3 Things I Want to Say to My College Self

  1. Quit being so damn proud and ask for help.
  2. There is more gray than you would imagine– and it’s a good thing.
  3. Give more grace. 

college

Ask for Help

Look, I know that all your life you have prided yourself on your intelligence– how you can figure things out on your own, how your mind is such a steel trap you don’t need to use a planner, how you don’t take shortcuts in anything (except maybe gym, ha!). But things are gonna get harder and harder and harder, girl, and the sooner you learn how to suck it up, ask for help, and accept that help, the better it will go for you. In fact, you will feel even smarter— which makes sense, since it’s wise people who collect resources and use them. Quit trying to get to the Everest summit without oxygen. Utilize your mentors, the counseling office at your college, the weekend extension given on that writing assignment. One day, you will be so happy to have tools and to use them. One day, you will see that it was always smarter to humble yourself and ask for help. The sooner you learn this, the happier you will be.

Gray isn’t the Enemy

The truth is that you have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder– OCD– which is making you so incredibly uncomfortable with anything that isn’t black or white. And if something is gray, the uncertainty of it makes you wild with panic, enough that you will think yourself in circles until you are able to move that gray along the spectrum, one way other other, to black or to white, so that you can breathe again. But the truth is that the sooner you learn how to sit with the gray, to let it be, to learn how to breathe even in the midst of uncertainty– that is where you will find relief and freedom.

Grace

First of all, you’re a bit of a self-righteous jerk right now, aren’t you, Sommers? Because you don’t accept help from others, and because you force everything in your world to be either black or white, and because you have scrupulosity (sit tight, you’ll learn more about this in a few years), you sometimes act like you have cornered the market on Being a Good Girl. Please stop. It is in your weaknesses that God’s power is made perfect. It’s in your humility and vulnerability that you draw others and help them open up. The mask of perfection that you wear feels so necessary right now, but it’s when you take that off that you will start experiencing deeper friendships. It’s when you show the darkness of your heart and find that you are still beloved that you will taste that richest flavor of being known. Give grace– to yourself and to others. This is the better way.

WITTY RANTER EP05: THE BOOK EPISODE

Talented students at Bethel University put together this fun podcast, and I’m “in” this episode. I want to clarify one thing: I definitely don’t think that there is anything inherently WRONG about “novels about prom,” nor do I believe I am doing any groundbreaking work in writing novels like Truest. I am trying to follow in the talented footsteps of so many incredible writers who showed me the kind of books I wanted to read and write. Out of context, my quote might sound a little “well, no one was doing this thing until I came along,” which is just not true. Just because I couldn’t always find those books in my childhood didn’t mean they didn’t exist. And now I am so aware of the shoulders I stand on: Melina Marchetta, Laurie Halse Anderson, John Green, C.S. Lewis, Maggie Stiefvater. And anyone who knows me knows I will never argue with a great kissing scene! 🙂 Enjoy!!!

Logo_WittyRanter_HudallaTHE BOOKS EPISODE features Jackie Lea Sommers, a young-adult author from the Twin Cities who battled obsessive compulsive disorder until she found treatment in her early 20s. She published her debut novel, Truest, in 2015 and her second book is set to release in the fall of 2018.

Host Christine Schuster and co-host Kellie Lawless talk about their shared love for fictional young-adult novels and Kellie geeks out about Mark Twain. Schuster’s mom just wants to know if it’s true.

_R4R4328Host and producer: Christine Schuster is a senior journalism and musical theater major. She can really write and report and do other stuff. She wrote this wedding story for City Pages. From Eagan, Schuster has interned at the Guthrie Theater on both the artistic and communications side. She’s obsessed with really old vintage clothing, NASCAR and Broadway.

20170210_holmberg_mugshots_lawless_12Co-Host: Kellie Lawless is a junior journalism major. When she’s not writing her…

View original post 10 more words

“i thank You God for most this amazing” by e.e. cummings

Thinking about this poem tonight. It is a favorite.

THE POETRY PLACE

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e. cummings
1894-1962

Commentary: I love this poem.  The last two lines sound somewhat like a paraphrase of Pauline thought … but the whole poem makes me think about how e.e. cummings let all of his senses awaken to the natural world. All of us can be…

View original post 2 more words

a crush

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

crush

I miss this.

I miss the earliest days of flirting, the butterflies, and all the awkwardness.  I miss being excited to go certain places at certain times just because you know he will be there.  I miss the stumbling, bumbling nonsense chatter just to make him stay another five minutes.  I miss missing someone the second he walks out the door.

Gosh, I’ve been single for too long.  I need a crush.

View original post

OCD: Am I Bitter?

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

Let me tell you, I have drunk my fill of bitterness over OCD.

When you’re twenty years old and have a tortured soul, an imprisoned life, a mind that won’t stop, and a heart that’s broken– and when you doubt that any of it is redeemable– bitterness feels like the only weapon in your arsenal.

But when you’re thirty-two, and you’ve been shown grace and favor and freedom and healing, when you’ve experienced rest, when you know that pain had a purpose, there’s just nothing in your rescued life that wants to hold onto that knife.

And so you open your hand.

At least, I did.

bitterness

Image credit: Christian/Mr.C90

View original post

Here. Have some reviews.

A few books I’ve read recently …

emotional craftThe Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass | Oh man. This is changing my life, guys. Hands down, it’s the best craft book I’ve ever read on fiction. A week ago, in an email to my editor, I described myself as having “a novelist’s heart but a poet’s education.” (Don’t get me wrong– I adored my education! But I focused on poetry, not on fiction, so in some ways, I am learning as I go.) This book is helping. A ton. (I also recommend The Anatomy of Story by John Truby.)

gap lifeGap Life by John Coy | I was lucky enough to share a stage with John Coy earlier this year, and the man is just so wise and well-spoken and lovely. In the green room, he selflessly doled out advice to this newby from the perspective of a man with something like sixteen published books to his name. Gap Life was an interesting read about Cray, a boy finished with high school but not yet ready for college, who is figuring out how to navigate his own pursuits versus the dreams his father has for him while working at a home for adults with development disabilities and while falling head over heels for a girl unlike any he’s ever met before.

whisperThe Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski | Man. This book. It’s a children’s book with the most incredible illustrations (Zagarenski is a two-time Caldecott winner!) and the … plot … I guess … is also so lovely. A girl borrows a book from her teacher, but the words spill out on the way home, so she has to come up with the stories. This book is a must have for every creative child, itty-bitty through age 100.

incarnadineIncarnadine by Mary Szybist | This collection of poetry as hailed as a best book of the year by NPR, Slate, Oregonian, Kansas City Star, Willamette Week, and Publishers Weekly. It was full of poems whose forms pushed the envelope, all while having the utmost care put into every line. There was a theme of annunciation running throughout the book, and I found it stunning.

literary sextsLiterary Sexts: A Collection of Short & Sexy Love Poems edited by Amanda Oaks and Caitlin Siehl | Don’t be flabbergasted by the title; this was a fun and interesting collection of short love poems written in the form of texts and meant to read like one long texting conversation between lovers. Some were, of course, far better than others. Some were outstanding. Many were average. For the outstanding ones, though, I say this was worth it.

spare georgiaSpare by Georgia Lundeen | I will post about this what I shared on Instagram: “OMGOSH, I have been waiting for this for YEARS.
.
I began following Georgia’s blog, knowing nothing about this anonymous poet who had this incredible rawness and total command of language. She had one photo on her site, tinted green, a girl in sunglasses.
.
Then one day I ran into her on Facebook. No joke. We had a mutual friend and I definitely recognised that photo. I tentatively messaged her to say hello and found out we were practically neighbors. WHAT!!
.
These days, I consider her a friend. Georgia’s poetry is best described as TAKE NO PRISONERS. I love it, ruthless and unassuming.
.
So I’m not joking when I say that I’ve been waiting for this book for years. I love poetry that doesn’t apologize for itself, and I cannot wait to dive into Spare! (!!!!!!!!!)” Guys, I loved it. Of course I did.

pipers sonI’ve also been re-reading the Narnia books (this is an ongoing thing, for any of you who are new to the blog and didn’t know) and The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, which is just about as close to perfect as I think a novel can come. I’ve talked about Marchetta pretty extensively on the blog (here, here, and here) and never hesitate to call her my favorite writer. If nothing else on this list catches your eye, then why not read The Chronicles of Narnia, a Marchetta book, or one of my other favorites?

What have you been reading, peeps? Anything incredible??

Dear 16-Year-Old Me

Dear sophomore-in-high-school Jackie, who just spent Thanksgiving sobbing on Grandma’s bathroom floor,

I promise you: it won’t always be like this.

It’s hard to imagine that now, I know. Doubt has been clawing at your mind for nearly a decade already, and now, this holiday, it seems like it’s finally captured you, a relentless grip you can never escape from. Everyone else is upstairs eating turkey and playing dominoes. Soon you’ll have to gather yourself together—thank goodness you don’t wear mascara yet—and head back upstairs to fake it. All you know is that something is wrong with you—your mind is in slavery, and you fear you’ll never find freedom. It’s not true. Oh, it’ll be a while still, about twelve more years, but you’ll find freedom. Believe me.

Here’s the truth. It’s OCD. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. You always thought it meant someone who washed their hands too much, someone who was a neat freak—and that was absolutely not you (I hate to tell you this, but even in your thirties, you still can’t keep your room clean), so you never gave it a moment’s thought. And now, in 10th grade, you’re only starting to learn how to use this wild thing called the internet. I know it’s not going to occur to you to Google “I think bad thoughts.” Scratch that. Google won’t even exist until next year.

Unfortunately, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. You’re going to wander down so many ugly alleys, obsessing over hell and your identity and the nature of reality. You’re going to believe that you’ve literally gone crazy, and no one on earth can keep record of the tears you’ll cry. But you’re going to write about it—all of it—and it’s going to be such lovely therapy for you in the interim. (Minus, of course, those months when that bastard OCD made you wonder if fiction was sinful like lying and you couldn’t go near your poetry or prose without feeling sick over it.)

You’re going to fill notebooks in high school with dramatic diary entries and over-the-top poetry. You’re going to go to college and study writing and pour your heart and energy into the creative work you’ll encounter there. You’ll even center your senior project—a memoir piece—around your battle with OCD, only you won’t have a name for it yet. But when the bottom drops out of your life in those years after college, you’ll finally be diagnosed, and it’s then that you’ll turn to writing novels.

Exposure therapy will save your life. And so will writing. So will Mom and Tracy and Megan and Cindy and Erica and Desiree and Ashley and God.

This holy amalgam will make you free. You won’t even know what to do with all the freedom, a surfeit of it, washing over you like a baptism, swilling out the pain, leaving behind … writing.

And so you’ll write. You’ll write stories that are raw and painful but hopeful. You won’t be able to write the ending to your first novel without having gone through the hell of OCD first. You’ll look back and say, Now I see. Same with your second novel.

So, for right now, teenage me, hold on. Find hope wherever you can, especially in others—they will keep you alive. And write. In every moment, good and bad, write. Let writing be your refuge and rescue. Give up the stupid show of pride. You’re going to need so much help; learn to ask for it. Find a place in your life for gray; throw your arms open wide to uncertainty. This will save you.

Love,

Jackie, now 35, free and writing

teen me.jpg

THE PULL: Author Jackie Lea Sommers

I was interviewed by a lovely group of young journalists at a local university. Here were some of the things I said that stood out to them.

By Arts & Culture Staff | Edited by Kellie Lawless | Photos by Carlo Holmberg

Logo_ThePull_HudallaJackie Lea Sommers graduated from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul with a degree in creative writing. After working in the UNW Admissions office on the weekdays, she would spend her evenings and weekends writing what would become her debut novel, Truest. Her novel deals with issues of faith and mental illness, something that Sommers struggled with for over 20 years until she found treatment.

Sommers lives in Minneapolis and is working on her second novel that is expected to be published in fall 2018. She visited Bethel University’s ENW360 Topics: Art and Culture Reporting class to tell stories about her struggle with OCD, her journey to publishing her first novel, and how they are closely intertwined.

Look for more about Sommers on a future episode of Witty Ranter, The Clarion’s podcast. But for now, read…

View original post 770 more words

Warm Thoughts about the End of the World

I’m re-reading through the New Testament and today I read from Matthew 24– wars, rumors of wars, nation against nation, famine, earthquakes– and it’s kind of felt familiar for a while, hasn’t it? And yet these are the beginning of birth pains.

What struck me was verse 12: “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”

Please, God, don’t let my love grow cold.

I am so grateful to be surrounded by the best friends in the world, friends whose love is scorching in the best way, friends on fire for love and justice and mercy and grace and faithfulness, no matter the cost.

Thank you, friends. Thank you for keeping me from letting my love grow cold.

bonfire.jpg

What’s Next for Me

Reblogging my post from one year ago today. I am so happy and so grateful to be in such a different place: sleeping great with no sleep aid needed; feeling healthier; having crossed off so many items on my long-term to-do list. Am I still working on the same novel? Yes. But these things take time to grow. And so do I. 🙂

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

Hey friends. I’m typing this on my phone because I feel stressed out by my computer.

To be honest, I’m stressed out by just about everything right now.

I’m starting EMDR therapy next week because I’m reacting to emails with the symptoms of PTSD. It’s not ok and I’m not ok. But I WILL be ok.

Some mornings I can barely get out of bed. Some mornings I can’t. It’s so hard to explain to someone who has never been in such a situation, but when it feels impossible to take five steps to the shower, it’s UNFATHOMABLE to consider the drive into work.

I have a stack of mail that all requires action. I have book events coming up that I’m not prepared for. I need to write a synopsis of Salt Novel for my editor and I’m putting it off because I need to talk to God about…

View original post 427 more words