At 13-years-old Robert Leonard Reid knew the West was somewhere he wanted to be. It would take some time for him to make the permanent move, but the spark was lit, and it was burning bright.
Robert Leonard Reid, the 2018 Nevada Writers Hall of Fame inductee, was born and raised in Pennsylvania. At 12, he fell in love with the mountains when he took a cross-country road trip with his parents.
"The best thing that ever happened to me was when my mom and dad decided to take me on a month-long road trip along Route 66," Reid said. "We were driving west to visit my older brother who was stationed with the Air Force in Arizona. That summer I saw Southern Arizona, the Grand Canyon, Los Angeles, Disney and more."
The following summer at 13, Robert's parents repeated the coast-to-coast road trip. They headed west to visit Robert's brother who was now stationed in Washington state. It was this trip that solidified Robert's love of the west.
"This trip helped me completely understand that I wanted to live my life in the West," Reid said. "I saw Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Mount Rainer and more. I knew in that instant that I would not stay in the East."
As a teen Robert loved math and science. He had dreams of being an astronomer.
In college, as a freshman at Harvard, Robert took an introduction to astronomy course. At the same time, he got a job at the Harvard astronomy observatory. He was hired to work on a project for an entire year, where each night he had to go the observatory and look into the telescope and work on the computer to input the data he had collected.
"I didn't want to analyze the stars on the computer," Reid said.
He realized then that astronomy was not something he wanted to pursue.
"After working in the lab, I realized all I wanted to do was look at the stars whenever I was outside," he said. "What I liked best was the way that they twinkled."
Knowing that astronomy wasn't the right fit, Robert decided to earn a degree in mathematics from Harvard College. After college he became a high school math teacher. He moved to New York City, and taught at Collegiate School, the oldest preparatory school in continuous operation in the country. Robert taught high school math for 10 years before making his permanent move to the West.
"I absolutely loved teaching," Reid said. "I had many wonderful students and still keep in touch with some of them. This is astonishing to me because it's been 35 years since I last taught!"
FROM HIGH SCHOOL MATH TEACHER TO HIS FIRST WRITING BREAKTHROUGH
Robert's writing career started later in life. At 28 years-old he came across an article in "Stereo Review" magazine that he disagreed with. As a result of his irritation he decided to write a counterpoint-style article expressing his opinion.
"I was so irritated by what I had read that I had to respond," Reid said. "I had a precise idea regarding what I wanted to express. I spent all of two days writing the piece. I mailed it off and found out the magazine wanted to buy my article! They paid me $150."
When asked what it was that had him so irritated, Reid said, "The article I read was an attempt to analyze something using math data and numbers and I thought it was really dense. I wanted to write a funny article to refute the writer's findings."
It was at this point Robert felt he could explore the idea of becoming a writer. To date, he has written more than 100 articles for a variety of magazines. He has also written and published five books.
FROM NEW YORK CITY TO PALO ALTO AND CARSON CITY
After deciding to leave New York City and head West, Robert found himself pursuing writing as a career in Palo Alto, California. He and his former wife found a place to stay with a friend. After living in Palo Alto for 12 years Robert got divorced and fell in love again.
"Carol was studying to be a speech therapist at San Jose State University," Reid said. "She applied for graduate school in New Mexico and was accepted. This opportunity took us from California to New Mexico and my love for the west continued to deepen."
Robert and Carol lived in New Mexico for eight years and had their son Jake there. Because of their love for the Sierra Nevada mountains and all that they offered they decided to relocate to Carson City, Nevada, in 1995.
"The Sierra kept calling me back," Reid said. "After living in 29 houses or apartments I settled for good, with Carol, in Carson City."
During this time Robert continued to explore writing and had many articles published. The process of writing is something Robert enjoys.
THE PROCESS OF WRITING
Robert is a creature of habit. He has written every morning, 365 days a year for the last 40 years.
"I'd describe myself as an eclectic writer," Reid said. "I write humorous stories, stories from a wilderness preservation point of view and I write my own music. It is important to me to continue to evolve as a writer."
"For the past 35 years I have gotten up at 5 a.m. each day," he said. "More recently, in the last five years or so, I wake up at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. to begin my daily ritual of reading, writing and editing.
"About 15 minutes after I wake up each morning I find myself sitting at my computer with a cup of coffee," Robert said. "I spend a half-hour reading work that I have written the day before. I take this time to correct my work or begin writing something new."
"I am a firm believer in the editing process," he said. "For example, I went over my first book with pen and paper editing and correcting and editing some more. I typically hate the first draft of anything I write, but I love working from it. For each chapter or story, I usually go through seven or eight drafts. It's definitely a process."
At 8 a.m. Robert has his breakfast and transitions to his other job...a math textbook author. He writes algebra problems to supplement his writing income.
"There is a statistic that last year alone half of all of the books sold in the United States were written by 20 people," Reid said. "The other half of the books sold were written by the other 500,000 of us!"
INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION
Robert encourages aspiring writers to work on building a rock-hard confidence in their writing. He said in the beginning new writers love their first draft. They think it is brilliant and ready to be sent to Harper's. He encourages these writers to go back to their work, be very critical of it and honest with themselves about it.
"It is very distressing to have your work rejected," Reid said. "I encourage all writers who experience rejection to go ahead and cry and gnash your teeth, but at the end of the day you have to get back out there! Hope springs eternal and if you are dreaming of a Pulitzer you have to keep editing your work and sending it out to the publishers and editors.
He added, "I encourage all writers to express what's in their souls. It's all art. Be proud of your work and unafraid to share it with the world."
When Robert learned he was the 2018 Nevada Writers Hall of Fame inductee he said he had to stare at the email he received for quite some time.
"I had to stare at the email I received for more than a half-hour," Reid said. "I simply could not believe it. It can be a pretty lonely life working as a writer. To be recognized for something I love doing is a true thrill. It is astonishing, an honor."
ABOUT ROBERT LEONARD REID
Robert Leonard Reid is the author of five books, four works for the theater, and more than 100 essays, articles, and short stories. Louise Erdrich characterized Reid's essays as "wonderfully fluent, even visionary." Ron Hansen called them "stirring, witty, gorgeously written." Reid's latest book, Because It Is So Beautiful: Unraveling the Mystique of the American West, was a finalist for the 2018 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. Bob has received two Artist Fellowships in Literary Arts from the Nevada Arts Council. A prolific songwriter, he has written and staged three satirical musical revues and the 24-song Bristlecone Mass. For more than a decade he has served as piano accompanist for songstress June Joplin in the Great American Songbook duo, Me and Bobby McGee. Bob attended Harvard College, where he earned a degree in mathematics. He lives in Carson City with his wife, Carol Dimmick Reid. They have a son, Jacob.
ABOUT THE NVWHOF
University Libraries presents the 31st Annual Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7:15 p.m. in the Milt Glick Ballroom, 4th floor, at the Joe Crowley Student Union on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. The event's general reception will begin at 6:30 p.m. with the formal program beginning at 7:15 p.m. The cost to attend is $40 per person. Complimentary parking is available on the first floor of the Brian Whalen Parking Complex located on north Virginia Street.
The Nevada Writers Hall of Fame was conceived by former Friends of the University Libraries President Marilyn Melton in 1988. She envisioned two purposes: an annual event honoring Nevada's finest writers, and a stimulus to encourage excellence among emerging writers in the Silver State. Honorees are selected based on their body of work, critical recognition, and a strong connection to Nevada through the themes of their writing or residence in the state.