rachelcoker


Video Post: The Best Moment of My Career So Far…

It’s Friday (gotta get down on Friday), so you know what that means! Video post, obviously.

Today I’m talking about some of the best moments and memories that I’ve experienced so far. I’ve gotten the opportunity to do so many fun things, but I still have favorites…

-Rachel

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Coker Resort

So I was debating what to blog about today when I remembered that I still have a whole folder of unpublished photos of Ruthie’s tenth birthday party two weeks ago on my computer! These are just too good to go unshared, so, without further ado, I present to you…. Coker Resort.

It takes a unique kid to want to celebrate her tenth birthday with a hotel-themed birthday party. Lucky us, too, because obviously every hotel needs staff (*ahem* servants) and obviously having two older sisters makes that a cinch. To help ease the pain, we invited over two of our favorite friends, Ellery and Lila. The four of us dressed up in our hotel-y-ish clothes and treated the guests to a full on spa experience. We gave them facials, painted their nails, and did their hair. Then we passed out menus and delivered them a fine meal. Later on in the evening, the girls sugared up on icecream sundaes and watched a few American Girl movies. And the next morning, before they left, we led the guests into the “lobby” and let them “buy” candy from the hotel’s candy lobby.

So how was a sleepover with nine giggling girls under eleven? Loud. Very, very loud. Loud from the moment they checked in at 3:30, to the bathroom break they took at 11 PM, to the wild dance party we led them in the next morning. But it was fun indeed, and I think everyone had quite a time at Coker Resort.

-Rachel


Days I Wish I Had a Brother

I’ve talked about what it’s like to grow up in a house full of women about a gazillion times. Or at least two or three. Yes, it is amazing. It’s like a sleepover every night and shopping trip every other day. We bake, and take pictures of our cats, and refuse to change the channel when the Olympics is broadcasting the men’s volleyball or swim teams. Hannah also has this disillusioned dream that one day the two of us will swear off men and move into our own apartment, where we’ll have a whole room dedicated to shoes with quotes like, “Cinderella: Proof That A Great Pair of Shoes Can Change Your Life” on the walls. I let her dream about that for now, because it is nice to think about a rainbow of shoes greeting me every morning.

Anyway, I digress.

The point of this post is that I really need to hire someone who will agree to be our brother for like two hours a day for no pay. Well, I mean, we could pay him in pies, I guess. If he’s really going to be greedy like that.

This is the problem: There are so many boyish things that my sisters and I do not ever want to do. We do not like hauling groceries from the car, moving couches down two flights of stairs, or picking vegetables in the garden. Obviously, we are very spoiled. But still.

Sometimes I think it would just be really nice to have a brother. Someone to help my dad mow the lawn and powerwash the house. (Two chores I have still managed to avoid for sixteen years) Someone who will get us up-to-date on the names of action movies and video games, and help us keep track of what football teams are from what states. A nice teenage brother that we can manipulate into wearing bow ties and blazers on Sundays, and drag with us to ballroom dancing to learn the foxtrot.

[This is what he would look like—cool hair, bow tie, and always wearing a watch so I would know what time it is, since I have a weird aversion to wearing anything on my wrists. I wouldn’t even have to ask, because that gets embarrassing. He’d just be like, “Hey, Rachel, you should probably know that it’s a quarter til seven, in case you wanted to catch that new Cupcake Wars episode on TV tonight.”]

Gosh, the more I write this, I feel kind of sorry for my hired brother. The poor guy’s gotta do all the chores, carry all the groceries, wear fancy clothes, and learn how to rhumba. I’m just going to imagine that he’d love it. And he’d also give us advice about how teenage guys think and what they look for in potential wives and how we can prepare to be great wives and mothers one day. This brother would be the bomb. (In a totally non-90’s way, obviously)

But, life is life, and we don’t have a brother. This may make me sad sometimes, but then I remember what a great father I have. My dad is always quick to encourage and disciple me, and while he may have total disdain for the male J. Crew models’ rumpled plaid shirts and bow ties, I still think he’s pretty cool. He mows the lawn week after week without complaint, and has never once asked me to run to the dump without him. (With him on several occasions, but never on my own, thank heavens!)

I also have these cool guys, who are like the worlds’ best pretend brothers. They treat me and my sisters pretty well, and I’d be lost without them 99% of the time.

[Photo from Ruthie’s birthday, when we managed to eat a giant Barbie skirt cake, get high on sugar, roll around on the ground laughing, and make up crazy swing dance moves all within the course of two-and-a-half hours]

So, in the end, I have written this long, whiney blog post not only to bore you with my desire for a brother, but to let you know that I am going to be totally okay without one. I’ll just bite my lip whenever I want to complain about having to do something a brother could do so much better, and just remember how much toning my arms are getting from hauling three hundred dollars worth of groceries from the car to the door. Physical labor does have its perks, people.

[This is us, by the way, post-sugar crash. Too much icing…]

-Rachel


Video Post: Should My Character Be Just Like Me?

Week two of my weekly Friday vlog feature! Today I’m talking about whether or not authors should create characters that are auto-biographical. When is it okay to be just like your main character, and when is it important to be different?

-Rachel

 

 


Wishful Movie Thinking…

I decided to do something fun today. One of the great things about being an author is living with the ever hopeful dream that someday–someday!–your book will be made into a movie. Wouldn’t it be amazing? I don’t let myself get too carried away with dreaming about that idea since it will probably never happen, but it is really cool to think about how absolutely amazing it would be to watch Interrupted on my television. That would definitely be a big moment in my book.

Anyway, I got a really fun question in an interview ages ago asking me who I would choose to cast as my main characters should Interrupted ever be turned into a movie. So I thought I’d share with you a few photos of what a movie version of Interrupted would look like in my head, and you have to share what you would think! (Because it’s as much your story as it is mine!)

SETTINGS:

First, let’s talk about the settings of Interrupted. I usually think of three main buildings in the book.

Allie’s Tennessee Home: The first is obviously Allie’s home in Tennessee with her mother. I don’t think I actually described the physical home in the book, but I always picture a cute little cottage in the middle of the hilly countryside, with a beautiful garden and lots of open space.

This is the perfect house, I think. Too bad it’s a painting. I’m not sure if this house actually exists or not (I’m assuming it does), but this is definitely where Allie would live. If Interrupted ever becomes a movie, I am sending the company this photo and ordering them to find this exact house. Can’t you just see Allie looking out that top window at night, writing in her notebook? And I have to believe it has a garden in the back. I choose to just believe that.

Beatrice’s Victorian Home: The second big building I think of in the book is Beatrice’s house in Maine. In the book, this is described as being from the Victorian era, and being all white, with “dozens of windows and red shutters and sharp points” . It also sits on a hill overlooking the ocean, which is a bit intimidating, I think. All in all, it’s very prim, formal, and feminine. Like this:

Definitely the kind of house that makes you want to keep your shoes on. I can see why Allie was intimidated. I think the above house would be perfect. I wonder if it overlooks the ocean?

Irene’s Diner: To tell the truth, when I was writing the book I just made up the look of the diner completely in my head. Wasn’t sure if anything like it existed in real life, but it seemed to fit in the book. So I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find a photo online to match the description in the book. But guess what? I did!!! Check this out:

So perfect, right? Just change the sign to read “Goodey’s Diner” and add a bright pink car in the parking lot. Voila! There you have it, folks.

CHARACTERS:

Now we get to the good part. Who would I cast to play all the main characters in Interrupted? Let the pickings begin…

Alcyone Everly, played by… Astrid Berges-Frisbey

Okay, so technically Astrid is a model and I’m not even sure she can act. But I heard she was in Pirates 4 (which I’ve yet to see, sadly) so she must be able to act a little. Whatever the case, she can learn. She will learn, because she was born to play Allie. When I think of Allie Everly, this is the only face I see. What do you think of our leading actress?

Sam Carroll, played by… Logan Lerman

Agh. Logan Lerman. Never mind the fact that he has those beautiful blue eyes and a knee-weakening voice. (How can a voice be attractive, you ask? I have no idea. But somehow his voice is) This decision really comes down the simple fact that Logan just is Sam. Look at him, girls. Can’t you just picture him sitting on that kitchen counter, pouring his heart out? Um, yes.

Charlie Cooper, played by… Alison Lohman

Or at least a young Alison Lohman. Because I think she’s like 32 now. But remember her in Big Fish? Take that face and add a spunky personality and you have Charlie. It’s a done deal.

Beatrice Lovell, played by… Honor Blackman

Okay, so I think that Honor Blackman is actually over 80, and Beatrice is only in her 60’s, but still. Look at that face. “A woman of age possesses much sage.” She’d be a cinch at playing Beatrice.

Irene Goodey, played by… Amy Adams

Of course Amy Adams was going to play Irene. Bubbly, ditzy red-head? That was a no-brainer, people. She’d play Irene fabulously and everyone would love her.

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I think that’s just about everyone. So… What do you all think? Did I make any missteps? Anyone that you would love (or hate) to see play these characters?

-Rachel


My Thoughts on Fan Mail

I don’t usually publish any of the emails or “fan” letters that I get. Mainly because most of them are personal, and are asking for advice, and I know that those girls probably wouldn’t be comfortable with their questions and confessions out there on the internet for the whole world to see. But I thought I might make an exception today. Because, the truth is, these letters offer me so much encouragement and it would be selfish not to share some of that with you!

So now I have to go way back in my email archives, Facebook messages, and letter box to round up all the notes and pick a few favorites. I think the ones that came in the mail are some of the best. As much as I love getting emails, there’s something really special about getting a letter from a reader in the mail. It feels so heart-felt, you know?

Oh, and before I forget, my friends ask me sometimes how I feel about getting “fan mail”, and you may be wondering the same thing. The truth? It can be a little awkward. I usually say a quick, heartfelt “thanks” and then do my best to answer all the questions the reader sent me. But I always find it really sweet and a great letter has been known to boost my spirits on many a day. It’s very touching to think about someone in another state or country taking the time to write and encourage me, and it gets me through those stressful, tough moments in my writing life. So, while it’s just embarrassing enough that I don’t usually write about whatever “fan mail” I receive, I always appreciate it and I love getting to chat with the people who send it! 🙂

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite snippets from my “fan mail” pile over the past year. 😉 Hopefully you will find encouragement from it, too!

Christine wrote me about a year ago and started off with, “I know you must get many emails exactly like this. So I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I’ll be the lucky one who gets an answer!” I received that email before my book was even out in stores! I didn’t tell Christine at the time, but it was the first fan letter I ever got and I was smiling ear to ear that whole afternoon. Lame, I know… 😉

A girl named Stacia messaged me on Facebook after reading a review of my book in Girl’s Life Magazine. Her message made me smile because she told me, “When I found out your age, I was amazed! I have never even considered trying to get anything I ever wrote published. Until now. I am currently in the process of talking with my Grandma and my parents to try to go forth with it.” It always makes my day when someone writes to tell me that they’re going to try to get published after hearing about me or reading my book/blog. Way cool, Stacia. Oh, and she also added, “Thank you for showing me that you don’t have to be an adult, or professional writer, but just a normal teen with a normal life who loves to write.” No problem! 🙂

One of the best compliments I have ever gotten came from an email from a girl named Skye, who I happen to know is a follower of my blog. Hi, Skye! Anyway, I literally laughed out loud when I got Skye’s email. She straight out told me, “I absolutely adore your blog. You’re funny, witty, and a great writer. I have to admit that when I first heard about you, I was so jealous. Mostly because you were a year younger than me and already a published author ‘gasps’ it’s like too good to be true. Anyway after reading your blog, I felt happy for you because you deserve it, so now I can say without even a hint of jealousy.” I’m jealous of you, Skye! I wish I could write emails that sweet and awesome. You know exactly what to say to make me smile. So thanks. 🙂 And I still need to get around you reading your book… I wasn’t counting on all the edits I had to do this summer.

Sarah (another blog follower–yay!) wrote me once asking for some basic advice about believing in herself and staying confident. (I really need to write a blog entry about that sometime…) I loved what she said in her email: “I am truly inspired by your success at publishing your first book while so young. I’m fourteen years old and I’ve been writing books since I could hold a pencil. My dream is to have my first book published before I turn 16, so I was thrilled to see that you succeeded because that gives me such hope!”

Okay, so this is getting a little long so maybe just one more quote? This one is from a recent email I received from a girl named Anna. It made me smile, and I ended up reading it out loud to my whole family, which is really rare. Anna had all kinds of uplifting things to encouraging me with, but I think this was my favorite part of her email: “The main reason I decided to write to you was to encourage you. I greatly admire the courage you possess in navigating the publishing world, and your integrity shines through your blog and your book. Even though I may never have the pleasure of meeting you, I’m honored to call you a sister in Christ, and I’m praying for your ministry. I may be a couple years older than you, but I look up to you. You inspire me to pursue my own calling to be a writer and reach teens with the hope found in Christ. Though I’m not yet published, your story uplifts me and reminds me how, when we live for God, great things can happen.”

Amen. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

-Rachel


Ruthie’s Tenth Birthday

I cannot believe that my baby sister turned ten years old today. It feels to weird to admit that she’s double digits! How old does that make me?

I remember the day Ruthie was born. We didn’t know if it was going to be a girl or a boy, and I remember dancing around my aunt’s kitchen when I found out that we would have a family of three girls. It was so much fun to dress Ruthie up in tutus and feather boas when she was  toddler, spoiling her with lollipops, reading her books before she went to bed… It’s been ten whole years of amazing memories.

Some of you have commented before on the closeness of our family. It’s days like today that I feel it the most. I am so blessed to have two wonderful sisters. We’re not perfect–we can be bossy, selfish, and dramatic like everyone else–but we really do love and support each other in everything.

Ruthie, I hope you have a wonderful birthday and I’m so looking forward to seeing how God’s going to work in your next ten years of life! 🙂

-Rachel


Video Post: What About Friends and School?

So I’ve decided to start a new feature: video blogs every Friday! For those of you who enjoy watching me make weird faces, talking about random stuff, or just wonder what my voice sounds like… Here’s your chance to find out!

Email or message me if you have any suggestions for a future video, and I’d be happy to include it. 🙂

And be sure to check out my Youtube channel for more videos.

-Rachel

 


Books I Didn’t Think I’d Want to Read, Then Ended Up Reading, And Actually Loved

Have you ever seen a book at the library, or a used bookstore, or a friend’s house that totally did not look like something you would enjoy reading, and then someone convinced you to give it a try, and you ended up loving it? Yeah, me too. It’s awful, too, because they’re usually the kind of books that have titles or covers cheesy enough to make you wince. And when a friend spies you holding it, you have to rush out in one big breath, “Okay, I know this book looks totally lame but it’s actually pretty good, once you get past the first three chapters and it actually has a really cool ending and it might have made me cry, but it was also kind of funny, and just ignore the silly title and borrow it, okay?” I’ve done that before. Just so you all know.

Okay, so I think I’ll go ahead and further humiliate myself by sharing a few books that totally did not look like titles I’d actually want to read, but ended up reading anyway, and actually loved. Usually it was a friend who would convince me to read them, or a really great review by someone I trust. Whatever the case, here they are. You read, and I’ll stand over here cringing in embarrassment.

Just One Wish, by Janette Rallison

 Seventeen-year-old Annika Truman will do anything to fulfill her little brother’s only wish before his frightening cancer surgery. The trouble is, he wants a certain superstar actor to pay him a visit. Annika has only a few days to drive to California and convince the celebrity to come home with her. On a seemingly impossible adventure that includes paparazzi, bows and arrows, and one enormous snake, Annika learns a few lessons about family, love, and having her own wishes granted.
 
 
 
 
Sounds lame, right? That is exactly what I thought! (We think so similarly, random readers) But one of my good friends was just raving about how good this book was, so I ended up checking it out from the library. It ended up being so good. Okay, so the whole superstar love interest thing was really lame, and I kind of skimmed those sections. But the relationship between Annika and her little brother was so sweet. Usually sibling-dying-of-cancer stories all sort of feel the same and they really depress me, but this one was different. Special. You should just read it and see if you agree.
 
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
 
Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1867. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met. Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place. Just when it seems she must give up, she finds a kindred spirit. But Kit’s friendship with Hannah Tupper, believed by the colonists to be a witch, proves more taboo than she could have imagined and ultimately forces Kit to choose between her heart and her duty.
 
Okay, so I was really scared to read this book, because I usually shy away from things involving witchcraft. (I may be one of the 1% of people alive who still has never seen/read Harry Potter) But believe it or not, reading this book was actually a school assignment way back in sixth or seventh grade (best homework ever!), so I really had no choice. Long story short, I loved it. It was my favorite book ever for several years (until another school assignment introduced me to the masterpiece that is Gone with the Wind), and I still love, love, love it. You’ve probably read it, but in case (like me), you never realized this gem existed, let me assure you that you will fall in love with this story. It’s not about witchcraft at all, but rather a story of friendship, compassion, and staying true to yourself.
 
Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale
 
Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king’s priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year’s time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king’s ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.

I first read this book in 2007, the year it came out. I was eleven or twelve, and I was in this weird phase where I went and read all of the Newberry Medal and Honor books. I totally cringed at the idea of this one. Princess Academy? I was so over princess and Barbie dolls, thank you very much! But it was on the list, and I was completely dedicated, so I read it. It quickly became one of my new favorite books. I’ve read it three or four times since then, and I still love it every time. The story’s really simple and sweet, which is good because I love simple storylines. I’m  not big into action, drama, and conflict. Shannon Hale is just a brilliant writer, though. She made me love this story, when other authors may have made me gag.
 
The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
 
When an eccentric millionaire dies mysteriously, sixteen very unlikely people are gathered together for the reading of the will…and what a will it is!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Whoever decided that we should never judge a book by its cover was obviously not a teenage girl. Because I feel like I always judge books by their covers. Don’t care if that’s right or not, but it’s true. And I hate the cover to this book. Always have. Why? Because it’s boring, and doesn’t really seem to have much to do with the book. But, whatever. I’m going on a rant. Anyway, this book was another title on my Newberry Medal and Honor list. Wasn’t excited about reading it at all. But you know what? I really, really liked this book. I don’t know if I’d use the word “love”, and I don’t know if I’d want to read it more than once or twice a decade, but it’s still pretty good. I think the appeal of this book is that it’s not mushy, sappy, romantic, or girly. It’s just a solid interesting, quirky mystery. The non-gushy side of my personality loves that. I feel the same about And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie. Anyone else read that book?
 
Heartbeat, by Sharon Creech
 
Run run run.

That’s what twelve-year-old Annie loves to do. When she’s barefoot and running, she can hear her heart beating . . . thump-THUMP, thump-THUMP. It’s a rhythm that makes sense in a year when everything’s shifting: Her mother is pregnant, her grandfather is forgetful, and her best friend, Max, is always moody. Everything changes over time, just like the apple Annie’s been assigned to draw. But as she watches and listens, Annie begins to understand the many rhythms of life, and how she fits within them.

This is a poem book. As in, the whole thing is written as one long poem, not prose. Which may be up some people’s alley, but it was never up mine. No, siree. But a librarian suggested I read this when I was ten or eleven, and I ended up really connecting to it. It was one of the first books that opened my eyes to the idea that I don’t necessarily have to write about a plot. With a hero and a bad guy and a quest or goal or aim. Sometimes the best books are just about people, and what they think or feel. That idea has been invaluable in the way I write and form my stories, and I think this book was one of the first times I realized someone could write a book like that. And, by the end, I didn’t mind the poetry.

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So that’s my round-up. I’m sure there’s several more titles that I could include, and I’ll probably think of them all as soon as I post this, but I think that’s it for now.

So what about you? Have you ever been skeptical or embarrassed to read a book, and then ended up loving it?

-Rachel


Dentist Appointments and Stomach Flus

When I was a little kid, I was a total hypochondriac. You know, the type of ten-year-old who would find out that a toddler at church had the stomach flu and would immediately start suffering from nausea and high fever. Never mind the fact that kid sat four rows behind us and never spoke to me. That was absolutely not important. What was important was the fact that someone was sick, and therefore I must be sick, and so my stomach started to hurt.

It was pretty bad.

I obviously needed this book:

One time, I remember being under the impression that I had strep throat or something, because a girl at my dance class had it, and I rolled around in bed all day and claimed I couldn’t go help at the local food bank, where I’d promised to work every Wednesday afternoon. Well, my dad wasn’t having any of that, so he pulled me out of bed, told me to brush my  hair and get in the car because I wasn’t sick and he wasn’t going to let me claim I was. You should have seen the look on the manager of the food bank’s face when he heard about my “miraculous recovery”. I didn’t hear the end of that story for years.

You may wonder why I’m telling you about this now. I really have no idea, except for maybe the fact that I am totally over my hypochondriac days and I am very proud of myself for it. That’s right, I am no longer paranoid of being sick all the time. My mom has some kind of flu-ish thing today, and I was totally willing to sit with her in the car for an hour to go to the dentist, which is not something I ever would have done back when I was Little Miss Paranoid. True, I was thankful when she decided to cancel her trip to the dentist and stay home (for more reasons than one—I hate the dentist with a burning passion), but still. I would have gone. So that counts for something, right?

I think it’s always good when you can admit to something that you struggle with, work on it for a long time, and then, by the grace of God, overcome it. Being terrified of getting sick was always something that struck absolute fear into my heart when I was younger. And even though the idea of catching the flu isn’t exactly appealing to me anymore, it doesn’t ruin my day any longer. Instead, I’m just worried about my mom and trying to make sure I can do whatever it takes to make her feel better.

Obviously, there are still things that need to be worked on in this family, though. Like our ever-present pessimism. You know it’s bad when you grab the keys off the counter and call for your sisters only to hear your mom weakly protest from the bedroom, “Rachel, only take Hannah to the library with you. If something were to happen, I would still want one daughter left.” And she was dead serious. True story.

-Rachel