Many writers make a big splash, and a big impact. Big fish like JK Rowling, Beverly Lewis, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, Mark Twain, even Shakespeare live in much bigger ponds than me. I feel like a small fry compared even to fellow Wyoming writers like Craig Johnson, CJ Box, and Nina McConigley (who won a prestigious PEN Award last year and a High Plains Book Award this year). My circle of influence may not impress many publishers, but yet I believe I can, and do, make an impact, and I’d like to think it a positive one.
Each of the above names has affected generations, audiences, and genres. In some ways, so have, and do, I.
My first book, Sage’s Big Adventure, was published in 2007. During the past eight years, I’ve visited several schools, speaking to kindergarten through seniors in high school. I’ve presented programs at libraries in- and out-of state, in senior centers in my community and beyond, and also to Christian women’s organizations. Public speaking, whether in a classroom, at a library, or for a civic or church group provides ample opportunity to influence and impact. My audiences aren’t huge, but I love the intimacy and connection one garners in a small group setting. On Saturday, I conducted a presentation at a library in a small Wyoming community about 30 miles from Casper. My audience was less than 15, but WOW! what a group! Engaged, discerning, and compassionate – I met a teenager who wants to help dog rescues and to adopt from a shelter or rescue very soon, and a woman asked me how to get her dog certified as a therapy dog, like Mary; both of these ladies can, and probably will, also have a positive impact on others. I love connecting with audiences!
About 10 days ago I visited an elementary school and spoke to 2nd – 4th graders. We spent some time outdoors and they wrote in nature journals. The program, including the outdoor observations, was connected to my latest children’s book Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest. My hope with this book, and with current speaking opportunities in the schools, is to connect and engage kids with nature. The students at this rural school about 15 miles from Casper, their teachers, and I all enjoyed our time together, and thanks to the school district, each child received a copy of Cody’s Cabin… I hope the kids will spend more time outdoors now that they have the book – we live in a beautiful area and our community’s children should be more engaged with nature.
Speaking can also include media interviews. During the past week, I was blessed to be on a local morning news TV show and a blog talk radio program. I only had two minutes on TV, but I was given 50 minutes on the radio program (if you’d like to listen to all or part of interview, here’s the link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/stepintothelight/2015/10/20/step-into-the-light-with-patti-shene. You’ll also find some photos as part of a slide show that I’d sent the host). Whether it’s 2, 10, or 50 minutes of air time, writers can use these opportunities to reach listeners which ultimately can become additional readers of our work.
With each speaking endeavor, I seek to make an impact upon people, to hopefully make life better not only for them through encouragement and inspiration from my writing, but also to positively influence the lives of shelter and rescue pets (as well as encourage better care of the pets people already have). Every year more than 5 million dogs and cats go into shelters in America, and each year nearly half don’t come out – our country still kills more than two million companion animals, many of them adoptable but not adopted. Additionally, animal cruelty is a still alive and flourishing in the forms of dog fighting and plain, pure evil deeds done by humans against animals. My prayer for my life is to help change these sad statistics and situations by influencing children and adults in how they view and treat pets.
With books available on Amazon, my little pond ripples outward and draws in new readers because my books, and the short stories created and published in various Chicken Soup for the Soul editions, are available to a worldwide audience. My friend Nina McConigley messaged me one day while she was in India with a photo of last year’s The Dog Did What? on a bookstore shelf. Her message said, “Even people in India are reading about Sage!” As writers, especially with Amazon and compilation books, we can influence people we will never even meet in this lifetime. What an incredible thought!
I may be a small author-fish in a vast ocean of writers, but I can make an impact, and, along the way, inspire others to look beyond themselves … or to see themselves better than they do. Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with my Blind Dog relates my journey with Sage, my blind springer spaniel. Sage was deemed “less valuable” than other dogs by many humans, including the owners who originally gave her to an animal shelter. People often think themselves as not valuable. That book reminds readers that, though we all have flaws, just like Sage, we are valuable and we can grow and become even better human beings. Some saw Sage as “less than” because she was blind – here we are, what would have been her 15th birthday last month, and she continues to make an impact on people and pets through her life story and through the influence she had on me. Less than? Not valued? I think not! Though I’m not a household name in the literature arena, I can, and do, make an impact. So do you.
When I was preparing to speak at the library in Glenrock on Saturday, a message came to the library’s Facebook page. It said, “So bummed I’m going to miss Ms. Irwin! I enjoy her writing and it would have been wonderful to have met her in person.” That short message touched my heart and positively affected my day! As I said, I love connecting with my audience, whether in a speaking setting or through someone reading my stories.
We writers certainly have opportunity to make an impact. We may never have our books become movies or TV shows like JK Rowling or Craig Johnson or win major awards like my friend Nina, but we can make a positive difference in the lives of our readers – and beyond.
See others who are making an impact – watch the Hero Dog Awards on Hallmark Channel Friday night, Oct. 30th. As most of you know, pets are my passion and many pets are heroes for the work they do and the amazing things they’ve done. Learn more about the incredible dogs up for these great awards, and the humans who recognize the value of their companion and the organizations benefiting from these awards by visiting this website: http://www.herodogawards.org/vote.
Be a hero yourself this month – October is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. Adopt, volunteer, donate, and though not everyone can do everything, everyone can do a “something” to help save the lives of companion animals in your area … or beyond. An article at CNN offers seven ideas on how we can help save pets: http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/09/us/iyw-help-animals-get-adopted/. Or visit Petfinder to learn about adoption and others ways you can be a hero in the lives of pets: www.petfinder.com.
Part 2: Making an Impact with Your Passions should go live on November 6th. Bet you can’t guess what passion I’ll be talking about?! (smiley face)
Gayle M. Irwin is an author, writer, and speaker with a passion for pets. She writes inspirational dog stories for children and adults and her short stories have appeared in five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her latest work is Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest, a children’s story and activity book that encourages kids to explore and appreciate nature. She volunteers with various animal rescue organizations and enjoys sharing about the pet-human bond and the human connection with nature. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.