Why is it Called GOOD Friday?

Growing up, I was always confused about why the Christian church called this day Good Friday– the day that Jesus Christ was put to death. I knew the story: the blood, the nails, death on a cross, the method used for criminals. I had learned about crucifixion in gory detail, and how the one crucified would struggle to breathe in such a position, how Christ would have needed to lift his body weight just to get a breath– his body weight pressing against the spikes nailed through his feet. I knew about the hours of darkness, the quaking earth and breaking rocks. About the curtain of the temple being torn in half, top to bottom.

My family would go to a Good Friday service, the front of the sanctuary bearing a cross adorned with a drape of purple fabric. Sometimes we would hold a railroad spike in our hands. We would always take communion: a small tab of bread to represent Christ’s broken body, a small sip of grape juice to represent his blood.

And I would wonder: why is this good?

I remember as a passionate, deep-thinking, sensitive child thinking, I wish I could have stopped this nightmare.

My God had been ridiculed, beaten, and killed. Why was this good?


Friday is good because of Sunday.

Because Friday was not God losing the battle– it was part of the battle plan all along. It was a well-conceived, strategic move before the checkmate.

Because, as I said above, the curtain of the temple was torn in two— this represents our direct access to God, where before we needed a priestly intercessor.

No matter what it looked like on Friday– the end of the world, I’m sure many of Christ’s followers thought, and certainly the end of hope— Sunday was just around the corner. Sunday, the resurrection, the culmination, the checkmate, the victory. It was all part of a master plan, one that we– nearly 2000 years later– can see in full, even if our brothers and sisters at the time could not. We can see the rescue waiting just around the corner. We can say, This is good.


Years ago, I attended a conference where I heard a sermon by Louie Giglio that I will never forget. It profoundly moved me and helped to shape my worldview. The bottom line of it is this: when the bottom drops out of life, we can still have hope — because of the cross.

If you will do just one this for me this entire year, would you please watch 1 minute and 38 seconds of this sermon? I’d love to have you watch the entire thing, but please at least watch from 24:45 to 26:23.

From the foot of the cross, the cross appeared to be the worst thing– from the perspective of history, we Christians see it as the best.

And we can trust that God is at work even in the times that are hardest. This is why I have hope.


This is so core to my identity that I put it into my book in the form of a parable.

Silas tells West that he believes that God is in control, even over the bad things, and she asks him why.

“Writers know that the climax comes before the resolution.” He was quiet for a second, then said, “Not just in fiction, either, West, but in real life too. How many times has the worst thing turned out to be necessary? Or even the best? Rescue wears masks, you know. It’s why people say it’s darkest before the dawn. Sometimes things take a long time to make sense. Could be years and years—or only a weekend. Or they might never make sense. But that doesn’t mean you stop trusting that the world is being rescued.”

Or only a weekend.

Good Friday, everyone. I’m looking forward to Sunday.

8 Things That Surprised Me about Publishing My First Book

publishing surprises.jpg1. How long it would be before I’d sign the actual contract

I figured once the offer had been made, the business side of things would speed along so that we all made everything official. But I didn’t even see the contract till four months after my book deal.

2. That I’d be allowed to announce it to the public before signing the contract

I come from a place where you don’t share something until it’s set in stone. But I was able to talk about my book deal immediately, and it was even reported in Publisher’s Weekly months before I signed the contract.

3. That I’d need to learn to navigate my partnership with my editor

Thus far in my life, I had had two critique relationship experiences: in college, where if my professor suggested something, it was in my best interest to make those changes; and with my writing group of peers, where I collected ideas and feedback, but it was fully my decision whether to implement them or not. Working with my editor at HarperCollins was different– she was not my professor, though she did have more experience with writing and with story than I did; and she was not my peer, though she treated me with respect and genuine warmth. It was just a new scenario. We were partners in this project, and I had no idea what that was supposed to look like.

Ultimately, I learned to try everything she suggested. Usually I ended up loving it. If I didn’t, I would talk to her about why it wasn’t working, and we’d scrap it. There were very few things that we completely disagreed on, and in those 2-3 things, she let me win.

4. How much the book would change from the time of the book deal until the time it was published.

I swear HarperCollins purchased my book based on its potential. My editor’s first request was to rewrite the entire ending, beef up a handful of characters, and completely change the chronology of the book. In six weeks. 🙂

5. How fun release day would be!

I’d gotten so used to reading authors tell stories about how “it was just another day”– I knew I didn’t want that. It was a time to celebrate. I took the day off and drove around to local bookstores to capture my novel in the wild and sign copies; that evening, I had a giant book release party where I read passages, had door prizes, answered questions, and sold and signed books. It was a BLAST. Seriously one of the most fun days of my life. Definitely not “just another day.” Thank you to everyone who joined in on the fun!

6. How soon after publication the book would be declared a success or failure

Honestly, this was the hardest surprise. Not even a month in, people at Harper were already saying, “There, there. You’ll get ’em with book two.” Just a reminder about how important pre-orders and those first couple weeks of sales are!!

7. How much I would talk about OCD at book events … and how much it would resonate with audience members

When you’re a debut novelist like me, most of the people at your events haven’t read your book yet. So you’re talking more about yourself, your writing process, etc. than about the actual novel. I end up talking about OCD at nearly every event– and that’s because it’s such a huge part of my story. How can I talk about myself without mentioning one of my greatest challenges and greatest victories?

This has actually really helped me connect with audiences. A lot.

8. How special it is to hear from readers … and how important it is to generally avoid reviews

Some writers read all their reviews. I only read the good ones. There’s usually little actual constructive feedback to take from a negative review, and so often a reader doesn’t like your book simply because it’s just not their kind of book, you know? If someone loves vampire erotica, it’s very unlikely they will love Truest. But that doesn’t mean I need to go write vampire erotica. So, I read the good reviews. Usually if someone tags you on Twitter or Instagram, it’s because they liked your book and want you to read what they said about it.

It’s hard to explain just how special it is to hear words of praise about your book. To hear that you’ve made someone rethink things or that your book changed their life or became a new favorite or that they connected with a character or that it gave them hope during a particularly hard experience … it makes it all worthwhile. Please tell authors when you love their work. It’s like fuel. I have an Instagram comment that has lived in my heart for over a year now, ringing like a little bell.

Shattering Stigma as Book Advocates [Guest Post at It Starts at Midnight]

Today, I’m honored to be over on my lovely friend Shannon’s blog, talking about the power of book advocates to break the stigma of mental illness.

ShatteringStigmas-2-e1472245713311It begins:

My young adult novel Truest, which came out last year with HarperCollins, features a teenager with a depersonalization disorder that makes her question whether real life is actually real—or if she is just dreaming it all. To me, it’s a compelling concept, sparking thoughts around philosophy, reality, and the nature of existence, not to mention mental illness and depression. Although I’m not a doctor or psychologist, I still felt qualified to write this story. Why? Because I dealt with solipsism syndrome myself.

To read the rest, click here! Thanks for taking the extra time to hop over and read my thoughts.



I like life.

This was a really busy– but ultimately really good– week for me.

Last week, I was (pre?) diagnosed with a sleep disorder– Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, which sounds totally fake but isn’t. Basically, my circadian rhythm is off, which is why I stay awake so late (even with Ambien!) and then feel impossibly paralyzed in the mornings. I’m meeting with a specialized sleep psychologist next month, and in the meantime, I had blood work done to see if it’s safe for me to go back onto Risperdal. I took that tiny .5 mg (notice that is POINT-FIVE not FIVE mg) pill for eight years, and when I went off of it (maybe six months ago?), I’ve just gone haywire. I know that for most people, mornings are not fun. But, for me, they’ve been impossible. I don’t know how else to explain it.

My favorite kiddos came over on Saturday, and later I found a sweet note from the six year old. Allow me to translate: “Ava loves Jackie’s house.” Jak E with a backward J leaves you with cake. I like cake.

My editor was in the Twin Cities, so we hung out on Monday, brainstorming and discussing Salt Novel as well as writing and publishing in general and all the things we’ve been learning lately. It was wonderful! I left feeling energized to write and excited about my manuscript. Now to find more time …
The rest of the week consisted of therapy (yay), haircut (yay) and dye job (yay? see pics.), getting paid for the German translation of Truest (YAY), and ice cream with my bestie (major yay).

How about you? I can’t believe July is half over. Where is summer going? I’m ready for cooler temps (it’s been in the nineties in Minnesota and miserably humid, though the end of this week was better) but I’m not ready for the ruckus of fall recruitment quite yet.

Think of me as I sort out my sleep/novel/work/life.

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

Truest Characters Beyond the Book

Someone asked me, “Do you ever dream about where your characters are now? Who they’ve become and how they continue to grow?”


Mostly because I think that one day I’d like to return to Green Lake to catch up with the gang, so I always have a little part of me that is thinking about what that story would entail and would happen to them in the interim. I have a vague idea of what happens to West, Silas, Elliot, and Whit in the years after Truest ends.

Am I going to tell you those ideas?

Sorry. No. Not yet.

I leave you with this poem.

But bottom line: assume the Green Lake kids are happy unless I write another book about them someday (which would necessitate conflict, of course).

Truest: the Perfect Christmas Gift For …

Christmas ideas Truest

Discussion questions available here.

Signed and/or personalized copies of Truest are available through Addendum Bookstore. Simply email addendumbooks@gmail.com with your request, and I will buzz over to their store to fulfill it!

Truest is available at many bookstores and online. Click here for links.

Truest vs. Yes Novel (untitled book #2)

unsplash36Someone asked how writing book #2 (as yet untitled but henceforth referred to as Yes Novel) is different from writing Truest. It’s a great question. I also want to pause and just say that several people (including friend and mentor Judy Hougen as well as author Ally Carter) have said to let the writing of each novel be its own thing and to not compare them. Ally said at the YA conference I was at, “Learn how to write the novel you’re writing NOW.”

Easier said than done, in some ways. In others, it’s already sort of hard for me to remember writing the initial drafts of Truest. It was nearly four years ago now!

That said, I can offer a few insights.

My first book (or anyone’s first book, for that matter) is typically not written under contract, so there’s generally no pressure, no deadline. It’s fine if it takes you two years or four or ten. You just have to get it as perfect as you can before you query. Then, when it sells, your editor sees the manuscript at a fairly well-done stage. By the time Jill saw my manuscript for Truest, I had worked on it for over a year and a half, including self-edits, multiple rounds of edits with Ben Barnhart, revision suggestions from the Big Sur Writing Workshop, and a round of revisions from my agent.

On the other hand, Jill saw a first draft of Yes Novel. That was scary but liberating to show her the messiest work of mine she’d ever seen at that point. Yes Novel is also under contract. I am working toward a deadline. There is added pressure due to both of those things.

With both Truest and Yes Novel, I didn’t know the ending when I started. I didn’t land on Truest’s ending until many, many drafts into it. I am veering toward an ending for Yes Novel now in draft two, but it still feels sort of unsatisfactory. I try to remind myself that Truest, at this stage, still lacked an ending. So, in that sense, I’m ahead of the game. Maybe.

Truest is written in first person (that is, “I thought”) from West’s point of view. Yes Novel is (currently) written in dual third (that is, some chapters are “Asa thought” and some are “Rowen thought”). I keep battling with myself if I should write it in dual first, but I just don’t think that the two voices are distinct enough to weather it. Yes Novel seems to be narrated by ME, not by Asa or Rowen. Can’t decide what I think of that yet … except that maybe I’m finally finding MY authorial voice, and there’s something exciting about that.

I can tell that I understand more about novel writing and the narrative arc as I write Yes Novel. I can tell that I’ve grown as a writer. So that’s a good thing.

Another thing is that, while Truest has some subtle religious themes, the characters in Yes Novel are not religious, so the content is different. (I mean, of course the content is different, but … you know what I mean, right?). Sometimes I worry about this a little bit … wondering if people who liked Truest will not like Yes Novel because they are so different, but then I remind myself:

  1. I’m writing a new story, not re-writing Truest.
  2. I’ve started with characters once again. People who liked Silas and West and Laurel will probably like Asa and Rowen too.
  3. I’m still writing about themes that are tremendously important to me (mental illness, uncertainty, freedom, family, friendship, art, mythology, thought experiments, love and romance).

In some ways, I seem to remember Truest just unrolling before me like a carpet. But that’s probably a tainted memory. I’ve been working on Yes Novel now for nearly one year, and it’s further along than where Truest was at that time. It felt like there was better flow to Truest and I *think* I wrote it in chronological order, though, to be honest, I really can’t recall. Yes Novel was written all out of order and thus still has a very episodic feel to the chapters, which I’m trying to erase through revisions and better transitions and more foreshadowing.

Yes Novel still is essentially a series of conversations that could be taking place almost anywhere. But I do remember that Truest was much the same until later drafts when I made special effort to correct it. I’m still not naturally good at description … but I am getting better. That feels obvious to me.

So. There you have it. Not sure if this is helpful or interesting or not. It was a great question (thank you!), and I’m so excited to share Yes Novel with you a year and a half from now (gosh, that feels so far away … until I look at my draft and realize that I need that time). Asa and Rowen have completely captured my heart, and I hope they’ll capture yours too.

Dear Diary: September 2015 (Five Truths About My Novel’s Debut Month)

dear diary sept 2015

  1. It was a watershed month. I crossed that invisible line from “writer” to “published author.” It was a turning point in my life, and I’ll always remember September 1st, 2015, when my dreams became reality.
  2. It was amazing. Everyone was so happy for me. I got to celebrate with nearly 200 people, most of whom have walked this incredible journey with me and love me dearly. I cannot explain to you the way it felt to go into three bookstores that day and to see my book on shelves at every one. Especially that very first time. Cindy and I were searching for it and couldn’t find it; then from a row over, I heard Cindy say, “It’s here.” And there it was. A published book that I wrote. Characters that I had breathed into life. Even the booksellers at all the bookstores were so excited for me, had me sign copies, displayed them proudly.
  3. It was scary and hard. It was a supernova of action … and then the silence of space. It’s hard to go from having EVERYONE talking about your book to basically radio silence. It’s this tremendous build up and an explosion of interest and then, relatively, nothing. It’s terrifying. You start to wonder, “Did I spend four years of my life on something that people cared about for fewer than three weeks?” You start to compare yourself to the other novels that debuted the same day (one of which rocketed up to #1 on the NYT Bestseller List almost immediately). You start to cry.
  4. It was a month where kind words at the right moment made all the difference. In the midst of fear and negative reviews and dead air, people spoke up at the exact right moments and each one was like a miniature rescue. A sweet comment, an enthusiastic review, an excited tweet … these mattered this month when I was teetering on the edge of hopelessness. Please never underestimate how much your kind words mean to the authors who write the books you enjoy. It’s like an instant battery-recharge. It’s the strength to continue. It’s, as I said, a miniature rescue mission. Tell artists when you love their art.
  5. It was step one. Sometimes I, in my ultra-dramatic ways, felt like, with the debut day come and gone, that it was all over. But I’m wrong: everything has just begun.