Writing Q&A: Technicalities

Next round of Writing Q&A! These are mostly technical details about Interrupted and other novels.

  • How long is Interrupted?

I just had to check because I really had no idea! But it would appear that Interrupted is approximately 58,000 words. Not long at all, but it’s a YA novel, so I wanted something quick and easy to read. It’s daunting to jump into a 200,000 word book!

  • How many words, roughly, should there be per chapter?

Once again, Interrupted is a fairly short novel, so it has a smaller word count than other books. But I think my chapters are usually approximately 2,000 words long. I did hear that Chapter Two is obnoxiously long, though. I think that one’s like 8,000 words long. I didn’t mean to do that, haha! The thing is, I usually go back and add my chapter breaks after I’m finished with the whole novel. So I make mistakes sometimes and they’re not all the same exact length.

  • Do you have any tips, tricks or habits for finishing a novel?

Get published and work under a deadline. That is the absolute easiest way to make sure you finish something in time.

I’m just kidding with you, naturally. 😉 There really is no easy, foul-proof way to ensure finishing a novel. Finishing is hard work, and not everyone is motivated enough to do it. That’s just the truth.

I’ve talked about this before, but I think that the best way to get motivated to keep going in a story is to step back and remember why you started it to begin with. Think back to when this story was just so exciting to you and you couldn’t wait to start working on it! You loved everything about it—the characters, the humor, the dialog. It was your darling. But then, after a while, it got boring. You got stuck. And now, you’re unmotivated to finish it.

Don’t let that happen! Even the best of us get stuck sometimes (happens to me pretty often!), but that’s no excuse for giving up. Keep plugging along, even if it’s messy, and go back to edit later.

Once you’ve completed all the hard work and you’re ready for a good ending, step back and think a little. How should this story end? With a wedding? A graduation? A move? A surprise? Or just a simple conversation?

No pressure or anything, but it is important to have a good ending. That’s one thing I’ve always regretted about Interrupted. The ending. However, I’m always growing as an author, and figuring out new ways to end books. It’s hard, and frustrating, and not all of your readers are always going to be satisfied, but in the end you want to wrap things up neatly, and explain to your reader in a subtle way how much your main character has grown, suffered, and come out all right in the end.

  • How long do you wait before editing a book?

I always wait at least a week. Sometimes two or three weeks. It’s good to step back and forget about your story for a while. Focus on other things, and let it slip from your mind. Then, when you finally come back to work on it again, it will be like you’re reading it for the first time. You’ll have the perspective of a reader, and you’ll be able to clearly see all the flaws and problems.

One thing I’d like to suggest to you is to find someone else to help you edit your work. I’d be absolutely lost without the assistance of my agent and editor. They catch so many things that, as the author, I am blind to! You don’t need a professional, though. Just find a writer-friend, and offer to swap each other. You’ll edit her work and she’ll edit yours. In the end, you’ll both get a fresh list of ideas on how to make your books better and you’ll both have the happy satisfaction of helping out a friend!


If You Can’t Sing Good… Sing Loud

My dad is kind of famous in our community for his quirky, off-beat, dry-humor sayings. I can’t count the number of times he has ushered guests to the door after a night of fellowship with the off-handed comment, “Well, you can’t come back if you don’t leave.” Or the number of meals that he has pronounced to be “pretty good garbage” or number of mornings that he has stared at me intensely when I come out of my room with messy hair and puffy eyes, only to ask, “And Rachel, how did your sleep find you?” He’s even thought up the perfect thing to say after listening to a three-year-old whine and huff for three minutes straight about some melodramatic but highly insignificant matter: “Mmhmm. I see. And how does that make you feel?” (The answer? Nine times out of ten it’s a blank face–Three year olds don’t deal well with psychiatric questions)

But I think the most popular dad-ism is one that he claims he borrowed from a high school buddy of his. It’s my dad’s answer to half of our predicaments. Every time we come to him saying, “Daddy, I don’t know if I can do this,” or “Daddy, I don’t think I’m good enough,” he’ll just look at us, shrug, and say, “Well, if you can’t sing good, sing loud.”

For years, that answer puzzled me. I’m one of those very logical, facts-based people, and I couldn’t rationalize any correct syllogisms to explain the validity of this statement. It didn’t make any sense at all. Common knowledge told me that people who are not good at singing should not be belting out notes at the top of their lungs. That would not be doing the rest of us a favor at all. And I wasn’t about to give 110% to something that I wasn’t good at. I was too prideful, too cautious for that.

And so I mouthed the words under my breath and avoided social encounters and basically kept away from anything that was even remotely close to the outside limits of my comfort zone. I played it safe. Until one day, I was standing at my cousins’ church doing my usual quietly-singing-the-low-notes-and-faking-the-high-ones thing, when I heard this woman across the room just letting it all out. Singing so loudly that I could hear her voice over the entire choir, belting her heart out in praise to her Savior. Her face was radiant–she was completely happy and one hundred percent sincere. It was really something.

And then it hit me–why isn’t that me? Why am I so afraid of others’ opinions and judgments that I’m not willing to give something my all, even if I’m not necessarily gifted at it? So what if I can’t sing? Why should that stop me from joining in praise just as loudly as that woman across the room? In other words, I may not sing good, but why am I not singing loudly anyway?

Yep, I definitely had one of those moments that parents dream of, where their words of flash across their children’s minds in some kind of life-altering experience. If my life was a movie, there would have been a slow-motion flashback montage thing going on right then. Sadly though, my life is not a John Hughes production, and it was a relatively small moment in the big scheme of my childhood experience. However, I did learn something very important that day.

I learned that I don’t have to always be good at everything I do. I learned that it’s okay to sing off-key and make mistakes and be imperfect. But I also realized that being imperfect is never an excuse to not do your best. It’s not okay to be so afraid of others’ opinions that I forget to sing loudly in life. To chase my dreams and try new things and keep going even when I feel discouraged.

I’m probably never going to be a great singer. I’m never going to be great at a lot of things. But, you know what? I’m okay with that. I really am. And if you ever went to church with me now, I hope you’d see me singing with a big smile on my face. Because I serve a God that doesn’t mind my imperfections, but loves me in spite of them. I have all of eternity to sing like an angel. I intend to make the most of my limitations now, and always sing loudly, even if it ain’t too good. 😉


P.S. If you have a minute, you should check out this amazing blog entry written by my reader Sarah after she read this post. It definitely brought tears to my eyes which is a BIG DEAL. 😉

My Music Playlists

I get a lot of questions about what kind of music I listen to when I write. The truth is, it varies. A lot. I’m one of those people who is kind of obsessed with music and I like all kinds of genres and artists. So what I listen to is usually just dependant on whatever I’m in the mood for at the moment. Sometimes I’m really mellow, and all I want to do is listen to whiny singer-songwriters mope about their depressing love lives and other times I’m in an upbeat Hall-and-Oats-“Making-My-Dreams-Come-True” kind of mood. It just depends.

That being said, I’m a little more predictable when it comes to my writing. I do tend to listen to the same songs over and over again when I write scenes. I make playlists, actually. I have my mellow, semi-sad, very chill playlist that I listen to 75% of the time. This playlist is perfect for when the mood of my story is sad, tender, thoughtful, or just mellow and slow. With “Interrupted”, I feel like that was the mood for most of the story. With “Chasing Jupiter”, things were a little more upbeat, for the most part, and I played a lot of my second playlist, which is full of peppy, retro songs. The second playlist is what I tend to turn on when I’m writing something fun and nostalgic and I really want a great throw-back to the 50’s. Since every book I’ve worked on so far took place between the 30’s and the 60’s, this playlist has mostly retro and vintage tracks on it.

So I thought I’d share with you below my two contrasting playlists, and you could check them out. Feel free to put them on a playlist of your own and listen to them when you write. I really don’t mind!


Playlist #1 

Mood: Sad, Sentimental, Sweet

Consists of: Mostly Singer-Songwriter Covers

1. Moon River – The Honey Trees

2. True Colors – Eva Cassidy

3. Your Song – Ellie Goulding

4. Edelweiss – The Honey Trees

5. I Want to Hold Your Hand – T.V. Carpio

6. Time After Time – Eva Cassidy

7. When You Say Nothing at All – Alison Krauss

8. Sara Smile – Bird and the Bee

9. Safe and Sound – Taylor Swift

10. Laughing With – Regina Spektor


Playlist #2 

Mood: Retro, Upbeat, Nostalgic

Consists of: Mostly Hits From the 40’s and 50’s

1. Teenager in Love – Dion and the Belmonts

2. All I Have to Do is Dream – Everly Brothers

3. In the Mood – Glenn Miller Band

4. My Boyfriend’s Back – The Angels

5. Why Do Fools Fall in Love – Frankie Lymon

6. Little Darlin’ – The Diamonds

7. Cheek to Cheek – Fred Astaire

8. You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful (And You’re Mine) – Ringo Starr

9. Earth Angel – The Penguins

10. Taking a Chance on Love – Benny Goodman


What do you listen to when you write?


P.S. I just want to make clear that none of these songs are “Christian” music. However, I feel comfortable listening to every one of them and I don’t feel that there is anything inappropriate in any of the actual songs that I need to warn you about. You can make the choice of whether or not to listen to any of them–all I’m doing is sharing what I listen to when I write.

Image via weheartit.com

Talking About “Chasing Jupiter”

Yep, you heard it from me first. The official title of my second book is “Chasing Jupiter”, and it’s due to be released in December of this year! Unbelievable, right? I, for one, cannot believe that there is a strong possibility of two Rachel Coker books being published in 2012. It’s absolutely surreal in the best way possible. Watching the whole publication process unfold with Interrupted was amazing, and I can’t wait to go through it all again with Chasing Jupiter! Getting to see the cover, the trailer, the advance copies… I’m just so unbelievably excited for it all!

Speaking of which, here is the cover art:

Cool, right? I love the down-to-earth, vintage-y feel and I’m definitely convinced that this is the perfect cover for the story line. Once you all read the book, you’ll have to tell me if you agree or not, but I’m really feeling it. I would describe the story as having a very cheery, quirky, homey style, and I think this cover fits it really well!

Okay, I know that you all are going to have like a gazillion questions, so I’m going to try to cut you to the chase and answer some of them myself! Using my superpower mind-reading skills, these are the first few questions that I’m thinking you’ll probably have. Here are my answers:


Q: What is this book about?

A: Chasing Jupiter takes place in the summer of 1969, and it revolves around the story of sixteen-year-old Scarlett Blaine, who is growing up in small-town Georgia with her quirky and dysfunctional family. Scarlett has a younger brother named Cliff, who is definitely the oddball of the group. Strange, sometimes moody, and always entertaining, Cliff definitely keeps Scarlett on her toes. Adding even more color to the picture is her eccentric grandfather, Grandpop Barley, whose world revolves around red ties and peanut butter. And then there’s Juli, Scarlett’s beautiful and rebellious older sister, who is doing everything she can to cause strains in the family. Together, they make up quite the loony bunch, and stick out like sore thumbs in the community.

But what starts off as a bright, fun-loving summer quickly down spirals into one of Scarlett’s biggest challenges yet. As the pressures of life and the demands of the outside world start to have their toll on her family, she must learn that protecting and cherishing those she loves is the most important job she has. Scarlett finds herself tottering on the brink of childhood and adulthood, afraid and uncertain about family, love, and the future. But the events that unfold that summer are big enough to change her life forever.

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for this book?

A: One of the main characters in this story, Scarlett’s younger brother Cliff, was the first big idea I had regarding this book. And his character was very much based on a boy that I had the pleasure of speaking to once at my church. He’s an autistic child, and I once chatted with him a bit after his Sunday School class. He showed me a list that he had written of all the things he wanted for Christmas. It was so adorable, and it said things like “1) One acrobat, 2) Two flying monkeys, 3) Three marching bands,” and so on. And I remember the last thing on the list was twelve rockets to Jupiter. And that just touched me so much. And I started thinking about this autistic boy, that none of the other kids really understand. They all think he’s weird and freaky and don’t really want anything to do with him. But underneath the moodiness and the eccentricity is this really sweet, amazing kid that I just love talking to.

And that’s how Cliff is, in my mind. All he wants is to be the first astronaut on Jupiter, which may seem like an impossible dream, but that’s all he really wants in life. It’s so simple. And Cliff may have had autism too, but of course no one knew what that was in 1968. To everyone else, he’s just a freak and a weirdo. But Scarlett sees past that to the real gem of a kid that Cliff is, and she has faith in him. And he has faith in her, too. And it’s that mutual love and friendship that really pushes Scarlett to make the right decisions, despite all her doubts and insecurities. It’s a book that’s about the power of family and trust, and I think that their relationship really highlights that.

Q: Did you come up with the title/cover yourself?

A: No, I did not! But it was a very collaborative process and I definitely had imput into what I wanted it to look like. I absolutely loved everything that Zondervan did with the making of this book and I think it is just spot-on! I definitely could not have done it better myself.

Q: Is this another Christian book?

A: Yes!  Although it doesn’t deal much with Christianity until later on the book, there is definitely a great, Christ-centered message there. 1968 was a very confusing time in America, spiritually speaking, and the story reflects a lot of the different movements going on. The hippie culture and Jesus movement are just two examples. But, despite all the craziness of the culture and its New-Age, hippie attitudes, this book has a great, clean, Gospel-centered message of what true Christianity looks like: Full reliance on God for satisfaction and peace.

Q: What’s up with the peach on the cover?

A: Hmm… Would it be really crummy of me to say, “Read it and find out!”? Yes, I suppose it would be. Well, maybe I’ll talk more about that later, but for now I’ll just say that there are peach pies involved in this book. Peach pies that have something to do with rockets to Jupiter. If that makes any sense at all. 😉


Book #2!

Just so you all know, I posted the cover and title to my second book on my Facebook page today. That’s right–book number two is officially titled, “Chasing Jupiter” and it’s due to be released this December! I just need to figure out how to post the image here… The file is really big and it’s not working. 😦 Oh, well! Hopefully I’ll post the photo here tomorrow and share all the details in a nice long blog post! 🙂


Writing Q&A: The Anatomy of Books

Sorry I’ve been kind of absent lately. I’ve been working hard on a new story. Book number #3 is in the works! This is what it looked like when I started:


Needless to say, those pages didn’t stay blank for long! It’s very exciting to be working on something new, and I’m hoping to finish it this summer! For those of you who are asking, my second book is coming out in December 2012. The book I’m working on currently will probably be released in the spring of 2014. That’s the plan right now, at least! 🙂

Here’s the next round of Writing Q&A! As I’ve mentioned a thousand times before, if you have any questions, post them in the comment section! I love answering questions!

  • How do you know your work is worth being published, or even showing someone?

This is a tricky question. As a writer, I can always see my flaws. They are constantly staring me in the face, reminding me of all of my shortcomings. At times, I write through a first draft, then go back and look at it with my face in my hands, wondering why on earth anyone ever signed me as an author. Because it can honestly be that bad. At first.

That’s where it gets tricky. Because what can seem like bad writing initially can actually be really spectacular writing once it’s cleaned up. Sometimes all it takes is a little editing to make something mediocre into something publishable. The problem is that too few writers are willing to do that extra work to make their writing really shine. Or else they don’t think they’re capable of it.

The number one advice I would give to someone in that situation is to never doubt yourself just because you realize your writing is flawed. Every author sees the mistakes in their own writing! That is absolutely normal. What you need to do is just trust your instincts and the opinions of those around you. If your friends tell you that your writing is great, why doubt them? And remember that if you like what you like, someone else is bound to, too!

  • What essentials should a good novel include?

I thought this was a really fun question to answer! And difficult, because everyone has a different opinion on what constitutes a “good novel” (and I’ll talk more about that in a minute). Obviously, a mystery novel is going to have different elements than a romance novel, and so on and so forth. But there are a few essentials that I include in all my novels, if you wanted to borrow a few ideas!

The first thing I always try to include is a strong protagonist. It’s hard for readers to connect to a character that is lazy, unmotivated, and scared of everything. Flaws are good. Flaws are relatable. But a character with no backbone at all is just B-O-R-I-N-G. Just sayin’.

So I always try to create a character with a little spunk. A little courage. Even when she’s afraid of something, she finds the courage to face it anyway. She’s not afraid to dream big. To chase after what she really wants. Those are the types of main characters I try to create. Girls (usually) that others can relate to and feel sorry for occasionally, but also cheer on and root for.

Another “essential” I try to include in my books is one kind of kooky character. A good way to keep a sadder or more sentimental story line from seeming dull is to throw something lively into the equation. I like to think of Irene from “Interrupted” as a good kooky character. She’s upbeat, quirky, and brings humor to just about every scene she’s in. I love creating characters like that. No author should underestimate the power of humor.

I also think that every book should include a great “best friend”. Even when everything seems to be going wrong, there should always be at least one person rooting for your main character. Someone who will be there to help your main character when he falls. Sam was a good best friend for Allie. No matter how many times she was rude or bratty to him, he was still there for her because he knew that deep down, she was a good person. Charlie was like that, too. Having the love of her friends helped Allie to open her own heart to love. It really furthered her story.

So those are three essentials I would include in a good novel: strong protagonists, humorous characters, and good best friends.

  • What makes a book great? What makes it a “classic”?

In my opinion, a book is a classic if it has a story that still resounds ten, twenty, fifty, or three hundred years after it was written. If the characters still seem “real”. If the humor is still fresh. If the romance is still sweet. If the morals are still enduring. A book is a classic if it is still relatable years after it is written, and if people still want to read it. There are many classics that I have read in my relatively short lifetime, and I know that there are so many others that I have yet to discover. But it is always my goal and dream to create books that will endure and resonate with young people just as powerfully as those did with me.


Life Lists and Other Thoughts

Some of you may have realized by now that I am an obsessive-compulsive list maker. I make lists about everything. What to pack, what to buy, what to make, what to eat… It’s kind of a problem. Anyway, all of these lists have added up to a big pile of notebooks full of lists. A pile that I had to sort through this week and weed out.

It was actually very neat to look through the pile of old notebooks. Some I hadn’t seen in a long time and the contents made me chuckle. There were the pink Lisa Frank notebooks from 2003 with lists reading, “Hilary Duff movies I have seen” and “What to Buy with my Aeropostale Gift Card” (Yeah, I’m kind of ashamed of that one now) There were lists from various school projects on topics like, “Works by Baroque Composers” and “Darwinism versus Calvinism”. I found dozens upon dozens of Bible verses, scrawled on the edges of pages and probably memorized last-minute before tests. And there were pages of scribblings on different theological topics I was studying, with writing going upside down and sideways as I jotted down notes from books and Bibles. I even found all my original lists of literary agents and submission requirements!

But the coolest thing I stumbled upon in my notebook purging binge was a list I probably wrote in 2008 or 2009. Three or four years ago. On the top of the page in neat cursive handwriting (a sign that this was important to me–I never write neatly or in cursive!), it read: “My List of Things to Do in Life”.

It was really fun to read over the list and remember everything that I once wanted to do someday. I thought I’d copy the list here, and then give some of my thoughts on the list now. Some of them are really embarrassing to me now, but I’ll give you the whole, unedited list just for history’s sake.

“My List of Things to Do in Life” – circa 2008

  1. Learn to play Claude Debussy’s ‘Reverie’ on the piano
  2. Save a life
  3. Give without expecting in return
  4. Publish a book
  5. Travel to every continent
  6. Kiss on top of a ferris wheel
  7. See an opera
  8. Meet an influential person
  9. Forgive someone I didn’t think I could
  10. Read a book in another language
  11. Learn how to fence
  12. See the Northern Lights
  13. Take pleasure in simple, beautiful things
  14. Tell someone that I love them every single day
  15. Do something right that no one else would know about
  16. Own over 500 books
  17. Have a picnic by the sea
  18. Teach someone something about life
  19. Wear an evening gown somewhere other than my wedding
  20. Be a good role model

And that’s it. Twenty things I wanted to do one day, written when I was about thirteen years old. Like I said, it cracks me up to read it now, because there are several things on there that I would never think of now. Kiss on a ferris wheel? Wear an evening gown? Own 500 books???? Other things I’d forgotten I’d ever wanted to do. Like have a picnic by the sea. (Wouldn’t that be amazing?) Or see the Northern Lights.

I know that making life lists is a very clichéd thing to do, and if you’re thinking that, I totally agree with you. And yet, it also sort of fills me with a semi-sentimental happy feeling. Once upon a time, I had really big dreams. I was going to go somewhere in life. (Forget somewhere–I was going to go everywhere! All seven continents!) There were really big, cool things that I wanted to do and see. Some of them may seem silly to me now, but at the time, they were unbelievable life dreams.

And then, there were also more serious things that I wanted to do someday. Be a good role model. Give without expecting in return. Do something right that no one else would know about. Those are all still things that I am struggling to do and accomplish. And I know that they are things I will struggle with my whole life. I’ll never be able to be the person that I always dream of being–the girl who is perfect and selfless and always gives sacrificially. But, by the grace of God, I hope that’s the person I’ll always be working toward becoming. Even when I make mistakes and fall behind, I hope that I’ll always be able to look forward. I want to always look to the future with the same optimism and hope that I did when I was thirteen. I honestly believed that God had big plans for my life and I had plans, too. I knew they wouldn’t all come true and I was okay with that, but I wasn’t afraid to dream. And I don’t want to be afraid to dream now.


This Week…

You all seemed to really enjoy it the last time I did this, so I thought I’d share with you a few of the funny things that happened to our family this week. I don’t have any idea why so many humorous things happen to our family, but I’m not going to question it! It’s just part of what makes life interesting. 😉

          – On Monday night, we all went out to dinner to celebrate Hannah’s birthday. Afterwards, our mom made a quick run into the grocery store and we all sat in the car attempting to belt out every word to “Bohemian Rhapsody” with  my dad. At one point, Hannah decided it would be funny to randomly wave at two ladies in the parking lot. It turned out being a lot more awkward than funny, though, because the ladies froze in their spots and started staring at us. We were holding back our laughter as they peered at our car, looked at each other, shrugged, and peered at our car again. By the time they finally went into the grocery store, glancing over their shoulders at us, I’m pretty sure the only thing they saw was two teenage girls doubled over their seatbelts in laughter. Because randomly waving at women in the redneck Food Lion parking lot is actually really humorous!

          – One day, our family was driving down our road, and we slowed down to admire our neighbor’s new paved driveway. (Paved driveways are a big deal on our road) Once we slowed down, we noticed his eight-year-old son sitting in the front yard with a big cardboard box in front of him. Supposing that he was selling lemonade or something, we pulled into the driveway and rolled down our window to shout at him. “Hey!” my dad called. “What are you selling? Lemonade?” The boy made a face and shouted back, “No! I’m giving free great ideas!” Obviously, our curiosity was peaked, and we called him over. My dad offered him a dollar for a great idea, but he refused. “No,” he insisted, “They’re free. You’re my first customer all day!” We asked him what great idea he had in store for us. He crinkled his nose and gave us a cheeky smile. “Well…um…here’s a great idea. How about you guys get your car off my dad’s new driveway?” We drove away in laughter, tears running down our cheeks. Kids these days!

          – On one of our family car trips into Richmond, we decided to reminisce over past vacations. (These are the kind of things you have to do when you saved on the cheap car without the television and dvd sets) The topic of restaurants came up. This wouldn’t be that interesting if not for the fact that, in our family, we always eat at locally owned dives. Always. If it doesn’t have cheap Christmas lights on the porch and the word “BBQ” in the name, my dad isn’t going to stop there. Anyway, we decided on the three most memorable dives of all time. Third place went to the restaurant aptly called “Chicken and BBQ”, because literally all they sold was chicken and barbecue. One kind of chicken. One kind of barbecue. No fries, pickles, or hot dogs. This was one restaurant that will never be accused of deceiving anyone. The runner-up dive was some place with the word “Chili” in the title. When we came across this one, we were driving through middle-of-no-where Ohio and there was absolutely nothing on the horizon. We were hungry enough to eat a horse, so chili didn’t sound bad. It was. Seriously, I have never had chili that disgusting before. And they put it on everything. Hotdogs, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti chili. I still have nightmares. *Shudder* But the grand prize of the most memorable locally owned dive went to some random restaurant we went to in an amusement park once. There was this crazy woman who worked there, and she kept talking about the chicken spirits that guarded the place. She was throwing biscuits and shouting, “Bring down the great chicken spirit! Rain his blessings upon us!” Serious freak out moment all around.

So that was just a small glimpse into our past week. What happened to everyone else?


P.S. Photo was taken in a burst of spontaneity while in our favorite vintage shop last weekend. See our trying-so-hard-to-be-cool-and-fancy faces? Ruthie kind of messed it up with that big goofy smile. 😉

Hannah’s 15th Birthday

Today is my lovely sister Hannah’s fifteenth birthday! I’ve talked about Hannah on this blog before, most famously with the giveaway of one of her adorable bow skirts, but today is special. Because today Hannah is a decade-and-a-half old. I really can’t believe it. It seems like just yesterday we were both little girls wearing matching sundresses and putting our American Girl dolls to bed. If you thought that I was a headstrong child, you were most certainly right. I was the bossiest, craziest, weirdest kid ever–but Hannah was right there beside me all the way. I always cherished her as a playmate and friend, but now when I look at the beautiful, godly young lady that my little sister has become, it brings tears to my eyes. I thank God for bringing Hannah into my life. She is my sister, my best friend, and my role model in every way possible. Happy birthday, Hannah!

I took Hannah to our local vineyard last week and snapped some pictures of her to document her fifteenth birthday. Thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you all!


Counting my Blessings

I’m on such a high coming off this weekend. My family had an amazing time at the 2012 HEAV (Home Educators of Virginia) Conference, working booths for both my books and my sister’s skirts. I had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and was encouraged to talk with so many young writers. You may have seen the announcement on my Facebook page, but God definitely blessed my booth there and I ended up selling out of my book. Sixty people went home with a signed copy of Interrupted! Leaving me to the conclusion that I better bring a lot more next year…. 😉

Anyway, after the success of this weekend, I am just plum worn out. I struggled to stay awake during the sermon today (nothing against our pastor’s preaching—I was just that tired!), but after a short nap this afternoon, I’m feeling a bit more refreshed and rejuvenated. In fact, I laid in bed for a while this afternoon just thinking about how very blessed and thankful I am.

It’s been a little over a year since I started this blog, and less than three months since my book was released. And in that amount of time, I have gotten countless emails, letters, and messages from people all over the world filled with words of encouragement. It’s been amazing to see how God has used my story and my book to inspire young (and not-so-young!) people to chase their dreams and put their words to paper. Amazing, and absolutely terrifying.

It’s terrifying to think that there are nine-year-old children working their way through the pages of Interrupted, who may have never read a book dealing with such a serious subject matter before. It scares me to think that there are twelve, thirteen, and fourteen-year-old girls looking up to me as an example, both as a Christian role model and an author. It completely sobers me when I remember that there are thousands of parents out there who have let their children read my book, and trust me to instill in them godly truths through my writing. All of these facts constantly run through my head with every word I write, every conversation I hold, and every opportunity I have to share my story with an audience.

And yet, despite my fears and reservations, I have a greater hope. From day one, it has been my prayer that God would mark out my path and direct all my steps. From my own eyes, my future may seem scary and uncertain and nerve-wracking. But every time I step back and try to look at the big picture of my life, I can definitely see God moving. I can see Him bringing young people into my life that I can minister to, and that can serve as an inspiration to me. I know that He is constantly giving me opportunities to serve Him in bigger and more exciting ways. And I realize that every time I feel discouraged, He is faithful to continually reassure me through the kind words of others.

Having the chance to personally meet so many sweet, encouraging people this weekend has definitely reminded me of why I work so hard. Why I spend so many hours slaving over pitiful first drafts, formatting blog entries, answering emails, and putting together interviews. It’s because I love this. Every minute of hard, frustrating labor is completely dissolved in the humbling joy that I get out of meeting twelve-year-old boys, sixteen-year-old girls, and forty-something-year-old moms who are just as excited about what God is doing in my life as I am. I don’t have all the answers, and I haven’t done it all, but every kind and encouraging word that each of you has shared with me has done nothing but make me love what I do all over again.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop being mushy now. I really do wish I could write every single person who has taken the time to read my book or write me a short note or email and thank them, but for obvious economic reasons, I cannot. I will keep posting, though, and I hope that all of you had just as great of a weekend, and will have an even better week! 🙂