Some people defy being easily categorized and Chelsea Copeland is one of them. I began attending meetings of the writers group, Tulsa Ink Slingers, seven years ago. Chelsea is the only teenager I’ve met who actively participated in any local writers group. Not only did she attend, the imaginative quality of her YA fiction writing belied her outwardly shy, teenage persona. Honestly, all of the adults in the group were blown away by her writing skills.
So where does this kind of imagination and talent come from? Always an avid reader, Chelsea didn’t find a lot of things she really enjoyed reading as a young teen so she started writing her own stories. “I told my mom I didn’t think I could wait until I was an adult to write a novel or be published. She told me to go ahead and do it, so I did!”
Chelsea describes her heritage as Swedish and Creek Native American. “I would say my parents (my mother and stepfather) are pretty quirky. My mom is a mix of Stevie Nicks and Grandmama from the Addams Family. She talks to plants and thanks the fairies when she gets a good parking spot. My stepdad rocks out to European indie rock bands and is constantly recognized as Sean Penn and Billy Connolly. He’s a Viking in a vintage bass boat with his drooling cat named Gomez. We’re really into Halloween, ghosts and the weird side of life. We’re also experienced ghost hunters.”
Her resume also includes Vice President of the Harry Potter Alliance, NSU Chapter from August 2010 to May 2011, and member of The Dracula Society since April, 2016. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from NSU, Tahlequah this year, making the President’s Honor Roll in the fall of 2016.
As we discussed reading and writing, Chelsea commented, “I once heard reading described as staring at a piece of dead tree and hallucinating. When I strip it down to that level, writing becomes even more fun! You get to think about things in a creative way rather than in the simplest ways of day to day life.”
I inquired how she balances everyday life with creative activities? “I don’t. Sometimes it’s one or the other. (Please send help.) That’s kind of like asking ‘why do you like breathing?’ I don’t know, it’s just what I do. I really like creating something out of nothing. Writing is just second nature to me.”
Like most good writers she reads as much as possible to learn the craft, broaden her vocabulary and find new techniques and keeps a pen and paper nearby for sudden inspiration. “I promise you, you won’t remember half the ideas you think you will. I also heed the advice from all my mentors which is to just write something. You can fix it later.”
That’s good advice for anyone who wants to write. She also speaks dialogue out loud as she’s writing so it sounds right, like real people talk. “A lot of the cast of Star Wars complained that George Lucas’ dialogue was terrible to work with and sounded unnatural.”
Talking about early life experiences Chelsea described herself this way. “I could find something interesting in all subjects other than math. I guess I was the filler type of student, the kind that TV shows and books aren’t written about. My classmates liked me but I wasn’t popular, maybe a bit of a teacher’s pet. I made a lot of my best friends while I was in school that I am still friends with today.”
At seventeen, as a high school junior, Chelsea was diagnosed with OCD, depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Her most recent writing project started out as a final for her Creative Writing Portfolio class. It’s a fictionalized memoir of her struggles with mental illness as a teenager and will be novel length which she plans to publish. Regarding this project, Chelsea hopes it will become a staple on school reading lists to show readers there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Finally, I asked Chelsea what she’s been doing since graduating from NSU. “I did what no millennial thinks is possible: I got a job in my desired field before my student loan grace period ended as a freelancer writing articles for the Red Dirt Report.”