State of the Blogger: idk.

Back at the end of 2016, I posted my creative goals for 2017:

  1. Finish Salt Novel.
  2. Find the soul of Yes Novel.

So. Yeah. Life.

Salt Novel is getting closer, but it won’t be done before the end of the year. The exciting news is that my agent, my editor, and I all want another pair of eyes on the manuscript, so I’m getting to work with an editor I really admire who has worked on NYT Bestsellers in the YA world. I’ll get notes from her in mid-January, which means a 2.5 month break from my novel! It’s quite needed. I’ve been working on this since I finished Truest back in 2013– well, along with a time where I wrote out a draft of Yes Novel. Speaking of …

Yes Novel. For those of you who didn’t know what it was about, it’s about a boy named Asa with OCD. If you’re active in the YA community, you’ll know that John Green’s latest novel just came out last month. About a girl named Aza with OCD.


Yup. So Yes Novel is headed to the backburner for now.

But all this means that I have 2.5 months to brainstorm new ideas. Or, as my therapist put it, to “be playful.” I am truly, deeply excited to just explore ideas and characters and names without any stressful deadlines I have to meet. I have a handful of ideas (Fox Novel, Ivy Novel, Glass Novel, Gold Novel, Egg Novel) and a handful of characters that have been … percolating. It’ll be fun to mix and match and dream.



Fourth Quarter Comeback

I’ve been a bit quiet about progress on my goals for 2017.

As for my creative goals …

Finish Salt Novel.
Find the soul of Yes Novel.
Read a book a week.
Blog once a week.
Learn something new every day.

I’m actually on track to finish Salt Novel by the end of the year! It has been just an outright battle for me this year, and I will probably cross the finish line by collapsing on top of it. Short assignments and butt-in-seat. The only way I know to write a novel is to not stop until it looks like one.

I am exploring the soul of Yes Novel, which has been fun. I actually have a video series at home right now about Zero to Infinity, plus a book about math + Plato. If that sounds lame to you … well, it’s not. Ha!

I haven’t been able to keep up with a book each week, but I wouldn’t say I’m too far off from that. I’ve been trying to constantly be reading through something, but I just can’t seem to find more than 24 hours in a day, no matter how hard I search. Help?

I have blogged at least once a week!

Also, I’ve probably learned something new every day– but I haven’t been able to record it in my little Kate Spade journal the way I intended. That said, it’s been an awesome year of learning. Whenever someone has a difference experience from me, I try to ask questions. This year, I have become dear friends with a Muslim man and we’ve had such deep conversations about religion and culture. I’ve become friends with a BDSM Dom; lots more questions! I have a new friend from Scotland, a friend who has taught me about his experience of CP, friends in addiction recovery, friends who are homeless. I continue to learn about a variety of things from people all over the world via Quora. I’ve learned about scars, Portuguese, how to grow marigolds from seeds, the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, naming conventions, and a ton about antiques. I’m gonna call this one a win.

And my one word


To offer to God and friends and the marginalized something that costs me.

Am I inviting discomfort into my year? Well, yes.

Did I invite discomfort into my year? YOU BET I DID.

So. Quick disclaimer. I understand that as I talk about sacrifice here, there are two things I should address: 1) I’m in a position of privilege. I’m a single woman with two careers and a global network of dear friends who act as a safety net for me always; 2) I’m not writing about this to “toot my own horn”– I just want to talk honestly and briefly about my experience with this goal. I promise.

As I first posted back on January 4th:

But I do know that I have been given much. And I know that I am selfish and don’t want to be. There is a story in the Old Testament in which King David wants to build an altar to God on land that is not his. The man who own the land offers it to him for free, and not only that, but also the oxen for the offering as well as threshing sledges and yokes for the wood.

But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.”

This year, I set out to basically give until it hurts.

To give without expectations of repayment,

to give without needing to know how the money would be used (for example, I made the conscious decision to give, when I could, to people with signs at street corners– no questions asked, no hesitations. My job was and is to give– not to judge who is “worthy” of a gift. I tried to keep a Target  gift card in my car to make it simple. Or if someone was asking for money near a particular restaurant, to go to that restaurant for a gift card.),

and also– when I questioned, “Can I do this? Can I ‘afford’ this?” to say, “Yes” and try to give even more,

and when I absolutely could not meet the need, to use my time and connections to fund the need through my network of friends and family.

This has been the first year of my life where I haven’t been able to pay off my credit card every month (again, trust me, I know that is the reality for MANY people– I know I’ve had so much privilege in order to be able to do that!), but whenever I have gotten stressed about money, I remembered:

This was the goal. Give till it hurts. Give something that costs me. 

And then I’d experience joy. I had, after all, invited this discomfort into my year back on January 4th. This was what I was working toward. I feel like I’ve learned so much– not even things that I can necessarily put into words– although I will say that I have truly learned that I have the most incredible group of friends, family, and coworkers. I knew that before, but now I have empirical evidence.

So, that’s the update on my year as I head into the final quarter.

It’s been a wild, wonderful, hard, amazing, stressful, blessed year.

P.S. …

[I’m actually nervous to post this because I fear that maybe it’s been insensitive in some way. I promise that if I have been insensitive at all, it was done out of ignorance– and I welcome your correction, honestly. I know that I am in a pretty outstanding place where I even have the option to sacrifice. Some do not; there is just no margin. I also know that sacrifice can look like so many other things than giving financially. Those things were also on my mind this year– most specifically, sacrificing my time and also sacrificing my first choice (letting someone else choose the activity or event or what they’d like to do– on a very practical level, this has looked like this picky, picky eater trying new foods for the first time … and often loving them! Curry! Ecuadorian! Thai! haha). I talk more about this in an earlier blog post where I reflect on sacrifice looks like from a biblical perspective.]

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.

The Doors

No, not these guys.

the doors

These guys:

collage photos of doors on the old districts of Europe

I thought I’d update you on my creative goals for this year, the doors I want to walk through.

Behind Door 1: a final manuscript of Yes Novel Salt Novel (edited 1.10.16)

This goal changed only ten days into the new year, as my editor and I decided to set aside the manuscript I was working on and pick up a different one. I’m thrilled about that and loving the chance to dive back into the world of Salt Novel, which is set on an island. So fun! I got a little sick, and that set me back in my revision timeline, but then again, we just decided to push the publication back to summer 2018, so it’s probably okay. feel good about the direction of this book; I’ll update you after I submit a draft to my editor next month! But rest assured, you’re gonna love these characters. They are fun and jaded and had so many sharp edges. I adore them.

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

This is not gonna happen, not with the revised timeline. That’s okay.

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

I’ve been thinking on these– I have characters taking shape in my brain, characters who beckon me to know them better.

Behind Door 4: a writing retreat.

I’m planning it for this summer. Gosh, I feel like I could do so much damage if I could just get a week in Duluth.

Behind Door 5: a day of creative exploration.

I haven’t really thought about this much. I was waiting for it to be nicer outside first. And then– “like the first signs of spring, like good news” (Narnia)– it was 60 degrees here yesterday! (And then today it snowed a little. Oh Minnesota.)

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

hpbI’m getting back in the rhythm of reading! Feels so good. I just DNFed a book halfway through last night, which sucks (and no, I won’t tell you which book! I really want my blog to be a place where I rave about the books I love, not complain about the books I don’t– which is why you will almost never see a negative review here). That prompted me to go through my TBR (to be read) bookshelf and be brutally honest with myself about what books I’m unlikely to read. I pulled almost twenty books off the shelf!

Behind Door 7: a book of poetry every month.

Staying on track! Tomorrow my review of It Becomes You by Dobby Gibson will go live. Join me next month in reading Siphon, Harbor by Brooklyn Copeland. A list for the whole year is available here.

Behind Door 8: a healthier writing lifestyle.

Figuring it out! I’m taking one day a week away from writing, which feels really good and alleviates the pressure. I’ve also created a detailed word count document that keeps me from feeling like I have to do EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW. Next step: training myself to go to bed on time!!

So, there you have it. Trucking along. Mostly. 🙂