Dear Diary: Salt, Sickness, & NOT YOU AGAIN

A (not so) little update for you:

Salt Novel

Oh my gosh, I finally finished revising my synopsis and am ready to dive into revisions! This took me a lot longer than I expected, but that was foolish of me: why would completely reorganizing/restructuring a novel, reconfiguring motives, and solving problems of fictional people be considered a weekend project? Ha! While I still have a few things to iron out, the majority of it is sorted out, on paper, color-coded. It looks gorgeous. (Okay, only to me.) I feel so excited about these changes– especially because I haven’t started trying them and failing yet. 🙂


I’m getting better! I was down for the count for a stretch, but I’m bouncing back finally. Has anyone else been sick? Sounds like it’s been going around. I got so much extra sleep this past week, and it felt incredible. I even had some of those naps where it feels like you were out for about three years. Mmm!!

Online Dating

… is so weird. And I think, in general, a lot of men are pretty confident (and wrong) about what they think women want. That’s all. For now.


One thing that really surprised me with the whole online dating thing: my OCD has come out to play again. Ugh. I have lived as close to OCD-free as is possible since 2008, when I went through exposure therapy to treat it. In a lot of ways, OCD has felt like a part of my past, something I experienced a lifetime ago. Then, guys started talking to me.

It’s crazy how fast OCD/ROCD symptoms blasted back into my life. I was not prepared for it.

But, and maybe this is a little embarrassing to admit … I haven’t really been in the world of dating during my remission. ROCD hasn’t come up because, well, it hasn’t come up. You know? So, now I’m talking to this cute guy, and I’m a WRECK. Thankfully, I was able to recognize it as OCD, and now I’m re-learning how to love the uncertainty. Again.




Months ago, I posted a cry for help in regard to my RSI. One reader (thank you, Ash!!) commented with the name of a book by Pete Egoscue, Pain Free at Your PC.

This is changing everything for me. I’m sooooo grateful. Right away, in reading the book it became apparent that I needed to be symmetrical, and I knew that I wasn’t. (My left leg has been shorter than my right since I was in middle school.) I got a heel lift from my chiropractor, and that was the beginning of the changes. I’ve also been doing Egoscue’s exercises a couple times a week. I feel better than I have in years.

Creative Goals

Salt Novel, coming together.
Book a week, check!
Blog every week, done.
Learn something new every day? I am, but I have sadly not been recording everything.
Yes Novel … it’ll come.

And you?

Drop me a line– I’d love to hear from you!



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.


If We Were Having Hot Cocoa

Let’s each get a big mug of hot cocoa. With marshmallows.

hot cocoa.jpg

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you that this break has been incredible. I can’t remember the last time I had a real, true vacation. Basically all of my “vacations” are really writing retreats, which actually amount to a TON of hard work. But I had six days off over Thanksgiving, and my manuscript is currently with my editor, which means … a real vacation!! Now, that said, I thought about my novel a lot, and I even wrote and worked on it for a while, but whenever it felt stressful, I shut it all down. I’m so programmed to work on it, but I reminded myself that I will have plenty of time to work (and stress out) in just a few weeks when I get my next round of revisions.

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you that I fell into a tiny reading slump. I think it was because during my recruiting travel season, I had so much time on the road to listen to audiobooks, and now that’s over, so I have to readjust. That said, I’ve started Bone Gap by Laura Ruby and am loving it so far!

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you that I have been thinking about what story I want to tell after Yes Novel is done. I have three story ideas in my mind, including the first draft of a manuscript that I put down after 65k words to switch projects to Yes Novel. That is the one I think I want to pick back up. Before, I needed to step away from it because I couldn’t feel confident about the ending I wanted it to have. Now– largely due to Huntley Fitzpatrick, her novel The Boy Most Likely To, and our conversations in Chicago– I think I’m ready to write it now. Not only ready to write it but ready to stand behind my ending. Gosh, even as I write this, I’m starting to doubt myself. Nevertheless, I hope it will be my next story. I’ve dubbed it Hair Novel. For reasons.

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you all about the panel I was on called “I Was a Teenage Writer.” There weren’t a lot of people in the audience, but it was still really, really fun. There were five of us debut novelists on the panel– including Mackenzi Lee, a fellow Katherine Tegen Books sister– and we each read something from our books and something we wrote as teens. Mine was really, REALLY dramatic poetry about a boy, and it was really fun to share and actually not at all embarrassing! I loved it.

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you how much I love Addendum. Addendum is a local independent bookstore that is the only bookstore I know of that specializes in YA. Katherine and Marcus, the owners, are so terrific, and they’ve been so fun to collaborate with this year– for my launch party, for the panel I mentioned above, and for Indies First. Yup, that’s right– I got to be a bookseller for a couple hours on Small Business Saturday. Okay, so my only customers were my friend Tracy’s children, but they were the perfect customers! Together, along with help from Addendum, we found a chapter book for Emma, a Christmas book for Ava, a “pink” book for Elsie, and a dog book for Owen. I think everyone went home happy.

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you I’m done with Christmas shopping. This year was easier than usual, partly because I’m broke. But I’m still excited– I love giving gifts, and there are a couple I really want to enhance by personalizing them. Cryptic at all, Sommers? Gotta be.

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d tell you 2015 looked a lot different than what I’d imagined. I know I write a lot about having my book published and all I learned from it. I’m sparing you. I could probably write a lot more. The biggest thing that I’m learning is that I need to love the work and love the process, or I’m going to be miserable. I think it was something I read recently from Anne Lamott (which, by the way, if you’re not following her long, lovely posts on Facebook, you’re missing out on so much!), and it was basically asking if you wanted to be the person who loved the work or the person who loved the reward. Because if you’re the latter, you’re going to spend most of your life kinda miserable. But if you can be the former, you’ll be satisfied. Now, that’s easier said than done. For me, learning to love the work is an exercise in life skills. It involves good friends and Ativan and more faith than I can ever muster on my own. I’m not sure, but I’m hoping that faith accumulates due to a history of successes and a history of failures that don’t destroy us. I want so desperately to throw my arms wide and say, “Come at me, life; I choose to enjoy you.” But I also have an anxiety disorder plus additional problems with panic, the devil on my shoulder. Thankfully, I have more than one angel on the other shoulder– so many of them: my parents, my siblings, my entire TEAM of friends, and a small army (okay, just six) of “kid therapists.” I have hot showers and a fantastic bed and a great job and a brilliant editor and a creative mind (though it sometimes works against me). In 2016, I’m going to do my very best to choose to enjoy life– and to take practical steps that will allow me to do so. Some will be solid (Ativan) and some will be mysterious (prayer). I welcome them all.

If we were having hot cocoa, I’d ask you: do you want a shot of flavor in your cocoa (I like hazelnut)? Have you done any Christmas shopping? How are you feeling as we head into December? Do you have any advice for me on choosing to enjoy life?

Dear Diary (April 2014)

april 2014April has been all about self care.  I took time away from my manuscript.  I went to the chiropractor.  I started a weight loss program.  I spent time with my favorite little kiddos (see: cuddle therapy).

And, you know what, I feel ready to dive back in for another round of revisions.  (I must be crazy.)

Easter was awesome, as usual.  My church had two baptisms, including one of a young man I met the Easter before, which was really special because he comes from a totally different walk of life (and indeed has been shunned by some of his family because of his decision to follow Christ).  I’m really proud of him and even more proud of God’s incredible work in this young man’s life.

This month, I gave a percentage of my author advance to non-profit organizations– to my Compassion kids and their families, my church, Campus Crusade at my brother’s college, a Chinese orphanage, a mission trip to Peru, an urban and anti-sex trafficking ministry, a friend teaching overseas, an at-risk youth ministry, Bible translation in Papua New Guinea, and the University of Northwestern.

It. was. a. JOY.

Let’s see, what else, what else?

I shared with UNW’s novel writing club, which was so much fun. They asked great questions and commiserated with me about the artist’s self-doubt.

I applied for a writing grant (#4 on my list of creative goals for this year; stay tuned for an update!).

I took my panic pill … three times.  I met up for coffee and conversation with my sweet best friend Eir last weekend, so good for my heart and soul. I also have spent a lot of time with God in prayer, and it’s been delicious. There’s basically nowhere on earth I’d rather be than in my bed with my prayer journal.

I’ve gotten some more revision suggestions from my editor, and I’ve been thinking about them a lot and tiptoeing toward them while waiting for a marked-up manuscript.  One month away from my novel has been interesting: it’s probably the longest break I’ve taken from writing in the last six years.  It was good, and probably necessary, to rest after that frenzied six-week revision– but guess what?  I miss it.  My writer-heart feels out of rhythm.  I plan to fix that murmur this May.

How are you?  How was your April?  I wish I had more wild stories and events to share with you, but April 2014 was just one of those keep-it-together months for me.  We need those sometimes, don’t we?


Dear Diary (January 2014)

january ddToday is my spiritual birthday!  I made my commitment to Jesus Christ eighteen years ago!  (Does this make me an “adult” Christian now?  Can I vote?  I vote for grace.)

I rang in the new year with my best friend Erica and the cast of Downton Abbey.  As you may recall, one of the keys to my productivity is that I’ve effectively cut TV out of my life.  However, Eir decided to sabotage my life by forcing a Downton addiction on me, lol!

Photo credit: Ashley Thorman Top: Eir, Ash, Amanda Bottom: Jackie, Dora

Photo credit: Ashley Thorman
Top: Eir, Ash, Amanda
Bottom: Jackie, Dora

Early in the month, we in the Cities were blessed by a visit from Dora, one of our favorite out-of-town friends, so a crew of my favorite people all hung out together.  So lovely, although we missed Des!

Speaking of Des, I was able to get lunch with her on one occasion and coffee on another, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am that my former roomie and her husband live only two buildings down from me …

… especially because I had not one but two flat tires this month!  Yeah, seriously.  The one went out, and then one week later, another followed suit.  The first time around, I handled it well.  I’m fairly independent.  I called AAA, and I took it to Tires Plus, and I shelled out the three bills it took to get two new tires and an alignment.  But when it happened again a week later, I have to admit, I cried.  I so desperately wanted to not be a grown-up in that moment.  My delightful parents came to Minneapolis that weekend and rescued my car, dealt with it all for me.  I felt a little like a baby, and it. felt. great.  Des’s husband Matt drove me to and from work for a couple days.  (Thanks, Matt!)

Then my heater quit working the following week.  Did I mention that it’s been dangerously cold in Minnesota?  We’re talking 60 below wind chill.  So … I am really thinking that my book advance might need to go toward a new car.

My book showed up on Goodreads!

Photo credit: Ashley Thorman
Me, Eir, Des

I celebrated my birthday with some of my favorite girls!  Eir made dinner for me, Des, and Ashley.

As for the next novel, it’s coming along quite well!  (I know I was just complaining about anxiety, but the writing is [mostly] faring well.)  I’ve met some friends on Twitter who use the hashtag #wewrotetoday to help encourage one another and keep each other accountable.  I’m loving it!

Writing a novel means that you have to do a BOATLOAD of research (and sometimes it’s all for just a small detail that most readers aren’t even going to notice).  Lately I’ve had to research woodworking, crown moulding, various sounds, and incomplete spinal cord injuries.  Unlike a non-fiction writer, the novelist can (sometimes) get away with not becoming an actual expert in the various areas.  We do this through skillful (and maybe manipulative) omission of facts, by insinuations, and by using vagueness to our benefits.  I’ll be honest though: sometimes it doesn’t work.  I do my very, very best.

One more exciting thing: I finally saw my contract.  I’m thrilled.  I’ll be signing any day now (once my agent irons out a couple wording issues!).

So that’s my January!  I’m really excited for February, because I’m participating in a reading on Tuesday, February 11th, at the University of Northwestern — St. Paul.  I’ll be reading excerpts from Truest and (I think) doing a Q & A afterward.  If you’re in the Twin Cities, you should come!  (More details soon!)