Pet peeve: When you’re in the middle of having a conversation with someone, and that person suddenly gets what I can only call a “knowing” smile on their face. Then he or she proceeds to wiggle his/her eyebrows and say, “Oh, did you hear about the so-and-so family? Guess what? They’re expecting!” (Usually this is followed by a particularly gleeful smile, or the occasional happy sigh)
It is in moments like these that I really, really want to say something like, “Oh really? Expecting what? Expecting it to rain? Expecting to take a long holiday in the Caribbean? Expecting that neon polo shirts will make a comeback this season?”
Obviously, I’ve never really said that, though. That would be totally and completely rude of me, because I do know what people are trying to say, even if it sometimes comes out more awkwardly then they intended. The truth is, I am thrilled whenever I hear that someone is expecting, if the item they are waiting for happens to be a baby.
Such was the case when I found out our good friends, the Gross family, were “expecting” their seventh child. I photographed the Grosses back in the fall, but I was excited to spend time with them again. I was also very, very nervous. I’ve never done maternity photos before, and wasn’t really sure how to tackle it. But, in the end, I think everything went semi-smoothly and produced great results.
I debated whether or not to post these pictures because my blog is usually more centered around my other passion, which is writing, but photography is also a really big part of my life and I’d love to share it with you all from time to time.
P.S. I wrote the word “expecting” so many times in this one post that it is now beginning to look really weird to me, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever think of it as a normal word again. I hate it when that happens…
I know it’s a little bit early to be thinking about summer, but I thought some of you might be interested in hearing about what I’m looking forward to reading this summer. I don’t know what it is about wanting to know what your favorite authors read, but I wonder it all the time. Anyway, for those of you who are actually curious as to what books I plan on reading or re-reading, here is the rough list I made of ten books I want to read this summer:
- Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Selected Poems, by John Keats
- Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour, by Lynne Olson
- One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp
- On Writing, by Stephen King
- Remember: The Journey to School Integration, by Toni Morrison
- The Healer’s Apprentice, by Melanie Dickerson
- The Luminous Portrait, by Elizabeth Messina
- It’s (Not That) Complicated, by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin
- Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are, by Alex and Brett Harris
So that’s the plan. Can you guess which ones are research for upcoming books? Not sure if I’ll have time to make it through ten books in two and a half months or not, but I’m sure going to try! Do you guys have any particular books that will finally get read in 2012?
P.S. I’m not saying that I agree with the morals, ideas, content, etc. in any of these books because I haven’t read them yet. I’m not endorsing these titles or authors, I’m just planning on reading them.
So my mom found out yesterday that my book was featured on the front page of crosswalk.com. Is that cool or what? I thought you guys might like to read what they said. I personally found it very complimentary, but obviously I like hearing nice things about myself.
Interrupted: Life Beyond Words reintroduces a classic question in literary criticism: to what extent does the author matter when considering the quality of a piece of writing? Here’s the skinny on Interrupted author Rachel Coker: she’s a 16-year old whose debut novel possesses a maturity of emotional perceptiveness and writing quality which far surpasses her years. While most of her peers are content to pound out text messages on the latest smart phone, and the ambitious ones scribble out angst-ridden poems in their journals, Coker’s actually planned, plotted, and successfully published a Young Adult historical fiction novel set against the contentious backdrop of World War II.
For all of that, Coker deserves the highest admiration. But, perhaps a more challenging task is to take Interrupted on its own terms, setting aside Coker’s remarkable personal story. In that regard, Interrupted is a relatively safe place to start a career, a traditional coming-of-age tale made slightly more original by its historical setting and the thematic nods to Emily Dickinson. It’s the story of Alcyone Everly, a 14-year old girl whose safe and sheltered existence is shattered when her mother dies and she’s taken in by Beatrice Lovell in a Maine estate.
After Everly arrives in Maine, she becomes re-introduced to Sam Carroll, a native of her hometown in Tennessee. Sparks fly between the two, but Everly is stymied by her inner bitterness over the loss of her mother and frustration with Lovell’s efforts to become a mother figure in her life. Everly retreats into her writing, where her love of classic literature and self-expression proves to be an impediment to making valuable connections in her new life.
The emotional landscape of Interrupted is tactfully rendered and maturely handled. Coker takes great care to sculpt a believable protagonist in Everly, and walks her through a solid character arc, moving from devotion to her mother to a place of independence by novel’s end. That said, the plot is fairly thin. The inner coming-of-age struggles Everly faces compose the bulk of the conflict, and they’re not very dramatic. And much about Interrupted is a bit too genteel, from the idyllic Maine setting to Everly’s interpersonal conflicts with the other main characters. Everly never seems in real danger, either physically or psychologically, which takes the edge off the story’s stakes.
While this is technically historical fiction, the historical backdrop plays a minor role in Everly’s story. Until the story’s latter third, when Everly’s love interest is shipped off to war, it’s hard to get a sense of the time period, or why Coker chose it. In a sense, it’s the same story as could be told against a contemporary backdrop.
One neat element Coker includes which deserves mention is the homage she pays to poet Emily Dickinson. Each chapter of Interrupted opens with a short excerpt from a Dickinson poem which relates thematically to the chapter’s content. It’s refreshing to see such a young literary voice connect so fully with one of the greats, and potentially introduce Dickinson to a new generation of readers. In addition, one can feel Dickinson’s presence in the character of Everly, who is content to stay cloistered when the world is too scary. People are messy, Interrupted admits, but when you let yourself get messy, the joys are worth it.
In her publication debut, Coker displays a remarkable amount of poise and polish, and while Interrupted isn’t the flashiest or trendiest piece of YA fiction, it might show something more valuable: a young voice with potential staying power in today’s here-today-gone-tomorrow marketplace.
Another cool thing happened yesterday. I got a full-page spread in our local area newspaper! It had photos and everything, which was really neat. Unfortunately, I left it at our church last night, so I don’t have a photo to show you. But as soon as I get it back, I’ll post a pic!
So, have any of you finished Interrupted yet? Be honest: Tell me what you thought!
We’ve been experiencing some unusually warm and sunny weather here in VA, so I decided to take advantage of it the other day and take some pictures of my sisters, Hannah and Ruthie. We usually do photoshoots maybe once a season or so. It gives us an opportunity to dress up and feel pretty, as well as mark our growth. So I spent a good part of Sunday afternoon behind the camera, capturing the beauty of my two younger sisters. I haven’t put much photography on here in a while, so I thought this might be a refreshing change of pace. Plus it gives those of you who I’ve never met the opportunity to get to know us a little better.
And here’s a fun one of me that Hannah took when we were finished:
(I know what you’re thinking and yes, it is definitely a sweet hat)
I was sitting in church the other night, after the service, and I started doing one of those zone-out-and-think-of-all-your-worst-fears things. Does that ever happen to you? One second, you’re perfectly fine and happy, and then in an instant everything falls apart. I swear, every terrible thing I could think of crossed my mind in that moment. I went from happily thinking about Second Peter to freaking out over stupid, highly unlikely scenarios. Like what if I choke up on a live interview and start spouting out nonsense, making homeschoolers everywhere look like uneducated fools? What if my next book is a total flop and everyone stops following my blog and I get letters from colleges I’ve never even heard of just telling me how much they don’t want me to do go there? What if I drown in a swimming pool or bleed to death from a freak accident at the dentist before I get a chance to grow up and get married? What if—and this is definitely the worst—I get cankles?
Looking back, I can only imagine how much everyone around me would have been chuckling if they’d known the fears playing over and over in my mind. It is kind of silly, if you think about it, to be sitting in church, fretting about cankles and the dentist. In fact, it’s downright silly no matter where I am. When you’re sixteen years old and you have your whole life before you, the last thing you should be thinking about is drowning in swimming pools and getting hate letters in the mail.
Obviously, any time you have a peek into the mind of a sixteen-year-old-girl, you’re going to find a lot of silliness, no matter how well-spoken and educated she may think she is. But, all joking aside, there are a lot of serious things that scare me. Terrify me, even. My dad likes to remind me that I am a role model other teens, and that is something that scares the heck out of me. Because, most of the time, I don’t want to be a role model. I want to be a teenager, and I want to go wherever I want and say whatever I want without having to worry about people think. There’s definitely a part of me that wants to hide and shirk away from any responsibility that has been given to me.
I’m also terrified and nervous and giddy about anything that has to do with my writing. The idea of people reading my book sets my stomach into knots. Because, obviously, I want people to like it. I want people to like me. And the idea that I might not be someone’s cup of tea is a very real fear of mine. The fear of being rejected, and of not being liked. It’s something that I am very aware of, because I am in the public eye, and it’s something I struggle with daily.
In case, after reading all this, you are wondering why I am an author or blogger at all, I’ll tell you why. It’s because I have a deep-seeded confidence that God will give me the strength to face my fears. I know that the Bible says, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave your nor forsake you.” (Deut 31:6) I can listen to the criticisms of others and not be shaken or fearful because I know that God is with me. I’m happy with where God has placed me, and I’m happy with what He has helped me to do. I have no shame in what I’ve written or done, and I feel confident enough to be the role model that my dad says I am because I know that God is leading me. And I don’t have to be afraid to stumble or fall, because I know that He will lift me back up again.
When I think of all my greatest fears, it does cause my stomach to get all twisty. I hate the dentist—all those sharp things near my mouth really freak me out. Cankles terrify me, never marrying seems tragic, and receiving hate letters would probably make me cry. But there are greater things in life that are worth facing those fears for. The opportunity to write, to connect with other teens, to be an example and an encouragement. Those are all things that inspire me, and make me want to work even harder for. One person criticizing me is not going to bring me down. Jumbling up my words and making a fool of myself on a live interview is not worth losing sleep over.
But the chance to live for God, to do what I love, and to support and encourage others all make fighting my fears totally worth it. I may have days and moments that cause me to feel discouraged and weak, but when I remember everything that God has done in my life, and look forward to everything I see Him doing in my future, it gives me the strength to move forward in spite of it all. And you can bet that something like cankles will never slow me down.
[Photo via jaybird]
I know you all are dying to hear about my trip to Philly this week, and obviously I’m bursting at the seams to tell you. For those of you who aren’t up-to-date, I got to attend my first ever book signing in Philadelphia at the PLA Conference on Thursday! [insert wild cheers here] Everything about my trip was absolutely amazing. I got to hang out at the book for what my mom tells me was forty minutes, but to me it felt more like five. I signed two hundred copies of Interrupted and met so many people. I’ve been practicing my signature for about a month now, so I think I’m finally starting to feel happy about it. It has to look messy, but intentionally so, you know what I mean? Anyway, I think I’m one of the few teens in America who had to practice her signature for both her driver’s license and debut book signing within two weeks of each other.
Here are some snapshots from my day in Philly, for those of you who are interested. It was a little cold, but so much fun! I got to meet my editor, Jacque, face to face, and spend time with both her and another woman at Zondervan who I work with. My mom served as my travel companion and we ate the best cheesesteaks ever, binged out on milkshakes and HGTV, and even did a little shopping. Here is how I am a failure as a homeschooler: I didn’t make it to the Liberty Bell or even feel that sorry about it, but I did find the nearest Urban Outfitters!
Okay, so I was planning on uploading a vlog video today, but Murphy’s Law decided to pay me a visit so of course the internet connection died two minutes before it was finished loading. I lost eighty minutes of my life today. Eighty minutes of buffering that I will never get back.
I thought I’d share with you the latest hot review for my book. Interrupted was featured on USA Today’s teen blog, and I’ll post what they had to say below:
“It’s not every day a book lands in my box written by a teenager, but that’s exactly what happened when I opened the package from Rachel Coker‘s publicist and pulled out this pretty paperback. Although I’d detected hints of a buzz surrounding this debut novel, I was a bit skeptical. Was it just marketing hype? Or, at 15 years old, had Coker really pulled off a historically accurate, coming-of-age romance?
So with doubtful thoughts, I opened the book … and found myself captured by her tale.
The sitch: Alcyone Everly – “Allie” to almost everyone, was named after a star – but her life hasn’t been bright for quite a long time. Solely responsible for the care of her dying mother, Allie would be alone in the world, if not for her annoying neighbor, Sam Carroll, who constantly interrupts her plans. One such interruption takes Allie away from her mother at her darkest hour – and she vows never to forgive him for it.
Whisked away from her mother’s funeral to become the “daughter” of a prim and proper woman in Maine, Allie retreats into her journal, writing letters to her mother to retain some sort of connection beyond the grave. Beatrice Lovell longs to make some sort of connection with the young girl she’s adopted, but Allie will have nothing to do with Beatrice. Tension fills the home. As World War II looms ever closer, Sam arrives in Maine to stay with his aunt for the summer, and Allie’s already uncomfortable world turns upside down with the new emotions he ignites in her heart.
Across the ocean, American boys are dying – and Sam could soon be one of them. Will Allie’s stubborn hold on the past be able to protect her from the pain if he is lost? Or will she have to become willing to take a chance at allowing herself to love – and to be loved – in order to survive?
Hits & misses: Having an almost-15-year-old daughter of my own, I recognized a few moments in the story that seemed to fit within the limited life-experience parameters of a teen girl’s existence; but Coker’s dedication to crafting believable, multidimensional characters is much more evident than any limitations her age might put upon her story.
Rachel Coker is a budding wordsmith – and this coming-of-age romance has an almost literary quality to its stylization. Giving attention to the sensory atmosphere of her setting and the physical and emotional nuances of her characters, this young author displays the insight of a writing talent well beyond her years.
Hard-hearted Alcyone Everly would be a difficult character to like if not for the love and care she shows her mother. But the reader sees, through Sam and other characters, the beauty-from-ashes qualities that Allie is capable of developing. And, as the story progresses, it is quite easy to cheer for Allie’s star to remember how to shine.
To read or not to read: An unpredictable and engrossing tale of how grief, faith and romance collide within the heart of a girl, Interrupted: Life Beyond Words is quite an achievement – and teen novelist Rachel Coker is an author to watch.”
I think it’s pretty cool. But I love reading anything nice about my book, obviously. Vanity, thy name is author!
I’m off to Philly this week for my first book signing! I’ll be sure to post photos and all the juicy details later…
I so wish that I could give a copy of my book to every single person who commented on my giveaway post. Unfortunately, I can’t do that, but I did decide to give away two copies of my book, instead of the one I originally mentioned. So, the two randomly selected winners of a free copy of Interrupted are…(drumroll please)…lilacandivy and Tiffanie! Girls, I will email you both with more details soon. Thanks again to everyone who entered. I was greatly encouraged by the number of people interested in my book! Once again, Interrupted: Life Beyond Words, is available both online and in stores now, at just about everywhere books are sold. So even if you didn’t win a free copy, buy one today!
Have a great weekend!
So, apparently, being a published author at sixteen does not keep you from having to experience the mundane annoyances of everyday life. Case in point: Math homework.
I was always pretty good at math and got ahead in my middle school years, back before I had any kind of social or professional life. True, I hated it, but sometimes you just need something else to spend time on other than working your way through a pile of Louisa May Alcott books and watching Leave it to Beaver dvds. So I did math. I struggled my way through algebra, advanced algebra, and geometry. And once I had completed four years of high school math, I packed up my textbooks at the end of tenth grade. I haven’t looked at them since.
Until this week. That’s when I realized that in order to pass my end-of-the-year exams, I kind of have to remember math. And I don’t. I don’t remember anything. So we dug out my geometry textbook from the piles of books in our spare closet and I started plowing my way back through it. And, I have to tell you, it was humbling.
You see, I have forgotten how to do geometry. I was never very good at it to begin with, so I guess it just got shoved out of my brain at the end of the school year, along with all the unpleasant memories of tests and protractors. To make a long story short, I have spent the last week re-learning two years’ worth of high school math. And I have not been enjoying it.
And yet, I am glad that I am getting this opportunity to re-learn math. Despite my grumbling and complaining, I do need a refresher course. And I think it’s always important to remember that no matter how good you might be feeling about yourself, there is always going to be something stupidly simple that you do not, for the life of you, know how to do. For me, it’s solving the areas of circles. For some people it might be frying pancakes (my other weakness) or making social small talk. All I’m saying is thank heaven we all have those problem areas. It’s just one of those things that makes us a little more human.
P.S. Funny story: My sister Hannah saw that I was writing a blog entry and asked what it was about. I told her it was entitled, “In Which I Rant About Math”. She nodded and said, “So what do you talk about?” I paused for three whole seconds to see if she was joking before responding with, “Well, I pretty much just rant about math.”
[photo via shutterstock]
So, yesterday I broke down and did what I’m pretty sure no author should ever do. I Googled myself. Now, I know what you’re thinking. What the heck, Rachel? Why on earth would you possibly want to know what other people think about you? And the truth is, other than retorting back with “Wouldn’t you want to Google yourself if you thought something interesting might come up????”, I really don’t know. I guess the temptation of knowing whether everyone else is as nice as all my readers are is what really got to me. That’s right, I secretly desired to read a review slamming my book and hurling on me every non-explicit insult imaginable. Whatever the case is, I decided to do it anyway.
I really should just end this post there, and leave you all wondering what I found. But I won’t. Because somebody might as well benefit from the knowledge I gained after ten minutes of checking myself out. No, I didn’t find a list of insults about me (darn!), but I did read a couple interesting reviews and got a lot of great constructive criticism about me and my book. Here is what I discovered about myself online:
1. No one seems to know my real age. On several different blogs, I am referred to as sixteen, fifteen, and even thirteen. I guess I can forgive that, since any age under eighteen is probably pretty much the same to adults. At least I didn’t come across a rumor that I was really a forty-seven-year-old male living in Idaho or anything creepy like that.
2. Just about everyone likes Charlie and Irene in my book. For some reason, that makes me happy.
3. A lot of non-Christians are reading my book and still loving it. I just think that’s fantastic. Because Interrupted is a religious book, I was worried that a lot of people would be angry and offended, but I haven’t heard anyone say yet that it’s too preachy or intense. One Jewish girl even wrote that she liked it, which I think is great.
4. I should never put a picture of myself online. The same three photos seem to be circulating around all the blogs and websites. This is unfortunate because I have decided that I really dislike how I look in one of those pictures. This is extremely vain and petty of me, obviously. But all important, meaningful thoughts seem to fly out of my head when I see a photo of myself and all I can think is: Why didn’t someone tell me to do something else with my hair??? Surely you’ve felt the same way…
Anyway, the moral of all this is that I should go have some ice cream now. Not for any particular reason other than having ice cream is a great moral for any story, if you think about it. I should eat ice cream and never Google myself again. Well, for a week at least.