NCWC Querying 101

To all the new friends I met at the writing conference last weekend, welcome to my little corner of the internet. I’ve linked the querying presentation below, as well as some other posts that may be of interest. Pull up a seat. You are welcome here.

Querying 101

Other posts that may be of interest to you:
Querying: My Story
Thoughts on Writing: 14 Steps to Getting Started
Thoughts on Writing: Query to Contract
Thoughts on Writing: Navigating the Road to Publication



An April Update

Hi friends. I’m here. I’ve been here. Sort of.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Salt Novel
I finished my first draft toward the end of March, and when I say “finished,” I mean “incomplete but as done as I could get it with the energy I had available.” I was just so toast. So I turned it in. And have not really written a lick since then. And … oddly … nor have I missed it. I’m sure the desire will return. But I just worked on TWO different novels for about 20 months straight (and Truest before that), so this month off has been delectable and much-needed. I haven’t even hardly thought about my novel much … except on my long drive to South Dakota yesterday. Then I thought about it lots.

I’m reading a ton actually. But, as you may know, I don’t especially like to review books on my blog unless I really loved them or have lots of thoughts about them I want to share. I went through a slew of books that I don’t think really warranted blog posts. I’m reading When We Collided by Emory Lord right now though, and it’s pretty great so far– though I could spot future darkness in it pretty early on. Vivi– one of the main characters– is a mix of Stargirl and Theodore Finch. So. Maybe you can imagine.

I also read a couple romance novels at the suggestion of a blog I love. They were … okay. A little plotless. (Not that I’m much for plot.) But I think YA is where it’s really happening, folks.

Plus, there are SUCH good books coming out next week. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater and The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh both come out next Tuesday, and they are my most-anticipated books of the year (plus, of course, Melina Marchetta’s book in the fall– but that’s a given!). I got an email today that my copy of The Raven King actually shipped today, so … IT’S LIKE CHRISTMAS IS COMING EARLY. And in April.

Work is good. It’s a season of a lot of events, plus a lot of hard conversations about financial aid. But exciting things– REALLY exciting things– are happening at the university, so it’s fun to be around for it. I’m in South Dakota as I type this, here in Sioux Falls for a week of college fairs. Today’s went rather well, plus I got to see a friend/alumnus who works at one of the schools.

I’ve been so blessed to be invited to a few events in regard to Truest. I was on an author panel for a literacy conference; I was invited to talk to some juniors at Elk River High School who read my novel for their English class (and have to write essays about it– love). See pics below. I’m also going to be sharing with the Walker Library next month and speaking for a career day at a local school. It’s fun to still see people reading my story eight months after its release.




This might seem silly or small, but it’s been such a treasure to spend so much time with friends in the past weeks sans draft. I have the very best ones, and it’s been so good for my heart to engage in long, meaningful conversations with them and to see their faces and to not have to worry about rushing off to work on a manuscript.

Literally wearing six IcyHot patches right now. Haven’t written in a month and still my wrists hurt.

I want to do more. It’s so hard to scrape together the time. But I know that’s also sort of a cop-out excuse. I blogged every day in 2013, which is also when I was get Truest ready for querying. Maybe I need more things to blog about. What do you visit this blog for? What would you like to see more of? Please leave a comment. You don’t know how important it is for this blogger to know there are people out there in the interwebz reading these words.

jackie lea

Questions from Blog Readers

questions from blog readersWhat is something you really want to learn but haven’t had the time to learn yet?
I’d love to learn to be a visual artist, whatever that might look like for me. I wish I could draw, paint, sculpt, photograph, design, and/or animate.

Have you or do you plan to be part of any collaborative writing projects?
I am writing a poem right now with my brilliant friend Mary. You can read some of her poetry here. I imagine that I’d have a really, really difficult time trying to collaborate with someone on fiction. I’m a bit too opinionated and headstrong for that to be a good experience.

How long have you worked at UNW? Have you had the same job there since you started or has your job changed? Is it difficult to write and work at UNW?
I’ve been working at the University of Northwestern since September of 2003. I work in the admissions office, and I’ve held three different positions while there. I started as an admission counselor; then, for a time, I was both an admission counselor and the recruitment manager. These days, I am a senior admission counselor and so glad for it. It was very, very difficult to manage my writing life and my recruiting life when I was in management. Now that those duties are no longer on my plate, I have a lot more free time and space to write!

If you could choose any genre to write other than YA, what would it be and why?
I would probably write adult contemporary fiction. I would love to be able to write fantasy, but I just don’t seem to have the capacity for that. (Maybe one day!) I’d also love to write short stories. That is not an area I excel in, though from time to time I have an idea that seems to demand the medium. But in a lot of ways, short stories are harder for me to write than novels.

If you could marry anyone in the whole world, who would it be?
Augustus Waters. Or Silas Hart. Unfortunately, they are both fictional. And seventeen.

What is your favorite food?
Chocolate. Cheese.

Why did you start this blog?
I started my blog originally as a platform for my writing career. That, and to help lead people with OCD to freedom.

What do you like to do when not writing?
Spend time with friends, read, shop online (the online part is very important– I rather dislike shopping in stores!), play with my favorite kiddos, and learn (I love poking around on Quora and Wikipedia. I also subscribe to Today I Found Out and A Word a Day. I also read reference books. Really. And I will get excited about an idea and check out about 20+ library books about it and read up.).

Do you want to be a full time writer someday, without a day job?
I’d love for writing to one day be my day job!

What are some movies that you like or hate (especially book adaptations)?
I love the Harry Potter movies. I love the latest rendition of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and am excited for The Silver Chair to come out (not till 2017). I really liked the adaptations for The Book Thief, Divergent, and The Fault in Our Stars. I cannot wait for the Jellicoe Road movie to come out!

Do you have kids?
I do not. But I have kids in my life who own my heart. My friend Tracy’s four little kiddos are the ones I’m always referring to on my blog. This fall I will add two new little girls to that queue, as two of my other best friends are having their first babies!

When did you accept Jesus into your heart?
When I was 14 years old, in 1996. I finally was set free from the bondage of OCD in 2008 and have truly delighted in my Christianity since then.

These are great questions. If you have others, never hesitate to ask!

Who is Jackie Lea?: My Friends Share

So, the last survey I took of my blog readers said that you wanted more of me, and while that’s quite flattering, it can sometimes be a little weird to always be writing about myself. So, for this post, I asked three of my best friends a few questions about me and let them answer! I failed to factor in that my friends are the best, sweetest, most generous friends ever, so in the end, this blog post looks like a great big attempt at fishing for compliments (I promise it wasn’t!). Their kind words are such a reflection of how great they are!

First, the cast of characters:

me and Des at her wedding!

me and Des at her wedding!

me and Ash!

me and Ash!

Eir and me! (throwback-- Eir, we need some new pics!)

Eir and me! (throwback– Eir, we need some new pics!)

How did we meet, and what was your first impression of me (be honest!)?
We met at Northwestern. You asked my boyfriend at that time to be in charge of a South Dakota club for prospective students, but he didn’t want to and told you to ask me. I said I would do it, and we started talking about South Dakota club and lots of other things! My first impression of you was actually from the emails you sent as my admissions counselor. You seemed super outgoing and friendly, and I liked your love for camp. I was excited to meet you, even though I never wrote you back!

Ashley: We met at Pine Haven camp when I was in tenth (?) grade. You were already super close with my favorites from doing faculty with them at a different week. I was jealous of how much they adored you already.

Erica: I met Jackie at our summer camp when I was in high school. My first impression of her was that she was really funny and that I wanted to hang out with her more. She told funnier stories than anyone I had ever met!

How did we become friends?
Des: While planning for South Dakota club, we talked about almost everything else over coffee dates and eventually we decided we should live together (which is a good story).

Ashley: I think the moment I realized how great you were was when you were telling stories at Sno Feast (a youth get together). My side hurt from laughing so much and I just kept thinking, “why didn’t I get to know her sooner?” It was such a fun weekend and definitely laid the ground work for you to continue to make me laugh non stop.

Erica: Jack and I really became friends that fall after we met at camp when we attended a retreat. I think our main connection was that we both lived in the Twin Cities, since all of our other friends lived elsewhere. We decided we should hang out, and there began our friendship through getting dinner together and chatting online pretty much every night!

What’s your favorite memory of ours?
Des: Funny: Laying on the floor napping at a youth group retreat, and the girls come in. “You guys are the lamest youth leaders ever, except for [redacted].” You respond, “Well at least we’re not the lamest.” And then we continued to laugh about several inside jokes!

Serious: Watching God save you from OCD over the years. There were so many times that I would just think, “Why in the world, God?” but he has turned it into an amazing testimony that you can share! He is using the redemption of your brokenness as a gift to others, and it has been a privilege to experience that with you.

Ashley: I don’t know that I can pick just one. Truthfully, my favorite memories are simple. Sitting around while you entertain us with stories is always a favorite.  

Erica: I feel so lucky that I have so many favorite memories with Jackie! I will choose 2. First would be when we returned to camp together the following summers and we would set aside one afternoon to go on a canoe ride together and talk about EVERYTHING (mostly about boys and God). There was one canoe ride where the wind was so strong we barely made it back to shore! My other favorite memory is when Jackie came to visit me my first year in college in Chicago. We sat in my dorm lounge one night and laughed, cried, and prayed…we missed each other so much! Basically, neither of these are unique events, but the best part of our friendship is that we enjoy each other no matter what we’re doing!


When you and I get together, we are most likely doing what?
Des: Reading, working, chatting over coffee or a meal, catching up about life, talking about the silly things my students doing, watching SNL, watching Harry Potter, watching a Disney Channel Original Movie

Ashley: Probably getting coffee or supper and rehashing everything that has happened. We vary from topic from anything funny to the deepest pits of our souls. Whether we’re sobbing or laughing, it’s always real and honest topics.

Erica: Eating dinner and watching TV shows like true spinsters.

What’s one thing you think my blog readers should know about me?
You care deeply for people and about truth. I think it shows in your many passionate posts, but it really is true of you as a person!

Ashley: Jack has one of THE best hearts of anyone that I know. Jackie loves Jesus first, and friends second. I’m so thankful to be in the second category. I went through a really rough year and Jack let me sob and be broken and yell. She was in the midst of everything with me. You will not find a better friend than my dear Jackie Lea.


One thing that is really beautiful about Jackie is that she is so good to people. She always looks out for the kid that’s an outsider, she calls my mom on Mother’s Day, and she’s so generous. I remember when I first started getting to know her she would say, “I just LOVE people!” I think she’s definitely rubbed off on me in that way and I’m so thankful. Also, I think the blog world should know about Jackie’s stubs. 😉  [Note from Jackie: did you all know that I’m missing two of my fingertips and six of my toes? It’s true.]

Why do you think our friendship works so well?
Des: We are opposite in lots of ways but we love so many of the same things—Jesus, teens, good boy stories, little children, reading, teenie-bopper music and movies—just to name a few.

Ashley: Our foundation is in Christ, which means that it is already at a deeper level than other friends. We have the understanding that each is a safe person for the other. I can confess the terrible things that I am doing or thinking about. Which is received in love and usually a gentle reminder that I need to shape up. We both have the understanding that this friendship is permanent and that we are support systems for each other.

Erica: We find the same things funny. We like and care about many of the same things. We can be completely ridiculous and completely serious, all at the same time.  I think we’re the kind of friends that can share the most random detail of our day or our deepest hurt with each other and know that the other will respond with equal care or interest to both.

Well, my blog readers, do you feel like you know me a little bit better now?

Writing and/or Life, Both Hard


Either I’m not doing it right and still need to learn the universe’s secrets, or else the truth is that writing is masochism.

No, stop. I shouldn’t say that. Believe me, I love to write. Sometimes.

But it is really, really hard.

Why does it so often seem like other writers have their acts together?  They feel confident in their abilities.  They are clever and funny and smart … gahhh, I know I can be those things too.  But mostly I just feel insufficient and terrified that I’ll be found out.

Not just writing either.  Life.  I’m 32, and I feel like I know so little about how to be successful at Life.  I retreat in fear to my favorite things night after night: my bed, my prayer journal, my Jesus.

A few lines from Truest (as it stands today):

And while I sit in the stand and pray, I have the same sensation—that I am being outlined, defined, and that the definition doesn’t come from me.

I am trying to hold so many things—and failing—but this one thing is holding me.

Please tell me, people: do any of you get so overwhelmed that you become paralyzed? Have you fallen in love with a vocation that gnaws on your heart? Have you figured out any ways to be still and yet productive?

All I know is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus— thankfully, he’s more than enough.


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!