A Heart-to-Heart with JLS

Unsplash47Pour yourself some coffee; I have hot cocoa. Fall has finally arrived in Minnesota. Let’s chat, friend.

Life is really good. I have a book in the world, and it’s hard to let your baby go! Reviews are overwhelmingly positive (so far), and that makes me so happy. People keep saying things like “Your book wrecked me” or “I’m ruined” and I think they mean it as praise– that’s how I’m taking it. That’s what my favorite books do to me too: wreck me. (I’m still recovering from The Wrath and the Dawn, which I read back in June.)

Reviews are coming in slowly, which is hard, because I want to be like, “People, I’ve been waiting for four years to hear your thoughts!” But maybe it’s better this way, spaced out. I can listen to each friend in turn.

I’ve had my first “outcry” against my book. I use quotes because it was not anything like an outcry, just a dear friend questioning some of the content of Truest and admitting he wouldn’t let his daughters read it. (Note: his daughters are currently 1.5 and 3.5, so they wouldn’t be reading the book anytime soon anyway!) But then yesterday, I talked to the chair of the psychology department at the university where I work, and she said, “I loved your book, and I can’t wait to have my daughters read it. It will be a great conversation starter.” And her words came at just the right time, to hold me together.

I’m about to start traveling for my job as a recruiter, and I can’t decide how I feel about it. This will be my thirteenth season of fall travel. Let’s hope it’s not unlucky. On the one hand, I am looking forward to being away from my desk, to meeting great teens, and to copious amounts of audiobook listening in my car (any suggestions, friends?). On the other, I don’t love being away from home, and the start of a new recruitment cycle is a little overwhelming. Admissions has changed a lot in the last year, and I’m still transitioning.

I got an extension on writing book #2 (which is currently untitled … we’re getting rid of the Mill City Heroes title), which will push back the publication to summer 2017, but it will also give me more time to make it something really special for readers. And for myself. I keep begging God to enter into the writing of it, and I believe that he will. It’s just not there yet. Which makes sense. It’s only draft two.

Writing takes a lot of faith. Let me tell you. Or at least, being a pantser does.

I’m so delighted that the fall weather is here. I’m so sick of the humidity and of feeling gross and hot all the time. I’m not ready yet for winter, but I open my arms to autumn.

Your turn. How have you been lately? Are you working on any projects you’re excited about? What are you looking forward to this fall? Tell me one fun thing in the comments, please! I want to hear from you!

Timing, a poem


In Prague,
Tuesday takes his hand,
dragging him into the
streets of orange-tiled roofs.

In Minneapolis,
Monday bars my way.

What new secrets
have stubbed his toe?

When I wake,
the sunlight on my face
is already ancient.

Let's Get Lost by bluecoloursofnature

Let’s Get Lost by bluecoloursofnature



Answer: One summer night I lay alone in a grassy field outlined in pines whose perfume stained the sky.  In the distance, a pocket of people played guitar and sang quiet songs.  The grass beneath my head was soft as a pillow, and the stars felt close enough for me to use the Big Dipper to ladle up a heaping scoop of memento constellations from this perfect night.  Then, though I couldn’t see it, a hand pressed me gently into the earth.  There, beneath that great palm, I felt eyes gazing at me with delight and charity, and I for once welcomed eternity.

Question: Do you believe in God?



the power of one poem

My best friend Erica is four years younger than me, so I was already done with college before she even started it– and when the time came, she headed off to school in Chicago, leaving me behind in the Twin Cities to carve my way without her.  Our friendship had never been tested by distance before– who were we to know if it could withstand all those miles?

About a month into the school year, I drove out to Chicago to spend the weekend with her, and one night, we ended up sitting alone in a lounge, share our hearts and secrets and fears, our prayer requests, our tears.  And that’s when I knew our friendship was a lasting one.

I wrote a poem about it, about three years after college graduation.  It was actually a big deal because– surprise, surprise– I actually didn’t write for the first three years after I got my writing degree.  My creativity was sapped, my OCD was out of control, and I hadn’t experienced enough of life yet to really have much to say.

So this poem was important.  Not only did it get my creative juices flowing again, but when I stumbled upon a girl from my writing program in a stairwell one day, I mentioned to her that I had been working on this poem and asked if she’d take a look.  Anna and I started to meet together to talk about writing and soon decided to invite others to join us.  That is the start of my writing group, which is still going strong in our seventh year.

All that to say, the following is not the best work I have ever produced– but it is one of the most important poems I have written because of all that transpired after.  Seven years later, I am working hard on my second manuscript, maintain a daily blog, and Can. Not. Stop. Writing.


for eir

This September day is costumed in summer’s silly charm,
and wonder itself walks the streets of Chicago, a gentleman
bidding good day to friends drunk on the festive flavor of reunion.

Distance, an unfamiliar bully, tests their untried alliance but
is curbed by a charming exchange in a dormitory lounge; Chicago lights
and dirty street sounds don’t breach the quiet dark of this room
to bother best friends who sit and weep together
for the near or distant future. 

With juvenile delight, they grasp hands (and their friendship)
and hold tight.  A wild disclosure of laughter, tears, and stories,
all exposed to the eavesdropping couch that’s received them
and to the mural on the far wall featuring an old hymn’s lyrics:
“Come, Ye Sinners,” and they do.  Come.
To the throne of their able King, whose steady hands,
cupped and strong, award solid and abundant support.

Rallied in aggressive prayer, the girls are shored for survival
while joy rises and falls: offering and receipt.
Their celebrated plans could not conceive this conversation

and the beautiful crux: forever exists for them,
but it seems more important that
now they are here.

eir and me!

eir and me!

four of the early writing group members ... all four are still in it!

four of the early writing group members … all four are still in it!


Which Education?


Wind-burned face, knit cap,
flannel shirt, Beckham beard.
He looks like a damn demigod,
smells like jack pine and fresh water,
like snow and soot and sky. 

So much sky.

He has heard the secrets that trees tell,
the gossip of salmon, the poetry of the stars. 

My notebooks full of dates and progress,
Appomattox and the Rosenbergs,
seem silly in the cool shade of this hero.

I could love him again; I know it.

He pulls a Moleskine from his back pocket, says he’s
published a little here and there, no big names.
Can I read them? I ask, terrified he’ll say yes. 

which education3


What I Want to Say, a poem

To Jason: What I Want To Say

What place is it you go when you recite
that faith’s eyes are sharp?
So far from this learner who would memorize your portraits
of stars and Sudan, poverty and salvation, to be like you,
to climb that stair.  Your eyes survey nature and science for order;
in perfect strokes you travel logic’s line, pressing it like wet shore
under your heels—across the earth and into space
until you stop on that slender stripe at the very throne of heaven,
where you seek reward for your catalog of answers.
Take me with you.  Say there is merit in exploration
and not merely in accuracy.  Relax your fist enough
to wrap your hand around mine: maybe logic isn’t a line but a web. 


Jerk, a poem about a real boy who won’t read my blog in a million years


You walk backward,
flashing a powerful success
that wears vintage jackets
and not business suits.
You raise a finger and command the stars, and I
once loved you for the mighty stoicism your life preached.
melt your bricks like ice,
and sometimes a pretty girl, for one week at a time.
I pity you for the power that provokes adoration
without affection.
I once thought you so strong for the way your hands
could hold so much power without spilling.
Now I name you Selfish and am annoyed
when blonde-haired children make you smile.

walk away 2