Making an Impact – Part 1: Writing and Speaking

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

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!

Kids writingAbout 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: 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.

Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_CoverWith 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.

Sage_River_MissouriStateWhen 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.


Hero Dog Award signSee 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:

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: Or visit Petfinder to learn about adoption and others ways you can be a hero in the lives of pets:

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)

Mary_GlenrockGayle 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

Walking_FrontCover_small   SageBigAdventureFront-small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage


25 thoughts on “Making an Impact – Part 1: Writing and Speaking

  1. Your passion comes through loud and clear in your blog today, and your compassion for others also. You are an amazing lady and a great influence on others with your writing talent and generosity in helping others with their writing. Write on!


  2. You are such an inspiration Gayle! Only a special person recognizes the need and is willing to take in and love unloveable pets. Sage created a platform for you to share your experiences with others. You may think you’re a little fish, but I bet your readers and followers would disagree. It doesn’t mean as much to win awards as it does to touch people’s hearts. You’re definitely a winner in that category. Keep on doing what you’re doing – I know people will be better for it!


    1. Linda, you honor and WOW me with your compliments — thank you, thank you! I oftentimes wish I had more reach and more influence, but God knows what is best, who needs to hear our messages, and the impact we make that we may never fully know in this lifetime. I learn daily to trust Him more and more and without His grace and guidance, I could do nothing. And, without the support and encouragement from friends like you, I couldn’t do what I’ve done and what will come in the future. So, thank you, Linda, from the bottom of my heart! Blessings to you!! 🙂


  3. It’s wonderful that you can promote your passion and connect with people the way you do. Kudos. I wouldn’t think small town WY kids would need a push to enjoy the outdoors but I guess games and media affect everyone, no matter where they live. Keep up the good work.


    1. Thank you, Kate, I appreciate your kind words! Yes, kids everywhere feel “bored” without their electronic “gizmos” it seems. As a child in Iowa, I LOVED going into the woods and sitting under a cedar tree and just “be there” or walk along the shore of our 2-acre pond and see how much wildlife (or tracks) I could encounter. Now I’m into “gizmos” and oftentimes have to remember to get outdoors — although not so when I’m at the cabin! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve known many people in my life who devote themselves to helping dogs, cat and other animals in need of rescue and adoption, including some inspirational folks in Duplin and Pender counties, N.C., as well as a longtime Ohio friend who now runs a weekly newspaper in NE Ohio, Anne Bauswein. But honestly, meeting you in person and seeing all you do via your FB posts puts you right up there, in my humble opinion. Your books, your TV and radio appearances, your public speaking engagements, your freelance articles… truly you seemingly never slow down. One thing, though… remember to take care of your health needs.


    1. I know, Mike, I tend to overlook my own self and go like the energizer bunny, so I need to slow down a bit, which I plan to do. You’ll see in my next post, that, though I’ll be traveling to get there, the location I’ve chosen for a short va-cae will provide the respite and re-stir the passion! 🙂 I promise to monitor my health more closely — I appreciate your concern, your encouragement, and your friendship. Thank you! 🙂


  5. Amen to that Gayle. We can all make a difference. Each person in their own way is making ripples in this world. Keep up the good work. Doris


    1. Thank you, Doris, for your comments. Yes, we can all have influence — I think of you and your passion for history, how you not only write it but also make it come alive. I do hope to see one of your performances next year and I hope to someday share a bit of Wyoming’s history in person if travels bring you up this way. 🙂


  6. That was great to hear you speaking, Gayle! You are making a difference and, as an ex-teacher, I know it’s not always easy for a visitor to school to really engage with the pupils. For them to listen attentively is one thing, and for them to actually take on board the message can be something else. You are covering the marketing areas really well- congratulations! 🙂


    1. Nancy, your words encourage me! Thank you! You are right — it’s not always easy to engage students, especially cooped up in a classroom, so I’m thankful I was able to get some of the kids outdoors at that rural school. I wish I could do that with the others, and on my next visit (to a private school on 11/6), we will go outside for awhile. I’m very much looking forward to that one! 🙂


    1. I do smile a lot when I’m at the library, a signing, and oftentimes at school, that’s for sure. And, I did a lot of smiling during the blog talk radio program last week — hopefully, that conveyed across the phone line! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and leaving such an encouraging comment, Travis!


  7. It’s clear that you’ve touched the hearts of so many and as writers, that’s something so many of us dream of. The fact that you had a teen inspired by your writing to become more involved in dog rescue and a fan left a comment on a library’s Facebook page, shows that you are making a difference. You’re an inspiration, Gayle!


    1. Sarah, thanks for stopping by and commenting and for your encouraging words. That library program brought me great joy, and I’m hoping the visit I make on Friday to a private school will reap a delightful harvest not just of readers, but also of positive impacters. Thanks again for your kind words!


  8. You find the opportunities to share, and that’s a wonderful thing. I wish I could, but with my “day” job, it’s near impossible. I did just get a check for $48.50 for the sale of my books at WV Writer’s Conference. I’d forgotten about selling anything there. Nice. I will listen to your interview. Thanks for sharing. Cher’ley


    1. I wish I could sell more books and I’m still looking into ways to do that. Meantime, I’m thankful for the sales I’ve had, the programs I give, and the opportunities to interact with others, be they potential readers or other writers. Yes, having a “day job” limits what one can do — and at times I feel like I have SEVEN DAY JOBS! LOL Thanks for stopping by to comment, Cherley!


  9. Even the smallest stone will cause a ripple when thrown in the ocean and that ripple may meet another ripple, which meets another and another. I got a Twitter message from Chicago after the publication of my first book. A person there who had won a copy on Amazon had read and loved my book and was waiting impatiently for the next one. Me. A small town writer from West Virginia.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Joe, that’s a wonderful and encouraging story! We all need those pats on the back but we don’t get them terribly often. I’m excited for you!! I hope you receive many more in the near future. And, you are so right about the ripple — sometimes we don’t get to see that effect but at times like you mentioned, when you experience one small dose, it’s simply amazing! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts, I truly appreciate it! And, I look forward to reading your book!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.