Frequently Asked Questions / Writing Advice
I’m doing an author book report about you.
Can you tell me about your life?
Okay, biography schmiography. The truth is, the more interesting stuff in my life tends to emanate from my imagination and then appear in books. Real life? Not so much. But in the interest of Ye Olde Book Report, here is the basic information.
My birthday is December 14. I was born in Silver Spring, Maryland. I grew up in the DC area (suburban Maryland), but also spent my childhood summers in Western Massachusetts with my grandparents, so I kind of feel like I am from both places.
From the time I learned how to read and write I was always trying to create stories. I grew up surrounded by books and by family who were educators – the desire and encouragement to write came readily in my household. When I was a kid, I loved books by Judy Blume, Ellen Conford and E.L. Konigsburg. (I loved Judy Blume’s books so much that I used to actively wish I would get scoliosis so I could be like Deenie.) My favorite books were: Harriet the Spy; Deenie; And This Is Laura; Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; Anything for A Friend; From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. Oh, and anything by Jackie Collins or Sidney Sheldon.
When I was seventeen, I took off for Manhattan to attend Barnard College. I graduated from Barnard with a B.A. in Political Science. I thought I wanted to be a journalist, but it turned out I wanted to make up stories about characters in my head instead of report on actual people’s stories. A few years after graduating from college, I moved to San Francisco and got an administrative job at a law firm to support myself while I began to seriously study and write fiction. I wrote three unpublished novels before the fourth I attempted, Gingerbread, was published. Since then, writing has been a full-time career — and joy.
I currently live in Los Angeles, CA. I don’t have hobbies, unless the pursuit of a great cappuccino counts as one. I spend a ridiculous amount of time organizing my music library and reading books, and hanging out with my two very cool cats, Bunk & McNulty.
But… how can I find out even more about you?
I suggest you Google the words “Rachel Cohn” and “interview.” Or go directly to these links to read some past interviews/articles about me.
So You Want To Be A Writer?
Here’s my advice:
1. Read. All the time read.
2. Try not to think about “the big picture” of completing a longer work like a novel – the prospect can be overwhelming. Try to pace yourself one chapter or story at a time, so that all the smaller goals can be achieved, and eventually result in a bigger one.
3. Go to an isolated place like a library where you can write without distraction – no TV, no phone, no Internet.
4. Promise yourself when you go that isolated place you will write at least 500 words, even if those words are “I don’t know what to write” over and over. Almost certainly, the mere act of the typing will turn into the act of storytelling.
5. It is okay to bang your head against your wall/computer/wrist, etc. in complete frustration. Just please be careful. Then go back to trying, trying, trying.
6. Read more.
Can I send you my stories?
I appreciate your wanting my opinion, and I wish I *could* read all the stories by writers who ask me. Unfortunately, I get asked so often and it’s just too big a task to read that much. But I thank you for thinking of me and recommend you search for a writing workshop group in your area – and if there isn’t one already, start one! Giving and receiving critiques from a fellow group of writers is a great tool for allowing your work to grow.
I need more help with my writing.
Where do I go?
There is so much information out there about how to write a story and get it published that it’s hard to know where to start. I recommend going to your local library or bookseller first, and ask for the most recent editions of these books: Writer’s Market, and Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents. Both of these books are updated annually and are excellent starting points for learning about writing and publishing.
Here are some additional web resources for learning about the craft of writing and about publishing.
AND! Here are links for great advice from some awesome authors about writing and the publishing process.