Local author discusses his journey through publishing

Local authors’ books

Click on each book to see the author’s names and short description of what they write.

John Roedel holding one of his books from the Barnes and Noble bookshelves

Writing can be an intense hobby, especially when talking to God through Facebook. That’s how one local author managed to publish his first book in Cheyenne.

John Roedel is a local author, and he shared his experiences as a published author from a small town and being a writer in general. His works include the book “Hey God. Hey John.” and a poetry collection, “Any Given Someday.”

Roedel comes into the local Barnes and Noble every day from 9 to 11 a.m. and has done so for the last eight years, he said.

“This is where I wrote ‘Hey God. Hey John.’ I would come here for about half an hour every morning and make a post, but I wrote my entire “Hey God. Hey John.” book here and “Any Given Someday” at these tables,” Roedel said. “Most of these people here today are here every morning. It’s fun to show up, put in my headphones and if I need to socialize with people, it’s good to take off my headphones and talk to people.”

It’s also an easy hobby as well and that’s only doing the simple work for it.

On his Facebook page, Roedel writes between five to seven posts a week and has for several years.

“Back in the days of MySpace and the early days of Facebook, I would just write funny things. I’m in an improv comedy group, so I would write for that, like little sketches or skits for our comedy group,” Roedel said.

Roedel began writing because “I wasn’t really good at anything else, like I can’t build anything, or sell or anything,” he said.

His family had a drug store in town and worked there for years.

“I just found myself writing in between working or when I was at home,” Roedel said.

It said it was a just a fun hobby for him then, posting these things on Facebook.

“About seven years ago, I started writing more in-depth online and sort of connected with a bunch of people who are reading it,” Roedel said. “I started ‘Hey God. Hey John.’ which was this online blog where I was on Facebook and I was having fake conversations with God, more or less complaining, not even sure if God existed, me not wearing skinny jeans, or me losing weight. Whatever it was at the time, and people started following it. Then I started making them a little more serious.”

He said that “all of a sudden, I had 17,000 people reading it every day.” He turned all of those posts into a book about a year ago and didn’t think of himself as a writer until he started putting the posts together in a collection.

“It was just one of those things where I wasn’t good at anything else and things started to funnel down to that one thing – and it was writing,” Roedel said.

“It wasn’t until about three years ago when I was actually thinking ‘yeah, I am a writer,’” he said.

Even with the small “conversations” he had with God, it’s still considered writing because he would come up with these conversations and wrote them down, even if it were for a simple Facebook post.

With a large number of readers on Roedel’s posts, he began taking them more seriously. To him, they were just fun little posts to do in the meantime. He has three children and one lives with autism.

“I started sharing that perspective, and in that, the writing became a little bit more personal, a little bit more honest, a little bit more raw,” he said.

He began writing more in-depth with more issues of the world. In doing these “Hey God. Hey John.” posts, he began writing poetry out of nowhere. He didn’t believe the posts he made were very poetic as they were just conversations he came up with.

As he does write and perform comedy, he said “the idea of even writing serious things online was kind of countering anything that I do. About a year later, I was just writing poetry. It completely blew my mind that I was doing that.”

Six months after publishing “Hey God. Hey John.” his first poetry collection, “Any Given Someday” was published, where most of the poems he wrote spurred from the posts he wrote.

“Any Given Someday” is a collection of poems and was published shortly after “Hey God. Hey John.”

Roedel is a self-published author who published through Amazon. He didn’t really want to find a publisher with the two books.

“I haven’t really ever tried to find a publisher,” Roedel said. “You hear the J.K. Rowling story where (she) sent 30 query letters and got rejected 30 times and it was that 31st time they found someone to publish (her) work. I didn’t want to go through that. I’m not really good at rejections. I sent out one query of my ten years of writing and I never heard back from them. That’s probably why I’m just a local author instead of some best-selling author.”

Even though he self-published, he did have an editor for his “Hey God. Hey John.” book.

“I had a really wonderful editor from London who I met through another writer,” he said. “She really helped me focus – I had about 1,700 ‘Hey God. Hey John.’ posts and whittled it down to tell a story. It took about a year and a half working with her to get that. It’s about a 500-page book. That took a while and we really didn’t seek representation for that, we just put it on Amazon and it did really well.”

After the publication of his first book with his editor, he went ahead and self-published his poetry collection. He never attempted to find an agent or publisher house. He hopes to someday publish through one of those.

“It’s everyone’s dream and I hope that when I grow up, I’ll consider doing that,” he said.

When the question was asked about the success and accomplishments of his books, Roedel said he had no expectations of how well received his books would be. He didn’t get his hopes up and is proud of what he was able to do and that was getting his book out there.

“I had so many followers at the time (of the “Hey God. Hey John.” posts.) I knew that some people were going to buy it, but I had no expectations of what that would be,” Roedel said. “They say that self-published authors are lucky their first books are able to sell 200 copies total, and that’s all your friends and family.”

He said he “tried not to let it go to my head. I have teenage kids at home that constantly humble me. Even if I had sold like a million copies, I don’t think of things like that. I don’t think I would do well being successful in my mind, I would have been very neurotic about it.”

Roedel said that he thought he sold about six more times than he thought he would. In the end, no matter the copies sold, he was happy about his book being sold.

“I don’t try to attach it to how many people who bought it,” he said. “The people who bought it, the reviews have been really, really good on Amazon. I have been really fortunate to get good reviews.”

One of the responses he said he received were from atheists who told Roedel that they didn’t believe in God, but they enjoyed the story Roedel told. He found satisfaction that people were finding value in his story.

“I’m not doing this as an Evangelist,” he said. “I’m not trying to convince anybody of anything. In fact, I don’t refer to any religion of God in any way that would identify it as a specific religion.”

A special thing about Roedel and his writing is that he’s written his entire “Hey God. Hey John.” book at the local Barnes and Noble. He comes to the bookstore because he’s surrounded by books. The different authors, publications, and poetry that sit on the shelves inspire his writing.

“To be surrounded by books is really cool, that’s why I come here,” he said. “Not to cheat on Barnes and Noble, but I’ve tried other places in town. Other writers have told me ‘you have to try opening your experiences somewhere else and see if that inspires you.’ I’ve tried other places in town, but this just feels comfortable to me.”

He comes to Barnes and Noble to be around people.

“Writers get really isolated at home,” he said. “I could sit at home and write. I’m an introvert, even though I perform and do other things, but socially, I’m an introvert.”

He said that the bookstore is a perfect balance of coming to a place where there are people he can be around. He still puts his headphones in and goes into his own world.

The advice Roedel gave to aspiring writers was being part of writing communities.

“There’s one on Facebook. The ‘Cheyenne’s Writers Group,’ there’s things like that,” he said. “They offer a lot of good guidance.”

He also said that coming to poetry nights such as the poetry slam Barnes and Noble hosts every second Sunday of the month, which helps the writing community. Dazbog has poetry nights on the first Thursday of every month. These are good events to go to for aspiring writers.

He said that the biggest piece of advice he has, and he even struggles with himself, is finding the will and effort to write that day.

“You get there and you feel ‘I don’t really want to write today.’ It’s like working out, I don’t want to do it, I’m not going to enjoy it. I just want to do something else. You do it,” he said.

“No matter how you’re feeling or even if you think ‘I’m a terrible writer’ or ‘I have nothing to say,’ just write something, even if it’s something that no one’s ever going to see, write it and save it somewhere. Maybe five years later you’ll go back to it and find three words and think ‘hey, that kind of makes sense now.’ You have to show up every day and do it,” he said.

Roedel brings up a book by Julia Cameron, “The Artist’s Way,” that talks about the process of free writing every day.

“It’s an amazing book for writing, and in it, they talk about doing morning pages, where every morning you show up and you just write, no matter what it says. You don’t offer any judgment to it and you write for about 20 minutes and never look at it again,” he said.

He also said that for those who are done with their first book, don’t stop there. There’s always a second book. Even if they sold five copies, it can be discouraging to spend long hours writing and in the end, they don’t believe it’s worth it.

“Everyday I write and put it on Facebook, it keeps me accountable. Everyday for the last year, I’ve been posting about five or seven poems a week on my Facebook page. It keeps me writing, it keeps me doing it for my next book,” Roedel said.

According to Roedel, he has three poetry collections coming out later this year.

About Madi Overstreet (12 Articles)
Madi Overstreet is a second-year student majoring in English at Laramie County Community College. Overstreet was senior and managing editor of her high school yearbook and was also a lead for the broadcasting class at Cheyenne East High School and is hoping to bring her leadership knowledge to help the Wingspan staff this semester. To contact Overstreet, email her at madeleineoverstreet@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @MadiOverstreet

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