Girls Who Write

You’ve heard all the clichés about girls who write. Usually we’re stereotyped as glasses-wearing, book-lugging, ridiculously shy nerds with too many cats and next to zero social skills. While some (or all!) of this may be true, there is so much more to us.

Girls who write see the world through different eyes.

We notice things you don’t. Our eyes caught a glimpse of the tiny scar on the end of your chin and we thought up fantastical stories about how it got there. We noticed the old man on the bench with his faded red baseball cap and leathery tan hands, and we imagined the woman he was waiting for. Every whistle, every hum, every giggle reached our ears, and we knew there was a tale behind it. We see the stories behind everything, and we long to tell them.

Girls who write are distracted by everyday details.

Everything reminds us of a book–a story–a character. We zone out in line at the grocery store. We forget to take notes during lectures. We doodle on the edges of programs, bookmarks, and shopping lists. If you try to have a conversation with us, we might blink suddenly at the mention of a funny name or a pretty picture or interesting quote. We’re imagining how we can use it. How we can take these everyday details and moments and shape them into our own stories to share with the world.

Girls who write will love you and use you.

We view life through a romanticized haze. Every new friend is a best friend. Every adversary is a crushing foe. Every crush is the start of a beautiful romance. It’s not that we’re trying to be dramatic or sentimental. It’s just that we love genuinely love people. Everyone is a character, and we understand that everyone around us has hopes, dreams, fears, and doubts. We want to fix everyone’s problems and develop everyone’s lives. We love deeply because we care deeply. We know that a book isn’t made up entirely of a main character, but that everyone else is just as important. And so we fret and worry about the people around us because we want to make a difference in their lives, too. We will prod and tease and encourage and love you, and then we will use you in our stories because you make us smile. And you just have to be okay with that.

Girls who write will laugh at anything.

We see the humor in silly little everyday moments because we know that tension needs humor and life needs laughter. We might squeal when you soak us with your spilled bottle of coke, but we think it’s funny that you ran out of napkins to help us clean up and are using your sweater to absorb the liquid on the ground. We might be irritated that you’re running half an hour late to pick us up, but we enjoyed watching the two boys hanging upside down on the playground, shouting at each other in Scottish accents and pretending to be pirates. We don’t get embarrassed easily, and we’re quick to laugh at our own mistakes because we know that failures are part of what makes us human.

Girls who write will change your world–slowly, sneakily, and beautifully.

We’ll wake you up and force you to sit on the porch with us as the sun rises. We’ll drag you through musty old book stores in search of Steinbeck novels and beat up volumes of poetry. We’ll always take too long to tell you about our day, because everything will seem like an adventure. But then we’ll ask about yours with genuine and curious interest. We might forget to give you a birthday card, but we will write you sweet notes on random Tuesdays and always describe you to our friends in the warmest way. We’ll take you on a journey and maybe, just maybe, you will love every heart-pounding, breathless, spontaneous, meticulous, odd moment of it.

-Rachel

Video Blog: The Nerves Factor

It’s every writer’s worst nightmare. Someone–be it your sister, best friend, aunt, old lady at church, or random stranger you’ve met before–is reading your book. AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

How do you deal with those nerves that come with others reading your work?

Please send me any more questions you have (rachelcokerwrites@hotmail.com) and I’ll answer them on the blog!

-Rachel

 

Misadventures of a Spelling Bee Non-Queen

I had a dream once. Long before my visions of being a novelist, or a model (snort), or even a Broadway star (double snort)–I had one solitary ambition. To win the national spelling bee.

I’m telling, ya’ll. When Rachel Coker dreams, she dreams big. Visions of trophies and dictionaries and adoring brainiac Indian kids danced before my eyes. I could see myself up on that stage, dressed super dorkily in my white button down and black slacks, grinning from ear to ear when I realized I’d actually spelled “succedaneum” correctly… and on LIVE TELEVISION. It was a dream so vivid and so fantastical it simply took my breath away.

I was pretty good at spelling growing up. And by good, I mean that I got one hundreds on all my tests (If I HAVE to brag) as a consequence of reading half a million books that combined probably weighed more than Taylor Swift’s wallet. (Maybe. You do have to consider how much money she made doing those Target commercials and count that into the equation)

There was just one problem: I pretty much bombed under pressure.

Long story short, I asked my mom if I could start competing in spelling bees when I was in sixth grade. I got really into it–bought the study booklet and had my parents quiz me every day on the long lists of words. Memorized like crazy. Pretended like I knew something about Latin and Greek and Olde German for the sake of sounding impressive. And after several weeks of hardcore studying, the big night finally came. My first spelling bee.

The room was full of kids and moms and the few parents who agreed to moderate the bee. We were in a church. And I was standing there with sweaty palms and a scattered brain, analyzing just how I was going to use my victories on that night to launch my spelling career. I was standing on the cusp of greatness. Soon I’d blow this small town and travel the world as a spelling bee queen, leaving all to quiver in my greatness.

Needless to say, the stakes were high.

I started off that evening with so much excitement and anticipation. All of which pretty much deflated twenty minutes into the bee. Because I was out in round two. On the oh-so-complicated-and-nuanced word “acrobat”. Which, in my flustered state of mind, I figured must end with an “e”. That’s right. “Acrobate” was my downfall.

It was a pretty steep height to fall, too. I can’t say I didn’t feel a little bruised and battered sitting there, completely silent, while other kids continued to speak and advance around me. I was mortified. My dream had been shattered and thrown across the floor, stomped on by the existence of those infuriating gymnasts they celebrate as acrobats. I remember thinking I never wanted to go to a circus after that. That all my life I would be haunted by the teasing leaps and rolls of those monsters.

But then something funny happened. Some kid misspelled “cactus”. And he started to cry.

And as I sat there across the room, listening to the whimpering of the cactus boy, a giggle tickled my throat. Because I realized that I’d probably just undergone one of the most idiotic moments of my life, up to that point, and I had survived. And I hadn’t just survived–I had laughed about it.

I think my family was kind of shocked at how neatly I brushed off my embarrassing defeat that evening. I congratulated the winners who got to move on and laughed with my other friends about the dumb words we got wrong. I patted the cactus kid on the back and assured him that life will go on.

And it did.

Life went on despite the acrobate incident, and life will go on still. No matter what stupid, silly, embarrassing scenarios I get myself into in the future, hopefully I’ll always be able to laugh it off and move on with life. Because we’re not all cut out to be spelling queens. And, to tell the truth, I look terrible in white button downs.

-Rachel

Writing Q&A

I used to do this on the old blog, and I figured it was about time to include some more writing tips on this new-and-improved site! I’d love to make this a regular feature again, so if you have any more questions about writing, publishing, authors, or my life in general, send them my way! (my email address is rachelcokerwrites@hotmail.com). Looking forward to tackling these questions! Now let’s talk writing, shall we?

How do you expand a fragment of an idea into a whole novel?

It’s definitely hard to get 55,000 words out of any concept, let me tell  you that! And when people ask me what the hardest part of writing a novel is, I always answer “the first draft”. Because sometimes it just feels never ending! I wrack my brains for plot twists and character developments and new scenes and ideas and concepts–and it still never feels like enough! I get to page 112 and think, “This is it! I’m through! There’s no way I’m going to make it to the end!”

But I always (or at least almost always) do. And these fragmented ideas become strong novels that (hopefully) inspire and encourage readers all over the world. But it’s hard work. And it takes a lot of persistence, and imagination, and prayer, for sure!

It’s always helpful for me to just slow down and remember that life is a journey. Your story is a journey. It doesn’t have to be faster than the blink of an eye, with everything rushing by. Slow down and savor the story. Let it develop as you grow and learn more about the characters. Add conversations, details, and plot twists. Let your story develop at it’s own pace and before you know it–you’ll have a full length novel!

Once your draft is finished, how do you go about editing and rewriting? Do you read the entire novel first or start editing from the first page?

Great question! I usually try to take a break from writing for a week or two when I finish my book to “space” myself from the story for a while. Then, when I come back to it a little while later, I’m viewing it from a fresh point of view. Usually, I go back to the beginning and read through it as if I was reading the novel for the first time. I edit all the way through, changing things when I notice them. I typically add some scenes that I think are necessary, and even take out some passages that seem redundant or awkward. Editing is a long process of reading and re-reading over and over again, but after going through the book two or three times–it’s usually ready to publish!

-Rachel

Making Me Feel Like an Old Lady

My baby sister Ruthie turns eleven today. Which officially makes me feel like an old lady. And with my own eighteen birthday rapidly approaching, I feel like my childhood is left in the dust. *sob* Oh well. Time to go do… adultish things.

On another note, though, isn’t she gorgeous?

-Rachel

P.S. If you like photography and you’re interested in seeing some more of my work, check out my photography page on Facebook, Rachel Coker Photography!

Jesus Didn’t Call Me to Be a Blogger

I love blogging. Y’all think I’m just saying that because, let’s face it, sometimes I’m not the world’s best blogger. I’ll go days, sometimes weeks, without posting anything and then I’ll just come and hit you with all this stuff. I constantly bore you with family and vacation photos, I moan and groan about everything going on in my life, and I go into way too much detail about my family’s random (and usually humorous) adventures.

But being a blogger is hard.

It’s hard to be constantly pouring out your heart to the world. It’s hard to know that people are reading about you and judging you and taking things you say out of context sometimes. It’s uncomfortable to think that anyone you meet at the grocery store or a barbeque or on an airplane could Google your name and discover a whole world full of your not-so-private thoughts and feelings. It’s stressful sometimes to know that there are girls (and boys!) out there who are growing and learning and hurting and who actually read your words and learn from them. To know that people are watching you.

I’ve had my fair share of “blogger” stories. From being recognized at parties to friend-requested on Facebook from random fans in India to having friends tell me that they actually read my posts out loud to their families every morning. And each and every experience has made me gulp, cringe, and wonder: “Why on earth did I ever say I’d start a blog?”

I’ve opened hundreds of emails. From fans, critiques, and curious bystanders. I’ve been praised to a creepy degree, criticized for ridiculous things, and had a million questions asked of me. People have been sweet and hurtful and funny and inquisitive. And I’ve just been me. And sometimes, I feel like that’s not good enough.

The few blogger friends that I am close to have expressed similar struggles. Jesus, why did you call me to be a blogger? We honestly don’t feel like we’re good enough sometimes. I KNOW I’m not good enough sometimes (okay, a lot of the time). I get burnt out and bored and long-winded just about every other post.

But then I remember. Jesus didn’t call me to be a blogger.

There was never a point in time where The Holy Spirit descended upon me and I received some kind of amazing revelation that God was ordaining me to be a blogger. He never sanctioned me in the ways of the world wide web or set me apart to tweet. He doesn’t work that way.

I was called by God to glorify Him in the way I do it best–by just being me. By messing up and being silly and thinking too hard and ultimately just pointing others toward Christ. There will be days where you might not like what I have to say, or where I might have too much chocolate before writing a post and my mom will just shake her head and remind me that sometimes my enthusiasm can come across as “goofiness”. But that’s okay! Because I am a blogger and a Christian and a teenage girl. And you know what? Life is best that way. My blog is best that way.

Jesus didn’t call me to be a blogger. But I’m sure happy to be blogging away for Him anyway.

-Rachel

Never Stop Learning

I had a really sobering thought the other day. This is the first August that’s not ending with Back-to-School season for me. Because I’m not going back to school. At least not right now. I’ll be working like crazy–doing everything from writing books to teaching piano to tutoring writing to traveling and doing lots of book signings. But no school. No more history papers, chemistry experiments, or math equations to deal with. No more deep discussions on alliterations and the divine right of kings and America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. School is out. Forever. (Like the Alice Cooper song, ya’ll!)

For some reason, instead of exciting me, that really depressed me. Because I love to learn! It sounds corny, but I really do. And I don’t think I appreciated my love of learning enough when I was actually in school. Sure, there were moments where I would feel a buzz when debating whether or not F. Scott Fitzgerald was referring to the eyes of God in his infamous depiction of the eyes of T.J. Eckelburg. But for the most part, I just wanted to be done with school. Finished with that stage of life. And on to the next thing.

Looking back, I wish I hadn’t rushed it so much. I wish I had taken more time to read over my government assignments. Had put even more thought into the philosophy questions my mom posed at the breakfast table. Had done the extra work and read the extra books and really thrown myself into my studies while I was still learning.

But then I take a step back and realize: I am still learning.

I may not be sitting in a formal classroom (or even sitting in my pjs on the couch with a textbook in my lap), but I’m still learning. I’m always learning.

I’ve talked about this phase of life at least a half dozen times. These awkward years between childhood and adulthood where I’m just trying to figure out what God wants me to do next. And I realize: I’m always learning something new.

I’m learning more about politics, as I speak more with the adults around me and discuss the changes in our world today. My eyes are being opened to more theological issues as I study the Word of God and draw closer to Christ. Finances and taxes are becoming easier every year, as I learn how to keep my bank accounts straight. And I’m constantly learning (through trial and error, mind you) how to run a house and keep things semi-clean. (Okay, maybe I’m still working on that–could take a while. Good thing there aren’t guys lined up around the block for me just yet)

As I grow older, hopefully I will always be soaking up more and more as I grow and learn and change. I’m thankful for friends to talk with, parents to guide me, and the chance to be always discovering new things.

As corny as it sounds, it really is true. The world is a classroom. And I can’t wait to see what tests might lie ahead!

-Rachel

You Try Growing Up With All Girls!

Sometimes I truly feel sorry for my dad. Why? Because the man grew up with three sisters, got married, and had three daughters. No brothers. No sons. Just surrounded by females, 24/7.

A lot of people ask what it’s like to grow up in a house of all females. Is it like Pride and Prejudice? Is it a sleepover every night? Do you steal each other’s clothes, and talk about boys, and paint each others nails? Yes, yes, and no (we prefer to paint our own nails, thank you very much). Truthfully, it’s the best thing ever and I can’t imagine life any other way.

When you grow up with all girls:

  • “Legally Blonde” and “Pride and Prejudice” are quoted ALL THE TIME. “If you like him, you should just try the Bend and Snap. It has a 98% success rate of getting a man’s attention.” Or “There’s plenty of time to get to know him AFTER the wedding”.
  • Shopping is a sport. There’s lots of walking–running, even, if there’s a sale. You have to lift heavy bags, take clothes on and off all day long, and calculate discounts in your head. It’s a physically and mentally exhausting activity that’s only reward comes in the piles of beautiful clothing you accumulate by the end of the day.

  • Going to the gas station is a huge deal. Why? Because the guy who pumps gas is an Eddie Redmayne look-alike and your sister has a thing for Les Mis! So life is calculated by every single chance you get to fill up on gas or pick up a carton of ice cream. If you happen to run into the red-headed cutie, so be it…
  • Commericals in protest of animal cruelty are just banned because there is NO WAY any warm-blooded female can look into the eyes of that puppy or kitten and hear Sarah McLaughlin singing about being in the arms of an angel without LOSING IT. We’ll adopt kittens every chance we get, but we only want to see them happy and feel them warm in our arms.

  • Someone makes dessert every night. Be it pie, brownies, dutch butter bars, or black magic cake. Calories? What are calories? If we gain a little weight, we just compliment ourselves on our good “childbearing thighs” and leave it at that.
  • “Modest is hottest” is a phrase echoed just about every day.

  • You can quote just about every line to “Breakfast at Tiffanys” and “A Walk to Remember”. And you AREN’T ASHAMED OF IT!
  • Taylor Swift songs are constantly on repeat. Even Mom sings them when she makes eggs in the morning.
  • Your dad acts threatening around all your guy friends, just in case one of them “gets an idea”. Because he has to seem tough. For reasons unknown to you.

  • You stay up late every night, sewing and laughing and watching movies and eating icecream and coming up with a million inside jokes that no one else will ever hear or understand. And that’s life. And you couldn’t imagine anything better.

 

-Rachel