© 2015 by Raymond Alexander Kukkee
Interview: Rosemary Roberts, Author and Blogger Extraordinaire
“Here’s what I believe; writers see things that other people miss …a look, a flash of emotion that vanishes off someone’s face as quickly as it surfaced, the depth of a color, the thrill of a win no matter how small, and the painful agony of a loss. It’s like the difference between viewing something in vivid color vs. black and white. Writers can’t help but recreate what they see or feel with words.” Rosemary Roberts (2015)
Rosemary Roberts (Northern California) is a published author, freelance writer, communications consultant and an online radio talk show host.
First published in 1993, Rosemary is also an advocate of social justice. Rosemary is driven by a sense of humor and is the self-proclaimed “Queen of all things slightly sassy” Rosemary Inc., a creative services firm specializing in custom content for educational, advertising, marketing and public relations efforts.
Her books include 10-Minute Zen and 10-Minute Celtic Spirituality, and she is also a contributing author to The Miracle of Sons.
Here at Incoming Bytes we are always excited at the opportunity to have a heart-to-heart with a writer who has that unique, special writer’s voice, a bite of flavour one does not ordinarily encounter day-to-day. Not bitter, not sweet, not sour–but bold, exciting and full of flavour, like the perfect orange. The unexpected delight. The perfect bite, with perhaps a seed or two and ideas; full of potential ideas for growth. Today we really have lucked out.
Rosemary Roberts is a writer, author, blogger extraordinaire, radio personality, and truly a California girl (..I wish they all could be California girls…as the song goes…) She has happily offered to share her orange trees and sunshine sanctuary with frozen Canadians, snowed-in East Coast scribblers, and everyone in between caught in the recent deep freeze or forced to drop the pen to wield snow shovels.
It is with great pleasure I introduce Rosemary Roberts to my loyal readers here at Incoming Bytes.
I.B. : Rosemary, welcome to Incoming Bytes. Perhaps we should start by telling our readers a little bit about yourself. I’ve been reading you on Facebook for some time and know you are a connected, concerned, opinionated, individual, busy with day to day life and all of it’s issues, etc– but especially the fact that you are an active writer. So tell us first of all, —who is the real Rosemary Roberts?
R.R. : Well, lets see. I’m a single mom with a grown, married son, I begin each day with coffee, looking out over my property and pond; my 15 or so ducks (and usually another 10 or more who fly in each morning) waiting for signs of life that suggest I’ll be out soon to feed them. I’m blessed with being able to work and write from home, able to let thoughts and ideas bubble up at will in the morning, rather than rushing through a shower and then out the door to a job site. It’s an incredible space to thrive in.
I enjoy gardening, especially straw bale gardening, and love building things out of recycled items, like a 10’ wide garden arbor created, in part, by painting the two separated portions of an extension ladder and mounting them side by side overhead. I have an incredible 88-yr old neighbor who’s a jack-of-all-trades and delights in helping me create or build things.
I love politics, although at present time I think it’s more important that you understand politics, and it’s important to also surround yourself with others who are critical thinkers and intelligent, thoughtful communicators, not flamethrowers. Still, I guess I have to own the ‘junkie’ title.
I.B. : Living in California must be nice and warm, got any orange trees in the back yard? Do you ever see snow where you are?
R.R. : I live in the most perfect spot in northern Ca; above Sacramento Valley’s fog (and sometimes, smog) and just below the snow line in the foothills of the Sierras. We occasionally get a dusting of snow, but it only lasts a matter of hours. Snow, like San Francisco, is something I prefer to visit, drink in for a spell, and then escape. While I have six young fruit trees, including both a Blood and Navel Orange, I’m surrounded by Mandarin growers and my area produces over 90% of the Mandarins that fill holiday gift baskets and stores throughout the country.
I.B. : As a writer you know there are a lot of new writer wannabe’s out there. Many people have absolutely no idea how to begin writing, so they typically struggle and enroll in ‘same-old-same-old writing’ courses. Is that a good thing? Have you taken specific writing courses that you would totally recommend to a newbie?
R.R. : It depends on someone’s strengths and weaknesses, and new writers have to be honest with themselves about what those are. Structure, as in how to hook a reader and then build a story that has an engaging and intriguing beginning, middle and end (like the three acts of a play), doesn’t always come naturally. A creative writing class or book can help a writer expand their skills creative boundaries. But there’s also a whole world for writers (new or otherwise) online where instruction and examples are just a click away. There are also progressive writing sites where you can follow the writer, chapter by chapter, as the story develops. I’m not a fan of posting my work like that, but it can be both instructional and a creative release to see how others develop their work.
Some writer sites also really help people with the important components; character development, story progression and momentum, etc…I would only warn new writers to use whatever source they choose (a class, a book or an online community) as a means to ‘consider and expand on’ how they develop their style and voice, not as a template to be followed to the letter, lest one adopts rules by another that restrict their own creativity. If you start a class and the instructor’s ego gets in the way of your creativity, lose it. I’m not big on rules. Can you tell?
I.B. : Tell me, Rosemary, as a writer, you also know there are all kinds of rules, —many of them, do you try to follow the rulebook?
R.R. : Rules? What rules? I’m not really a good ‘rule girl’ and so far have found that if I had played by everyone’s rules, I’d have very little to show for it. In 2000, all the go-to instructional books for new writers warned against emailing an editor or publisher with a query; said it would make them angry. The old snail mail standard of query applied, which of course meant that your query would most probably never make it past the guard at the gate, and if it did, chances were you received a standard form letter rejection a few weeks later.
I.B. : Absolutely… historically the “slush pile and traditional publisher protocol” requirements heavily favoured , in some cases demanded the use of agents for any kind of submissions. Did you ever happen to get any genuine responses on your own?
R.R. : I spent hours guessing the email addresses of editors and publishers I wanted to reach. If it bounced I’d try another. If it didn’t bounce, I’d patiently wait for a response …and with only a few exceptions, a reply came within hours or maybe a day, each one personally written and kind… Next!
I.B. : When did you actually start writing seriously? Were you the amazing child prodigy writer or a very late starter? Did you happen to hide and keep your first articles, poems or short stories, by any chance?
R.R. : I loved writing as a kid, always wanted a diary, but knew it would never be respected as private, so … It wasn’t something that I was encouraged to do by teachers, or my folks, and even after being published it was years before my family ever read anything. There’s a lesson in that: your friends and family won’t always understand your talent or how much it means to you, judging your craft (and your abilities) as a hobby with little chance at success in the real world. Get over it. Charge! Like drawing, pottery, or other artistic endeavors, the art of poetry – as a writer – eludes me. I appreciate it greatly, but I really suck at it.
Long before I ever considered writing as a career choice, I used writing with purpose; to outline issues for others to consider, or to garnish support. Each time, I would receive this praise of sorts that I was simply astonished by and proud of. I knew that I had a way of expressing what many would like to say, or could capture the emotion they felt. And I used it to influence — when I badly needed the bank to refinance my home loan as a young and struggling single mom, and that loan was in question, I wrote to the loan officer equating her with the Wizard in Oz standing behind a curtain and judging not my character or abilities to overcome adversity, but the abstract nature of numbers that had little to do with me personally. Against all odds, I got that loan!
The hospital essay that began our conversation about ‘voice’ was one of those late night attempts to understand and deal with the emotions of my bad day. Putting things in terms of a thank you to my co-workers helped me organize my thoughts and feelings. It just kind of snowballed from there, as things often do.
That was 1993 and In A Heartbeat was my first published piece. Whereas I had been certain that my lack of a formal writer’s education would prevent me from a serious career, the comments and expressions of those whom I considered very educated and well read really forced me (or gave me permission, perhaps) to question that belief.
From there, a fictional story (founded in a true story about my father, my son, and a teddy bear named George that I wouldn’t write about until a decade later) came into my head one day – in the shower, which seems to be a most creative place, ha. I started writing it as a screenplay because I could see it on a screen in my head rather than as words on a page. I wrote the pictures. I had no idea what I was doing as far as structure – what a screenplay actually looks like on a page – but I got a couple of books to fill in those blanks. What mattered to me was, according to the books, I wasn’t making a lot of the mistakes new screenwriters make in format, or act structure. Sounds sort of goofy, but I believed with all my heart that I was being ‘lead’ to write it and somehow given what I needed, so I rarely looked back. My heart was so full I was like a crazed woman at night, writing into the wee hours.
When I was done I gave it to the smartest, older professional (well educated) men I knew who were not prone to wear their hearts on their sleeves, or express emotions easily, and would be honest with me — tell me where it dragged or disappointed. Close friends often have a hard time doing that. I knew I had succeeded when they ALL read it more than once, cursed me for making them cry, and each had a very passionate, but different opinion about who the real main character was. SCORE!
My first paid gig came at the explosion of newsletters on the net – Streetmail, a weekly national newsletter that was broken into regions with a different writer for each.
I was given the freedom to write about issues or happenings around my region and was encouraged to compel comments and discussion – that was the point of Streetmail.While most created regional ‘fluff’ content (recipes, events for kids and family), I’m an issue girl — no surprise to you, Raymond, based on our Facebook exchanges.
While my region was one of the smallest nationally, I was consistently ranked within the top 3 nationally in terms of reader participation via comments. I was in Heaven and that experience actually laid the groundwork for my writing to branch into consumer awareness or educational work-for-hire. Streetmail also gave me the confidence to reach out to editors on books I was interested in writing. It also gave me the ability to say I was published or a ‘working’ writer, which is really important to an editor. It helped me land my first look at a serious proposal.
I.B. : In your general writing, like your fiction, do you tend to write an intensive detailed outline and then follow it to the letter, infilling and back-writing, or do you just start writing and go with the flow?
R.R. : You can outline all you like, and I certainly do, especially for my fictional characters — I really get into the weeds with who they are, what are their issues and why, and what’s their style, their fears, their strengths and weaknesses — but writing is a lot like life in that you never really know where a story or a path is going to lead you. In both cases, it’s part of the thrill, no?
I.B. : Rosemary, I might write zilch one day, 5 words, 5 lines –or five pages or more, depending on life, daily demands and the interest level. How about you? Are you a fast writer, or does it take you days to write a short story? Do you have a word target, for an example 5,000 words per day? Or 5 pages? I’m asking for your measuring stick here. Should there even be a target in writing?
R.R. : Over the last decade, as my writing for clients (mostly within law or health care) took a front seat (so I could eat), my creative writing for projects personal to me became relegated to late nights …if I had a brain left. As it often happens, I’ve recently discovered that empty place where you realize the ‘why’ of doing what you do is more important, and writing for others commercially is not ‘being’ the kind of writer I most enjoy.
It’s too easy to let life, work, kids (dogs in my case since my son, Sean is now grown), and the needs of others to overtake things, so you have to set aside time and protect it. I write creatively in the evenings with no specific page count in mind. If I’m struggling I just stop, knowing that by walking away the answer or work-around will come faster — like magic – if I can let it go.
My problem is stopping. I can’t get up early and write for a specific time before turning to my work writing (as many do before their day jobs) because I won’t want to stop. I get my work writing done so I can clear that responsibility off my mind and let things flow. I live for Friday nights because I can write till dawn if I want. I’m a night and weekend writing warrior, you might say. I’m working on a personal biz project that relies, initially, on my writing and marketing skills; one I hope to one day soon replace my need for a client load and will allow me to focus on the fictional and non-fiction books and other creative projects I’ve long dreamed of doing.
We’ll see as my upcoming book progresses, how that plays out. I don’t like leaving a scene or chapter unfinished, so if it’s 5 pages or 20, my goal is to get it down, however long that takes.
I.B. : Do you rewrite and edit constantly as you write?
R.R. : No, I’m more of a ‘puke it all out there’ the first round and then I go back. If it’s more than an article, then I’ll break that into sections or chapters, but I get down what I want or need and then go back, otherwise I find it interrupts the flow of thoughts too much. Besides, by the time you get that first blush out there, you might change your mind about the direction of some things. To write is to explore and you can’t do that if you’re second-guessing too much, or being too critical early on.
They say that the art of screenwriting is rewriting (ha) and I think that’s true. Again, not being great at brevity —and with screenwriting, you need to say in one or two sentences what you would normally put in a paragraph or two – it was a discipline I had to develop. Plus, screenplays can take years to get to someone, so the opportunity is there to go back and improve on things. My writing has grown so much since I began that project that you can’t help but rewrite a few things more efficiently.
But with articles or essays, for example, I have one rule – sleep on it before submitting — and I’ll often make a few edits the next morning, but not many.
I.B. : That is sound advice. How about inspiration? What elements in life inspire, or kick Rosemary Roberts the Writer into action? Practicality, events, imagination or emotion, or are you the staid, cool, methodical, quintessential research and planning type?
R.R. : Oh, I’m definitely a truth and justice girl, so current events, politics, corporate abuse of consumers, etc get my attention pretty fast. But I’m a huge believer in the inspirational – the telling of any story of spirit that forces us to re-examine our truths, beliefs and purpose. After all, I was a girl who traveled with ‘Lassie’ and saw both the good and the unthinkable of people in her journey, has watched The Wizard of Oz about 30+ times, and for whom The Ya-Ya Sisterhood was a book I couldn’t put down because it embraced the human experience of ‘life in the raw’; the often unseen pain that we all harbor sometimes, and the joy found when you can reach a place beyond it.
—Planning? …Nope, for the most part I’m more of an ‘in the moment’ kid. And sometimes in that moment are your own misguided judgments or criticisms, and writing is a great way to set the record straight; enlighten others, as you were enlightened. But even in those times the acknowledgment is often more for me than anyone else.
That same hospital piece, for example: I had become critical of a handful of nurses that I knew were really smart …had amazing skills and knowledge, and yet, failed all to often to use it. They were failing as well (in my opinion) in the area of compassion, choosing instead to let their judgments of people (via race or economic status) determined the care they offered, and I’m not a ‘stand by quietly’ girl. But on that horrible day, they brought their best, gave their best and more, and I was so proud of them. I needed a way to acknowledge it and remind them of their early years in nursing when the act of helping, serving others and giving of themselves in a compassionate way was their inspiration. It worked.
I.B : Do you suffer from writer’s block? Does the blank screen or page frustrate you? How do you break writer’s block personally?
R.R. : I do, upon occasion. I either walk away for a bit, or work on another part of the piece that speaks to me easily, even if only to outline that part a bit more. It doesn’t matter if I use that work or not in the end, but it accomplishes two things: It shifts your brain to something that’s easily engaged, and it can also help you bridge where you were in your block to see where you ultimately want to arrive. Seeing a nearby destination can often spark just the right action to get you there.
As you know, characters often go off on their own and take you to a place you didn’t plan for in your head or outline, ha. I’ll leave the keyboard with one question in mind; What am I missing about this character or situation? They may be fictional people, places or things, but they come from a very real place inside of us based upon our experiences and unconscious beliefs. I ask myself a million questions, and as I do, I pay attention to where I feel the response as much as I do the voice in my head. Where do I feel it, and is it fear, anger, sadness, reluctance, mistrust, denial?
It’s only after I get through that process that I’m like, “Dummy.” No matter what you’re writing, there’s always a little bit of ‘us’ in the DNA and it’s all great juice to use if we’re honest about it.
I.B. : What’s your favorite genre? If you sit down and start writing, what are you most likely to write?
R.R. : Non-fiction Inspirational/human interest, then fiction of the same.
I.B. : Do you have a muse? A mascot? Does it bite? LOL
R.R. : Well, I do have a blue and gold Macaw, Miko, who answers people with, “What?” or “Uh-huh” when I use the speakerphone.
I.B. : Thank you for bringing this beautiful picture of Miko, what a handsome bird! You must be very proud of him even if he’s not your real muse LOL
R.R. : I suppose my son has always been my muse, especially when he was little. He’s had, since birth, an unwavering curiosity about people and no matter their outward packaging, always easily finds something of grace and good in them. Made me feel rather small-minded on several occasions when he was little. He was also the eternal optimist in our house, believing anything was possible. He wasn’t gullible, however; could spot a fake 50 paces away and would call you out if you tried to give a grownup-fake answer to his questions. He was always older than his years and a great writer, even in elementary school. I was never so proud as when his 5th grade teacher told me the last thing she needed was a civil liberties attorney on behalf of others in her classroom. Blended with his writing skills, I quickly informed her that he would be submitting essays regarding her brutality of some to the principal, the PTA, the school board and all the parents if she didn’t stop her abusive ways. It worked. But despite his strength he’s also a guy (at 34 now) that you can catch moments of self-doubt between the pauses of a moment if you’re quick. He exudes a certain humanity cloaked in flaws that inspires my characters at times.
I.B. : Excellent. How about your favourite all-time read. Do you have favourite books? Favourite authors?
R. R. : Unlike most writers I guess, I didn’t grow up a big fan of reading. Most books didn’t hold my interest. Today I enjoy non-fiction mostly, true stories or autobiographies, like Jimmy Carter’s, John Dean’s Blind Ambition, or personal growth, like, Influencers; a great book. These days I find myself immersed in books of personal growth, authors such as Jim Rohn, and Napoleon Hill’s, “Think And Go Rich”.
I absolutely love political philosopher, Michael Sandel’s book, Justice and love his work with students on the topic at Harvard. A whole semester is captured online as he poses different hypothetical (based on real life) situations and demands critical thinking and discussion on the part of a crowded lecture hall of students. Think you know yourself? You might be surprised if you check it out!
I.B. : Do you have a mentor? Someone you may even subconsciously try to emulate?
R.R. : A mentor who’s a writer? No. Otherwise it’s really a toss up (or blend) between my dad and Katherine Hepburn. Both had such personal strength and conviction, yet charm and ease …and to be as straightforward and honest, while at the same time gracious about it as Hepburn, well …she’s everything I aspire to be, minus the acting. She wore grace and brawn beautifully in her life. Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner is my all-time favorite movie and I’m so proud of her and Spencer Tracy for doing it at that time in our history; remarkable.
I.B. : You have been published, more than once as I understand. Tell me about the eBooks you have already published. What are they about? How about a hint or two , a two-line description of each of them LOL ( Links follow)
R.R. : I’ve been published three times, all three books contracted by the publishing house (their idea) for print only. The first two, 10-Minue Zen and 10-Minute Celtic Spirituality are part of a (10-Minute) spiritual series that introduces readers to various topics along with ways in which they can incorporate the subject matter easily into their lives. I’m part Irish, so Celtic was a lot of fun for me to discover and write about.
The third, What Would the Buddah Recycle (a ridiculous title, not one I would have chosen) blends green, eco-safe living (building, cleaning and even clothing products, systems, etc.) with sort of a Zen-ish slant, intended to show that the ‘right-action and right-thought’ of Zen is very much embedded with living responsibly and caring for the planet. “Recycling” is but a small fraction of the content.
And of course I was a contributing author in the anthology, Miracle of Sons, (Penguin/Putnam, 2003) with two featured essays about life with my son.
I had a fourth project very dear to me get cut at the eleventh hour in the last phase of publishing approval. It was a coffee table collection unlike anything else of personal stories as told to me by WWII vets. They wrote to me from across the nation and I’d often turn on my computer in the morning to find an email from one of my favorites, who would always begin with, “Good morning, friend.” He would slide out of bed gently as not to wake his wife, Esta, to tell me another story that had just come to him. He simply couldn’t wait till morning. How sweet is that? He is, as far as I know, the only one still living today of those who contacted me.
Ultimately, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw were about to release their second books on ‘the greatest generation’ and the publisher was concerned that the genre was crowded. Still, the editor who had pushed those books is the same editor that ultimately came back and contracted with me for those that I have published.
I.B. : So opportunity does knock upon occasion if you identify it and sometimes it’s best to just move on..
R.R. : With the rise of ebook publishing, it’s much easier to build an audience for your book and then, if desired, seek out a publisher for print …or self-publish on demand. My screenplay-turned-book will be done this way to build an audience that might prove advantageous to a studio regarding the original script for film. That’s the plan, but I’ll be thrilled either way just to get that story out there.
I.B. : This is probably the quintessential interview question and a hot topic, Rosemary, as an author, do you prefer traditional publishing like the Big Five, or Independent small publishers, or self-publishing? What is your best guess about what the future holds for publishing? A resurgence of big traditional publishers, Indies, or small press? All self-published? Where’s the industry headed?
R.R. : I love the feel of a book in physical form, just like some movies are best viewed in the theater. That being said, 9 out of 10 books I purchase are on an electronic platform, typically Kindle, which I either read on my large iMac screen or my iPad out of the office.
With Amazon now in the print-on-demand biz, an author doesn’t even have to put up the capital to have books printed to self-publish. With the dwindling advances of traditional publishers – unless you’re Tom Brokaw (or Bill O’Reilly), you’ll starve writing it.
I’ve also read interviews with extremely successful novelists now who publish only electronically (eBooks). Despite their books selling for less on these platforms, they sell millions more and don’t have to travel around the country on grueling author junkets. They make far more, but at less cost to themselves. Now, of course they had name recognition and a host of successful titles long before Kindle, so that helped them substantially. And having a book on Amazon does not a New York Times Best Seller make. You must be willing to discover ways to market the book yourself as well. But there are plenty of ‘How To’ sources on the net (and in print) to help you. There’s also experienced small-press folks who do a great job with covers, formatting and marketing if you’ve got some bit of money to invest.
I.B. : Do you think books in print format are going out of style and will disappear?
R.R. : I hope not, but I do think that until publishers figure out a way to both compete with Amazon AND take better care of their good, non-celebrity writers, they will continue to decline. I miss bookstores, but I don’t miss the power and control of the publishing houses …or the way in which they ask/demand that writers prostitute themselves for pennies. In many ways I think their arrogance has hurt them, maybe beyond repair.
I.B. : That’s a good observation. I guess the Internet is going to have a lot to do with the future, can you see books being published on the Internet cloud, for instance, another format? Say with an ‘access key’ so you can permanently ‘own’ them for $3.99 –without downloading to your traditional Kindle device, —you know, that type of sales arrangement?
R.R : Well, you can do that now with Amazon print on demand. You can also write and sell your formatted eBook on your own website and allow for such downloads, although I’m not sure cross-device software is available yet. eBooks were once just something that supported the Kindle or Nook device, but in the future (and not far off) that will change and the device market will open up too.
You publish to Kindle (Amazon) because of their incredible marketing system that they do for you, often exposing your book to people who would otherwise never see it. THAT’s the value of Amazon. They are partners with Google, so if someone enters a search word or phrase that matches your book’s keywords or phrases, then Google will give it high ranking (#1, 2 or 3) in the search results …because they get a piece of that too. When someone looks up a book on Amazon, Amazon says, “Hey, you might be interested in these titles too!” and one of those might be your book! That’s Amazon’s power working for you.
Plus, compare not only what you make off an Amazon sale to the (dismal) royalties from a traditional publisher. In most cases, any “advance” (i.e. pre-payment) the publisher pays you must be deducted from future royalties BEFORE any further profit from royalties are sent to you. They pay royalties, typically, once a year, at the end of the publishing year for your book, so they’ll look at the total sales for the year following its release, figure what your % was, and keep it until the amount of your advance is met.
You’ll wait, in most cases, another year (or more!) to see if you’ve made enough yet to deserve a check at the end of that year. $0.70 cents on the dollar, paid every month (after 60 days of release) by Amazon is a much better deal in most cases, especially if your book is selling better due to the reduced cost of an eBook and their in-house marketing system.
They say that few writers can make a real living selling on Amazon, but I promise you fewer still make one with the large publishing houses, if, that is, they can get them to publish the book at all.
I.B. : I see you are an accomplished blogger… Tell us what your blogs are about, and what you believe the future of blogging is. There are literally millions of blogs out there, too, so how can you make a blog stand out?
R.R. : Sadly I’ve spent more time blogging on behalf of clients the last few years while neglecting my own, but that’s changing. I just revamped my blog for my freelance & content development firm, Girl On Point, Inc. as well as designed a new personal blog called Scribbles By Ro. Scribbles will feature some of my published essays and generally, a potpourri of thoughts, topics and guest bloggers …(hint) that means you too, Raymond.
A blog, in its most basic function, when connected to your website, helps you to create consistent new content and relevant content (regionally and by topic) for your potential clients. They help tell the story of who you are, what you value, your industry recommendations, and so forth. You must consistently add content to your website to maintain good search ranking. Blogs are an easy way to do that and make adding a few paragraphs (or a whole page) of new content easy with featured key words without having to mess with website design or coding stuff. Add photos or other graphics (which increase the desire to read/share your post), or even video, which Google loves even more and you’re done.
But blogs are also about building a community of like-minded individuals or professionals, and are also a good way to share content that can benefit a lot of others – you might post a guest blog for someone on their site and they in turn might do the same for you. Both blogs and authors gain additional readers from each other and the community grows a little larger because of it. Blogs are also a great way to stand out in a crowd, building your web-cred ( credibility) as an expert on something.
And, hello …you can feature your books!
Just as there are more than three or four restaurants in your community, so it goes with blogs, so a wider social net is important, but doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Posting your latest blog post to Facebook draws new readers to the blog. So does putting the graphic with the post on Pinterest with a link to your blog and a snazzy caption. Same with Instagram. Short, imperfect video shots with just an iPhone can be a great feature on your blog. Upload it to YouTube then enter the link for it on your blog and you’ll make YouTube and Google happy …while also spreading links to your blog a little wider at the same time. When people like your short video on the blog, they’re likely to post a link to it on their own Facebook page or blog! COMMUNITY!
Now, imagine you’ve spent some time building your extended community and are ready to release your next book or eBook on Amazon. That community is going to help spread the word about your book far and wide. There’s even a few early release promos you can do with Amazon for a free copy to ensure they do. That’s the power of a blog.
I.B. : How about podcasting, or ‘BlogCasting’…have you ever considered an audio, even a radio broadcasting format for your blog instead of being limited to the written form?
R.R. : Yes. I actually was doing streaming radio on the net before most knew what streaming radio was. I had my own studio in my office, but now things are a lot easier. In the day, it was long form podcasting, ha, but a lot of the shows are still online at ThePatientsVoice.com.
Podcasting typically takes a bit more of a consistent commitment than what I’m prepared to give at this moment (people expect weekly or monthly shows) and usually involves paying a service to host the shows – they maintain your audio file and when someone clicks the link, it plays from their server. But there’s other platforms like Google Hangouts, which creates video of you and a guest, can be incredibly casual, is instantly posted to YouTube and then you link it on your blog. Sort of Skype on steroids. I definitely think we (as in you and I) should do some hangouts on both writing and maybe political times. We can take that same hangout and link it on Facebook! They can be 2-minutes long, or an hour or more!
I.B. : What about your radio work, how did that come about? —tell us how that is going.
R.R. : Hey, one thing I neglected to say about the radio show was that it was inspired by my growing disdain for magazine articles.
They would request a piece and then constantly want to cut so much and limit word counts that important topics (for women especially) were reduced to incomplete blurbs that didn’t help improve things. Example: if a short blurb on Chlamydia (in every freaking woman’s mag out there monthly) actually educated women on the now-epidemic STD, then Chlamydia numbers would have improved. And of course, they NEVER really want to mention/include our healthcare shortcomings.
Someone said I should do a streaming show, which I had no idea how to do, and a guy in Tennessee who knew of these things (a $1000 an hour global consultant) loved the idea of my show so much he helped me put it all together for free, including the equipment I needed.
I actually won an award for helping get a nail polish remover that was actually, just a legal way to sell GHB as a date rape drug, voluntarily removed from drug store shelves. I was sort of the big stick that began exposing Rite Aid and others who refused because they were getting $9 (vs all the normal $1.99 stuff) a bottle and it was flying off the shelves — even though they knew EXACTLY what it was.
I was pretty proud of that and even had their lawyers all over me for it. At first that scared the hell out of me, but then I realized that a lawsuit, which they threatened constantly, would just expose them more publicly, so I told their attorney to either file the damn thing or never contact me again, lest I get my attorney on their a** for harassment, either of which would be publicity they wouldn’t want. Never heard from him again and they finally quit selling it.
I.B. : That is such a worthy accomplishment. Congratulations! That is what I call success. So then… what’s in the future for Rosemary Roberts, are you writing the Great American Novel, or do you have other secret works in progress we shouldn’t be telling everyone?
R.R. : I’m getting back to my roots with turning the screenplay into a book, and the health consumer product that I’m designing will accompany an eBook to support more writing. Beyond that, I have a fictional book series that I’d love to dig into and publish, slanted towards a female audience, so if you and about a million of your closest friends could buy my upcoming book, I could start that soon …hint….hint.
I.B. : Ha-ha! You’re on. Have you in the past, or are you now actively writing freelance articles?
R.R. : I’ve written for national newsletters as a freelancer, like a National Domestic Violence stakeholder and others, but not since 2005, as I’ve been more so on retainer with law firms or doing project specific consumer work with a healthcare organization, writing extensively for both print and the web, and even copy for radio, much of which I produced. On behalf of labor, my articles were published in newspapers weekly throughout Illinois from 2005 – late 2010.
I.B. : Fantastic. How about the economics of being a writer? Do you think the romantic image of the starving writer in the attic is still valid? It seems content mills are failing, pay only pennies, and that type of writing certainly doesn’t pay the rent. Here’s a touchy question for you…do you think writers are paid fairly now?
R.R. : Well, the 2009 crash certainly did its part to push writers out of the job market, at least here in the US and technology took it further. What I used to get $75 an hour for is now done by someone in India for $10. Even for good website content, companies want you to also specialize in SEO, social media and more from the ‘behind the scenes’ technical standpoint, and they pay horribly in most cases. While I know and understand those, they’re quickly becoming areas that are changing so fast and require people who specialize in those mediums to achieve the level of success they’re looking for. Plus, the last thing I want to do is Facebook posts all day, every day for someone. That’s not writing, but there are a lot of people who enjoy that sort of thing.
The starving writer is still very much alive, and while the mediums are quickly changing, it still takes time and some experience to alter your pay grade. Even I can’t quit my day job yet.
I. B. : With your experience and success, what is the best possible advice and recommendations you would offer to newbie wannabe writers?
R. R. : While everyone, no matter their trade, must discover and build on their passion and dreams, I think it’s even more so true for writers because without some level of dedication, faith and belief in ourselves and our craft, those whispers of ‘something’ within us becomes a haunting void. Writers must write, somewhere, somehow. It’s what we are, not what we do, necessarily.
Whether or not you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, essays and articles, short stories, or copy for a business, it’s still a creative medium and you have to love it and be hungry to be in it. The pay usually sucks until you get some experience going, so don’t quit your day job. And today, since an unparalleled amount of writing happens on the web in conjunction with other media platforms (video, podcasting and such), you can’t get comfortable. You have to grow with the way people get and digest their inner information. If you’re on the web, or want to be, subscribe to Social Media Examiner.com and they’ll become your go-to for how-to everything. It’s a collaborative world, so if you’re not psyched about video, find a friend or college kid who eats it up and would love the exposure you can offer with your writing.
You need to self-promote and a blog is a great way to do that. Expand your own community, follow some blogs you like and ask about the possibility to cross post or guest post. In most cases, your website doesn’t need to be anything more than a blog with a few static pages if you want to feature some of your work or excerpts of it. Don’t worry about high-tech quality video either. What people want is something real, not a tv ad. The more fun you’re having with it they will too.
WordPress is great software and you can access everything you need for WordPress on most servers like GoDaddy or Midphase, including downloading the software itself right to your site. I would not, however use WordPress.com. Their ‘free’ software and hosting is extremely limited in function and their price for paid hosting with more features is outrageously expensive with all the better and less expensive alternatives out there.
Here’s what I believe: writers see things that that other people miss …a look, a flash of emotion that vanishes off someone’s face as quickly as it surfaced, the depth of a color, the thrill of a win no matter how small, and the painful agony of a loss. It’s like the difference between viewing something in vivid color vs. black and white. Writers can’t help but recreate what they see or feel with words.
As I said early on, your opportunities will often come from places you haven’t yet considered, and they all have an influence on how you develop your craft. Even a gig that proves to be undesirable can be a good thing, as you’ll have ruled out one area of writing that doesn’t float your boat. Take it with gratitude for what it taught you about yourself while you were able to improve your craft.
My final word of advice is don’t write what you don’t believe in. Trust me when I tell you its poison to the writer’s soul.
I.B. : Well, thank you Rosemary. That is fantastic advice for new writers and even more experienced; it is worth reading over and over. It’s been wonderful talking to you, but one final question before we go —how about the future?
Let’s look into The Great Crystal Ball—we need to know what’s in the future for Rosemary Roberts. Where do you see your writing taking you, since sitting on the back shelf covered with dust is clearly not applicable in your case. What’s in the future, what is your vision?
R. R. : I’m determined to spend the latter part of my career writing the projects that are meaningful to me, books (fiction) primarily, maybe another script. I’ll also use my writing to benefit organizations that I believe in more, sort of my way of giving back. I hope to grow old and gray blogging along side my ¼ acre pond with the chickens, my four dogs and the ducks keeping me company.
I. B. : Wow.that is a GREAT goal. You have much passion for what you do! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your life and thoughts on the writing life with us.
I think my readers will agree that at some time in the future, some very famous writer will think back—and report:
“What Rosemary Roberts said in that interview rang a bell—it somehow stuck in the back of my head, and really inspired me.”
R. R : Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Raymond. It’s reminded me of so much that I haven’t thought about in a long time, and looking back has been a really good walk. The timing was perfect, as I’ve been evaluating where I am and what I really want to accomplish, as well as the need to return to my roots. We don’t realize sometimes how much we’ve learned and how far we’ve traveled.
I. B : On behalf of our loyal readers, Rosemary, I thank you for visiting Incoming Bytes. Best of luck with each and every one of your projects in the future; please do keep in touch, and rest assured, we shall talk again.
And that California girl, dear readers, is what I would call an accomplished and dedicated writer. Here on Incoming Bytes we are so happy to have had the opportunity to interview Rosemary Roberts, writer, blogger, screenwriter, radio personality, and creative dreamer.
What more could we ask?
People? Hello? —Of course, Links! Links to Rosemary’s books and blogs are following below.
Is That Incoming I Hear?
Rosemary’s Book Links:
10-Minute Zen (http://www.amazon.com/10-Minute-Zen-Easy-Tips-Enlightenment/dp/1931412235/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423871288&sr=1-1&keywords=10+minute+zen) — co-authored with Colleen Sell
10-Minute Celtic Spirituality (http://www.amazon.com/10-Minute-Celtic-Spirituality-Blessings-Guidance-ebook/dp/B005LNDJCC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423871390&sr=1-1&keywords=10+minute+celtic+Spirituality)
What Would the Buddha Recycle?; Zen of Green Living (http://www.amazon.com/What-Would-Buddha-Recycle-Living/dp/1605501174/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423871459&sr=1-1-fkmr1&keywords=What+Would+the+Budah+recycle
Girl on Point Creative Services http://www.girlonpoint.com/
Photo Credits: Photos ©2015 by Rosemary Roberts, all rights reserved