A Chance Encounter on a Beach and an Epiphany

Saturday, April 17, 2021


I had the amazing opportunity to visit St. Thomas U.S.V.I. over spring break. We were nervous about taking this trip, as we we were still waiting on our first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, but then we started thinking that my oldest daughter is a junior in high school and we may not have her to vacation with us much longer. We took the necessary COVID-19 tests the U.S. Virgin Islands required to arrive on the island, and off we went (at the time we planned the trip they had zero reported cases). 

I knew one of my favorite authors, Elin Hilderbrand, was on the nearby island of St. John because she goes there to write for five weeks each spring. I kept joking that I’d love to bump into her on the day we took the ferry to St. John, but who was I kidding? She knew all the off-the-beaten path beaches so there was no way I was going to run into her on the tourist beach we planned to visit. As fate would have it, we didn’t realize how limited parking was at the beach we wanted to go to and were forced to turn around in our rented jeep and park in the first beach we could find a spot. This one was called Hawksnest Bay, and it only had a changing area and bathrooms—no other amenities like some of the other beaches. My husband went into the restroom and I stood with my two teens reading the sign with all the rules for the beach. Right at that moment, Elin Hilderbrand came strolling through the trees with a beach bag slung over her shoulder. I blurted out, “Hi, I’m such a big fan!” She replied, “Thank you! Good to see you!” 

She spread out her beach towel and wondered if I would see her writing her next novel longhand on one of the yellow notepads she favors (can you tell I know a lot about her from her Instagram page?) But instead, she sprayed on sunscreen and relaxed on her towel. As I stood looking at the clear blue water and the coral reef underneath, I had an epiphany. I had been waking up every day on vacation around 4 or 5 a.m., worried about nagging little things at my day job and worried because I had to take a break from producing my true crime podcast. The epiphany was this—I’m anxious because I know it’s time for me to “level up.” And by “level up,” I mean it’s time to seek out more sponsors for my podcast, to pitch the podcast to local media outlets, to get more ahead of my content calendar. Put in the work necessary to succeed. Yes, I’ve been putting it off because of work deadlines at my day job, but I’ve also been putting it off because I’m scared. I’m scared to take the next step, scared to outline the non-fiction book that I know I can create from the podcast content, scared to put myself out there more to promote and sell the work. But it’s time. I’m sure it didn’t just take running into a New York Times bestseller on a remote beach on an island to make me realize these things, but it sure didn’t hurt. 

Have you ever stopped working on something because you were scared of promoting yourself or taking a step you knew could lead to success? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, “Missing in the Carolinas.” This week, the podcast surpassed 20,000 downloads.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--And you didn't angle your cell phone in a clever, sneaky way and take her picture? If I had that kind of encounter, I think I might be tempted.

Success is a scary thing. To keep plodding along, doing what you normally do, that's safe. Venturing out into uncharted territories? It can be a bit frightening.

I am at one of those crossroads. Many different forks in the road--and I should take all of them. Getting in touch with Tulsa bookstores and libraries to set something up in May and early June? I need to do that. Contacting local churches to see if they'd be interested in a book reading or a short talk? I should do that. Calling up fraternities and sororities to see if I could speak at one of their meetings? It's on my to-do list.

Since I've hit up all my friends, family members and a few colleagues, I need to branch out.

I hope you had a delightful time on your vacation, I hope you took a pic of Elin Hinderbrand, and I hope I have the courage to venture out and do new things.

Renee Roberson said...

Sioux--I decided not to ask her for a picture because I didn't want to embarrass my kids and I have one with her from a book signing a few years ago (from when she was promoting one of her books set in St. John!) Now, I'm not saying there aren't any random shots I took of the beach with her possibly in the background . . . Yes! You are definitely in the spot I'm in. You've birthed your book, and now it's time to nurture it and watch it grow! People always say getting a book published is the hardest part of the writing process, but I can see how promoting it would be just as hard and scary. You can do it!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Right! There is always a next step. And it often feels so overwhelming. "I already figured that out. Why do I have to do this too?"

But we know you are just the woman to figure it out!

Margo Dill said...

I love this story and I love this ephihany. But I love all the plans you are laying out in this post, and sometimes just admitting those is all you need to do go to get the ball rolling. Good luck with everything!

Kelly Sgroi said...

I love this post because I’m guilty of not doing the work to realize my dreams. Thanks for the reminder!

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Renee that was definitely meant to be, that you would meet your favorite author during your vacation. This encounter lead to reflection and this reflection I'm sure will help you move forward more fervently with all of your writing and podcast endeavors. Yes, it is scary but you have accomplished so much already, so it's your time to shine.

Angela Mackintosh said...

How exciting, Renee! I know just how much you love Elin's novels. I remember when Margo interviewed her for WOW (Queen of the Beach Novel: A visit with Elin Hilderbrand) and it's ironic you met her on the beach! That photo of the turquoise water is absolutely gorgeous. I'm so glad you went, and I agree with everyone, it was meant to be. :)

I know what you mean by leveling up. I have both perfectionism and fear of success/failure, so I find plenty of opportunities to procrastinate. But look at how much you've accomplished in such a short time. You are close, Renee! I know you can do it. We're rooting for you! :) <3

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