Secret Lives of Writers - Ronnie Roberts

The Secret Lives of Writers – Ronnie Roberts

Ronnie was born in Chilliwack, which isn’t as fun as it sounds. After traveling the world, she is happily settled in Northern Canada with family—both human and canine—writing and painting. You can contact Ronnie via her her website or email, and you can purchase her books on Amazon.

I am a writer. Just saying it makes me so happy.

It took me years to spit that out without feeling pretentious. I used to think, ‘Hey, who are you kidding? Stephen King is a writer. Nora Roberts is a writer.’ Now I work part-time in our local library because it’s fun to sit in a building filled with books, talking with people who love books. My candy store.

And guess which books get requested ALL THE TIME? Yup, good old Nora and Stephen; I was right about that at least.

So, when asked what I do, I used to mention my current day job (Oilfield Medic, Mother, Banker, Human Resources Manager, Dental Office Assistant, Book Store Clerk, Medical Office Administrator, Potato Peeler at a Fish and Chip Shop—yeah, I know, lofty, huh? I was fired, by the way—substandard potato peeling apparently… all grist for the mill.

If I felt especially brave that day, I’d mumble ‘I also write’  in my little voice, feeling as if I were sneaking into the party as an uninvited guest. More often than not, the conversation would grind to a halt, my companion’s face taking on one of four expressions:

  • Expression One: Panic.  ‘Oh God—she thinks she’s a writer. Get me out ‘a here, quick.’
  • Expression Two: Boredom. ‘Oh God—a bookie. Get me out a here quick.’
  • Expression Three: Pity. The worst one, by far. I wanted to get out of there.
  • Expression Four: Eyes light up. ‘Me too,’ they would gush, and I’d found a fellow lover of writing. This is the response I loved the best. Nobody understands what drives a writer to write better than another writer. Our tribe is scattered, but it is strong.

So I wrote, attended endless conferences, joined writers’ groups, and wrote horrendous novels with characters named Bambi and Cookie—I cringe just recalling them. I recently found a copy of one of my old manuscripts with the paper clip rusted to the pages, smiled at it, and sent a virtual hug back to my younger self. I’d tried so hard…

Practice, practice, practice…

Tim Wynne-Jones invited me to submit work to him (he was an acquiring editor at that time and I was taking a class from him at the University of Ottawa). Tim Wynne-Jones—the $50,000 Seal First Novel Award winner, Arthur Ellis Award winner, Edgar Award winner!? Go to his site. He’s awesome! The awards go on and on. Wow. But I didn’t.

Jo Beverley told me my work was ready to submit to a publisher (we were in a writers critique group together). Jo Beverley—Regency writer extraordinaire!? She has a gazillion books out now, right? Wow. But I didn’t.

I kept on keeping on, and wrote and tossed, wrote and slashed and burned, wrote and wrote and wrote.

Then I sold my first short story to a big magazine.

It was a short mystery. It earned me SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS!! I held that check and almost cried, not for the seven hundred dollars, which we so badly needed at the time, but for the confirmation that yes, I was a writer. Someone out there, an acquiring editor, had paid me money, had said with this check that I was a writer.

I sold more short stories. I spent time with Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch in Oregon at a Master Class and learned tons from them. I did blue pencils with Donald Maass (my dream New York agent) and Anne Perry (talented and successful mystery writer)—so generous with their knowledge. I had my picture taken with Joy Fielding (LOL—I know it was pure fan fun, but I love that picture. I’m looking at it now). I had dinner with John Saul and learned he’s a sweet man who is more scared of his horror novels than I am. I listen to Stephen King read his On Writing audible book once a year (we’re best friends, you know …ha ha). I could go on and on.

I immersed myself in the writing life. I found and attended conferences, classes, workshops, writing groups, anything where I could learn. I called myself a write—this time with a little more force. You could almost hear me now.

I submitted to book publishers, getting farther and farther along in the process each time, but ultimately falling short of actual acceptance and publication. I tossed those books into my drawer because Tim Wynne-Jones had told me once to consider it my spare parts department. Tim said, ‘Be like that neighbor no one wants living next door to them, you know the one. The one whose backyard is piled high with I might need this someday car parts—spare fenders, bumpers, windshields, door handles, bucket seats…’

Trust me, my backyard is TEEMING with writerly spare parts…

It turns out Tim was right. I’m now putting together a non-fiction book on Writing Essential for beginning writers, using my own missteps as cautionary tales. Ever try to explain what it is you do and how you do it in words alone? Interesting process… but I’m loving this book—it’s what I wish I’d had available to me when I first started my writing life. At best this book on writing essentials will help people just starting out on their writerly journeys; at worst, people can read the stories, laugh and point. Either way, it’ll be entertaining as hell.

If you’re interested, look for Boot Camp for Fiction Writers—The Essentials, out the summer of 2015. Or go to my site for free workshops, also out summer of 2015. I know what’s it’s like to have that dream. I’ve been there. Come over, and I’ll help you get started.

Along the way, I gave back. Anything I learned, I shared, happy to help anyone along their journey, because it is a journey. People met at my house twice a month to network, share resources, share and critique work, commiserate, applaud—whatever was needed. I called myself a writer without hesitation or embarrassment.

I worked lots of jobs, trying different things out, thinking I need to know how it feels to work at a dental office (not good—I wanted to scoop the crying children and escape from the building), in a bookstore (fun—it is all about the books, but it’s discouraging to learn just how short a time a book is allowed to occupy shelf space at your local bookstore when your name isn’t James Patterson), in a medical clinic (good… the only drawback—I knew patient’s conditions and medical history better than I knew their names, but it’s all about the story, isn’t it?).

Then I stumbled across the Self-Publishing Podcast online, hosted by Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt and David B Wright. Drawn in, I watched a few, then watched a few more and now watch everything, and read everything these guys produce. They are pretty well responsible for me getting my work out there. They are friendly, funny and completely generous with sharing what they have learned on their own journey to becoming successful Indy writers.

So now, I have five novels published! I have three more novels and a non-fiction book for writers slated for in 2015. Wow—look at me being all productive! LOL!

And I’m hosting my first Writer’s Retreat! I’m so looking forward to working with these promising writers.

I AM A WRITER!! See? Again with the happiness …

The Secret Live of Writers is a series of blog posts from writers (published or unpublished) who dish the dirt on how they juggle life and art. You can read bout the whys and wherefores here.


The Secret Lives of Writers is now available as an ebook

How do writers juggle writing, creativity and life? Find out in The Secret Lives of Writers!You can now read all 13 guests posts in the one convenient ebook. It’s out now in the Amazon Kindle Store and soon in other stores (iBooks, Kobo, Nook etc.).

Full of writing inspiration and advice, if you’re a writer, or an aspiring writer, and this book doesn’t get you putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), nothing will!

Get your copy now in the Amazon Kindle store.

4 comments

  1. Interesting piece, Ronnie. I can totally relate to having works that have potential and doing nothing to move them forward. I’m with you on the hesitation you feel calling yourself a writer (in comparison to someone like Steven King). And congratulations on 5 published novels. (I’m secretly jealous!) 🙂 Thanks for your insightful blog article.

    1. The fabulous thing about being a writer in this day and age is that we have to tools to also become publishers. I’ve had several works languishing on my hard drive that I’ve published as short stories. The more you publish, the more you want to publish! It’s an awesome feeling to see your Amazon Author page become a testament to your creative outpouring!

  2. I enjoyed reading your post, Ronnie! I can relate to much of what you wrote. On the inside I’ve been a writer ever since childhood, but I felt like I couldn’t legitimately tell people I was a writer when I was working regular jobs like retail cashier, airport shuttle driver, waitress, or whatever. Now that I have two books published I feel like I can tell people I’m an author, but I don’t know if I can call myself a writer until I get paid for at least one article. I guess it would help to submit one somewhere 🙂 Anyway, thanks for sharing a little about yourself, and thanks for the useful tips and resources you provided. I’m looking forward to listening to the “Self-Publishing Podcast” and becoming more familiar with your writing services!

    1. Same, Tracy. I published 10 books this year and I’m working on my first novel, BUT I didn’t call myself a writer until I recently went on a writer’s retreat in Bali, and was told that I was one of the most experienced writers who had ever been on it!

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