Thursday, February 21, 2013

What's it Like to Be A Teen Author?

by Rachel Coker

Rachel Coker resides in Lanexa, Virginia with her parents, who’ve homeschooled her since she was a child, and two sisters. She is the author of 2012’s Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words. Coker has a passion for great books and has been surrounded by them all her life. Her gift for writing became apparent at the age of eleven, at which time her parents, who owned a Christian bookstore, signed her up for a year of lessons with a professional writing coach. www.rachelcoker.wordpress.com

I swear I racked my brain for some kind of advice to give you all this month. I was planning on writing something about setting up scenes or developing plots or editing dialogs, but then it all just seemed kind of boring. And since I am a rather sporadic person (hello--I am a teenager, after all), I decided to do something kind of fun and out of the box instead!

This incredible site is filled with so many amazing articles and suggestions every month, all of which are directed to teen writers. And I'm guessing that at least ninety-nine percent of you writers dream of one day being a published author. And that's when I figured--hey, since I already am a published author at age seventeen, why not give you a peek into what my life looks like?

ALA (3)

It might be fun, and for those of you who don't follow my blog, you might learn a few interesting things about what it's like to be a teen author. ;) Um, okay... So what does being a teen author look like?

I write a lot.

Duh. But these was the first thing that came to my mind! I don't just write fiction, either. I'm constantly updating my blog, drafting guest posts for other blogs, and filling out paperwork and questionnaires from my publishers. But really, I do feel like I'm almost always working on first drafts, editing second drafts, or analyzing third drafts for the millionth time! It's all part of being a fiction writer.

I try to keep up with social media.

Which is really, really hard for me! Probably because I am an unsocialized homeschooler and didn't even have a Facebook until I was seventeen. But I try to maintain a funny, engaging blog with new content two to three times a week as well as a fan page on Facebook, a Twitter account, and a Youtube page where I can upload vlog videos of me talking about writing, my life, my books, and, occasionally, pie. ;) Videos take up a huge amount of my time, actually, so I sometimes have entire afternoons where I just do nothing but shoot video after video.

DSC_0043

I run to my room and change my outfit and fix up my hair so that no one will be able to tell that I'm cheating, but it still ends up taking several hours to shoot just four or five videos.

I interact with my "fans".

I sometimes just call them my "readers", but hey, if you can get away with calling someone your fan, you should totally take advantage of that situation. ;) But seriously, I love hearing from the young people (and occasionally adults) who have read my books or blog and are just superexcited to share their hearts with me. I usually get two to three "fan" emails or messages a day, so I try to respond as promptly as possible. Because I have authors that I admire too, and I will be the first to admit that I have fangirled over them from time to time. (a.k.a. tweeting Shannon Hale or writing a two-page long letter to Katherine Paterson...)

I conduct interviews.

I have a fantastic publicist named Candice who sets up ninety percent of my interviews for me! Which means that just about every day I'm answering a dozen questions for some blog/magazine/radio show/newspaper/whatever. This actually used to be my favorite part of being an author, but I think that after a year or so the novelty has worn off and now I tend to take a bit longer to respond with my answers... A lot of the questions tend to be the same, and I hate for my answers to seem monotonous. That's why I love it when I get an off-the-wall question like, "Do you eat snacks while you write?" or "Who would you have play you in a movie version of your life?" My heart rate literally quickens when I read new questions. They are the fuel that keeps my fire going, day by day... (Obviously I'm being dramatic, you guys)

Sometimes, I even get to be on TV. Which is pretty cool. 

DSC_0066 

I hold book signings.

I still love book signings. Because that's when I get to meet the majority of my readers face-to-face! And I can think of few things that thrill me more than getting to shake hands with a reader and hear her talk about how much she enjoyed my book. It just makes me smile ear-to-ear! In fact, by the time I'm finished with a book signing, my cheeks are usually more sore than my hand because I just smile so. much. Some are crazier than others, but if it's a small venue I can sometimes get a chance to talk to someone for several minutes and learn a little about their life! And then some have long lines and lots of people cramming around and it's just an adrenaline rush of signing, signing, signing. Which is fun, too, I must admit. ;)  

I speak to groups of people.

Usually young people in schools or libraries, although I have done a few events that included adults too! Public speaking used to make me absolutely weak in the knees, but I've grown to love it. In fact, I've done so many speaking engagements now that I feel almost as comfortable in the front of a room or stage that I do one-on-one!

6

It's a great opportunity to share what God has done in my life, offer some writing advice, and try to entertain people the best I can with little snippets of humor from my everyday life.

I travel to cool places.

DSC_1161.JPG_effected

Like Philadelphia. Or Seattle. Or Cincinnati and New Jersey, where I'll be going this spring. Being an author allows for some amazing opportunites to speak and sign books at conventions all over the country! And this girl has seriously got a case of travel fever, so I go wherever I can! (And I always get to take my mom with me, so I have a buddy!)

I nerd out and goof around and always have fun with my job.

Chasing Jupiter1

This is the most important thing. I try to stay under as little pressure as possible. I'm not the president, I'm just a writer, and my life reflects that! I still go to Barnes and Noble and take funny pictures in the YA Fiction section.

ChasingJupiter2

I carry huge boxes of books around and complain about how much my arms hurt. I poke fun at myself for being an author and pretend to guess the endings to cheesy Hallmark movies, shouting, "Oh my gosh, I should be a writer!!!" if I get the ending right.

At the end of the day, being an author is a huge part of my life, but it's just a small portion of who I am. I'm so happy with the life God has given me, and I realize that I am beyond blessed to be a teen author. But, honestly, it barely feels like a job at all. It's just an amazingly cool rollercoaster that I've been put on right now, and I'm just trying to enjoy the ride! :)

I'd love to answer any questions you might have about what it's like to be a teen author. Is there anything I've forgotten? Is there something you dream of doing if you become an author one day? I'd love to hear it! As always, you can check out my blog, like me on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @RachelCoker3!

54 comments:

  1. Wow, great article! Like your way of writing, Rachel. And your 'job' sounds so lovely... I just started following your blog. I really want to know how you did it: being published at the age of 15...

    (Please don't mind the English mistakes if there are some, it's not my mother tongue ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. This was a really inspiring post, Rachel! Seeing those pictures of you with your books in well known bookstores made me smile and hope for the day that might be me.
    Thanks for the post!
    ~Sarah Faulkner

    www.inklinedewriters.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Loved this post! Your life looks so fun, haha. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Really awesome post. Loved the picture of you holding your book in B & N; sounds way too much like something I'd do ;)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sounds like an awesome life, Rachel! It's inspiring to see a glimpse into it. I hope I'll be in your shoes soon. :D

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post Rachel! It sounds like you have so much fun! Normally, you see posts about how writing is going to be a harder job, with so much responsibility, and people try to make it sound like it isn't a whole bunch of fun, but you just look like you're enjoying it, so kudos to you! :) Maybe someday I'll be taking pictures of my books in Barnes and Noble too. :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, it does have it's moments of pressure and difficulties, but I feel so blessed all around! :)

      Delete
    2. Well, yes, I understand that completely. But that you can share the good moments, and not let the pressuring part put you down. :D

      Delete
  7. *tries to convince parents to homeschool me and get private writing lessons so I don't have to do chemistry anymore*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha ha, I am homeschooled, but I take two classes at a Christian school: Chemistry and Creative Writing : )

      Delete
    2. Haha, well you may not be able to get homeschooled, but I am offering private writing lessons next year if you and your parents are interested! If you want more info, you can email me at REC804(at)hotmail(dot)com. I'd love to help you with your writing! :)

      Delete
    3. That's really nice of you, but I live in England... So yeah. 7 hour plane trip is a bit of a commute ;) thanks or letting me know tho, sure someone else a bit more local will see the comment and be interested :)

      Delete
    4. Oh, I should have been more clear: It's an online writing tutoring! I will be personally giving writing lessons via email! So you would send me what you're working on each week and I would write up notes and we would discuss things via email. :) That would work a whole lot better for all my overseas and out-of-state readers, haha! :) Anyway, if you do decide you're interested, let me know! If not, keep writing! :D

      Delete
    5. Ooooooooh, sound great!! I'll talk it over with my parents and get back to you :)

      Delete
  8. Uh, when and where are you coming to New Jersey!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll be speaking at the ENOCH convention in NJ May 17-18! I'll also have a table selling books and chatting with homeschoolers there. Hope you can make it! :)

      Delete
  9. I can NOT believe you were published so young! I'm fifteen and my dream is to be published, and reading about writers like you that are only a few years older than me makes me feel like my dream is possible, and just within reach. You're a big inspiration to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, thank you! I'm so glad it served as some sort of inspiration to you! I'm inspired by all the passionate readers and writers here, actually. You all make me want to work even harder! :)

      Delete
  10. I love this post, Rachel! I'm going to go follow your blog.... Your 'job' sounds so fun and the way you wrote about it was so inspiring that I can't wait until I'm published!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great post Rachel! Your writing style is really unique and funny. I dream of going into a bookstore and seeing my books there, and I would probably take pictures just like you. I really love to write and I love to read even more, so you are an inspiration in multiple ways.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Sounds crazy but fun!! I like when I'm kept busy with stuff other than school...but sometimes I end up feeling like I'm running through the day...but I believe that an author's job is really cool ;)

    ReplyDelete
  13. This post came with perfect timing! I've been wondering so much lately how I could handle it being an author, especially now, while I'm still in high school. My day is shot from seven to three-thirty. Homework is crazy. I've got the high school plays twice a year, and I make a webcomic that I barely have time to update once a week. And I have a job that eats my weekends. Maybe senior year will be better, but after that, it's four years of full-time college. Sometimes I can't imagine that I'll ever have time to do everything it takes to plug a book and be a full-time writer. I mean, I could quit a job after I'm done with school to take up being an author if I ever get published. But I can't quit my education. Writing won't pay all the bills, so I've got have some kind of career on the side!

    Wow, sorry for sounding like a serious downer. But I've been thinking so much lately that eventually, I'll submit manuscripts to agents, and will have to ask myself whether I'll truly be able to do all it takes to make it work. I know I will, but... during college?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Jessica! Wow, sounds like your life is busy! You know, being an author is an honor and joy no matter what your stage in life! Even if you don't feel called to be a writer at this stage in your life, it's always something you can do "on the side" when you're older! I have several author friends who just write in their spare time (in the evenings), balancing it with having a family and kids. :) Who knows what you'll be called to do in life?? :)

      Delete
    2. That's part of my problem: I feel like I'm called to be an author right now. I write/edit for a couple hours every day and treat myself like I'm on a deadline. But the logical part of me is suggesting that I wait until schooling is over to actually submit anything, so I can do those things like travelling and speaking that come with being an author. And yet I know that the publishing process and editing and finding an agent alone can take years. So it's sort of a weird conflict. :P Anyway, I think I'll be able to handle it, since it's pretty much the top thing I want with my life. I'm just a little anxious about ruining it for myself I guess? Well anyway, thanks for talking. I do feel a lot better about it now, possibly because I put it to words and figured out what exactly I was freaking out about. :P

      Delete
    3. Well, all I can say is follow your gut and do whatever you feel God is calling you to do right now! Writing should never feel like a chore or like someone is pushing you on a deadline! If you just do it because you love it then you'll create something wonderful, even if it takes a bit longer for you to sneak in the writing in between your busy life. :) For some people, writing is a great way to relax and chill in their downtime, sort of like watching TV! :)
      Well, I wish you the best of luck in everything! xo

      Delete
  14. This post made me laugh and smile. First of all, those pictures are priceless. Second, your story is so cool, Rachel. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, thanks. :) They are rather silly, aren't they? ;)

      Delete
  15. Wow! I honestly didn't think it would be that busy!Is it creepy to be on TV?
    Thanks for the post! I was always wondering what my life would be like if I ever did publish . . .
    I mean, obviously, my class and friends would go crazy (I have a very energetic class!) But I was always wondering what else would it look like?
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it can get pretty crazy at times! But in general my life is still somewhat normal. :)
      Um, it is a bit creepy?? But a lot of fun. The reporters are always super friendly and it's worth all my nerves in the end. :)
      I know! All my friends and family freaked out, especially since hardly any of them even knew I liked to write! It was something I'd never really talked about, and then I had a book contract at fifteen! Talk about crazy! :P

      Delete
  16. I love your pictures. This post made me laugh. For me, it would definitely be cool if I get published in the next few years, or even in the next decade (which sounds like forever, I'll admit), but it's not up to me--I'll do the best I can, but there's no guarantee. All of that sounds awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I loved this post so much, Rachel!! The photos were so cute, and funny =). It must be a wonderful, exciting opportunity and privilege to be a published author in your teens. I must say the two things that seem scariest about your life as a writer are (1. speaking to a group in public, and 2. doing tv and radio interviews... ) :D, but it must be also fun!!!

    I guess another commenter brought it up, but my biggest question is basically how do you maintain all these activities--writing your stories, staying on top of the social media stuff with your fans and friends, doing all the things that your publishers require, travel around and do book signings and yet stay on top of your schoolwork (I'm guessing you're probably almost finished with school, but correct me if I am wrong). Right now, as a highschool student I find it so hard to keep above all the things I need to do, keep focused on my schoolwork, and yet have time to write, and manage to keep up with my friends on blogger/facebook/Google+ and e-mails. Also, my parents, though greatly encouraging me in my desire to be a writer, have always stressed the importance that school comes before writing... so, right now I feel unable to really do much of what I want to be and do as a writer...
    Do you have any advice or tips? I'd love to hear them!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Joy! Aw, thanks. It is definitely a fun life! ;)

      Thanks so much for asking that question! It is totally hard sometimes to balance it all out. Especially considering that this is my senior year of highschool! ;) I guess that I just try to write in my down-time, like in the evenings, and never let being "an author" go to my head or make me weird around any of my friends...

      I actually made a vlog video about this very topic a few months back (back in the summer, when I was actually tan, haha). Try watching it--maybe it'll answer some of your questions! :)

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YnxwKRSn88

      Delete
  18. Hi Rachel. I'm 14 yrs old, and I'm getting my very first novel published. But I'm so nervous about it! A few places have offered to sell it there. I just die with public speaking and everything like that! Help! Do you have any suggestions how I go about it, the promotion of it, and just any tips?
    ~ Ada

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, and to get my name as an author out there into the big, wide world.
      Thanks.

      Delete
    2. Hi, Ada! First off--congrats on getting your book published!! That's so exciting!!! :)
      Well, fortunately I work with an amazing publicist who does so much of that for me. But there have been many ways I have been able to promote myself that have really paid off! First off, consider engaging in all forms of social media. Get a fanpage on Facebook, start a twitter account, make Youtube vlogs. Also consider starting a blog and following and leaving sweet comments on other blogs you like! Contact some of your favorite book review blogs and ask if they'd like a free copy of your book to review! There are all kinds of small ways to get your name out there. :)

      Delete
    3. Thankyou, Rachel. I'll start looking into it properly now. :)

      Delete
  19. I really loved this post! Totally awesome. ;) Especially the picture of you with Chasing Jupiter. What's life if you don't mix the jokes in with the hard work?!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Wow, this is so cool. It must be amazing to be published as a teen!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Rachel, you mentioned that you travel a lot, and I apologize if this is an awkward or taboo question (I don't know that kind of thing), does your publishing company pay for the travel? This is the main question that's been holding me back from pursuing publication; we can't afford travel. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Tiffanie! Yes, thank goodness--Zondervan does pay for ALL of my travel expenses when I go to a convention or book signing with them! They pay for my plane tickets, taxis, hotels, food, and any other expenses that might come up! Basically, they cover everything but my souvenir t-shirts and obligatory icecream cones. ;)

      Delete
    2. Thanks :D Do all publishing companies tend to do that? Or just Zondervan?

      Delete
    3. I'm not sure! Zondervan is the only company I've worked with! My thought would be, if the company is sending you somewhere, they will pay for it. Most companies have budgets for things like that...

      Delete
    4. Thanks!! :D Well, then, I'll just have to find one that will pay for my ice cream... ;-)

      Delete
  22. Gosh I love this post. It's about the best inspiration in the world to get off the internet and get writing! And you just got me really, really excited. About life. Thanks mate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, you're so cute, Emii! Now *I* have to get off the internet and get writing, haha... :)

      Delete
  23. Does your online writing tutoring cost?If so how much?I am interested

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, but not a huge amount. It'll sort of be the equivalent of getting piano or violin lessons, if that makes sense. :) If you're interested, you can email me at REC804(at)hotmail(dot)com and I'll answer all your questions! :)

      Delete
    2. Rachel, do you play violin?!

      Delete
    3. Haha, no I don't. :) I play and teach piano, though! :)

      Delete
  24. My family can't afford to pay so I will have to pass

    ReplyDelete
  25. Layla speaking. I am 10 years old and I just loved this. I hope to get my books published soon. I know it sounds far-fetched but everyone says i could because i am extremely good. Do you have any advice? Thanks for the help. :)
    Layla.

    ReplyDelete

Disagreement is welcome. Rudeness is not. Please be considerate of each other!