Rebecca Coleman: Unconventional Alum, Unconventional Novel

Rebecca's Advice to Aspiring Writers:

Where creative writing is concerned, I'd say always, always remember to place craft above ego. I see it time and again in writing classes and in workshops-- the people who say "go gentle on this, these characters are my babies" are the ones who stagnate, who have the hardest time getting published, because they're more worried about hearing criticism than becoming great writers. The distinguishing characteristic of successful writers is that they can take hard criticism with grace.

ColemanRebecca Coleman began working on her English degree in 1994; but she graduated 13 years, a published novel, and four children later.  She agrees that it wasn’t “the most conventional way to go about it.”  But good thing convention isn’t mandatory for success.  After publishing Desperado City in 2009, Rebecca’s second novel, The Kingdom of Childhood (2011), was snatched up by MIRA books as part of a three-book deal. 

Library Journal rated The Kingdom of Childhood one the best books of 2011, calling it a “disturbing yet enthralling read.” And Publisher’s Weekly called it "Dark and fast-moving... a stark psychological drama." When asked about The Kingdom,Rebecca writes, “I’m proud of [it]—I think any writer wants to complete a book they find meaningful, that reflects what they've learned in life, and to hear others say it kept them up reading and then stayed with them long after.”  And readers are certainly finding that resonance in Rebecca’s captivating and beautifully dark book.  The Kingdom of Childhood received a starred review from Library Journal and has sold foreign rights in five languages.  It was a 2010 ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) Semifinalist and a Library Journal "Best 30 Books of 2011" designee.  Rebecca describes that last award as particularly rewarding—“Librarians are true book lovers, and to have them validate what I wrote meant the world to me.”

In addition to her success as an author, Rebecca is also an accomplished and wide reader.  She recalls favorite courses at Maryland, ranging from “Paradise Lost” to “Contemporary Novels” to “Sex in the Cinema.”   In “Paradise Lost,” Rebecca
“[fell] completely in love with…the epic poem.”  In her final semester, Rebecca
took “Contemporary Novels,” taught by Sangeeta Ray.  She writes, “I was
reminded again of what it feels like to be swept up in an amazing book.  The
depth of [Sangeeta’s] knowledge and her irreverent analysis—that, and the fact that she really listens to her students—made me wish the class would never end.” 

During her time at Maryland, Rebecca served as the LGBA (Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Alliance) president (1995-96).  And, visiting Tawes, she feels a proud connection to Maryland’s literary celebration of the LGBTQ community.  Rebecca feels grateful that her Maryland English experience “never limited [her] to the works of 19-th century white males.”  In her undergraduate work and as an author, Rebecca has allied herself with characters existing outside of normative structures.  Rebecca writes, “I like to write about people on the fringe of society—The Kingdom of Childhood, for example, is set in a Waldorf school community, and my next book centers around militia members.  At UMCP, I was fortunate that Coleman's Bookso much of my reading centered around the experiences of minorities, the disenfranchised, those struggling in postcolonial society or even on the frontier of the United States in the mid-19th century.” 

“I think that studying creative writing helps a person frame their life as an unfolding story, and to better see the humor and poignancy of it. Sometimes in the sad or unpleasant events I can see how it all ties together, or see the irony in it, because I know it's all part of the overall narrative. And it seems like nothing is ever so bad if you can at least get a decent story out of it.” - Rebecca Coleman

      Congratulations to Rebecca!  The Kingdom of Childhood is available on Amazon.


                         (photograph of Rebecca Coleman courtesy of Peter Ross)