights I will sweep through two chapters and others I will spend all evening on just 250 words. It all feels good. I am just now running into the part of my story that I have the least experience with; I am trying to tap into raw emotions over situations I’ve never been in. It’s intimidating, to say the least. But I keep rotating between my desk and my prayer journal.

I just binge-watched Stranger Things on Netflix and quite enjoyed it. (And I don’t even enjoy being scared … but I do love a good psychological thriller.)

Waiting for my copy of Melina Marchetta’s new book Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil to arrive. In the meantime, I re-read Saving Francesca and its companion novel The Piper’s Son. (P.S. Salt Novel, my current work-in-progress, was born out of The Piper’s Son + a “what if.”)

Jacob Wetterling’s remains were found on a farm in Paynesville, MN. His abduction hit way too close to home for those of us who grew up in central Minnesota, and this has been a question that people my age have had for most of our lives. I remember when he was abducted in 1989. I was seven years old, and St. Joseph, where he was taken, is only about 20 miles from where I lived. Paynesville, where he was found nearly 27 years later, is about the same distance. The man who led them to the body was living in Annandale, just 11 miles from my parents’ house. This case has changed both MN and national laws, and while it is a heartbreaking ending to this decades-long mystery, I hope it will somehow bring the family some closure.

I am sleeping much better (and with NO sleep aids)! The insomnia doctor I’ve been meeting with is the kindest, gentlest, sweetest man. I am so grateful for the way he has thoughtfully pursued answers to my long-standing issues with sleep.

Work has been insanely busy– due in part to the last-minute closing of another private school in Minnesota (we ended up with maybe 8 or so of their students transferring to UNW and registering late) and in part to the implementation of new software in my office. But I feel good. I feel like I’m doing some of my best recruiting I’ve done in years. I am overflowing with creative ideas. It’s like a dam burst.

I’m thinking ahead to next month– which includes OCD Awareness Week– and planning to meet with the OCD Twin Cities team to plan a special event for it. (Anyone have ideas?)

My parents’ dog had puppies! Five purebred German shepherds– four chubby dark-colored male pups and one little all-white girl pup. In all our batches of puppies over the years (to different dogs), we’ve never had a purebred white shepherd before!

puppies

Well, I’d better get back to the manuscript. It’s being fussy.

Love,
Jackie

P.S. What’s going on in your worlds? I always love to hear from you, friends.

 

 

When a Week Sets Out to Kill You

And throws goodies your way like:

  • A personal attack that goes for your weakest spots: mental illness and singleness.
  • No alone time for your highly introverted self.
  • A heat index of 115 degrees.
  • One million appointments at work … and you’re only one of two people in the office.
  • NO TIME TO WRITE.
  • Continued issues with sleep.

BUT YOU SURVIVE IT.

  • I do not have a fragile personality; God, my friends, and even I myself have been reminding me of this.
  • I can fake extroversion like a pro.
  • My office installed a ceiling fan in my office to supplement the window A/C unit; my home office is so chilly I’m wearing a sweatshirt! Win!
  • Hannah and I rocked this WILD afternoon in admissions alone!
  • I’m about to write now, even just for a little bit.
  • I napped for three hours after work today.

This week was hard. But I can do hard things.

I’ve done harder.

I like life.

This was a really busy– but ultimately really good– week for me.

Last week, I was (pre?) diagnosed with a sleep disorder– Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, which sounds totally fake but isn’t. Basically, my circadian rhythm is off, which is why I stay awake so late (even with Ambien!) and then feel impossibly paralyzed in the mornings. I’m meeting with a specialized sleep psychologist next month, and in the meantime, I had blood work done to see if it’s safe for me to go back onto Risperdal. I took that tiny .5 mg (notice that is POINT-FIVE not FIVE mg) pill for eight years, and when I went off of it (maybe six months ago?), I’ve just gone haywire. I know that for most people, mornings are not fun. But, for me, they’ve been impossible. I don’t know how else to explain it.

My favorite kiddos came over on Saturday, and later I found a sweet note from the six year old. Allow me to translate: “Ava loves Jackie’s house.” Jak E with a backward J leaves you with cake. I like cake.

My editor was in the Twin Cities, so we hung out on Monday, brainstorming and discussing Salt Novel as well as writing and publishing in general and all the things we’ve been learning lately. It was wonderful! I left feeling energized to write and excited about my manuscript. Now to find more time …
The rest of the week consisted of therapy (yay), haircut (yay) and dye job (yay? see pics.), getting paid for the German translation of Truest (YAY), and ice cream with my bestie (major yay).

How about you? I can’t believe July is half over. Where is summer going? I’m ready for cooler temps (it’s been in the nineties in Minnesota and miserably humid, though the end of this week was better) but I’m not ready for the ruckus of fall recruitment quite yet.

Think of me as I sort out my sleep/novel/work/life.

Dear Diary: May 2015

two stacked Polaroid retro frames on wood texture

knew that April and May were going to be among the hardest months of my life, but still: living them has tested me.

I bought my house at the end of April; immediately, we started fixing it up, painting, cleaning, etc., preparing for new floors and new construction. The new carpet went in upstairs. The new wood floor went in on the main floor. The renovations began on the basement. Then I moved in.

It. is. a. mess.

The living room has all of the furniture and boxes crammed into half of the room so that the contractor has room to work on the walls on the other side. We can’t unpack, so we live mostly upstairs in our bedrooms (which, to be honest, my bedroom looks AMAZING). But it’s still tough. But it’s coming along. Slowly but surely. Monday the living room walls will be finished, and we can finally “move in.” I can’t wait.

My editor keeps apologizing to me that she hasn’t sent my editorial letter yet for Mill City Heroes, but I’m actually relieved and grateful for the rest and reprieve! If I had her revisions back right now, I think my stress would go through the roof. And my new house has such a nice, new roof. LOL.

I also taught a class this month on querying. It went SO WELL. I’m very pleased with the feedback!

So, I’m plodding away. Day by day. I love the new house and I can clearly see its potential, and that carries me. Also, I’m nervous about revisions to MCH, but not panicked. So far. I hope that holds. I hope I have learned a lot from the last year of therapy!

I miss blogging and am going to be re-entering that world in June. I can’t wait till this house is done so I can show you all pictures!

Everyone leave me an encouraging comment. I could sure use them.

Sorry this post was so scattered. That’s my life these days.

Dear Diary: February 2015

dear diary FEB 2015February’s a short month, it’s true, but WOW, can you pack a lot into 28 days!

I saw my galley pages and made corrections.

I started hand therapy (I have bad wrists).

I worked three out of four weekends in a row (okay, two were in January).

I had a couple rough days.

I explored the war monument near Shadow Falls in St. Paul and the mill ruins in Minneapolis in research for my WIP.

gold medal

Truest 3d jpgThe most exciting part of my month was, of course, the cover reveal of my debut novel, Truest. It’s gotten so much love, and I’m so glad you guys like it. I love it. I’m thrilled with how it turned out. Jenna Stempel, the designer, hand-lettered the title and the chapter headings. This process has been very, very real to me for some time now, but I think, for many of my friends and family members, seeing the cover has finally made it real to them.

Thank you, everyone, for caring about my life, my book, … me. I feel really blessed to have the life I have, bad wrists, bad days, and all.

 

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!