Glancing Back, Looking Ahead

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

This weekend is my 35th high school reunion. Actually, I have two reunions: one in Iowa and one in Wyoming. My parents and I left a 14-acre farm near a small Iowa town the summer of my senior year. We moved from the Mediapolis area, in the southeastern part of Iowa near the Mississippi River, to Casper, Wyoming; I went from a graduating class of 84 to one of 600+ – “sticker shock” best describes the experience. At first, it was an adventure, but the closer graduation came and I still had only about six strong friendships in that class, the more homesick for my smaller community I became. However, I endured, and I proudly marched next to a young woman I’d come to consider my best friend, to receive my Natrona County High School diploma in Casper, Wyoming, May 1979.

Gayle with Stacy and CindyGayle and two of her former NCHS classmates — “we’ve come a long way, baby!”

I’ve wanted to return to Iowa for one of the high school reunions in Mediapolis, but I’ve not had the opportunity. I would have gone this year but with the passing of my father-in-law and an anticipated fall excursion with my own father, I had to pass again. However, this Friday evening I will join that same friend I “marched” with in 1979 as we attend the 35th reunion of the our graduating Casper class. I still don’t “know” many of those “kids,” but I know a few more than I did back then, and though not everyone I still consider myself friendly with will be there, it’s fun to think I’ll see some familiar faces and share a memory and laugh or two – as well as a few cocktails! I will toast my Casper class and also my Mediapolis compatriots as the memories – and wine – flow.

30th ReunionGayle & some former classmates, NCHS 30th class reunion – Casper, WY, July 2009

A lot has happened in my life these past 35 years. I began writing during my teens, but it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that anything significant occurred – my first job with a newspaper; my second was even more significant: the editor and reporter for the West Yellowstone News, a position which allowed me to write about important ventures in Yellowstone Park, such as the reintroduction of wolves and a visit by President Bill Clinton. And, I’ve grown even more since then, having authored and published five books and having articles published in magazines and newspapers, regionally and nationally. And, in August, I’ll have a story in another Chicken Soup for the Soul (My Dog Did What?) – my fifth acceptance into this world-renowned compilation.

Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover

I may not be a Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, or be as acclaimed in my publication endeavors as my friend Nina McConigley (her short story collection is nominated for a PEN award), but as I glance back upon the past 35 years (actually 35+ since I began writing television scripts about my favorite shows, like Bonanza and Starsky and Hutch, essays about the environment, and poetry about doe-eyed, unreachable romance), that phrase “you’ve come a long way, baby” hits home. As I look ahead, I anticipate more books and stories, hoping to inspire, encourage, and educate.

Gayle_Mary_reading eventThat road opens in the coming months as I prepare for three speaking engagements in August and begin conducting monthly presentations at my local library in September. Those sessions will include my dog Mary, who is trained as a therapy dog. I’ll be joined by my friend Chris Lenihan, an educator in the Casper school district, who also has a dog certified as a therapy pet. We will take our canine friends to the library to conduct various programs and then have the kids read to the dogs. Many libraries around the country have a Read-to-the-Dog program, and we hope to launch something similar in our community, but also combine it with topical programs relevant to the kids and our community. I’ll write more in the fall about pet therapy and our programs after we’ve had a session or two under our belts. Meantime, it’s time to celebrate – 35 years since I graduated high school… gosh, I’m OLD!

Do you attend your high school reunions? What significant things have transpired in your life, personally and professionally, since your graduation? As you glance behind and look ahead, what are some goals you have for your life? I am making my bucket list this summer, including visiting some national parks with my dad in September that I have not yet seen. What about you – what’s on your bucket list?

For you ’70s buffs, here’s a YouTube link to the Starsky & Hutch theme song:

And, a YouTube tribute to my all-time favorite western, theme song sung by Lorne Greene:

Gayle 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 Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?to be released August 19, 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. Learn more at

SageBigAdventureFront-small   Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014


How’s the Weather?

propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

Weather plays a big part in our lives no matter where we live. Earthquakes in the west, tornadoes across the Midwest, hurricanes up and down both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico, floods and blizzards can be life-changing. Weather should play an important part in your writing. Is the day dark and gloomy? Is it sunny and bright? Is it raining in sheets? Is there blinding snow? Mud?  Are readers able to get a sense of how the weather impacts the story?

I remember reading one of Catherine Cookson’s first books. She wrote about the misty moors. Now, I’ve never seen a moor but I could almost see and feel it by her writing. This is something we all need to be aware of as we write our bestsellers.

Let me share with you something that happened this weekend. My great-nephew gradgraduated from high school in Marquette, Michigan on Sunday. He is the first of my sister’s ten grandchildren to finish high school and the others are coming up fast. Since our family is very close we all planned to attend. We left Wisconsin on Saturday on a bright sunny morning. By the time we reached my sister’s house in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (about three hours away) it had become a bit overcast but was still warm.

On Sunday morning it rained from 7:00 am to 11:00 am. My sister kept repeating the mantra, ‘rain before seven ends at eleven’, worried that the 4:00 pm graduation party would be a disaster. She cooked all kinds of dishes for the graduation party and I helped her until we went to bed about midnight. My sis and her husband left early Sunday, as they were attending the graduation ceremony. We left later because my daughter and son-in-law were coming and we wanted to spend some time with them. Everything was good. We had a nice visit with the kids and went to the park early to help set up the tables and food. ice

We drove along the shores of Lake Superior and got the sight of our lives! It’s June, remember, and the lake was full of huge ice floes. It was ridiculous! My husband and I started counting but gave up because there were so many. It was about 75 degrees.

We got to the park and only one of my nieces was there and a couple of her friends. My sis finally got there with most of the food about 3:45 pm and we hurried to get it all set out and ready. The graduation boy and his girlfriend showed up and we started eating and visiting with those we only see a few times a year.It was perfect.

Then the clouds opened up and released a torrent of rain that came in sheets! We were in a pavilion with no sides and some of us got a little wet. That lasted about a half hour and quit. It got warm and muggy for an hour or so and the rain returned with a vengeance. Most of us were soaked. We covered the food and although some friends and family stayed to visit, I wanted to spend a little more time with my daughter and son-in-law, so we left. We also had to transfer things from car to car as my daughter and I seem to have this thing about recycling our stuff back and forth. I came up with an idea to go to a gas station where we would be protected from the rain while we unpacked and repacked.

rain We drove from the pavilion back the way we had come, still laughing about the ice in Lake Superior, when one of the worst rain storms I have ever been in came out of nowhere. There was no place for the water to go and we got a little worried that we might be floating before long. We made it through the driving rain, dodging cars whose drivers couldn’t see the line in the middle of the road, trying to see where we were going and afraid we’d get hit by one of those ice floes. We were so close to the lake that it could have happened.

After we got to town the rain had let up again a little, so we parked under the canopy at the gas station, transferred the things we needed to and said goodbye to the kids. They were staying in a motel in town and we stayed at my sister’s house 75 miles away.

The whole trip home was start and stop rain just like we had seen all afternoon. The stretch of road we drove is hazardous with deer and other wildlife on the road and it is desolate, mostly trees. It is the UP of course. But itpartypeople was still daylight so it wasn’t too bad. After a shower we snuggled on the couch to watch television until my sis and her husband got home. She remarked on what a trip they’d had getting home. They had to drive in the dark in that awful rain.

When we left early Monday morning it was raining again. It rained most of the way to Green Bay and then we were surrounded with beautiful blue skies with marshmallow clouds and the heat was back in the mid-70s. We were glad to get home, get unpacked and sleep in our own bed. I have to say, though, that was the strangest weekend of weather I think I’ve ever seen, especially in June. I’ll have lots of weather memories to help me write, so the experience was good.

What about you? Do you go into great detail about the weather in your books? Does it even play a part in your plot? Mine does because the circus travels and good or bad weather can cause problems. Have you been in unusual weather in the past? I’d like to hear about it. If you’d like to read an article called Endless Winter and see some good pictures of how Lake Superior looks now, click on USA Today.

Picture Credits:


Books by L.Leander:

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders

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Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)









13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing









13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an eBook










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