Do Your Characters Talk to You?

 

Writers sometimes get intimately involved with their characters. We will be addressing the topic of author-character communication.  The “experts” tell you that you must know your characters when writing. That’s true, but how do you interact with them and do you talk to them? (There are doctors that treat people like us). There are a number of character trait forms to help you in most writing books, and there is also the back of an envelope. To be successful with your story you need interesting characters the reader can relate to and get behind. The characters must be believable, do things that are “in-character”, and right for that particular character, even if outlandish. It is a very good idea to really know your characters, especially the hero or protagonist. You need to “get into that characters head and live and see things through his / her eyes. Next, your characters need to talk to you as well. Have a dialog with your main characters to help drive your story. (I wouldn’t mention this conversation to too many people—they might outfit you with a new white padded jacket).

Below is a series of questions for consideration when working with your characters. I hope they make you think and consider how well you know your characters before you try and write them into situations they have to get out of.

When you write your characters, do you have a character profile and use it?

 

Do you talk to your characters when writing?

 

How well do you know your characters before and when you write?

 

Do your characters talk to you and if so, how?

 

Do your characters lead you in the story or do you have the story pretty well established and they follow suit?

 

If you talk to your characters, do you talk to them out loud or just in your mind?

 

During the writing process, stories sometimes change, do your characters drive this or do you just get other ideas?

 

Do your characters change during the story or just solve the mystery?

 

How do you develop your characters? Do they evolve or do you have a plan for them?

 

Does setting play a part of your characters personality?

 

Are your characters real people to you when you write?

 

We want the reader to like our characters, at least the good guys, how do you do that?

 

Do you think about your story and the characters when doing other things and not writing?

 

Have you ever been out in public and looking at a place or see something you could use in your story and start to discuss it with your leading character? Do people look at you strangely if you do this?

 

If your characters talk to you, what do you talk about?

 

Have you ever had an argument with one of your characters?

 

Do you take medication for this?

 

Remember, your characters work for you and they don’t cost much in pay and benefits, so treat them nice.

 

Remember: There are meds for this condition and doctors who treat people like us.

 

 

We Need You!

Keri De DeoPost written by Keri De Deo

suicides

The United States seems to be in crisis. According to the CDC, suicide rates have increased 30% since 1999. There were 45,000 suicides in 2016 alone! Naturally, we hear mostly about celebrities and public figures. There also seems to be a snowball effect. According to CNN, “suicide contagion” is a real phenomenon: when there’s one suicide, more follow. We put our celebrities on a pedestal, thinking they have it all. When they fall, we’re devastated. My mother said it best, “If you have money, fame, and love, but you’re still depressed, what hope do the rest of us have?”

But celebrities are just people. Like the rest of us, they have hopes and dreams. They have good days and bad, and they fail. We just don’t always see those failures, except if it’s a huge failure, then we see it on overdrive on the 24-hour news stations. But we haven’t seen their struggles to get to their height of fame. We don’t see the hours of acting classes they took—the number of roles they failed to get. The jobs they took just to pay rent. We only see the finished product.

Greatest ShowmanRecently, I fell in love with the movie The Greatest Showman. Have you seen it? It stars Hugh Jackman, who sings many of the songs himself. My favorite song from the movie is “This is Me” sung by Keala Settle. (She plays the bearded lady in the movie.) I love that song, and it makes me cry every time I hear it. I wish I had her voice. I heard an interview with Keala, and she talked about the practice she put into the song before she could sing it without crying. That made me feel better.

Anyway, my point is that everyone stumbles and falls while they’re climbing to success. The same holds true for writing: how many drafts did it take for George R.R. Martin to write Game of Thrones? How many hours did he spend writing the backstory and developing Westeros for his books? We can only guess because he doesn’t talk about that in any of the interviews I’ve read. What we do know is that he began writing Game of Thrones in 1991, and it was released in 1996. That timeline demonstrates how long it takes from creation to publication. He didn’t start discussing the HBO show until 2007—16 years later!

My point is that success takes time, and it may not look like anything you expected. Mostly, you just have to hang on and take each day one by one. I remind myself of this every day. Like Anthony Bourdain, I suffer from depression. I also suffer from anxiety, which cripples me several days a week. But every day, I find a reason to get out of bed, and I find a way to get work done. Some days, I struggle to just feed the dogs, but on other days, I get through my entire to-do list. I work hard to make it through each day: I take my meds, I get out of bed, I look forward to the future, and take each day as it comes. And that’s what it takes.

If you find it hard to make it through each day, get help. Get in touch with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. Or talk to your doctor. Get help because we need you, and we want you to be happy.

 

~ Keri De Deo is author of the novel Nothing but a Song and owner of Witty Owl Consulting.

 

Writing Personality Disorders by Stefanie

 

S.A. Stolinsky's Profile Photo, Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeup This blog by S. A. Stolinsky

Personally, I love to write about Personality Disorders.  They give you an automatic sense of character, needs, wants and especially objective.  The essence of a personality disorder is a deficit: some task of emotional development has not been accomplished or has gone awry and needs some reparative experience.  That’s great: it gives you a chance to put your personality-deficit-ed character into some real problems.

Free stock photo of dawn, landscape, nature, skyThink of “Split”—a poor schlub finds out he has 25 personalities.  Each one has a different objective, so the “host” or main personality, kidnaps this gorgeous girl and her two friends and they try to escape, as his various personalities emerge.  One is the host, a no-good dirty dog who wants to get even with women.  Another is a nine-year-old who wants to play with them.  Another is a sexually-identity challenged guy who doesn’t know how to help them, but wants to.

The opportunities are unlimited.  Just when the gorgeous girl thinks she can beguile the nine-year-old into getting them out and free, he morphs into the host who puts them back in their windowless hovel.  We can write books, essays, shorts like this ‘til the cows come home.

People love the themes of characters unable to tolerate strong feelings or being unable to express them freely, or being afraid that if they become angry or sad, these emotions will overwhelm them.  Then we, as the writers, give ‘em something that WILL overwhelm ‘em and watch what they do.

Free stock photo of man, person, people, emotions

That’s the glory of writing, in my opinion.  The universality of watching someone on the screen or on your pages who is weak, out of control, or just in a pickle get out of the situation.  For me, the feelings of out of control, fear, anxiety and panic came at Cal when I was a freshman who had just lost her father.  I couldn’t get over it and my mother was alone in San Francisco.  My brother was in total denial.  I spent my days in the dormitory wanting to be home with her and not having so many changes in my life.  Now, fifty years later, I saw a movie, a silly movie, entitled “Happy Death Day” and the girl had just lost her mother, couldn’t connect with her father and was an out of control snob in her sorority.  She is condemned to relive her birthday over and over again until she gets it right.

I plugged into that.  I’m not a snob, but I was so unsettled at UC and so frightened all the time, rushing up to Cowell Hospital, the university hospital in Berkeley, and yelling that “I’m dying,” that staff and physicians alike didn’t know what to do.  Can you imagine?  Now that I’m a therapist, I would have recognized panic disorder with agoraphobia (fear of the outside) immediately.  Different times.

So plug into personality deficits and I think you’ll be happy with your piece whatever you decide to write.  And now with the Internet, you have a whole plethora of problems to use.  Well, thanks for reading, hope I helped.

Where do you draw your emotions for your books from? If you are a reader what is your favorite emotion?

You can buy Stefanie’s Books on Amazon

Her latest book is called Hot Hot Hot

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False or Healthy Pride?

IMG_1659aby Neva Bodin

When my precocious daughter was four, she decided she could ride my old bike which was designed for a seven or eight year old. Tall for her age, people meeting her for the first time thought she was six, so while it was certainly unwieldy for her, she could steer and pedal by standing, if she could figure out how to balance it. She fell, she hurt, she cried, over and over.

“Stop!” I commanded, seeing and feeling her anguish.

“No, I have to ride it!” she cried as sobs hoarsened her voice and Wyoming dust outlined tears on her cheeks. Eventually she triumphed, in spite of my begging her to stop trying as I couldn’t stand the tears I saw, and pain I knew she felt.

Recently I watched a small beetle attempt to cross over a large twig in its path. It fell, tried again, fell, tried again and….you get the picture. Eventually it made the trip. It didn’t stop to look embarrassed (can bugs look embarrassed?), or appear discouraged, it just kept trying. And I think if it had not made it over the obstacle, it would have eventually tried to go around it.

A story has been written and irritatingly begging me to edit it. I believe there are women out there (somewhere, everywhere) who could strengthen their faith and understanding of some of their struggles by reading my story. It is an inspirational, historical romance in which the hero and heroine must work through misconceptions, emotional and physical pain, and get to know themselves in order to find love and rediscover their faith in God. If I can write it well enough. There is the rub. Fear and pride are making me tremble.

Unlike my beautifully determined daughter, and the tenacious beetle, I must also deal with lack of perseverance and the habit of procrastination. I now realize I have learned important concepts from my daughter and the shiny insect—false pride and healthy pride.

Tears and pain sometimes accompany our learning something that will eventually give us a healthy pride in ourselves, thereby increasing our self-esteem. That is if we don’t listen to our fearful self-talk and nay-sayers who tell us those are reasons to stop working toward a worthwhile goal.

False pride doesn’t allow for failure and embarrassment when pursuing our goals. However, no one cares as much as me whether I embarrass myself or fail at something, unless of course, it concerns them in some personal way. I am not under anyone’s microscope on earth. Who do I think I am?

Many successful and now famous authors have been rejected multiple times. Among them are George Orwell, J K Rowling, Dr. Seuss, and Stephen King. The stories rejected went on to become best sellers. While I am no one special, I am in good company if my manuscript is rejected! Rejection is part of becoming a published writer or author. It can strengthen our skill, our determination, and encourage me to examine that false pride. And maybe eventually acquire some healthy pride!
Part of my procrastination, I believe, is me feeding the wrong kind of pride. This has given me new insight and inspiration to finish, polish and begin submitting my novel.

No, my tendency to procrastinate and delay work on my novel with the excuse that the flowers need watering, the dishes need washing, etc. has not gone away. But, I now face the real reason I fight myself on this issue, and remember the lessons a little girl and a beetle have taught me. We are meant to try, and keep on trying, any worthwhile passion until we get it right. Not only might we accomplish it, but we will be an inspiration to others on the journey.

Montana Free by Neva Bodin (Start of Prologue) 

Prologue

July, 1878 Montana Territory

Morgan’s heart pounded so loudly against her rib cage, she wondered the birds didn’t take flight at the sound. She moved silently in spite of shaking legs, her feet automatically seeking soft earth without twigs that snap. I have to hide. They can’t find me…

Courage

This post (c) Doris McCraw

Doris

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. Walt Disney

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. e. e. cummings

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. Mark Twain

Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage. Confucius

These are some quotes on courage, at least some of my favorites. We as humans are asked to be courageous many times in our lives. Sometimes it is a major event, but many times it is in our day-to-day activities we find and show the most courage.

The writer, painter, politician and philosopher all show courage when they offer their ideas, their work to the world. Whether we agree or not, compassion for their effort is the least we can do. Offering suggestions, support, and strength for their creation seems the honorable route.

josiess-dream-2nd

http://amzn.to/2itPfVK

In my novel “Josie’s Dream” which releases on Tuesday January 17, 2017, my main character Josephine Forrester, is following her dream of being a doctor in a small town in Eastern Colorado.  Yes, in the 1870’s when this story takes place, women were doctors, many who attending medical school. It took courage to follow your dream, you passion then as well as now. In many ways, the above quotes played a part in the writing of this story. The eleven authors who contributed to this series all showed courage in telling their story.

grandmas-wedding-quilt-series-geneology

So whenever you wonder if you should try, take heart and follow your dream with courage. Regardless of the outcome, you will have traveled another step on the journey of your life.

For those interested in the novel/series, check out Amazon’s “Grandma’s Wedding Quilts”. http://amzn.to/2iVfF1h  

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted at – http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com  Check out her other work and like her Amazon author page:  http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL

 

 

 

 

 

Novel Writing, Book Marketing, Event Planning… Oh My!

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

November began with a BANG, and I was JAZZED! I had completed my magazine writing assignments for the year (or nearly so), book events were falling into place, and I had new marketing strategies to employ. Last Friday I secured radio and TV interviews for upcoming events and sent out additional press releases in hopes of setting up another radio interview and getting some newspaper publicity. It’s exhausting work, but I’m feeling optimistic and energized as the holiday book season approaches.

National Novel Writing Month/NaNo

Pets are my passion; should make a great romance story, right? Two years ago I started such an endeavor because of taking a college writing class. I was surrounded by several romance writers. However, I wanted my work to reflect my concern for the welfare of animals, therefore, I created my primary female character as a writer who rescues pets (write what you know, right?!). I received positive feedback from the students, the teacher, and other writers with whom I shared the idea. However, the romance genre is out of my comfort zone, and therefore, I put the story away. But, I a niggling persisted the past few months, and since I had completed nearly 17,000 words with NaNo 2014, I decided to dust the manuscript off and use this year’s NaNo as a catalyst to finish the book. I’m progressing, not as well as I’d hoped, but progressing nonetheless.

computerBook Marketing

In October, I began a subscription to ThriveHive, a DYI marketing venture of Propel Marketing. Cost is about $50 per month, and through it I receive ability to schedule Facebook and Twitter posts, have a website (although I already have one), create an email list (which I’m in the process of doing now), and have other marketing tools to promote myself and my books. I haven’t done as much with this as I’d hoped by now, but I believe it will be a positive benefit as I learn and apply in the future. Additionally, I joined TribeWriters, a course and community by writer-guru Jeff Goins; writers grow through learning, applying, and engaging. It too costs about $50/month. Between the two new opportunities, I hope to increase my book sales and develop as a writer (author and freelancer). I also became a member of several Facebook groups through which I recently promoted my Kindle books during free and discounted price days. I’ve been hoping to guest blog on pet blog sites, but haven’t managed to make those connections yet. I’ll save that endeavor for next spring when I can plug into special times, like Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, Be Kind to Animals Week, and Children’s Book Week. There are SO MANY PLACES AND WAYS for a writer to promote books and articles, to engage with other writers and with readers or potential readers – sometimes the possibilities are overwhelming! I wish I had more time to research and apply the various techniques and opportunities; having a day-job can be confining to a writer, but until the writing pays all (or at least most of) the bills, this is the road I must travel.

Event Planning

‘Tis the season for booksignings! Every Saturday through Christmas I have at least one event, and for that, I’m thankful! From Casper and Douglas, Wyoming to locations in Montana, weather-permitting I’ll be out and about reading from and (hopefully) selling books. I had my first reading of my newest children’s story, BobCat Goes to School, on Saturday; another is scheduled at an out-of-town library on December 3 (praying for good travel weather!). I’m blessed to be able to share some of these events with my friend Chris who illustrated the book; this is her first illustrated-book endeavor and her first experiences at promotion events. I enjoy reading, signing, and selling events, but they are a lot of work, including creating press releases and emailing newspapers and radio stations, developing flyers and sending to store owners, and making sure I have enough books to sell at each location. I’m thankful for the additional money holiday sales generates, but I’d like to find new and steady ways to produce more online sales (hence, the book marketing activities above).

These various endeavors help the month of November pass quickly. I can’t believe the middle of the month has arrived! What writing-related undertakings are keeping you occupied in the weeks leading up to the holiday season?

 

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallGayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational pet stories for children and adults, including a Kindle e-book for owners of blind dogs. She is also a contributing writer to six Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well as the summer pet anthology by Sundown Press titled Memories from Maple Street: Pawprints on My Heart. She is currently working on additional manuscripts and short stories, with hopes of new book releases in spring 2017. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

bobcat-front-cover   bookcover_tail-tales_front-cover   irwin_pawprints-on-my-heart-book-cover   cody-cabin-cover2   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014

Finding Inspiration in Nature: Animals

Only to the white man was nature a wilderness and only to him was the land ‘infested’ with ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people. To us it was tame, Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.  ~ Black Elk

 

Yellowstone Sign_Gayle Mary_smallerThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Last week I wrote about being inspired by nature with regard to landscapes. Whether mountains, valleys, fields, forests, oceans, lakes, streams, city parks, botanical gardens, or your own backyard, you can find refreshment, replenishment, inspiration, and creativity in nature. You can also find inspiration in the creatures which inhabit these spaces, lessons that can be applied to life, and even to writing, and so today is Part 2 — Finding Inspiration in Nature: Animals.

I recently spent more than four days in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, sharing time with my parents for their 56th wedding anniversary and for Father’s Day. Not only was the experience pleasant from the standpoint of being with family members I dearly love, but we were in special spaces that I truly love. Each park is unique: although both have mountains, the stark granite of the Tetons contrasts with the forested hillsides that ring the Yellowstone caldera. Water can be found in both parks, including deep lakes and fast rivers. However, Teton appears more lush and verdant, possibly due to the deep valley known as Jackson Hole, whereas Yellowstone is more rocky and dry – except for the sections that received vast amounts of snow this past winter – and sprung this spring with wildflowers galore!!

daisies_yellow with aspen

The wildlife species which reside in the parks, however, are nearly identical, including elk, bison, pronghorn, mule deer, chipmunks, ground squirrels, swans, and sandhill cranes. As I spent time observing these creatures and considered the harshness of the environment, especially during winter, I felt compelled to consider what lessons these animals can teach us, and therefore, how they can inspire us, whether we are writers or not.

ground squirrel

Learning and sharing lessons from nature is part of who I am as a writer and speaker. For years I’ve shared what I learned from my blind dog, Sage, even writing a book called Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog. When I visit schools, I talk with students about lessons dogs can teach us, things I’ve learned from my own dogs; I even created a library program on that topic, and I shared that last Friday at the Sheridan County Fulmer Library in Sheridan, Wyoming – and since Friday was Take Your Dog to Work Day, it was an appropriate topic.

Sage_Gayle_Children_Library

So what lessons can we learn and how can we be inspired by animals? I believe there are many ways, but here are just a few:

bull buffalo and carBison – these massive creatures have exited for centuries and Native Americans believed the bison were sacred and valued. The species nearly became extinct thanks to European-Americans slaughter of them during the mid to late 1800s. To live in Yellowstone during winter, to survive a massive massacre upon their kind, these creatures must be hardy, so I believe endurance is great lesson the bison can teach us.

Sandhill Cranes – Tall and elegant, these beautiful birds fly thousands of miles to and from summer and winter habitats. They must pass by powerlines, hunters, and storms to reach their destination.  Like the bison, these creatures, too, can teach us perseverance.

Elk – these majestic animals are also resilient and they are adaptable. A creature that used to live on the plains, they moved to the mountains to escape the relentless hunting pressure of the 1800s. Yet they never lost their luster. I believe the elk teach us to adapt, to deal with the hand we are dealt and modify whatever needs to be changed, in ourselves, our life, our writing.

swansSwans – these magnificent birds almost became extinct due, again, to humankind’s (primarily European-Americans) slaughter of them. Downy, pluming feathers caught the eye of the fashion industry and swans, along with hundreds of other bird species, were killed for ladies’ hats and other fashion statements. Thankfully, places like our national parks provided protection and respite. Watching swans fly or swim gives glimpse into gracefulness — I believe the swans remind us to be graceful (as best we can!).

Wolves – another animal nearly exterminated from the landscape (is there a pattern here of human behavior??!), wolves were returned to Yellowstone in the mid-1990s (something that remains controversial and contentious to this day). However, to witness the dynamics within a pack of wolves is truly an amazing sight! These animals were also revered by Native Americans (again, another pattern and one that vastly contrasts with “white culture) and they saw the majesty of the pack, a unit that works together to survive. Wolves can teach us the importance of family relationships and the value of friendships.

Grizzly_YNPBears – whether grizzly or black, these animals conjure up images of fear and distrust. Bears have been the thorn in many a side of ranchers and farmers as they sometimes prey upon livestock and gardens. Hikers carry pepper spray in case of a bear encounter (or at least they are encouraged to do so). Grizzly bears in particular have been known to attack humans, especially when startled. Once again, however, the bear was revered by Native Americans for its confidence, courage, and power – lessons we can all learn, especially when it comes to facing difficulties in life and rejections (or fear thereof) in our writing.

Each of these amazing species of wildlife showcase a number of lessons we can apply to life and for we who are writers, to our craft. But, our companion animals also can provide insights:

Mary in Greg's officeDogs – I don’t know of many animals, or humans for that matter, who will wait by the door or in the window for their special person to come home, even if gone for only an hour or two. A dog’s devotion is an amazing, beloved quality, and I for one am thankful that my four-footed friend loves me no matter what kind of day I’ve had or what type of mood I’m in. A dog’s loyalty is almost unfathomable, and it’s something for which I’m grateful – and from which I can learn.

Bailey_sleepCats – my cats are much more independent, although they enjoy a bit of social time with my husband and me as well. Their ability, however, to take long times of rest and to remain somewhat independent are both great lessons for which to apply to life in general and to a writer’s life – having the confidence to pursue publishing, whether indie or traditional, and to remain strong in the face of adversity, asserting an independence-type of attitude or being part of a team whatever the need calls for at the time, are good qualities to have. And remembering to rest the body and the mind instead of constantly being on the “go, go, go!” is also a great lesson to learn from cats.

We can learn so much from the animal kingdom and be inspired by the different traits found in creatures, if we only take the time to observe, to learn, to apply, and to appreciate the lessons … and the animals themselves.

bison calf

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.  ~ Chief Seattle

Gayle and Mary_river walkGayle M. Irwin writes inspirational pet stories for children and adults. She is the author of seven different books and has three works in progress, including a humorous children’s story called BobCat Goes to School. She is also a contributing writer for six editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the June release The Spirit of America, in which she has a short story titled “National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” Gayle also has a short story in the upcoming anthology Memories from Maple Street U.S.A.: Pawprints on My Heart, a collection of pet stories to be published in July by Prairie Rose Publications. Learn more about Gayle and her writing and speaking endeavors at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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

Finding Inspiration in Nature – Part 1

Gayle_Cabin_Writing_smaller

This post by Gayle M. Irwin

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” – John Muir

 

My husband and I own more than three acres of forest land 20 minutes from our home in Casper, Wyoming. At this location, I’ve composed short stories and books inside our cabin and under the towering lodgepole pines surrounding it. I’ve walked the wooded trails and listened to numerous songbirds. I’ve seen the landscape filled with snow, heard the crashes of thunder above, and touched pine needles kissed by rainfall. Wild turkeys, mule deer, red fox, butterflies, and hummingbirds call the area home, and many have visited our cabin site. Each experience makes my heart leap for joy, including my recent 30-minute encounter with a red fox just beyond the cabin porch door.

Cabin_Fox
Red fox visiting my mountain property in early June.

Nature inspires many and has for eons, including the writings of John Muir and Henry David Thoreau and the paintings and photographs of Thomas Moran and William Henry Jackson. Moran and Jackson were part of the famous 1871 expedition to the Yellowstone region, painting and photographing scenes that became instrumental in educating those back East, including the U.S. Congress, which led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park. Muir, too, helped tout the majesty of landscapes; his was a significant voice for creating many U.S. national parks, including Yosemite, Sequoia and the Grand Canyon, among others. These, and many others, were visionaries, and their dreams and desires benefit us today. If you’ve not seen the Ken Burns/PBS documentary on America’s national parks, I highly recommend watching! (my husband and I own a copy of the series — the shows are WONDERFUL!).

Yellowstone Sign_Gayle Mary_smaller

The National Park Service, which turns 100 years old this year, administers more than 400 different sites across the country, from national parks and monuments to historical battlefields, trails, and other historic sites. Whether mountains, deserts, forests, valleys, or seashores, these special places provide respite, amazement, and reflection.

I love nature! Since I was a child growing up in Iowa, I’ve found tranquility, inspiration, and fascination in natural areas. My parents are particularly responsible for my affinity for wild places – we took family vacations out west to Yellowstone, made camping expeditions to state parks, and took fishing trips to Minnesota and Canada. Dad created habitat areas for song birds and small game, and I helped him create and install wood duck boxes for nesting sites along the shore of the Mississippi River as well as at the pond on our 14 midwestern acres. I found solace under cedar trees alongside my dog, Bridgette where I wrote stories and poems in those peace-filled woods. I dreamed of becoming a lady park ranger in Yellowstone; instead, I became a journalist living at the park’s west entrance, yet I was still able to interact with the area’s wild spaces and wild creatures.

bison bull_Yellowstone

I still interact with and am inspired by nature. Whether at my forest cabin, or traveling through my current home state, which is the site not only of the world’s first national park, but also the first national forest (Shoshone) and first national monument (Devil’s Tower/Bear’s Lodge), or visiting special sites in other states, like Rocky Mountain Park in Colorado, Glacier Park in Montana, or Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, each place whispers its own alluring grandeur.

Running Eagle Falls with 2 Med River
Running Eagle Falls and Two Medicine River – Glacier National Park

Whether you’re a writer, painter, photographer, or other artistic type, nature can speak to you and get those creative juices flowing. My husband is a videographer, and he uses the outdoors to create beautiful DVDs set to instrumental music that many find relaxing, for themselves or loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. This has become a growing business, helping him help others relax and appreciate places they may not get to enjoy in person as he/we have.

Spirit of America bookAs this post goes live, I’m wrapping up a visit to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. I’ll be conducting a program about national parks this evening at the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center as well as having a booksigning, all based on my story “National Parks – America’s Best Idea,” published in the recently-released Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America. My reflective composition concludes, “Many generations have benefited from the visions and visionaries of 1872 and 1916…. The spirit of America reigns in our national parks, for they remain America at its natural best.”

Tetons
Grand Teton National Park, Teton Mountains, and Jackson Lake – Wyoming

National parks are glorious, national seashores stupendous, national monuments magnificent, and national historic sites enriching. However,  a person doesn’t have to visit a national park, forest, or monument to find inspiration in nature. You don’t even have to live in a rural area. Cities have parks, botanical gardens, and green spaces. I encourage you to find your own special natural place and be inspired!

June is Great Outdoors Month, and 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. I hope that you’ll take the time to get outdoors, to be refreshed, be inspired, and be peaceful in an outdoor setting this month, or at least sometime this summer. Stop and smell the flowers, watch a sunset, or listen to birds sing. When you do, you’ll not only find refreshment and replenishment, but you may also find inspiration for that next novel, poem, painting, or video, by which you can inspire others.

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Wildflower meadow – Idaho side of Yellowstone Park

Gayle at EstesGayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming writer and author. She writes inspirational pet stories for children and adults with seven books, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Sage Finds Friends, Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest, and Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, as well as a Kindle e-book called Help! My Dog is Going Blind – Now What Do I Do? to help owners of blind dogs. She is also a contributing writer to six Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the June release The Spirit of America, featuring her story about America’s national parks. Gayle speaks in schools, at libraries, and for various organizations. She enjoys sharing about the pet-human bond and the majesty of nature, hoping to inspire and educate children and adults about the beauty of creation and the creatures that share our planet. Learn more about her writing and speaking endeavors at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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