This 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.
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.
We 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.
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 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 www.gaylemirwin.com.