Books Read in 2015

Chasers of the Light | Tyler Knott Gregson

“We are the only people I have ever known who can make love across a crowded room.”

The Fifty Year Sword | Mark Z. Danielewski

“Ah yes, how hard it is to imagine that Forest of Falling Notes. I know, I know… Imagine. Imagine every sound a sigh of but one thing dying and instead of coming one after another it sighs a sigh of all at once. What would that sound like?”

Waiting for Godot | Samuel Beckett

“Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It’s awful.”

Love Does | Bob Goff

“I want to go barefoot because it’s holy ground; I want to be running because time is short and none of us has as much runway as we think we do; and I want it to be a fight because that’s where we can make a difference. That’s what love does.”

The Crazyladies of Pearl Street | Trevanian

Something Like the Desert | Kristen Hedges

“We are built of stories. They grow in spiny-soft thickets around our bones, reach through our veins, leak from the corners of our eyes, from our fingertips, from our mouths. And because they are so deeply scarred and stained into our skin, we cannot shake them. We are built of them. All of them. Even even the little ones.”

Great House | Nicole Krauss

“I don’t support the plan, I told you. Why? you demanded, with little angry eyes. What will you write? I asked. You told me a convoluted story about four, six, maybe eight people all lying in rooms joined by a system of electrodes and wires to a great white shark. All night the shark floats suspended in an illuminated tank, dreaming the dreams of these people. No, not the dreams, the nightmares, the things too difficult to bear. So they sleep, and through the wires the terrifying things leave them and flood into the awesome fish with scarred skin that can bear all the accumulated misery. After you finished I let a sufficient amount of silence pass before I spoke. Who are these people? I asked. People, you said. I ate a handful of nuts, watching your face. I don’t know where to begin on the problems with this little story, I told you. Problems? you said, your voice rising and cracking. In the wells of your eyes your mother saw the suffering of a child raised by a tyrant, but in the end the fact that you never became a writer had nothing to do with me.”

Cold Tangerines | Shauna Niequist

“To all the secret writers, late-night painters, would-be singers, lapsed and scared artists of every stripe, dig out your paintbrush, or your flute, or your dancing shoes. Pull out your camera or your computer or your pottery wheel. Today, tonight, after the kids are in bed or when your homework is done, or instead of one more video game or magazine, create something, anything.

Pick up a needle and thread, and stitch together something particular and honest and beautiful, because we need it. I need it.

Thank you, and keep going.”

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children | Ransom Riggs

“Stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize we were alone? I had always known the sky was full of mysteries—but not until now had I realized how full of them the earth was.”

Slaughterhouse Five | Kurt Vonnegut

“Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment.”

Worn Stories | Various

“Because I’d like to think I can still summon the total carpe diem, reckless abandon, bulletproof sense of invincibility that I once had wearing that shirt.”

The Opposite of Loneliness | Marina Keegan

“So what I’m trying to say is you should text me back.
Because there’s a precedent. Because there’s an urgency.
Because there’s a bedtime.
Because when the world ends I might not have my phone charged and
If you don’t respond soon,
I won’t know if you’d wanna leave your shadow next to mine.”

Steal Like an Artist | Austin Kleon

“The manifesto is this: draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use–do the work you want to see done.”

Comfort Me With Apples | Ruth Riechl

“‘I need to ask a question,’ said Coleman. The sun was coming up, and we all looked blearily across at him. ‘Why did you come?’

Bradley said for adventure and Jonathan, for the sheer craziness of it all. Lydia had wanted to work with Alice, and Alice had liked the group…

Coleman turned to me. I knew he had been hoping that we had come to learn about Catalan cooking, and I didn’t want to disappoint him.

But that wasn’t the truth, and it was too early, or too late, to lie. ‘When I got on the plane,’ I said slowly, ‘I didn’t really know why I was coming. But I do now. I needed to find out that sometimes even your best is not good enough. And that in those times you have to give it everything you’ve got. And then move on.’”

Bitersweet | Shauna Niequist

“If I’m honest, I prayed the way you cook: this is what I want. Period. This is what I want. Aren’t you getting this? I didn’t pray for God’s will to be done in my life, or at any rate, I didn’t mean it. I prayed to be rescued, not redeemed. I prayed for it to be easier, not that I would be shaped in significant ways. I prayed for the waiting to be over, instead of trying to learn something about patience or anything else for that matter.”

Women in Clothes | Various

Blue Like Jazz | Donald Miller

“Believing in God is as much like falling in love as it is making a decision. Love is both something that happens to you and something you decide upon.”

The Year of Magical Thinking | Joan Didion

“A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty.”

Thoughts on Buying Books

One of the little goals I set for myself last year (and that I’ve been trying to continue this year) is to buy more books. This is very different from reading more books. Reading books is amazing. It inspires and challenges and entertains you endlessly. Right now I have a handwritten list of about seventy books I want to read tacked to my bulletin board. I’ll check them out from my library and borrow them from friends and do anything I can to get a hold of them! The joy of reading a new book is great. But you already know this. So I’ll move on.

Reading books–even re-reading your favorite books–is not the same as buying books, though. And I don’t think I fully understood this until I became an author myself. I have several books that I adore and have read countless times and do not own. And I’m starting to feel ashamed about this.

Do you want to know the number one way to support and encourage an author? It’s not to give them a glowing review on Goodreads. It’s not to praise them to your friends. It’s not even to write them a letter or email letting them know how much they’ve impacted you. These are all really great, really positive ways to help out your favorite writers, but the big clincher here is actually quite simple:

The number one way to support an author is to buy their books.

I’ll go a step further and say that it is important to buy these books new. From a wholesale retailer.

Before you go and get the wrong impression of me and think that I’m a money-hungry mongrel who’s heavily biased by her own experience in the world of book selling, I should explain a few things.

The first thing I want to explain is that I love libraries. Did you hear me clearly? I LOVE libraries. I simply adore them. And librarians are some of my favorite people in the whole world. The idea that, in our country, we have nice clean buildings full of books that we can check out, take home, and read without charge is simply amazing. Libraries do so much to further the spread of literacy and author-appreciation, especially among children and teenagers still in school. I check out ten or so books from my library every month and give that card lots of use. And I visit at least a dozen libraries a year and speak to young readers and writers about my experiences in the world of books. So I just want to make it clear that I think public libraries are fantastic and do an incredible service to our youth.

However, I do think that libraries hold a specific purpose. And that is experimentation. I walk into my county library expecting to discover new books and authors. I often have a list of reviews that caught my eye or titles that came recommended by others. I check books out knowing that I may end up loving or hating them, and I feel absolutely no pressure to decide one way or the other. No money is invested and there’s really nothing at risk. You can read whatever you want and you may (and usually do) end up discovering something spectacular.

But once you’ve found a book you love at your library, you have an important decision to make. Do you want to support this author in his or her endeavors to write future books? Think about it. Imagine that this book has been checked out thirty times from your library. Most of those were probably first-time readers, but three or four kids might have checked this book out multiple times. They really connected to the story and wanted to read it again and again. You might be one of those kids and this might be your fourth time checking out this book. You want to know what happens next. Is the author going to write a sequel? Or will she write more books like this?

The truth is, so much of our success as authors depends on your loyalty as readers. We LOVE hearing about how much you’ve enjoyed our books or how you’ve convinced everyone in the library to check it out. Honestly, that thrills us. We wish that everyone could read our books for free again and again. But publishers have to make money. Authors have to make money. And the more books they sell, the more willing publishers are to sign more books, move forward deadlines, and send that author on book signings across the country so they can meet YOU–the loyal readers who made it happen!

The general rule I’ve made for myself is to only buy the books I absolutely LOVE. Like I said, I’ve checked out numerous books from the library in the past year alone. If I bought all of them, I’d go broke! But if I pick selectively, I can save enough money to buy two or three books a month by authors I truly love. These are writers who have influenced, entertained, or inspired in more ways than one. Because I love their books and want them to write more books, I choose to support them with a sale. That way they can go to their publisher, point to their sale history, and say, “See? Readers are interested in these stories. Are you ready to publish the next one?”

I would encourage you all to make it a priority to support your favorite authors. If you stalk them endlessly, rave about them to all your friends, and dream about their characters at night…buy their books. Like I said, I’m preaching this to myself as much as you. Authors are artists in so many ways, and backing up our words of praise with proof of sales is like saying, “I love you!” and then giving them a hug.

So how do you feel about buying books? Are there any authors you always make it to the book store for?

-Rachel

P.S. I should also make a shout-out to used book stores. One of my absolute favorite bookstores is a little secondhand shop called Mermaid Books not too far from my house. However, I use this store to buy copies of books written by authors who are no longer living. Think Hemingway, Dickens, Twain, etc. Since these authors won’t be able to produce more works, I don’t have a problem buying cheaper used copies and supporting a local business! For living authors though, I try to buy the books new through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or independently owned bookstores in my area.

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

 

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

CONTEST – Be My Fan, Okay?

So many of you have been writing me to ask what I’ve been up to lately. Am I writing a third book? Yes. But can I share what it’s about? No, not yet. Am I planning to go to college next year? Yes, I think so. Do I know what college I’m going to? No, not yet. (Anyone want to offer me a full scholarship? Ha. Ha.)

I’ve been trying to stay hyped to keep writing because #1: I love the new story I’m working on. But also because #2: I love my fans and I want to give you guys something new to read soon!

So one way I’ve been trying to stay “in the mood” is by going through and reading all the old blog posts/reviews/comments everyone left on the internet when my first two books came out. I was blown away all over again reading through everyone’s thoughts and comments and general gushiness. You made me blush two years later. Yay.

Anyway, after being reminded again of what great readers I have, I decided to do a fun little contest (I’ve never done a contest before) for my fans so you guys can show your love for these characters and I can show my thankfulness for your support! 

Here’s what you can do:

ALL OF MY BLOG READERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO CREATE SOMETHING BASED ON ONE OF MY BOOKS. IT CAN BE A DRAWING OF ONE OF MY CHARACTERS, A POEM BASED ON YOUR FAVORITE SCENE, A PIECE OF FAN FICTION, A YOUTUBE VIDEO, A RECORDED SONG, A PIECE OF ART, A PHOTOGRAPH, A HANDMADE DRESS — ANYTHING! BE CREATIVE!

The only requirement is that it has to be based off of either Interrupted or Chasing Jupiter.

In return, I’ll choose three winners. Second and third place winners will both receive autographed sets of my books and a handwritten note from me.

And the first place winner will receive an autographed book set, handwritten note, AND $50 Barnes and Noble giftcard.

(WHAT?? I know, I want it too)

The contest starts today and will last until the end of the month. Then I’ll choose a few friends to help me choose the winners. To send in your entry, email me at rachelcokerwrites(at)hotmail(dot)com with the subject line “Contest”. Attach any photos, documents, or videos to your email and take a minute to explain what your entry is about. I’ll email you back to let you know when I’ve received it. If you would like to physically mail me your entry (which would be, like, so cool), then email and ask for my mailing address and I can give it to you.

Winners will be announced the first week of November. So dig back into those books, get inspired, and let the creative juices flow! I honestly can’t wait to see what you come up with.

{Contest open to all ages and all countries. Contest will end at 12:00 AM EST on November 1, 2014. Winners will be chosen based on creativity, talent, and relevancy to my stories. Winners’ first names and winning entries will be published on my blog.}

-Rachel

Book Updates

Hey, everyone! It’s been a while since I posted some updates on what’s going on in my professional life, so I thought I’d do a little update and get you all caught up!

First off, have you followed me on Google+ yet?? I was getting a lot of requests from readers asking that I start a Google+ page for the blog, so I decided to heed your advice and get on yet another social media bandwagon. If you follow me there, you will be updated several times a week with blog posts, video blogs, photos, and other bookish news and events. And if you haven’t yet, you can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and  Youtube. (Phew! All the sites, right?)

I was super surprised to find out that my photo and book review were both found in last month’s copy of “World Magazine”. Somehow, everyone forgot to tell me that was happening. I got a Facebook message from one of my friends in Portland explaining that he nearly choked on his bowl of icecream while casually flipping through World Magazine, shocked to find my face smiling back at him from the pages. So of course I looked it up myself and–yep!–it’s true. I’m in there! Not sure if you all can get a past copy of the magazine, but you can read the review here.

It was also a huge honor this month to be featured on the Writer’s Digest site, talking about “How I Got My Agent.” Writer’s Digest is also giving away a copy of my first book, so if you didn’t win big this week in my giveaway, try your hand there to win “Interrupted”!

A lot of readers have also been asking (ahem–begging!) for details on my third book and I am happy to say that I am very, very close to announcing more details on that very, very soon. I know–it’s killing me too. Patience, my pretties… All good things to those who wait.

And that’s all I have to say about that. (Forrest Gump quote for the WIN!)

-Rachel