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  • Writer's pictureRobyn Shelbourne

Handshakes, High Fives, and Formalities

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

Well, hey there, I'm Robyn Shelbourne.

What's your name?

I'm not sure if you're a fan of handshakes or high-fives, but go ahead and pick your preference.

Got it?

Cool, now let's both extend our hands in an awkward virtual exchange.

You first, no, you first!

I shook when you fived. You shook when I fived. It's nice to meet you.

Best friends?

Thought so.

"What's this website all about?"

I'm so glad you asked. Let me tell you a little story. After all, that IS why we are here.

In Kindergarten, I wrote The Pledge of Allegiance, in its entirety, on big lined paper. I was five, and yes, I still have it tucked into a folder for safekeeping. In second grade, I wrote an essay about Abraham Lincoln and won a spelling bee. In fifth grade, I talked my teachers into letting me create a school newspaper. I spent more time wandering the halls looking for people to interview than I spent in class; it was a bit problematic. I had a dream and made it come true, and that's worth its weight in gold.

I spent my teenage years writing in diaries and one emotionally charged angst letter to my grandfather after my grandmother died. I won my first writing contest in eighth grade. In high school, I wrote love notes, one awkward letter about running away, poems, and short stories. I became a journalist for my high school newspaper and a tv anchor for the school's morning news. I would be a writer, no if's and's or but's. That all changed. Life happened, and I turned my back on writing for almost twenty years.

During my hiatus, I wrote things here and there: blogs and Facebook profundities, but I never considered myself a writer. In my mind, that ship had sailed. Other people thought differently.

"I just read a really great book. You know you can write stories like that, like J.K. Rowling. When are you going to write a book?" My mom asked.

I had no business existing in the same breath as J.K. Rowling, let alone being compared to her. It felt good to hear that someone thought so, even if it was my mom.

"I have kids. I don't have time or even know where to start," I replied.

"You just start," she said.

I never started.

Fast forward, like a cassette tape.

Last year I had an identity separation from a life I had spent years building for myself. Parts of me died in a slow and torturous mental and emotional death. I had been there before, in the emptying phase. I knew the cycle: empty yourself to be open for what's to come. I didn't know what was on the other side, but I felt life-changing.

After Thanksgiving dinner last year, my grandmother approached me with tears in her eyes. I wasn't sure what she needed to tell me, but it stopped me in my tracks.

"I'm going to need you to do something for me," she said.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Write a book. You're so good. Every time you write something, I just love it. Isn't she a great writer, Marcia?" she asked.

(Marcia is my aunt.)

I told her that I needed to, that I wanted to. It was the first time I let myself believe it was a possibility. That afternoon I thought about my mom, grandmother, aunt, and everyone who has read my sparse content through the years. I thought about my husband, who always told me I should write, begged me to write, a husband whose eyes form tears after reading my words.

How did so many people believe in me when I didn't believe in myself?

I wasn't an author.

I wasn't an author because I never started.

The "what if" dreams turned into yeses when I decided to finish my Creative Writing Degree.

That's how I would learn to write a book.

Guess what?

I started.

I'm writing my debut novel, Lady Riot.

Wanna ride along with me?

Consider this your invitation.

You can RSVP if you'd like. Seating is unlimited. Bring your weird cousin, the cool chick you met at the grocery store, or maybe it's time for you to try out that one-night stand you've been dreaming about. Remember that one time you saw a granny riding a scooter with her dress tucked into her underwear? I'd like someone to bring her. Saw a person vaping in the coffee shop when the sign said not to? Bring them. Does your grandpa have a side hustle as a clown? He can come, but I'd like him to wear his clown suit. How about that one guy that pickles pig feet? Think he might want to come? Let's take a chance on it. Hey, sorority sisters, this one's for you. I know how you all like to pack a house. Like Limp Bizkit? I'll give you something to break. C'mon!

I went through that list to say this: Everyone is invited. Wasn't it more fun to think about those scenarios, though?

So, that's that on formalities. How about one last high-five for the road?

We'll talk soon.



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