Quiet Spirits ~ Open the Gate

Written by Ann Edall-Robson

Author, photographer and lover of life. Capturing and sharing moments others may never get to experience.

August 11, 2020

Write about what you know.

My initial knee jerk, gut reaction, to that statement was, “No one would be interested in the things that I know.” Followed by, “I can’t write about some of that stuff! People wouldn’t believe half of it.” 

Needless to say, I got past my inner voice with guidance from previous generations, melded with my own experiences and input. I have found writing about what I know is quite enjoyable, even with the hurdles that presented themselves along the way.

I have come across many bumps, frost heaves, and closed gates touring the trails of the four genres that I write in. Yet, the passion to share, and more importantly, preserve the knowledge, pushed me through the shin-tangle, and diversity was born.

Choosing to write in more than one genre occasionally causes me consternation. I think this comes from words pummelled into our brain from those who don’t know us, or what we are capable of. “Find one genre, stick to it, write it well, no cross-contamination, and defiantly no trying to make a name for yourself using more than one genre.” 

Unfortunately, we tend to head these words until we, or perhaps I should say I, finally resolved what works for me. I am not saying it is or isn’t good advice, but these comments proved to be nothing but a frustrating, brick wall challenge for me. Had I allowed myself to adhere to the guidelines of staying in one genre, I might not have bothered to venture as far as I have, into the modern-day literary world. 

There is an old saying that goes something like this, ‘Open the gate and let the horses out if you want to see how they will really perform.’ Well, that about describes me and my creativity to a tee. It took me quite a while to settle within the niche that let me run free with my writing. The realization it was okay to ignore the genre rules made less of an obstacle for me to pen my thoughts. I could now write about everything I love, embrace, and am passionateOld Gate about. I knew all I needed to do was stay true to my brand—something that came easy to me because of my upbringing in ranching country.

While the genre argument was happening in my brain, another mud hole opened up in the road to being published. Notoriety using name identification was certainly not going to happen for me when over thirteen million results of my name, Ann Robson, appear on a search engine. 

I sat looking at a list of books I thought I would write—cookbooks, a collection of my (very) early works, several books to include pictures I had taken, and let’s not forget fiction with some poetry and children’s books thrown in for good measure. How could I write about these varying topics using my plain Jane name? I knew if I was to become remotely successful, garnering a reader following would not be easy; yet somehow, I didn’t care. 

And that’s when the light came on! While I made a list of my first, middle, and last names in as many scenarios as I could think of, the answer became clear. I merely switched out my middle initial/name for my maiden name that starts with the same letter. It made me giddy to think I would include some very important family history in my author’s name. My name was now unique and completely me. The dilemma was over, Ann Edall-Robson would do quite nicely. 

In retrospect, it hasn’t been that long that I have come to terms with the fact that it is okay to write in several genres under the same name. To heck with what ‘they’ say about what I should and shouldn’t be doing. Again, I didn’t care, and it made my job easy—each piece of my published work must somehow intertwine with my brand. 

After eight books in four different genres and more than five decades of various types of writing under my belt, I still walk the trail of uncertainty when I come up with a new book idea and where it might fit in. As a writer, I think it is a good thing that I remove complacency with a jolt of what-if questions before I start a new project, it keeps me focused on what I believe in.

If you are new to this game of writing, my suggestion would be to just write and write lots. Try to write something every day, and don’t stop to edit, just write. After a while, and you get to choose how long, read out loud all of your work in the order you wrote it. You should see a pattern forming. You should see what you are comfortable writing about. Ultimately you might find the genre(s) you are best suited for; and, hopefully, you will get a glimpse at a writing voice growing through your written words.

For those who have always written in one genre, maybe now’s the time to dust off those pieces you have squirrelled away. You know, the ones you didn’t think fit within your current genre. You have already tasted the wide-open spaces, so why not open the gate to a different pasture and explore your options. 

Whether you are an old hand at writing, or a greenhorn, taking the plunge through the gate to write in more than one genre should not be taken lightly. Do your homework. You need to find a common ground in these genres you are about to embark on. A commonality that may need to be justified, or explained to others. Try to remember, your name is not that common ground, but your brand should be. 


Do you write in more than one genre?  Do you use more than one pen name? Is either of these something you have thought about doing but have some trepidation about opening that gate?


I rely on my heritage to keep me grounded. Reminding me of where I come from. Gifting me with snippets of past life and lives. Providing fuel to include in the writing I do about the lifestyle I see slipping from my grasp, from the world.

The taking pictures thing started forever ago, and when I found I could marry them to the material I have written, and am writing, well, to put it mildly, I think I have a bit of a runaway going on.

I am a lover of life and all things that make us smile. I write and take pictures for the pleasure of being able to share at Morning Muse, HorseWest, and my Blog at AnnEdallRobson.com where you can also contact me.

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  1. Ritu

    What a great post!
    I’m also a firm believer in writing what you know. Right now, there’s poetry and one novel under my one name. Ritu Bhathal.
    Not a pen name.
    My name.
    I do think about writing children’s fiction, too, then worry about whether I’d need a pen name for that, to differentiate, but I’m still toying with that thought!

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      Ritu, I worried about my pen name when my husband encouraged me to write children’s books. He asked me if there would be anything in any of my books that could not be read by any member of a family. My answer was no, and the need for a different pen name dissipated in the wind.

      If there was ever a time I thought I might write erotica, or what I consider dark topics, then I think I would have to seriously consider using another name.

      • Ritu

        As a teacher, I was told to consider this too, Ann.
        I’d definitely not write under my real name, if I was writing erotica!

  2. jenanita01

    Yes, I don’t see the need to write under several different names. There is only one of us, whatever we care to write about!

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      There are many reasons to use a pseudonym. The biggest being, marketing and sales. Sometimes there is a need to change our identity if we want the target market to buy books.

  3. beth

    such great advice on so many levels from someone who has clearly lived it –

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      Beth, as long as we pay attention to our baby steps, there is no better teacher, in my opinion, than learning from doing.

      • beth


  4. Norah

    This is a great post, Ann, and I think it’s wonderful that you use your maiden name to connect that back with your family history.
    I haven’t considered using a pen name, but I’m not yet published in as many genres as you. I think I’ll just stick to the one name for education and children’s writing. I might need to change it out if I was to ever go into writing for an older audience, but that remains to be seen.

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      The use of my maiden name became a positive marketing ploy when I returned to my home province, and home town area. People knew the Edall name, but Robson not so much.

      Norah, you have already made a name for yourself in education and children’s writing. This could bode well for you when you decide to write for other audiences. Don’t let that dream simmer too long.

      • Norah

        Thanks for your encouragement, Anne. I’m working on it. 🙂

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    What an outstanding post, Ann. Lots to think on from this. When genre has come up as a topic I generally look the other way. I know Charli had to do a lot of work and discussion around genre in her MFA studies, but me, I am untrained, perhaps even untrainable, and do not like having to label writing as this or that. And it’s gotten so specific these days. I guess it’s for marketing but I like how you answer that through branding, consistency of feel if not form. I had a wonderful argument with the woman who puts the poems up on the Poetry Loop for a local trail system. She posted a 99 word “flash” written here at the ranch and I said, no that’s not a poem. She did not beg to differ. She just differed, and put it up, a poemy piece of prose.
    I can’t not write poetry, always have and always will, though not prolifically, just as it comes. And sometimes poems are the broth that starts a heartier soup of writing, in some genre or another. Writing stories and being able to do it every week has been quite a surprise to me, I didn’t know I had them! But the cork on that keg got pulled right here at this Ranch! Must be like sourdough, that story telling. Oh… gotta go.

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      Thanks D. I still look the other way when it comes to genre. It’s that other person that I am sure lives within me that does’t give a…care as long as I am allowed to write. I have decades of files filled with what I think is genre free writing that may never see the light of day again. As for this Ranch and sourdough bubbling and burping. A fine combination for creativity.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Glad to hear you think that’s the sourdough.

  6. Charli Mills

    You do a good job staying true to your brand from your name and its ancestral nod to lend you unique recognition to the consistent themes across all your genres. You hold a firm brand, Ma’am.

    Is irrotica an irritability with horse stories mistaken for yee-haw erotica (That’s got to be a sub-genre)? 😀 I think you can get away with western soft romance and stay branded and family-oriented.

    As to cross-genres or mixed-up genres, the deliberate. If you do it without forethought, you can create a mess. But just like a ranch isn’t just horses, or just cattle, or just kitchen gardens, make your genres work for your author brand. And you do!

    At the MFA level, they don’t say stick with one genre, but they do drill into us that we know exactly where we stand in the publishing ecosystem. I’ve encountered several professors who have published in multiple genres. It can be a lucrative marketing strategy.

    • Ann Edall Robson

      You made me laugh, Charli. You have to understand that my mindset has a VERY distinct fence line that runs between erotica and soft romance, and would I, should I, could I include either in my writing. I agree, the fiction I currently write has room for soft romance and it would work. As a matter of fact, it does work. I have a 70,000 word manuscript on my shelf. waiting patiently for my return, which does contain snippets of romance in it.

      I have been very fortunate to be able to diversify into other genres and stay loyal to my brand. Like your profs, the hope is this will, someday, allow for some lucrative marketing strategies.

      Thank you for your kind words and encouragement, Charli.

      • Charli Mills

        I think it’s promising for you, especially as clear as your branding is. A soft romance would be a sweet addition and if you could write novella-length western romances, you could do well in the e-book market (no print at all). There’s a local author who makes 40k-60k a year writing Christian romances set in the Keweenaw. Romance remains the number one selling genre with a loyal audience. With your brand, you would have a good jump on the market.

  7. suespitulnik

    Ditto, what the others have said, great post, with lots of thought-provoking ideas. It’s nice to know I can cross genres freely. Imagining playing in different pastures just for fun makes me smile.
    Most of you on this site know I am in the process of giving up a pen-name because it wasn’t the real me and would never have worked for branding. It’s a process. The branding will come along when I put the time into it.

    • Ann Edall Robson

      Deciding to step back from your pen name must not have been easy for you, Sue. I think you will find that staying true to your brand will pay off in the long run. It’s an amazing feeling to wake up one day and know what your brand is, and how you will utilize it.
      Enjoy yourself in other pastures. Take the time to play and have fun, even when the grass isn’t greener. Eventually, some of those fields will resonate with you and be worth the adventure.

  8. H.R.R. Gorman

    Excellent advice! And I hadn’t known Robson was such a common name.

    I use a pen name to separate my scientific/technical writing from my fiction. A combination of paranoia and compartmentalization, perhaps.

    • Ann Edall Robson

      With your distinct genres, you are finding, I am sure, that different pen names are worthwhile.

      It seems that the combination of my first and last names makes my name run-of-the-mill when I searched it out.

  9. Jules

    I have always written in several genres. I never heard the advice to only write in one. When I have published under my real name I use my first two initials (my given name and my middle name), my family name and my married name. Yes it can be long… but that’s what I go with when I’m not writing under my nom-de-plume. While I have looked for JulesPaige it always comes up as Jules Paige… I don’t use a space between the two names so I think that sets that name far enough apart from the crowd.

    I could write everyday without prompts. But prompts add some fun. I always write from my experiences. So even my fiction might have a nugget of memory that I can relate to. Though occasionally the stuff is 100% made up.

    I’m not worried yet about branding or publishing. Maybe I should be… but I’m not. Sure I’d love to have an agent, be published get paid for what I like doing. But I don’t like someone else editing what I’ve written – especially shorter pieces. And changing the meaning or value of what I’ve written so it doesn’t make the sense I wanted it to. I’ve been through that a few times and I can happily live without it.

    I write for my enjoyment, to record, to bring peace to me. If one person likes something I’ve written (and it doesn’t have to be me) then whatever I wrote was worth writing.

    We all have to write first for ourselves. Each of us has the right to set and select our own goals without being pushed out of what makes us comfortable. I stretch with new poetic forms now and again. I branched out from just poetry to flash fiction, to serial fiction. I’ve written lullabies, poems for children, for adults, memoir and even some horror.

    Sure we grow when we take risks. I grow in other ways and my spirit is quiet and happy. 🙂

    May we all succeed at the pace we select for ourselves 😀

    • Ann Edall Robson

      Being comfortable in what we do is important. It looks like you have your pen name and various genre writing in hand, Jules.

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