Eighteen & Again

Someone posted something on Instagram recently (and now I can’t find it) about life at 18 vs. life now. It occurred to me that it’s been 18 years since I was 18, and of course that intrigued the writer in me. So I thought I’d explore the comparison of those two milestones in my life.

At 18 …
I wanted to be a published author, along with all the glamour that came with it
At 36 …
I am a published author, along with all the stress and anxiety that came with it

At 18 …
I had undiagnosed OCD
At 36 …
I’ve been in remission for a decade

At 18 …
I thought true love was just around the corner and I’d likely be married by 22
At 36 …
I still hope true love and marriage are just around the corner

At 18 …
I was so extroverted I had to force myself into 10 minutes of being alone each day, at the urging of my favorite professor
At 36 …
I am so introverted I have to force myself to make plans with people

At 18 …
I could eat breakfast food for every meal
At 36 …
I can eat breakfast food for every meal

At 18 …
I had always been ultra-thin, but felt like a kid
At 36 …
I’ve battled with weight issues for over a decade, but (usually) love my curves

At 18 …
I had almost no health issues (outside of OCD)
At 36 …
I’m a web of interrelated diagnoses

At 18 …
I wanted to know that God found me acceptable
At 36 …
I know he does

At 18 …
I had spent one semester at Northwestern
At 36 …
I have spent 18 years at Northwestern

At 18 …
I didn’t even know yet that I enjoyed the company of children or teens
At 36 …
Kids are my purest joy, and I write novels for teenagers because I love that stage of life

At 18 …
I hadn’t even met most of the people who would be my friends as an adult
At 36 …
I continue to amass the most incredible friends this earth has to offer

At 18 …
I had not yet read any of the books I would later say had changed my life (outside of the Bible)
At 36 …
I’m excited about what life-changing stories are still ahead

She’s always writing.

… and maybe you don’t care.  That’s fine too. 🙂

But if you want to know and understand me, you’d have to read my creative work.  I invite you to click a link below!

Drops of Jupiter, Revisited | Do you know the Train song?  These jottings take place in the years before the song.

Valuing the Arts | Flash fiction satire.

Nine Names | Flash fiction I wrote to help myself sort through “The Problem of Susan.”

Date a Girl Who Writes | An essay I wrote as a companion essay to Rosemarie Urquico’s brilliant “Date a Girl Who Reads.”

Seeing Saturn | An excerpt from my work-in-progress.

Rooster | A short story about holding on and letting go during those crazy college years.

The Call | A poem inspired by jealousy and a friend’s phone call.

Madam, Meet Adam | A short story about Adam meeting Eve for the very first time.

Susan of Narnia | This poem also helped me to explore “The Problem of Susan.”

Which Education? | A poem … kinda fan fiction … about my own story.

Why Christians Should Write | Some thoughts on the matter.

Gala at Death | A poem about the death of my poems.

What I Want to Say | A poem from college, recently revised.

On the Shore | A poem about the disciples seeing Christ after His resurrection.

Grace Beneath the Line | Creative non-fiction I wrote for my senior capstone in undergrad.

Edmund | A poem about Edmund Pevensie, my favorite character from the Narnia series.

The Colors | Jottings about my favorite colors.

writer girl3

Half-Mast | Speculative fiction set in the distant future.  Satire.

Why Write? | Thoughts on why I love writing.

Brought to You by the Letter V | Jottings on letters.

Invitation | A poem I wrote in college about a summer love/fall heartbreak.

Scenery Matters | A brief poem inspired by the accompanying photo.

Tall, Dark, and Handsome | A poem about a boy.

Castle | A short poem about Cair Paravel in ruins.

Knit | A poem about my bestie.

Her Life in Red | Flash fiction.

A Night to Believe 2012, Part One

I am so excited to announce that I will be reading an excerpt from my novel, Lights All Around, at “A Night to Believe” next month, culminating OCD Awareness Week!  I emailed today with Michael from the International OCD Foundation, and they are purchasing my flight to Boston and two nights in the Sheraton.  I am beyond thrilled to attend and SO excited to share part of my story with the OCD community.

Thank you to everyone who voted for my submission!  I will update again after the event … which I am nervous about (a little) … reading the excerpt will be an exposure in and of itself.  Nothing like ERPT right in front of a crowd, eh?  🙂  I think I am up to it.

Is anyone else from the blogosphere going to be at this event?  I’d love to meet you, if so!

short story (work in progress)


A weekend ski retreat, and after a full first day on the slopes, our college group is back at our rented chalet, warming up by the fireplace and playing a strange version of a game show, replete with trick questions.  For example, I was just removed from the game because I guessed (like an idiot), “the north side” to the question, “If a rooster lays an egg on the roofline of a shed, which side will it roll down?”  The answer, of course, is that roosters don’t lay eggs, but now I’m standing in the back of the room, next to beautiful Ethan, my friend of just six months, who was convinced by his brother to come along at the last urgent minute even though he doesn’t go to our school.

Ethan teases me about my stupid answer, but somehow he manages to be very charming about it.  Ethan has gray eyes and messy curls and this persistent ghost of a grin that always makes me wonder.  He plays bass guitar in a local indie band called Flight Theory and started his own web design company with Miles, his (also talented) brother.  Ethan uses his words very wisely, and sometimes I think that I might end up loving him.

I’m the most experienced skier of the group, so this weekend Ethan asks me the questions, although it’s usually the other way around.  Although he’s met everyone in our group before, it’s me he’s chosen to cling to while Miles races around like his usual manic self.  And now, here we are, Ethan in dirty denim and a clinging gray thermal, standing beside me, his arms crossed, appearing a little nervous and out of place.

“Hey, Ethan?”



He smiles.  Ahhhh, that’s good.  The hair on my arms stands up, and I feel cold on my neck behind my ears.  Crazy how beautiful boys can slow things down.  “Do I look that uptight?” he asks.  “I think I’m still keyed up from that Straight Shoot run.”

“How is it that you live in Minnesota and have never been skiing?” I ask, wandering across the open concept to pour myself some decaf from the pot beside the fridge.

“I don’t know,” he says, now leaning over the kitchen island, his back to the game show chaos.  “I guess I just never had the desire before.  It’s good to be here now.”  He looks at me, vague clouds of confusion resting in those gray eyes, his lips pursed in thought, probably pondering something profound, perhaps how fate kept him from the hills until just this weekend, for some experience that could happen only now.

“It’s like an eclipse,” I say.  What am I talking about?

“What is?”  His eyes are so warm.  Not like Miles’s.

I swallow.  “I don’t know, I guess.  Something about timing.  Waiting a long time for something.”

Ethan looks at me longer than normal without speaking.  It’s good.  Comfortable.  I offer him a drink of my coffee, but he shakes his head, and we both turn at the sudden burst of laughter coming from the seats around the fireplace.

The catalyst is Ethan’s brother.  He almost always is.

Yes, Miles, whom I fell in love with (or something I mistook for the thing) two years earlier, when we were silly college freshmen, once upon a different lifetime.  And now things are so different, so sad and strained, and it’s bizarre being back here with him but without him, this same chalet where he first made me blush in a very, very good way.  We stayed up talking all night in the loft and watched the sun rise through these floor-to-ceiling windows when morning peeked in on us.  It was probably all wrong, but his offering was exactly what I searched for during the year that tripped behind those days … then that year doubled, and the whole enterprise went crazy because in July his older brother was introduced into the unspoken mess.

And Ethan is clever and willing and always up for discussion about metaphysics and logic and God.  I desire to desire him more, but I’m so distracted by Miles, wondering what exactly happened those early months, if Miles was intoxicated with the weather, drunk on the cold.  Meanwhile, I confused a winter-induced kiss with love and a connection that I fooled myself about for the next year and a half.

Miles had rescued me from the overwhelming transition to college.  After a semester of dorm room insomnia, worrying about classes, grades, and my ex-boyfriend James, when Miles stormed onto the scene, it had been a welcome distraction—but more than a distraction, a delight.  Miles was wild and brilliant, resourceful and creative, full of ideas and passion—all of which he still is, only now his moods flash like lightning and roll like thunder, and his pride is a wall I can’t see over.  I remember the old Miles sometimes, like the special seconds when he actually raises both his eyebrows in a way that shows he’s learning.  So infrequent.  Today he stooped low to talk gently to the kindergarteners making their way to the bunny hill, and it punctured my heart with that old syringe of longing.

But those days are rare now.  He is as fascinating as ever—but insolent as hell.

Ethan is usually around then, and looking so alive and accessible.  Last summer, the whole college gang spent a week at the brothers’ family cabin on a lake up north, which is where I’d first met Ethan.  Miles had run around that week in red swim trunks, his mood as unreliable as our cell phone signals that far north.  One minute he was telling jokes and entertaining the crew, the next he was remote, letting us guess if he’d wandered off on one of his long walks alone around the lake.

So I ate lunch with Ethan that week and journalled about the way he looked so responsible as he steered the boat.  Ethan was older, brimming with respect and artistry and quiet words.  I wanted to be near him—it was something very different, much less humbling, than my desire to serve Miles, the boy whom I figured could command the stars and spill success anywhere.  Ethan felt more like someone you could sit with on a park bench and watch the clouds, the people, the birds.

“Everyone up there just loves Miles, you know,” I say to Ethan as we both lean against the island.

“I know.”  Admiration from him too.
I sigh.  “Oh that Miles.”  It’s loaded.

So the question becomes this:  if Miles returned to the 2-years-ago Miles, would I abandon this little untenable affair with his brother?  Maybe that exact Miles is an illusion, or maybe the illusion takes form in the person of Ethan.  Do I want Ethan to be more like Miles or Miles to be more like Ethan?

“How did you and Miles meet anyway?” some bad muse prompts Ethan to ask.

I offer a crippled smile.  “We met at school but really clicked on a trip here.  You wouldn’t know it now.”

“No, I guess you wouldn’t.”  Oh horrid honesty of the older guy.  “So,” Ethan continues, “what happened between then and now?”

Do I really want to discuss this with Ethan?  “I don’t know.”

“Miles needs to grow up, Claire.”

I just look at my woolen socks, gray like his shirt, like his eyes.  When I look back at Ethan, those eyes are sad with knowledge.  I breathe quickly, feel my chest rise and fall.  It’s a peculiar moment, plump to bursting with unprocessed truth, for both of us.  In our own ways, we’re facing a reality we can’t hold.  I want to force myself to feel things; he does too; neither of us can.  Maybe we need to hold Sorrow’s hand longer to learn other things.

If he said that he himself is grown up, it would be cliché.  I notice that it has begun to snow outside.  This room is thick with heat and I need to sit down.

“I know,” I say, and it suffices as an inclusive answer as I find a kitchen stool for myself.  I hand another to Ethan, and he perches on it, now listening closely to the next game show question that his brother is attempting to tackle.  Ethan’s focus is so attractive that in that moment I want to lead him out of the chalet and wrap myself around him under the witness of the pines.

Stupid.  Somehow, in this ridiculous triangle, the rooster conceived.  None of us know (and right now, Miles doesn’t care) which direction the egg is rolling off the roof, and all at once it feels fated and manipulable, and all I can do is breathe in, breathe out, wait.

adult fiction

So, last week, I posted about my favorite YA lit titles, and it was fun to see others’ reactions and suggestions, both in the comments and on Facebook.  This week, I thought I’d post my top ten fiction books that fall outside of YA.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy, but especially That Hideous Strength
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Rosie by Anne Lamott
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Which ones have you read and enjoyed?  Which of your all-time favorites did I miss?