By: Meghan Hudson, Arts & Life Editor
Robyn Evans, a 1999 Towson alum, was recently nominated for an Author Academy Award in the Religion category. Her book, “One Hope at a Time: The Prisoner of Hope Letters,” was published in 2015, and placed in the top 10.
“I didn’t really plan to write a book,” said Evans. “My father who has since passed away, he always used to tell me that I should write a book and I never really knew what I wanted to write about.”
Since Evans was young, she always had a passion for writing.
“I’ve always loved writing,” said Evans. “There’s never been a time that I remember not loving it. My mom told me I used to make up stories when I was a toddler, so it’s always been there.”
While in college at Towson, Evans interned for the Baltimore Sun, and was a member of The Towerlight.
“I landed my first job the November after I graduated in ‘99 at the Carroll County Times,” said Evans. “I pretty much started out as a feature reporter there, and did a little bit of work with the news desk, but feature [writing] was always more of my love.”
Though she enjoyed working for the Carroll County Times, Evans eventually decided she was ready to move on and explore other types of writing.
“My career has taken me all over with writing,” she said. “I’ve done everything from being a feature reporter to being a technical writer, marketing writer — you name it, I’ve probably done that.”
In 2001, Evans shared that her mother found a book titled “Passing by Samaria” by Sharon Ewell Foster, and encouraged Evans to read it. It was a fiction novel, and according to Evans, she immediately fell in love with it.
“I decided I was going to become a fiction writer,” said Evans.
Deciding to become a fiction writer, however, turned out to be easier said than done. Evans found herself becoming very contemplative about writing her first book.
“I struggled with myself with that, so [the book] just sat for the longest time,” she said. “A friend of mine told me I should really take time to explore that, and not let that go just because it seems hard. It was so much easier to just write stuff for other people.”
Evans ended up moving on from this first attempt at a fiction novel, a project she hopes to finish one day.
Despite fiction writing not going as planned, it seems as though life had a funny way of redirecting Evans.
“This particular book which I placed in the top 10 in the author awards contest with, [“One Hope at a Time: The Prisoner of Hope Letters,”] really started out as a private project,” said Evans. “I had no intention of publishing this. I was going through a difficult season in life just kind of questioning a lot of things and just feeling the state of the world and generally feeling down.”
Evans began writing letters to herself, and shared that after a while of writing herself these letters consistently, she ended up having hundreds.
“One day I was at work and I shared this with my coworker, and she said ‘you know, I think you should compile all of those and do a book,’” said Evans.
Not yet convinced that publishing her letters was the best idea, Evans set up an email newsletter people could subscribe to. In these emails, Evans wrote subscribers a letter and inspirational messages. Still, continuing to write herself letters, they continued to pile up.
“One day I was doing a book signing for the first book that I ever was published in, which is an anthology, and there was a lady at the book signing who said, ‘This is really a nice project, but when are you going to put out something of your own?’” said Evans. “I asked her to sign up for my email. When I told her what [the emails are] about, she looked at me and said ‘that’s your next book.’”
English major Kayla Wittman, felt encouraged by Evans’ bravery in publishing such a personal story.
“For her to be able to do such deep introspection and then publish her inner thoughts and feelings on a very personal matter is incredible,” said Wittman. “It’s really encouraging, seeing someone from Towson not only doing well in the field that I work in, but also to find the strength within herself to be able to share a piece of herself through her work. I know how difficult that can be but I also know that’s the true strength of a good writer.
According to Evans, this is what got the ball rolling for her. She soon decided to compile some of her letters into a book titled “One Hope at a Time: The Prisoner of Hope Letters.”
“[After publishing the book] I really felt a sigh of relief, because you put your baby out there, and you wonder if someone’s gonna say ‘your baby’s ugly,’” said Evans. “When I put it out there and I started getting positive feedback, and reviews on Amazon from people I didn’t even know, I really felt validated that I should continue doing this. The book that’s up for the award is the first of three.”
The Author Academy Awards took place on Oct. 25. Though Evans didn’t win her category, she shared that she still had fun connecting with the other authors at the event.
To students figuring out their own paths, Evans shared that she can relate not knowing exactly what you want to do with your passions.
“We know what we enjoy doing and what we have a natural talent in but we’re not exactly sure,” said Evans. “Be open to finding what your thing is.”
Evans’ book, “One Hope at a Time: The Prisoner of Hope Letters,” is available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindles.
“If for whatever reason you are to graduate with a degree in marine biology or whatever it was that you initially went to school for, take heart and realize that all it takes is for one person to believe in you and open a door, and you can be anyone you want and do anything you want,” said Evans.