Building and Nurturing Relationships

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

I drew in a deep breath, collecting my courage as a person gathers wildflowers in a meadow. I really don’t know why I was so nervous – I had known this person since my days as the editor of the small town newspaper more than 20 years ago. However, during our last conversation a year ago she’d said in a disappointed tone, “We still have some of your books – they haven’t sold.” Now, here I was: preparing to ask for a booksigning opportunity.

I dialed the phone. When she answered and I told her who I was, there was a slight pause. So I began with a casual conversation about how spring really isn’t spring yet. She was cordial, and then I launched into my reason for calling: “I remember last year you told me that you still had books that hadn’t sold. I plan to be in the area mid-June so how about I do a booksigning and try to get those sold for you? There’s a new Chicken Soup book coming out in June and it features a story I wrote about the national parks, in particular, Yellowstone. With you being so close to the Park and this being the 100th anniversary of the Park Service, that book will likely attract people, and we can sell Chicken Soup books as well as my dog books that you still have.”

She didn’t hesitate. “Sounds like a great idea. When shall we do it?”

A win-win for both of us – I hope. At least she didn’t shut the literal, or real, door.

Spirit of America book
Upcoming Chicken Soup book to feature “National Parks: America’s Best Idea” by Gayle M. Irwin

Relationships – have you ever stopped to think how many you engage in or that you’re a part of? Perhaps you’re a spouse, a sister, a daughter/son, grandparent. You’re a friend, a colleague, a pet owner, a teacher. You’re a neighbor, community leader/member, part of a writers group, artistic group, church. Maybe you’re a volunteer, part of a publishing house, part of a blogging community, including this one. As writers, we interact with readers, publishers, book and other store owners, other writers…. We truly are in relationship with many people, from all different walks of life, from all parts of our community and beyond. And, because of social media, we are in “communion” with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others, all around the world.

For two years I freelanced/ghost-wrote articles for a web-based pet supply company located in India. I never saw the man face-to-face; the closest I ever came was when we became “friends” on Facebook. Similarly, I’ve never met the publishers of Chicken Soup for the Soul, but I interact with them via email and sometimes telephone, and as this new book The Spirit of America comes out in June, in which I have a short story titled National Parks: America’s Best Idea, I’ll be ordering books, discussing publicity, and having other interactions with them.

Coneflowers_MomsGardenWe build relationships with others, and like garden flowers, we need to nurture them. One of “girls” I knew well growing up in Iowa, someone I considered for years as my best friend, recently wrote to me, sending me a belated birthday card and a long letter. I’d hear from her off and on through the years; for the past 15 or so, only at Christmas due to various circumstances in her life. Last Christmas I didn’t hear from her. I had planned to call as I know she’s busy raising three kids on her own and email or Facebook isn’t really an option for her, but I didn’t call – I let life get in the way. When I read her letter, I had to sit down and then I had to cry. She was diagnosed with colon cancer last fall, and though under treatment, prognosis is uncertain. She just turned 55. We knew each other in grade school, hung out together in middle school, and because neither she, nor I, nor three other girls in our group was asked to prom, the five of us went together (that was okay in small-town Iowa in the 1970s). Here was a relationship I valued for many years and lately I barely wrote her once a year and now she’s facing an uncertain future.

One week later my husband and I attended the funeral of a man we admired who died in his home from an aneurysm; he was 63, just two years older than my husband. That man loved his wife with complete devotion; Greg and I are remembering their love as we look to celebrate Greg’s birthday on Wednesday and plan to take more time for each other in the months ahead, including a trip to St. Louis to watch a Cardinals game — as we did several years ago.

Gayle and Greg_Cardinals

Relationships – we have many, and though we can’t be “close” to everybody in our lives, we certainly can take the time to nurture the ones most important to us and make as many people feel valued as possible. My Iowa friend had a birthday last Sunday. I not only sent her a card and a letter, but I sent her a gift and I told her how I admired her for her courage, not only in facing cancer, but in raising three kids alone when her husband left the family for another woman. I told her I admired her for her perseverance, for her faithfulness to her kids, her job, and her extended family. And today I plan to call her.

I am also committing to myself to put people (and pets) first – nurturing those relationships that are important to me. I used to be pretty good at that, calling people often, writing actual letters, sending cards… but I let too many other “things in life” hamper and dampen the care, compassion, and love I used to bestow. Too many friends from yesterday are no longer part of my life; some of that is my own fault. Even in my writing career I’ve met people and planned to stay in touch – my follow-through hasn’t been the greatest. I’m committed to changing that.

When my West Yellowstone gig wraps up in June, I intend to follow-up and thank the store owner and stay involved and in touch. I hope to reach additional readers and venue hosts through other events already on my books and ones I hope to secure in the fall. Relationships are important, as writers and as human beings. “No person is an island,” the saying goes; the older I get, the more I realize that fact.

Gayle with Stacy and Cindy


Gayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational dog stories for children and adults. She freelance writes from her Wyoming home for many regional newspapers and magazines.She is also a contributor to six Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the upcoming summer release The Spirit of America. She also speaks in schools, at libraries, and for various organizations. Learn more about her writing and speaking endeavors at

Gayle & Mary outside


SageBigAdventureFront-small   Sage Finds Friends_front cover   Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Walking_FrontCover_small   Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover




29 thoughts on “Building and Nurturing Relationships

  1. Such true words. And timely ones for me, as my parents age. I can see my mother’s mind getting foggier by the day, it seems. I want to make sure she knows just how much I love her.


  2. Not only relationships with others, but being true to ourselves and promises we make to ourselves. Bringing ourselves to others make those we cherish feel special. It is what makes life worthwhile. It’s being kind to ourselves and others when they don’t follow through that brings the joy we can feel when we ‘get back’ to what matters. Here’s to a lifetime of cherishing those who mean so much. Doris


    1. So true, Doris. I think I’ve come out of my “funk” and I’m on a better, more positive path once again. Whatever happens in May, I will just go in with thoughts of doing the best and being the best and sharing with whomever shows up because every person matters. 🙂 Thanks for your uplifting comments, Doris!


  3. I love all the relationships we can develop via the internet now. Sort of like the penpal friends that people used to have. And it’s fun to sometimes actually meet them in person.


  4. Amazing how many close friendships we develop over the decades when reach an age when we can reflect back. Some are not so close now, with the people grown apart, others are newer and strong as well. Sometimes, even after years of not seeing someone, it hurts to learn an old, dear friend has passed. In recent years I’ve learned of the passing of an assistant features editor and a photographer from the newspaper I worked for in Florida in the 1980s. They both died way too young. In 2013, I lost another friend from that newspaper, one of my best buddies from that era, a big happy-go-lucky guy who suffered a stroke and spent his remaining few years in a nursing home. It’s good to hold people close because sometimes life isn’t fair.


    1. Yes, Mike, I can relate. The past few weeks hit me hard in the gut. All we can do is be the best friend possible to those we care about and “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” I’m so glad we had opportunity to meet in person last year!


  5. So well said, Gayle. It is important to keep up with our contacts and friends, if even a short note or brief phone call. We are so busy these days we tend to forget. You are an amazing promoter – I wish I was good at pushing my books. It’s something I struggle with and the reason they aren’t selling as well as I wish they were. You deserve every bit of recognition and success you get!


  6. Thank you, Linda, for your kind words. I wish I had more time for promoting, and for writing — I love my days at home doing that work. Meantime, I’ll cherish the relationships I have and those I’ll develop in the future. I appreciate our virtual friendship, and I hope we get to meet in personn one day!


  7. Congratulations on your being published in the latest chicken soup book. I hope you’re planning to come to the Wyoming Writers conference in Riverton before heading to Yellowstone. You could also sell your dog books at the conference bookstore. Good luck.


    1. Thanks for your comments, Abbie. Sadly, I won’t make it to conference this year; the non-profit I work for has a fundraiser on that Saturday. But, perhaps I could come to Sheridan sometime as it’s been several years since I did a booksigning there; I’m also trying to set one up in Buffalo. So if either or both pan out, I’ll let you know. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great going Gayle on the new Chicken Soup for the Soul book! And on your book signing. You are doing so well. I lost three close friends in three years and am at the age when friends aren’t getting more precious, (they always were) but my valuing my relationships with them is increasing. And also, at the age where differences in philosophies, etc. seem less dividing then when we were young and it’s easier to just take up as old friends when we haven’t seen each other for some time. I’m sure your friend with the cancer understands and appreciates your support now.


    1. It’s sad how we lose touch with people who once meant so much to us (at least in my case). As I age, I find myself missing those once-close friendships and friends. I’m also, however, very grateful for the special who are and who remain in my life — like you, Neva. You bless my life so much and I’m thankful for you!


    1. Thank you for stopping by and for your poignant words, Stephen. I am guilty of letting relationships slip and forgetting to let people know I care about them. I think being a writer and enjoying my solace and solitary more with each passing year affects those relationships I have, and in a not-so-good way. I hope I make progress in the upcoming weeks and months to change that.


  9. Gayle- you are so right! We do meet many people as we go through life and it’s very hard to maintain contact. I had many work colleagues over 25 years of teaching but haven’t kept up with them mainly because we had a working relationship and then they moved away. I am – however- meeting up with some of my best friends from my own Primary school in a couple of weeks and can’t wait to see them since it’s been more than a year since our last get-together. It’s scary to write that I first met some of them 57 years ago! As you say, it’s probably more realistic to maintain some of the relationships better than others.


    1. Thanks for your comments, Nancy, and yes, I can completely understand. Colleagues I was once close with I no longer interact with, and some people from my school days I remain close with yet may not see them for several months or even years. My plan is with those who remain close in my heart to reach out to more often, by phone, in person, even by email simply to let them know I am thinking of them, that I care, and see what’s going on in their lives. One never knows when that last time will be the last time, and I want those I care about to know I care — I don’t want any more regrets or “I wish I would have’s…”


    1. That certainly can happen, Kathy, and as I noted in my reply to Nancy, I don’t want to have any regrets, wishing I would have called or wishing I’d have emailed and told the person I was thinking of them… Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  10. Thanks for the reminder, Gayle. Even though we’re writers who tend to be loners toiling away in our made-up worlds, relationships with our loved ones are so important…as well as relationships with booksellers! Glad you made the call and I bet your event will turn out great.


    1. This is a post I’ll keep close to my heart, Sarah. My friend is the second in about a year who, close to my age, was diagnosed with a very scary cancer. Life is short and no one knows how long or short theirs or their friends/family member’s will be. Treasuring and letting them know we treasure them is important as is being grateful to readers and booksellers who help us. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my post.


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