February 2, 2021

Live and in Color

Robin W. Pearson

A few birthdays ago, Songbird created a “Who Knows Me Best?” game. Most of us failed miserably. Who knew “punch pink” was a color, let alone her favorite? We’d witnessed her love of musicals but couldn’t distinguish Ben Platt from Ben Franklin. (Oh, that’s right—not the man wearing split bifocals holding the kite string.) After that fateful low-scoring date, we upped our game. We now can pick out who belted his way through “Dear Evan Hansen” with one ear plugged and inform you that Songbird’s go-to color has changed to fire engine red.

I wonder how my family of readers would fair in a game of “Who Knows Robin Best?” Do they know the color I love? The name of my favorite artist? Which creepy-crawly makes me screech loudest? If I’m a cat person or a dog lover? Whether I prefer sweet or savory? Who and what I believe in? Their scores might be fair to middlin’.

They might need to read the lines and all the words in between.

Thanks to an agent who advised me years ago to build my platform—code for “I need more convincing your book will sell”—I started blogging. At first, I wasn’t sure what I would talk about. In my mind, I was “just” a homeschooling mama of seven who loved God and the family He gave her . . . and extras like Paper Mate pencils, sweeping, descriptive paragraphs, and math. After a little hemming and hawing, that’s what I decided to build my audience on, my foundation: my faith, my family, and my fiction. And once I got to talking . . . phew!

But not the kind of talking that Songbird is more comfortable with. Though we both view life through rose-colored glasses, I publish mine in black and white. Simply put, I communicate best through my writing. I’ve found the blank screen is a great listener. It doesn’t offer advice or judgment, and it doesn’t interrupt me, whether it takes 100,000 words or 500 to compose my thoughts. It tells my truth, which is often stranger than my fiction.

Yet even within my fiction, I bury nuggets of insider information. Readers just need to do some digging and sifting and see what truth remains. For instance, my grandmothers inspired my debut, A Long Time Comin’. This novel revolves around Beatrice Agnew and her relationships with her seven children and her granddaughter Evelyn. Both Granny B and Evelyn learned to lean in closer to hear what God had to say, much as I have while raising my own large family. In this story, readers also gain insight into my family’s traditions and history, from our faith to our food—including Granny B’s onion syrup, a concoction my own grandma drank as a child.

Through the process of getting my first novel from idea to published work, I came to grips with some of my own bitterness and regrets from the past and the unreal expectations I had for my own seven little people. I pried open my “fingers,” my heart, and I started to let it all go—what my main character also needed to do. A Long Time Comin’ acted as a mirror, reflecting both the spiritual truths I wanted to show the world and some of that inner wrangling I’d never acknowledged.

In my latest fiction offering, ’Til I Want No More, a bride-to-be takes a redemptive journey down the aisle and into her past. Maxine Owens is an orange-loving writer who connects with her readers by sharing more than top-ten lists—just like the author. In her articles about her march to the altar, Maxine reveals deeply buried, long-withheld thoughts about her search for “home,” that sense of belonging, acceptance, and being loved.

Maxine and I stride hand in hand in many ways, just not down the aisle. I hung up my veil more than twenty-six years ago when I married Hubby. But Maxine carries the weight of “not enough,” a burden I’ve laid at the feet of Jesus time and again. My character bears a different load than I, one that has hands and feet. Maxine struggles to share the truth of her pain with her family and the man she’s pledged to marry. Like me, however, she virtually pours herself onto the blank page for her readers.

Yet the page is the only place where Maxine lives and breathes—just like the whole Owens family, and Evelyn, Granny B, and the rest of the Agnews. Their unique stories, personalities, pasts, and relationships sprang from the singular mind and history of this storyteller and blogger. I “passed down” these characteristics to the folks in my stories, like the way Songbird inherited my sense of humor, my love of words, and playfulness. Writing about my families—real and imagined—helps me connect with my audience; it opens a window my readers can peer through and see me, in living color. All these characters that I know best, the ones in my house and the ones in my head, enable my readers to get to know me . . . better.

Robin W. Pearson’s writing sprouts from her Southern roots and her love of her husband and seven children. Both lend authenticity to her novels. After graduating from Wake Forest University, she has corrected grammar up and down the East Coast in her career as an editor and writer that started with Houghton Mifflin Company twenty-five years ago. Since then she has freelanced with magazines, parenting journals, textbooks, and homeschooling resources. Follow her on her blog, Mommy, Concentrated, where she shares her adventures in faith, family, and freelancing.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to have you on Suite T Robin. The game “Who Knows Me Best?” is so much fun.

    Congratulations on your new novel. I can't wait to read about Maxine —as well as the whole Owens family; Evelyn, Granny B, and the rest of the Agnews.