Sharing Stories, Space, and Self

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Last month I hosted a mini-retreat for my writers group. This is the third summer we’ve gathered at my mountain property, and people seem to enjoy the experience … and I enjoy hosting it! Fresh air, quiet, and nature all converge to open up the creativity valve. My fellow writers and I allow the quiet to speak to us, and creative sparks that ignite fan the flame for children’s stories, romance stories, poetic symphonies, and other flavorful forms of writing. We share not only the natural space, but also ourselves and our stories – it’s a magical experience!

Writer friends at cabin_croppedWhen we write and publish and read our works to others, we can encounter a scary experience – sharing our stories is sharing ourselves and that opens us up to criticism; that’s frightening on so many levels. Our creativity is a personal thing and if someone is critical of our work, we may take it personally. It’s risky to show that creative, personal side, to be vulnerable. Yet, we better ourselves through that vulnerability, that sharing. Writers’ groups help us grow, in our craft and personally.

Later this month, one of my fellow Casper writers and I will travel to Montana to conduct programs and booksignings in three communities. Elizabeth has connections to all three places; I have ties to one. We will be reading from our works and talking about our passion for writing. We’ll share space with the audiences and we’ll share our stories – we’ll share ourselves … and we’ll be vulnerable in the doing of such. I’m looking forward to the events!

Gayle at CHS event_croppedLast month I participated in an event with the Casper Humane Society, selling books during their first annual PAWS for a Moment Community Appreciation. Collaborating with animal welfare and rescue organizations is a great partnership for me – I connect with other “dog people” who respond positively to my “dog books,” including the Chicken Soup for the Soul books in which I have dog stories. I hope to stretch my reach to other pet rescue groups in the region, and God willing, nationally. I plan to travel in October to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah to visit, to volunteer, and to market my books. We’ll see if “around the bend” there are greater opportunities for my books to be part of larger animal welfare events, those outside Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain area. I believe my stories, my books, resonate with pet owners no matter where they live, and I look forward to sharing with people in other parts of the country … however and whatever form that may take.

My first book published in 2007. I remember my first readings, my first approaches to bookstores, my first book signings – SCARY! I’ve grown since those days as a novice author, marketer, freelancer, and business woman: I still have room to improve in all areas, but my confidence is stronger, my writing more polished, and my connections deeper. My association with other writers – through the local group, the state organization, and this blog “family” – strengthens and encourages me. I am thankful to share space (physically and virtually), stories, and self with others, including you, my Writing Wranglers friends!

How does sharing help you grow? What scares you about sharing your stories, your space, and yourself with others?

Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at

SageBigAdventureFront-small  SageLearnsShareFront-small  Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final  Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover  Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014

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24 Responses to Sharing Stories, Space, and Self

  1. Doris says:

    Gayle, sharing is scary. The possibility of judgement keeps so many from even trying. When I still did a lot of ‘main stage’ theater, I used to worry that I wasn’t good enough. (Actors go through this all the time). One director pulled me aside and said, “If I don’t say anything, it’s because you are doing in right”. Talk about a confidence boost. I’ve learned to take his words to heart in all my creative endeavors. LIke theater and directors notes, and good dirctors give great notes, comments are to help you grown and if you don’t hear any, it’s because you’re doing it right.

    Best of all your upcoming ‘adventures’ and I know you will be a success. Doris


    • Thank you, Doris, for your comments and words of encouragement — I so appreciate you! I’m more confident these days than I was even a few years ago, but at times, I get these nagging doubts and I hear the whisper, “What do you think you’re doing? You are so out of your league!” But, then I read a note, hear some kind words, or simply look at the various requests and/or book orders I receive, and I know where I am supposed to be and what I am to continue doing/pursuing. I’m grateful for each opportunity … and for sweet friends like you! 🙂


  2. Mike Staton says:

    I belong to two writer groups: the Henderson Writers Group and the Online Writers Workshop of SF & Fantasy. I use the OWW for reviews of my chapters. I read the first chapter of my WIP to the HWG, but it’s pretty tedious. I’ve listened to others read at HWG meetings… they’re hard to hear. I like the HWG for the speakers they bring in and for the writing exercises and book reviews.


    • Mike, it’s always good to find like-minded people as well as new readers/reviewers. Taking part in groups may not always be fun, but hopefully we find little nuggets of wisdom and encouragement … and if not, time to find another group! It’s great you have both face-to-face and online opportunities. As always, I wish you well in your endeavors — you are an engaging, amazing writer!


  3. Sharing it a dichotomy for me. I want to share, I want people to hear/read what I’ve created. But I’m also scared to share – what if they don’t like it? What if they think I’ve wasted my time? But I’ve taken that leap of sharing many times and so far it’s been positive. I think knowing that I’ve done everything I could to make it a good story – multiple rewrites, sharing with my trusted writers group, etc. helps give me the confidence to share.
    By the way – thanks for sharing.
    – Stephen

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Stephen, I can so relate! 🙂 My confidence has grown the more I share, and I’m thankful for my writer’s group and know the writers in that group have helped me in that growth as well. When I began stretching out and speaking more to various groups, my jitters returned BIG TIME! But, I, too, have had very positive experiences and that has increased my confidence as well. I appreciate your comments and I’m happy to have shared with this group! 🙂


  4. Nancy Jardine says:

    Lovely update on your writing journey, Gayle! Thank you and best wishes with all of those planned events with your friend. I found that standing behind the selling table was scary at first, but not so much now. I’m getting better at getting out there to speak to people but I’m still not good at sharing my current writing. I’ve never belonged to a group and can’t make time for it just now but it’s something I’m sure I’ll value if it ever happens locally for me.


    • Thank you for your comments, Nancy. I think that sharing thing is something that’s scary for many of us, especially early on, but as Stephen noted, we gain confidence when we do and the more we do it. I’m looking forward to this travel time and new audiences … and I’m trying to not get too nervous! 🙂


  5. Gayle, your retreat sounds fun. I wish I could retreat once again to Casper Mountain after many memorable years at the Allan H. Stewart Camp for the Blind.


  6. Wranglers says:

    You have grown so much since this group has started. I’m always excited each time you pass a milestone. You are an important part of the safety and care of dogs, and I thank you. I wish I could come to your writer’s retreat. It looks like fun. Cher’ley


    • Yes, I have grown a lot during these past few years, Cher’ley, and I have you and this group to thank for much of that. I am honored and humbled to be able to share about my passion for animals and nature, and I look forward to these new opportunities with new audiences later this month. I’m also thankful for the mountain property and I love sharing it with friends. Come to Wyoming sometime and I’ll take you up there! 🙂 Thanks so much for your comments and for your friendship!


  7. A writer retreat is something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s always difficult for me to share but now that I’ve found a very supportive writer group, it’s not as scary as it used to be. I think surrounding yourself with other writers who are in the same boat helps a lot. Good luck with your sharing adventures but it sounds like you’re already well on your way.


    • We do enjoy our little annual summer retreat, and I’m glad I was able to host it again this year. Our group is encouraging and supportive of each other and I do enjoy each and every person in the group. Learning and growing are good aspects of life and of being a writer, and though sometimes challenging, if we persist we will find success. Maybe not to the point of someone famous, but success in our own way and for me much of that success is simply making a difference in a reader’s life — I love being part of that as well as being part of making a difference for animals. Thanks for stopping by and for your comments, Sarah!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. erinfarwell says:

    I used to stand in front of groups of people, large and small, to present reports or information to my business clients. Never had an issue. Now that I am standing up to discuss my “baby” it is much harder. I trust that, like you, I’ll improve, but it is a challenge for me. Thanks for the post!


    • There really is just something about that “baby” that gets to us, isn’t there?! both the frightening, uncomfortable aspects and the joyful, secure, and passionate aspects!! Thanks for your thoughts, Erin. 🙂


  9. Travis says:

    I feel comfortable with sharing the writers group (not sure if they are comfortable with the content I present), but I am more unnerved by the greater public, especially because I push myself to write about uncomfortable topics. That being said, I also have a hard time reading out loud. I never develop a rhythm because I’m always scrutinize and overthink while reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are certainly hardest on ourselves, it seems, and we want people to like us and what we have to offer through our writing. That’s one reason I take on various speaking endeavors: libraries, civic groups, schools, faith-based and non-profit organizations — each one has its challenges and through each encounter I grow as a writer, speaker, person. I still question myself at times, both as a writer and a speaker, but I am grateful for each opportunity. And, I am thankful for my writer’s group and the classes taken and conferences attended — all add to my growth and ability. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Travis!


  10. Neva Bodin says:

    Great post Gayle and one we can all relate to. Not only in the public exposure of our works I find, but in just getting it written so I have to put it out there period! Courage for a writer is something we must grow and nurture. Our writing group sure helps with that.


  11. Joe Stephens says:

    You hit it in the bullseye. I wish so badly that I had a writers group like yours, but the thought of putting myself and my writing out there is truly frightening. Even the thought that a reader with no writing experience would be critical makes me fear reading reviews, though I can’t bring myself not to.


    • wyoauthor1 says:

      Reviews can be hard to take — two of my writer friends and I were recently talking about that. A writer has to have a thick skin, but that’s often difficult because we’ve “birthed” this work and it’s our “baby.” Yet, it’s all a part of the business of writing, just like with life, taking the good and the bad, and doing the very best you can. We certainly can question ourselves, but if we know we’ve done our best, and if most reviews/critiques are positive, we should try to focus on those things and not so much the negative… though easier said than done, I think! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Joe!


  12. S. J. Brown says:

    Writers groups are so important to all of us. I agree they are scary at first. Your little retreat sounds divine. You are doing what I need to do more, getting out there. I am more comfortable sharing my images than my writing , but I am working on that.


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