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.

*

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

 

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

Girlz 4 Christ Magazine

So, guess who’s a cover star now? I know it’s hard to believe but, yes, I was featured on the cover of a magazine! Girlz 4 Christ was gracious enough to interview me for their July/August issue which was released just the other day! It has a great interview inside, so you should definitely check it out. I’m very humbled and honored by this opportunity, and it would mean a lot to me if you would pick up an issue! (I think it’s digital and costs $5 an issue)

-Rachel

Novel Teen Blog Tour!

This is the first Monday in a while that I have literally been counting down the days to. Because today is Jill William’s Team Novel Teen Blog Tour–featuring none other than Interrupted: Life Beyond Words. Being the author of Interrupted, I obviously have special interest in this event, but hopefully you’ll want to check it out, too! Eleven different bloggers are talking about Interruptedtoday, and I’m posting the links below for you to check out! Ten dollars to any reader who visits every blog and comments “Rachel Coker is the best. I know her personally and I can truthfully attest to the fact that she is funny, staggeringly brilliant, and cute!” (Joking ;P)

Anyway, here are links to the reviews:

Jill WilliamsonADD LibrarianThe Book FaeBook NookColorimetryCTF Devourer,GillianLife With a MissionMy Story ShelfOh, Restless BirdInspiring Darling 

Most of these bloggers also posted a review of my book on Amazon, which just tickled me pink. It’s so weird to go on Amazon.com and see that Interrupted has a 4.3 rating and over 20 reviews! A few years ago, I would have never ever thought that something like that could be possible. I guess God had different plans than I did! ;)

-Rachel

News Day

So my mom found out yesterday that my book was featured on the front page of crosswalk.com. Is that cool or what? I thought you guys might like to read what they said. I personally found it very complimentary, but obviously I like hearing nice things about myself. ;)

Interrupted: Life Beyond Words reintroduces a classic question in literary criticism: to what extent does the author matter when considering the quality of a piece of writing? Here’s the skinny on Interrupted author Rachel Coker: she’s a 16-year old whose debut novel possesses a maturity of emotional perceptiveness and writing quality which far surpasses her years. While most of her peers are content to pound out text messages on the latest smart phone, and the ambitious ones scribble out angst-ridden poems in their journals, Coker’s actually planned, plotted, and successfully published a Young Adult historical fiction novel set against the contentious backdrop of World War II.

For all of that, Coker deserves the highest admiration. But, perhaps a more challenging task is to take Interrupted on its own terms, setting aside Coker’s remarkable personal story. In that regard, Interrupted is a relatively safe place to start a career, a traditional coming-of-age tale made slightly more original by its historical setting and the thematic nods to Emily Dickinson. It’s the story of Alcyone Everly, a 14-year old girl whose safe and sheltered existence is shattered when her mother dies and she’s taken in by Beatrice Lovell in a Maine estate.

After Everly arrives in Maine, she becomes re-introduced to Sam Carroll, a native of her hometown in Tennessee. Sparks fly between the two, but Everly is stymied by her inner bitterness over the loss of her mother and frustration with Lovell’s efforts to become a mother figure in her life. Everly retreats into her writing, where her love of classic literature and self-expression proves to be an impediment to making valuable connections in her new life.

The emotional landscape of Interrupted is tactfully rendered and maturely handled. Coker takes great care to sculpt a believable protagonist in Everly, and walks her through a solid character arc, moving from devotion to her mother to a place of independence by novel’s end. That said, the plot is fairly thin. The inner coming-of-age struggles Everly faces compose the bulk of the conflict, and they’re not very dramatic. And much about Interrupted is a bit too genteel, from the idyllic Maine setting to Everly’s interpersonal conflicts with the other main characters. Everly never seems in real danger, either physically or psychologically, which takes the edge off the story’s stakes.

While this is technically historical fiction, the historical backdrop plays a minor role in Everly’s story. Until the story’s latter third, when Everly’s love interest is shipped off to war, it’s hard to get a sense of the time period, or why Coker chose it. In a sense, it’s the same story as could be told against a contemporary backdrop.

One neat element Coker includes which deserves mention is the homage she pays to poet Emily Dickinson. Each chapter of Interrupted opens with a short excerpt from a Dickinson poem which relates thematically to the chapter’s content. It’s refreshing to see such a young literary voice connect so fully with one of the greats, and potentially introduce Dickinson to a new generation of readers. In addition, one can feel Dickinson’s presence in the character of Everly, who is content to stay cloistered when the world is too scary. People are messy, Interrupted admits, but when you let yourself get messy, the joys are worth it.

In her publication debut, Coker displays a remarkable amount of poise and polish, and while Interrupted isn’t the flashiest or trendiest piece of YA fiction, it might show something more valuable: a young voice with potential staying power in today’s here-today-gone-tomorrow marketplace.

Another cool thing happened yesterday. I got a full-page spread in our local area newspaper! It had photos and everything, which was really neat. Unfortunately, I left it at our church last night, so I don’t have a photo to show you. :( But as soon as I get it back, I’ll post a pic!

So, have any of you finished Interrupted yet? Be honest: Tell me what you thought!

-Rachel

Publisher’s Weekly

So, my inbox has been JAMMED this week with emails from my people at Zondervan, for one very big reason: My book was featured in this week’s edition of Publisher’s Weekly! For those of you who haven’t read the review yet, here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about Interrupted (Coming out in less than a month now!):

Coker makes an impressive debut—she’s only 15—in this Depression and WWII-era tale of Alcyone Everly, who is 14 when her mother dies of brain cancer. Allie is adopted by a woman in Maine, Beatrice Lovell, and vigorously resists her adoptive mother’s kindnesses, clinging bitterly to the memory of her mother. The past re-enters her life in the form of Sam Carroll, an old friend from her childhood home whose aunt lives next door to Beatrice and Allie. Sam has always been sweet on Allie, and his reappearance stirs many unwanted and confusing emotions in her. World events seize the day as the U.S. gets caught up in WWII, altering everyone’s lives. Coker writes an emotionally compelling and psychologically nuanced tale. The plot has some weak spots: Allie manages to overhear not one but two crucial incidents that give her unexpected information, and some of her character development late in the story is abrupt. But the historical context is an engaging narrative frame. Coker is one to watch.

Okay, let me die of happiness now. Ha ha, just kidding. But seriously, it is a huge honor to be featured in Publisher’s Weekly. I know that to be featured, much less get a positive review, is an accomplishment to any author. It just feels especially humbling to see God doing all this in my life right now.

But that’s not the end! A journalist for Publisher’s Weekly is also going to be interviewing me tomorrow for a special feature on their site. So I’ll have to keep you all posted when that is up.

Also: I’ve started guest blogging at my friend Stephanie’s blog, Go Teen Writers. My first post is up today, so go and check it out! Also, if you want to preorder my bookand have it arrive by February 14th, order your own copy at Amazon today!

-Rachel