Aren’t Men Capable of Love?

My family has put up with my rants for nineteen years now. Because I am a ranting kind of girl. Once I’ve realized something (or come to some sort of self-deluded realization of something), nothing on earth is going to stop me from telling you all about it. I’m downright obnoxious. Luckily for them, I have a blog. Which gives me a nice release for all my upset and rant-y thoughts once their ears are no longer able to handle them anymore.

My latest complaint with the world stemmed from buying Taylor Swift’s 1989 album. (Which, full disclosure, I love) Originally, I pegged it as a dismal failure and embarrassment to the queen of music and all things cute and fabulous, but eventually it grew on me because I’m a good little Swiftie who adores everything Taylor creates. The only thing that still bothered me a bit after two weeks of dancing around in my car to the catchy pop anthems of the country’s biggest superstar?

I didn’t like the message.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that Taylor Swift isn’t exactly known for her philosophical and socially relevant exposes on our culture’s biggest problems. And I know there are a lot of people who applaud her new me-centered approach to songwriting. There’s nothing wrong with being an independent, self-confident woman who finds her worth outside of men and popularity.

But I’m saddened by the tendency of Taylor Swift and other pop culture icons to tear others down in order to build themselves up. We look at songs like “Shake it Off” with their shrugs that the haters are just gonna “hate, hate, hate” and cheer along with Taylor. Good for her! She’s sticking up for herself and it’s great. But only when I listened to the whole 1989 album did I realize how sad and a little bit disappointed I felt at who Taylor has directed most of her bitter jabs toward…

Men.

One of my best friends Greg texted me shortly after 1989 was released to complain about Taylor Swift’s new attitude toward love. He’s a really sweet gentle guy who makes everyone laugh and will probably be a very soft and romantic husband one day. And he seemed almost hurt by Taylor’s comments about starting relationships “dying to see how this one ends” or warning girls that “boys only want love if it’s torture.”

His disappointment over the attitude of 1989 confused me for a few days while still in the “ohmygoshilovethisalbumsomuch” first few days of listening to it. But this week, I realized why Greg was hurt by Taylor’s words. Because he is a boy. And I’m sure he wants to fall in love one day and find a girl who he’ll build a never-ending relationship with. Those aren’t childish fantasies to him. They’re real concrete ideals that he wants to build a life on someday.

I realized that when we, as women, applaud artists like Taylor who talks about “seeing the end as it begins” or Meghan Trainer who tells us that “boys like a little more booty to hold” or Ariana Grande who asks, “Baby, why can’t you just leave me?”, we’re allowing this image of men to dominate our world. We think we’re empowering other women and helping each other feel good about ourselves, but what we’re actually doing is fueling the lie that men are lustful, careless play-toys who will pleasure you one minute and leave you the next. Pop queens teach us to be okay with that. To accept it and come out stronger.

We, as women, like to play the role of victim when what we’re actually doing is enabling men to become the selfish monsters we’ve made them out to be.

I love, love, love Taylor Swift’s new album. And I don’t have anything against Trainer or Grande either.They all seem like beautiful, successful, self-confident women who have a lot to be proud of and every reason to be happy in life. But I don’t want their self-centered views of relationships to seep into my love life.

You’re not going to see me publishing a list of do’s and don’ts for my “future husband”, reminding him to agree with me all the time because I’m never going to be wrong. I’m not going to write songs or stories about bad boys who I can’t stop kissing, even though I know they’re going to break my heart. And you want to know why?

Because I value men who are really in love.

There is nothing more beautiful than seeing romantic love played out between two humble, imperfect, hopeful people. And I’m saying that as someone who realizes that love doesn’t always work out and that people don’t always stay together forever. But does that mean that every boy in the world is only looking to torture you? Does it mean that men are going to place heavy importance on your ample or not-so-ample rear end? Or that they’re only sticking around until they’ve had enough and then they plan to leave you? I don’t think so.

Love–real love, the kind of love that tries and fails and tries again–isn’t something you’ll find accurately described in many Top 40 songs. Because it’s not always torturous or blazing red or “rockin”. Sometimes it’s pretty boring. But love doesn’t grow in the heart of one person. It’s a bond. Meaning that it’s not only women who experience this phenomenal gift. It’s men, too.

I’m sad that Taylor Swift had to fall in love with so many hot, passionate, white-shirted jerks before she came to the conclusion that love is something that will never last. I think she’s probably been hurt many times, and that would break any normal person’s heart.

But all men aren’t jerks. All romances don’t end. And if we want to live to see future generations who value and respect love the way some people still do today, we can’t applaud the women who tear men down.

There are some mean, hurtful guys out there. And there are some selfish, destructive women too. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed. It doesn’t mean you’re never going to fall in love or find romantic happiness. Because, believe it or not, men are capable of love. Women are capable of love. The human heart is able to hold so much and feel so much and grow in so many wondrous ways.

If you have a man in your life who loves you, thank him for that. Let him see how much you appreciate him and encourage him in ways that will help him love you more. If you have brothers, or sons, or guy friends like Greg, let them know that you are amazed at the ways they already show love, no matter what stage they’re at in life. Don’t criticize their softness or point fingers in their moments of weakness. You’re soft and weak and imperfect too.

We have to believe that love exists outside of jean sizes and wild passionate trysts and pop anthems. Only then will we be able to help grow the hearts of others.

-Rachel

Thursday Lists

Reasons I went AWOL this week:

My site crashed for two and a half days

I had a sick day that lasted three days

I bought Netflix

Hannah & I spent a day in the city & I ignored my obligations

 

Pies I’m making next week:

Pumpkin praline

Cherry

Pecan

Chocolate chess

 

Albums I’ve been playing on repeat:

Taylor Swift’s “1989″

Lana del Rey’s “Paradise”

Ed Sheeran’s “X”

Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors”

 

Recent purchases:

Gold glitter eyeshadow

Black high-waisted pants

Starbucks gingerbread chai tea latte

Half a dozen donuts (to share)

Movie ticket to “Interstellar”

 

Christmas songs I approve of:

All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey

Christmas Tonight – Dave Barnes

Christmas Waltz – She and Him

Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth) – Bing Crosby & David Bowie

What Christmas Means to Me – Stevie Wonder

 

Things people don’t know about me:

I want a tattoo someday

I think riding motorcycles is fun

Horror movies are actually my favorite

I’ve always disliked The Chronicles of Narnia

My favorite musical genre is classic rock

As a child, I told everyone my favorite Bible story was that of Jezebel

 

-Rachel

The Best Moments So Far

One of the best and most chilling moments of the YALLFest last week was a small snippet of a story shared by author Sarah J. Maas on one of the many author panels I listened in on. Someone had asked the question, “What was the moment when you felt like you’d really made it as an author?” and Sarah answered with a cute retelling of the first ever time she saw her book in a bookstore. Her husband taped her blubbering tears and overexcited squeals.

I have to admit that throughout most of those author panels I felt very small and very overwhelmed. The thought “How do I even consider myself a writer?” crossed my mind at least half a dozen times. Looking up at the faces of multi-million dollar women with faces brightly lit from stage lights and books that have more copies than I could ever dream of was pretty daunting. I’m just a tiny little author. Hardly noticeable. I haven’t done any of the cool and exciting things that these women have, and I’ll probably never be able to throw out phrases like “movie adaption” and “prequel” and “best seller list” like they can.

But in that moment, a tiny hot bubble popped in my chest. Because I know that feeling. I can actually remember my Sarah J. Maas moment, blubbering in a bookstore and feeling like I’d finally made it as an author.

November is unofficially and very predictably dubbed as a month of thankfulness, and while I don’t ever want to be one of those “Things I’m Grateful For” kind of bloggers, I did sit down and write a list of the best moments of my career so far. Some are big and important and others are tiny and special. But after writing the list, I didn’t feel small anymore. I may not be selling out box offices in movie adaptions of my books, but my stories have taken me places and opened me up to experiences that few nineteen-year-olds can hold on to.

I want to share these moments with you so that you can realize how non-small you are, too. I sat listening to Sarah Maas feeling like a tiny nobody until I really took time to reflect on what I’ve been able to do. And at nineteen, it made me realize how much time I have to do more. Whoever you are, and whatever your passions, never let someone you admire make you feel tiny. We need to learn to listen to the big and small moments of others and let them guide us back to our own moments.

The Best Moments of My Career So Far

Watching the Interrupted trailer. It was months before the book was released and I’d never even held a copy in my hands. But one day I stumbled across that trailer (I don’t even think Zondervan had emailed me the link yet) and started crying. It felt so real. The people I had created in my mind were flesh and bone and walking and talking and it was actually going to happen. My story was going to become a book. I’ll never forget that day.

Seeing Interrupted at our bookstore the first time. It was around the time the first Hunger Games movie came out, because I remember seeing it in theaters with Hannah and then wondering if the bookstore next to the movie theater would have my book. It felt like a long shot, but we went in and took deep breaths and scanned the shelves. And my heart plummeted and I might have screamed because there it was. Blue and soft and real. Sitting on the shelf of a bookstore. I was having a bad day and wearing a lumpy sweater and I didn’t want to stop taking pictures.

The first time I got a comment on my blog from someone I didn’t know.

Flying to Philly and mom commenting on how many people will never be able to experience something like this. We had a six am flight and the sun was just starting to rise as we climbed into the clouds and my mom turned and looked at me and said, “You do realize all the other sixteen-year-old girls in America are waking up and going to school and you’re flying to Philadelphia to go to your own book signing. Out of all the people in the world, you get to experience this.” And my throat caught.

Walking into Barnes and Noble with Hannah to check out Chasing Jupiter. This time we knew it would be there. It was early January and it had been out for about a week so it was bound to be on the shelf. And there it was, all orange and new, sitting next to the other new releases. This time we were unashamed of our squeals and jumping and the way the employees must have thought we were crazy. Their loss. They were the ones who’d selected my book as one of the staff picks of the month anyway.

Walking into a middle school and seeing posters of my books to get students ready for a signing.

The school that made me peach pie.

Sitting at the Christy Award dinner in St. Louis surrounded by literary greats and actually being counted as one of them. My knees were shaking and I kept wondering, even after I was there, if I was dressed appropriately and looked alright. Janette Oke was seated at a table across from me. They were calling out the authors behind award winning books and oh my gosh, I was one of them. You can’t forget nights like those.

Every time a reader emails me or someone comments on my blog. Every. Single. Time.

The first time I heard someone say, “Interrupted  is my favorite book!”

The Dream Factory Workshop and being surrounded by six beautiful souls for four days. Hearing their stories and learning their voices and knowing that I was having a part in shaping their creative futures.

Hosting the most recent contest on my blog and getting to see my characters come to life through the creative talents of others.

Hearing Jenna’s song “Rocket to Jupiter”.

Walking up to my signing in Seattle and seeing a booth stacked with two hundred copies of Chasing Jupiter and realizing I had to sign them all. Hand cramps are the most incredible feeling in the world, when they come from something like that.

Getting a text from a friend telling me I was in WORLD Magazine.

The first time I was on tv. Or the radio. Or in a magazine. Anytime someone wanted to mention my books at all.

The month my hometown decided to put me on the front page of the newspaper for Women’s Month (February). I swear I could feel the excitement of all the old people at church.

 

Finally meeting my agent in person in Seattle – or spending several days with his family out on a lake in Oregon.

Realizing I met my best friend in the world through this blog. What if I had never started blogging? Or written a book? Would I know Elaini?

Hearing my dad tell me he is proud of me. Out of all the moments and all the mentions and all the praise, that’s probably the best moment so far.

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I hope this didn’t come across as a narcissistic post bragging on all of the cool things I’ve done. On the contrary, I know I will probably never be Veronica Roth or James Dashner or Shannon Hale. But I’m learning to find grace and gratitude in what I have been able to do, and this post is to encourage you to rejoice in your tiny victories too.

-Rachel

 

Our Trip to Charleston – YALLFest 2014

If you like to read, you’ve probably heard about YALLFest by now. If you haven’t, you’re missing out. Why? Because YALLFest is the largest YA Book Festival in the US. It’s held every November in Charleston, SC (although I hear they’re hosting a second festival in CA this spring for West Coast readers!) and dozens of YA’s biggest authors are flown out to sign books, meet readers, and share stories in amazing panel discussions. There are fangirls (and boys) EVERYWHERE. I’m not kidding. I lost count of how many book-related bags, t-shirts, pins, and notebooks I saw this week. There had to be over a thousand fans crowding King Street–and every single one of them love books as much as you do. I mean CAN YOU BELIEVE IT???

One of my best friends Lily had wanted to go to the festival last year, but by the time we looked into it, tickets were sold out and hotels were booked. So this year we got an early start and booked our hotel/ordered our tickets a few months ago so we’d be sure to make it. Then we piled our clothes/books/bags full of groceries into my car and drove 500 miles down the coast to Charleston. It was so, SO worth it. The people we met, the authors we heard, and the experiences we had were unforgettable.

Some highlights included (but weren’t limited to): Sitting outside a toy shop for four hours and meeting James Dashner (we made a dorky Youtube video about it here in case you haven’t heard that story yet), waking up at 5 AM to go meet Veronica Roth, meeting friends from other states while sitting in line and talking for hours about books, roaming the incredible Blue Bicycle Books store and buying hardback versions of all our favorite books to get signed by our favorite authors, Laini Taylor stopping Lily on the street with her daughter to say they noticed her red coat and think she looks like Little Red Riding hood, stalking Pseudonymous Bosch and his croissant beret from a distance, making peanut butter sandwiches and reading books on the sidewalk every day, long car rides listening to everything from Taylor Swift to Barbie’s Princess and the Pauper–the list goes on and on….

Anyway. I’ll stop rambling and let you be jealous for a bit now. It’s okay to admit you’re jealous. We know you wish you had signed books by Veronica Roth and James Dashner like we do.

And now that I’ve regaled you with the the highlights of our weekend in words, here’s a glimpse into our weekend in Charleston in photos!

-Rachel

 

Insta-Life

Well, I’m headed out on a road trip bright and early this morning to Charleston with my friend Lily to attend this year’s YALLfest! I won’t be able to do much blogging/answering emails/responding to comments until I get back on Monday, but I wanted you all to know that you can follow along on my adventures via my Instagram (rachelcoker95). Do you remember the days before we could stalk everyone’s personal lives via their social media? Yeah, me neither.

Unfortunately I have nothing to share from Charleston quite yet, although I’m sure I’ll have photos up on there later today. But, in the meantime, I thought I’d share some of my insta snaps from the past month or so to share my everyday life with you/convince you to follow and or stalk me.

Like I said, you can follow my adventures this weekend (plus all my adventures to come) on my Instagram!

-Rachel

Contest Winners

Hey guys! Sorry I kinda went MIA the last week. Elaini texted me to ask what blog post I was working on and I had to respond a very rushed “Who has time for blogging?” kind of answer while I hurried to get stuff done. Lots of fun stuff coming up. Roadtripping this weekend, and then posting info on the next Dream Factory Workshop later this month!

But anyway. I wanted to announce the winners of the contest I hosted last month! I challenged my readers to create something based on one of my books. The top prize was a $50 B&N gift card, and the two runner-ups got signed book sets!

First place went to Jenna, who wrote a song, “Rocket to Jupiter”, based on Chasing Jupiter. You can watch it here!

I feel like this girl is the next Taylor Swift. Check out some of her lyrics below…

I’m gonna build you a rocket to Jupiter

Who says it’s impossible? 

We can fly away and live amongst the stars

I’d do it, I’d do it, for you

I’d do it, do it…for you.

I mean, wow. Jenna sent a little note along with the song that said,  ”My song focuses on Scarlett and Cliff’s relationship throughout the story and how she wanted to do whatever she could to make sure that he was happy. Even if it meant making a rocket, no matter how impossible the idea sounded.”
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Second place went to Josie, who created this beautiful hidden meaning portrait of Allie Everly from Interrupted.

 

Josie said, “ I wanted to tell about Allie Everly’s life using pictures but wanted it to be more than just a portrait of her. I wanted my picture to have second meaning. To do that I created a hidden meaning portrait. It’s like a caricatures, but instead of exaggerating the most prominent features, one takes pieces of a persons life (dates, people, likes/dislikes, hobbies, etc. ) and incorporated them, using doodling, into that persons portrait….At the second, third, and even forth glance you will notice more than the time before. ”

If you look closely, you can see all kinds of little doodles from the book. Allie’s name, her cat, piano keys, the moon, Emily Dickinson, phrases like “my miracle.” It made my mouth drop open to see a reader pay this much attention to the details of the story and capture it so well!

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And third place was rightfully won by Lindsey, who created this adorable model “rocket” from Chasing Jupiter.

According to Lindsey, “It’s made from a Pringles can, the top of a water bottle, and some cardboard for the fins. The picture in the center is Cliff, Grandpop Barley, Frank, and Scarlet in astronaut outfits.” Remember how the book ends with Cliff revealing the faces of the people he loves in the rocket? I imagine it looked exactly like this. It’s totally my vision, come to life.

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I couldn’t just end there, though. There were so many amazing entries and I feel like I should share some of the others for you guys to enjoy, even if I can’t give as much detail on them!

Fan fiction – Audrey

Sometimes I wonder what this world was like before.  Was it darker?  Did the sun rise brighter?  Other times I find myself wondering what I was like before, was I happier?  Did I like things I don’t now-such as artichokes?  What was this world-my world-like, before it changed?  I suppose these are things I’ll never find the answers to; except for the answers she can give me…

Mini paintings – Elaini

Poem – Rachel

Pencil drawing – Lily

Pencil drawing – Isabella

Fan fiction – Amelia

Sam reached into his chest pocket and pulled the piece of paper out. Unfolding it, he squinted at the feminine handwriting in the dark light of the landing craft. Even though he already knew the letter by heart, seeing the faint pencil marks on the paper made Allie seem closer. He scanned the cramped lettering, his eyes falling to the last line of the letter:

I love you. I truly do miss you, and think of you every day.

Photograph – Natalie

Poem – Grace

Sweep me into a rhythm of swinging and swaying joy

Lead me onto a dance floor as smooth as mahogany glass

Twirl me and spin me

Teach me the right steps

All as we dance cheek to cheek.

Dancing is made for partners, not lone girls in chiffon and silk

Songs like this one are meant for laughter instead of my tears

Together in cadence

We’ll forget there’s a war on

All as we dance cheek to cheek.

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A HUGE thank you to everyone who participated! I write because I have things to say, but I also write because people like you listen. Thank you for loving my characters like I do and gifting me with these creative projects. I hope that you all enjoy seeing what everyone has produced, and encourage each other to keep taking inspiration from your favorite books and creating new things!

-Rachel