Gainesville native Ronda Rich has written over 900 columns for newspapers in the past 15 years, or hundreds of thousands of words at an average of five columns a week.
“What I’ve discovered is that people like to remember — they don’t like to be reminded in today’s world,” Rich said about her writing. “That’s what I set out every week to do — is to give my readers 15 minutes of remembering, not being reminded.”
Her syndicated column runs in 50 newspapers across the Southeast.
“It’s been very successful because all I do is tell stories that make people feel good for a few minutes,” she said. “It either makes them remember something nostalgic for them, or it makes them laugh or occasionally emotional, thinking back over the loss of someone.”
And now, she’s compiled a few of those stories into a book titled “Let Me Tell You Something.” It was released Oct. 10.
“This new (book) is a collection of columns that I wrote in the early years,” she said. “I always try to write my column where it’s timeless. It’s never dated. It’s not political. It’s not tied to a moment in time. I was very pleased to go back 15 years later and see how well these early columns held up.”
But she’s also put in some new stories and other material.
“This book explains how the column was launched in the first place,” she said. “I’ve included backstories where I explain how that story came to be, what happened to the characters, how those people were in my life in the first place. Probably 40 percent of the book is new material, but it’s still some favorites.”
She said the book is essentially a “private collection” for her readers.
“It was one thing that readers always would ask me to do,” Rich said. “This is a gift back to the people who have loved me and given me a place to tell stories.”
Rich has also published seven other books, each carrying the same theme: reflection.
“Everything I write is told from a Southern perspective,” she said. “It’s a story of the South, and it’s people — my books or my newspaper column.”
But before Rich became an author or columnist, her career began in journalism.
“My first editor ever was Norman Baggs at a newspaper that no longer exists called The Gainesville Tribune,” she said. “It was a weekly newspaper. Then I worked part-time at The Times as a sports writer.”
Rich also worked at USA Today and spent several years in NASCAR as a publicist before trying her hand as an author.
“I went to a writer’s conference in New York and met an agent who believed I had a book in me,” she said. “And he called me and asked me to write a book on Southern women and why we’re different. I didn’t think anyone would buy it, but I did an outline. I called it ‘What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should).’ The outline auctioned among five major publishers for four days. It’s been a best-seller ever since then.”
And while she found success writing books, she missed the newspaper industry.
“I went to a reunion of The Times folks,” she said. “People sat there just telling these great stories from when we were in the newspaper business and stories they’d covered and characters they had met. It gave me a real longing to be back in newspaper. I had the idea to do this syndicated column.”
“Let Me Tell You Something” features the best of her columns since then, and she said it’s a tribute to people who have helped her throughout life.
“This book is dedicated to Norman,” she said about the current general manager of The Times. “I am a lot of who I am because of Norman, especially as a writer and a journalist. I don’t believe that anybody is self-made. I believe I personally have been made of 40 or 50 people at least who invested in me, who taught me, who said a kind word to me, who gave me an opportunity. And this is a gift back to them.”