Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rachel Coker on How She Got Published at 15

Hi, everyone! Rachel Coker here. I’ll have to admit that when Stephanie first invited me to write as a guest-blogger for Go Teen Writers I was a little overwhelmed. But then, as I looked over past posts and read all of your comments encouraging each other and offering advice and support, I had a miraculous change of heart. This is exactly the type of community that I wish I’d been a part of when I first started out writing.

Every time I think about all the teens out there, all over the country and across the globe, who are as passionate about writing as I am, it gives me hope. Hope that the market will open up and be more willing to receive books by average teenage kids with amazing talent and passion.

If you had asked me six years ago what my life would have looked like at sixteen, I’m one hundred percent sure I would have had no clue. I thought my days would be filled with school and rushing around to get to my day job. I always figured I’d be scrimping and saving for college, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life. I never thought I’d be a writer. I never imagined I’d have a book published before I even finished eleventh grade. But God had different plans in store for my teenage years.

My life changed course in the summer of 2010. I hadn’t been writing fiction for very long—maybe two or three years at the most—but I’d just finished working on a book. A novel. At fourteen, I felt like it was something of an accomplishment. Of course, that was back when I thought I was all alone in the world as an aspiring author. I was self-conscious, unsure, insecure, and all the other things that normal fourteen year olds are when they evaluate their own abilities. I never spoke a word of my writing to anyone outside of my family. No one knew about my book, no one even knew that I wrote! It was something I kept to myself, nervous of the reactions I would get if people found out.

So how did my life turn upside down, in spite of my fears and reservations? Well, one afternoon, I decided to see if I could get published. Yeah, it was pretty much that unexciting. I asked my mom if I could send a query letter to a couple agents, and she said yes. So I Googled “Christian literary agents” and came up with a short list. Then, after a few prayers, I sent out emails to about a dozen agents. Long story short, one of them decided to work with me and my parents quickly realized that this was serious and they had to read this book I’d written.

By Christmas, my then fifteen-year-old self had a contract with Zondervan for my first YA novel, Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words.



That was a little over a year ago. And since then, my world hasn’t been the same. In the middle of all the marketing and interviews (including one on this very blog with Stephanie!), I realized something. The very best thing that has happened to me through all of this is that God has let me interact with so many teenagers from all over the country who share the same hopes as me. Teens who just want to write, and be heard. They have something to say, and their only desire is for God to give them a chance to say it. Just like me.

I don’t know how much I have to say about writing, or life, but I guess I’ll find out over the next few months! I’m just a sixteen-year-old girl who struggled her way through geometry and is still trying to pass her driver’s license test (it’ll happen soon, I tell you!), but I still like to believe that there are some teens out there interested in my story. Who will be encouraged to find out that unlikely things can happen, and that a teenager can publish a book. Who will find comfort in the knowledge that God can use our talents no matter how old we are.

Stephanie and I agreed that I would guest post on Go Teen Writers once a month. I’ll talk about writing and the publishing process, as well as offering any personal stories or advice that other teens can learn from. If you want to hear from me on a more regular basis, you can check out my personal blog. [Caution: I sometimes ooze sarcasm and talk about pie way too much]

I do accept all kinds of questions from readers and try to give answers pretty regularly. Also, if you want to know more about this elusive novel of mine, pre-order it here and get your copy by March! Thanks again for having me, and hopefully this will be the first of many posts here! -Rachel

23 comments:

  1. Hey Rachel, great to have you, and I look forward to hearing more from you!
    So what got you writing your book in the first place? Why did you pick that particular genre? Have you ever written any other genre? Hehe . . . can you tell I like asking questions? :D

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    1. Thanks, Becki! I started writing my book when I was thirteen, just because I was sick of writing short stories and wanted something more fun and challenging. I didn't pick the romantic genre at first--that just sort of happened (I wrote about it recently on my blog)--but I have always enjoyed writing historical fiction and have never done anything else! :)

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  3. Awesome :) Interrupted is on my list of books to read this year!

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  4. Thanks so much! Very exciting!

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  5. By the way, after reading this interview I had a strong hunch that you were homeschooled. So I went to your blog and saw that you are. I love homeschooling!!

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    1. Yep! Homeschooling rocks. ;) Thanks for checking out my blog!

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  6. I'll be watching out for your guest posts. It's so nice to hear from someone who got published as a teen. You must be a really great writer to be published at 15. Was that book the only one you'd ever written? How many books have you finished writing all up?

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    1. Thanks, Imogen! Yes, "Interrupted" was the first full-length book I ever wrote. I did write a short novella once, though! :) Well, other than "Interrupted", the only book I've written is the next one in the works... Hopefully I'll be able to share more details on that one soon!

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  7. Awesome post, and how very exciting! Definitely looks like a great book :)

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  8. This is so inspiring!! I want to read your book!!

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  9. Eek, the trailor is SO COOL -- you're an actual real author and you got the contract when you were my age. You know what these means? I can publish my book. It can really happen. You an an inspiration, Rachel... your first full written book? Sweet. That's it. I'm going to finish this. And as soon as March comes around, I'm buying your book because it's definitely got me hooked! Question for anyone -- possibly a funny question to ask, but I'll ask it anyway. Publishing; does Zondervan or other American companies publish books written in Australia?

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    1. Emii, your words make me smile so much! :D Definitely finish your book and see what happens! I'm not sure about your Zondervan question... I would say just send it to a few agents and see what they say. Everything I've been doing so far has been via phone and email, so it's not like you'd have to talk to someone face to face.

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  10. Ooh! For any Australian writers out there, I just found out about the writing resource for publishing we NEED to have -- unless everyone knows and it's just me.:P "The Australian Writers Marketplace". Just thought I'd let you know :)

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  11. Can't wait to read your book, Rachel! Congrats, again!
    :-)

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  12. I read your book and loved it Rachel! (Zondervan contacted me about reviewing it!) And I just wanted to say thanks. :) I have been writing since I was in preschool and over the years I have written TONS of books, anyhow I have had a series in the works for almost two years now and I was ready to throw all four books in the trash when I read your book and you inspired me to keep at it. :) So thank you!!!

    Keep up the great work and I can't wait to read what you write next!!!

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  13. Aw its not even available yet :( I was going to go see how much it was so I could buy it! lol. Looks really interesting and like a good read Rachel! :) When I get some moolah I'll definitely see about getting my hands on it.

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  14. Rachel, this was such an inspiring post and just what I needed this Saturday morning. I love that you'll "be here" regularly and I greatly look forward to hearing more from you! (Also, a most sincere welcome, fellow homeschooled sister!)

    Thank you so much!

    And, yeah, aren't we blessed to have found such an encouraging community as GTW?! :)

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  15. That's very good article! You sound like me when writing... 14, and hardly anyone sees what I write. Very inspiring. :D *goes to check out blog*

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  16. Rachel that's totally sweet. 15 is only a year older than I am! You rock!!! :)

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  17. Thanks for posting Rachel! I cannot wait to see more. It's nice to see someone young (like me :P) succeed. I hope I can in a year or too. Your book looks really good! When does it come out? Sierra
    Keep Growing Beautiful♥ (Cause You Are!)

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  18. Wow, that is amazing! Congratulations! One thing's for sure: I'll be reading your book when it comes out! As another 15 year old writer, your talent and luck is really inspiring. I've been been working on a novel for the past few months, and who knows-- maybe by some miracle from God, I could be published as well! Congratulations again! :)

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  19. Wow, that is amazing! Congratulations! One thing's for sure: when your book comes out, I'll be reading it! As another 15 year old writer, your talent and luck is really inspiring. I've been working on a novel for a few months now, and who knows-- maybe by some miracle from God, I could be published as well! Congratulations, again! :)

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