North to Alaska!

Gayle Greg and Dad_HomerThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

My father always enjoyed the Johnny Horton song, North to Alaska (see the YouTube video here: Starting June 9, that classic country hit became our theme song.

My dad, husband, and I started our northward journey flying into Anchorage via Alaska Air from Great Falls, Montana (about 90 miles from my parents’ home in Denton, MT). My father had been planning this trip for more than two years, saying, “If I make it to 80, I want to see Alaska.” He turned 80 last July so plans kicked into full swing autumn 2016. We didn’t go for the gold nor dog mushing, as Johnny sings about in the song noted above, but we did many other activities.

Dad couldn’t travel alone, my mother didn’t want to go, so he asked me to accompany him and he would pay my airline ticket and cover most of the lodging. My husband went with us for two reasons: (1) so he could see Alaska, too, and (2) to help me with Dad, especially in case of emergency. I’m happy to report nothing bad happened to any of us; the entire trip went smoothly and we visited all the places we planned. Well, one not-so-good thing happened: my luggage didn’t return to Montana with us and had to be FedEx’ed from Seattle to Casper. And, truth be told, the “land of the midnight sun” was difficult to get used to as far as sun sets between 11:30 pm and Midnight and sun rises between 3 and 4 am – thank Heaven for darkening curtains in the lodging facilities!

Alaska Range

Trip highlights include:

  1. Two cruises into Resurrection Bay and the Gulf of Alaska via Major Marine Tours out of Seward – one featured a national park ranger as we cruised through the Kenai Fjords National Park on a wildlife watching excursion and the other was shorter and specific for whale watching (we encountered 6 humpback whales during the journey!
  2. Trip to Homer (basically the end of the road, like Seward) and toured the Ocean and Islands Visitor Center operated by the Alaska Maritime National Park staff as well as visited with our friend author/writer/professor Nina McConigley who was presenting at the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference in Homer.
  3. A stop at Potter Marsh, a bird and wildlife refuge on the outskirts of Anchorage where we saw (up close!) a mamma moose with twin calves.
  4. A bus tour in Denali National Park where we encountered Dall sheep, caribou, Alaskan brown bears (including a mother with two yearlings), and a single wolf; and we became part of the “30 percent club,” seeing Denali Peak/Mount McKinley on a clear morning! (The mountain rises more than 20,000 feet and is often obscured by clouds).
  5. Two days in Fairbanks with a dinner at Denny’s, the northern-most Denny’s Restaurant in North America (Dad’s dinner choice for one of the nights) and a visit to Creamer’s Field, a migratory bird refuge where we saw nearly 100 sandhill cranes!
  6. Glaciers, glaciers, and more glaciers! Including Portage and Exit, both south of Anchorage on the way to Seward, and a large glacial ice field near Palmer, northeast of Anchorage.
  7. Wildlife, wildlife, and more wildlife, including moose (many moms with twins), eagles, sandhill cranes (including one near someone’s front door outside of Homer! And hundreds of them at Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks), sea lions, and (my favorite and what I really wanted to see) sea otters (including one up close in the Seward Harbor).

Sea Otter

What did I come away with from this trip? Memories with my father and husband, the joy of experiencing nature in some awesome and inspiriational settings, gratitude for the opportunity to see this amazingly beautiful state (and have the time with my dad and husband), and even a few writing ideas for a book and some short stories (I may weave Alaska into my pet rescue romance work-in-progress).


North to Alaska – that song rings ever more steadily in my mind, and I’m thankful to have had the privilege to do go north to Alaska! And, at least the temperature was higher than -40, as Mr. Horton sings in his other Alaska-oriented song, found here:

What places have you visited that inspire you to write, maybe even to write something new?

Alaska mountains and river

See more photos of our Alaskan vacation on my Facebook page where I’ve created a Photo Album titled Alaska 2017:

Brown Bear_Denali Park.jpg

Gayle and Greg_Alaska

Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming author and freelance writer who enjoys traveling and nature photography as well as writing. She finds inspiration in nature and animals as well as history and people. Her pet books for children and adults teach valuable life lessons, such as courage, perseverance, and friendship. She is a contributing writer to magazines and newspapers, including pet stories in the Colorado-based Prairie Times, and her short story about a rescue dog, titled Jasmine’s Journey, will appear in the August Chicken Soup for the Soul release called The Dog Really Did That? This will be her seventh contribution to the Chicken Soup series. Learn more about Gayle and her work at

Mary Book Cover   bookcover_tail-tales_front-cover   cody-cabin-cover2   Walking_FrontCover_small   Chicken Soup book_Dog Really Did That_2017



Celebrating Moms, Celebrating Women

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

During my presentation and book reading last Saturday at the Natrona County Library, they sat next to young children or held babies in their arms. On the drive a few short hours later to a different community’s bookstore, one sat in the back seat of my vehicle next to her little one buckled into a car seat. Of whom do I speak? Moms.

Mother’s Day, which began during the early 1900s, arrives on Sunday. I’ll be with my mom that day as I travel this weekend to my parents’ home in Denton, Montana. With every year that passes, I treasure each Mother’s Day I’m able to share with my mom. Although she views it as “just another day” in her nonchalant “don’t make a big deal of things” attitude, I view it as a day of blessing. I love my mother, I admire my mother, I respect her and I cherish her. She is not only the woman who raised Gayle and Mom_Little Snowy Rangeme (and did so with great love, encouragement, and selflessness), she is also my dear friend. I confide in her, I cry on her shoulder, and I celebrate positive things with her; she is always there for me. We may not agree on some things, including politics, but we respect one another and listen to each other. And, we dearly love and respect one another.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I not only give a shout-out to women who have the difficult yet loving job of raising children, but I also raise a glass in toast of all women, especially those I know — for we all “birth” and/or care for something in our own way. I have friends who have raised children as single moms, most no fault of their own (husbands committing adultery and widowed at a young age). I know women whose boyfriends/ fiancés decided to leave when the ladies became pregnant (I work part-time at a pregnancy center, and this happens frequently).  Many of my friends are “mom” to furry “kids” as well as to human children, and other women, like me, didn’t have babies from their womb but do have children of their heart (both furry ones and adopted human children). And, even those who never married and have no kids, but they run businesses, work at jobs, and volunteer for non-profits. Women do many things, and a lot of them balance several things, whether they are mothers to human or furry children or not.

Gayle with Stacy and CindyWomen are smart, they are talented, they have strong work ethics, and they are compassionate. Yet, it’s challenging to be a woman. From our sex-driven culture (movies, TV, magazines, prostitution, sex trafficking) to the lower wages women earn in the workplace, difficulties still prevail in our society and between the genders even after years of greater equality and justice. It’s no longer an Ozzie and Harriet world, some of which isn’t so bad (including increased numbers of women in management roles, as business owners, and serving as scientists, college presidents, and state governors); yet, there is still a road to travel to have men and women be seen, and treated, as equals.

Gayle_Lea_Casey_Leah_booksigningSo, this Mother’s Day, I celebrate my own mother and other women in my life who make an impact, not just upon me but upon other people. I celebrate my deceased grandmothers, especially Grandma Mardy who encouraged me to attend college and expressed her pride about my writing. I honor my many female friends, those who are moms to human children and to furry kids; those who are writers and other creatives and those who use their talents and skills in other productive ways; those who are facing health challenges and preserving through those situations; those who have lost their spouses and children; those who volunteer to help others in need; those who run their own businesses and those who work two or more jobs to make ends meet – all of my female friends and family make life more beautiful because of who they are and what they do. I love and admire every one of you, including my Writing Wranglers and Warrior friends!

Happy Mother’s Day to women everywhere!


Gayle_CHS booktable34Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming writer. She is the author of several inspirational pet books for children and adults, and she freelances for newspapers and magazines. Her most recent release is a children’s picture book titled A Kind Dog Named Mary, about her springer/cocker mix that is trained as a therapy dog. Gayle has contributed stories to many different Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the 2014 release The Dog Did What? and last year’s release The Spirit of America, in which she writes about America’s national parks. She supports various pet rescue organizations as a volunteer and with contributions from her book sales. Learn more about Gayle and her writing and speaking endeavors at


Mary Book Cover   cody-cabin-cover2   bobcat-front-cover  bookcover_tail-tales_front-cover    Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014  Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover  Spirit of America book

Celebrate Earth Day

gayle-at-estesThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

It’s Earth Day!

Well, Earth Day is actually tomorrow. What is Earth Day? Celebrated in many countries throughout the world since 1970, this special day was started in the United States and founded Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin as an awareness event to the effects of pollution on the environment. It was a time that Democrats and Republicans came together for the greater good, of the people and the planet – passage of Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act came on the heels of Earth Day.

squirrel on gate_blog photoAs most of you know, I love nature. As a child, I spent many hours in the fields and forests of Iowa, roaming the acreage my parents owned. Dad taught me about conservation through the establishment of brush piles, creating shelters for birds and small mammals living on our property, and creation of nesting boxes for wood ducks. The two-acre pond on our land provided water for all wildlife species and swimming areas for ducks and geese, as well as habitat for fish species like bass and catfish. We were an outdoors family, enjoying the activities of camping, fishing, hiking (and, for my dad, hunting). Red squirrels, cottontail rabbits, bobwhite quail, great horned owls, various songbirds, red foxes, and white-tailed deer, among so many other species frequented our property. From Iowa to Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and back to Wyoming again, I’ve experienced the beauty of nature. And, I enjoy each facet of that majesty.

I’ve worked with children throughout the years, educating them on the value of outdoor splendor. As education director for Montana’s Grizzly Discovery Center during the mid-1990s, I created on-site and off-site programs for kids and for teachers. I shared the importance of preserving habitat, which is not just for bears but is also shared by other creatures. While working at the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin, I again shared about the majesty of nature, in the form of stately wild cranes and the importance of habitat. I worked with Forest Service officials both in Montana and Wyoming to create educational programs, and I once envisioned developing an educational center to teach the ethics of environmental stewardship.

I’ve planted trees, grown flowers for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees, and set out bird feeders. And I’ve taught children the joy and beauty of nature writing.

front yard feeder and water_blog photo

cody-cabin-cover2In my book Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest, one of my goals is to educate children about the value of the outdoors; I also desire to help kids garner a greater appreciation for nature. So many children these days have little to no outdoor opportunity or experience. Video games, Legos, and other occupiers of time harness kids to screens and non-outdoor activities. Even those who live near natural beauty spend less time in the outdoors than kids of 20 or 30 years ago.

So this Earth Day, take some time to do some good, for both people and the environment. Take your kids or grandkids outdoors for a walk. Make a game of finding flowers, birds, and butterflies while taking your stroll. Go for a bicycle ride with your family and help your community be cleaner through a family litter pickup. Recycle. Participate in a community-wide clean-up. Plant trees in your yard or through a community project. Create a flower garden that helps bees and butterflies and certify your garden or yard through the National Wildlife Federation as a habitat space – that signage (like the one seen below that’s posted near my front yard) helps educate others in your neighborhood. Even go to a movie — a specific movie, that is: DisneyNature is releasing “Born in China” specifically for this Earth Day weekend, with donations from theater tickets going to help endangered animals in China.

There are so many things we can do, big or small, to help nature, whether in our communities or beyond.

NWF Sign_blog photo_rotated

What will you do to help preserve the great outdoors? My plan? Plant some bushes helpful to songbirds, butterflies, and bees. My husband and I have lived in our home for 10 years now, and my blind dog Sage died five years ago – I’ve been wanting to create an outdoor space in her honor for years, so this is the year to do so: celebrate Sage and her love for the outdoors and celebrate our 10th anniversary at this house with a project to help nature.

I hope you enjoy doing something special this weekend, too. Happy Earth Day, everyone!


Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational pet books for children and adults, including Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest, which is available in print and Kindle versions. Her newest children’s book A Kind Dog Named Mary about her springer/cocker mix is now available; the book teaches children about kindness and pet adoption — the release coincides with this year’s Children’s Book Week and Be Kind to Animals Week. She’s also a contributing writer to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including last year’s release The Spirit of America, in which she wrote about the nation’s national parks. She enjoys sharing about the human-pet bond and about the value of nature. Learn more at

Mary book cover

Spring Traditions

Gayle_signing photoThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

During the next few days, several special happenings occur, especially for those of the Christian faith. Today is Maundy Thursday, observance of the last Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples. Tomorrow is Good Friday. Then comes Easter Sunday, which occurs this Sunday, April 16. Each day has its significance and usually traditions. For example, tonight many churches host a special service to commemorate Christ’s last supper with his disciples and so various congregations will “break the bread and drink the wine” in remembrance of that meal. On Friday, services are more solemn with respect to and in gratitude for Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. Then, on Sunday, a joyous service celebrates Jesus’ resurrection and the awesome life after death people can experience because of his atonement and power. Many Christian congregations sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” written during the 1700s by Charles Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church.

Here’s a YouTube video of a contemporary version of the song:

For a vast majority of people, Easter and spring mean bunny rabbits, colored eggs, new, colorful clothes, and a large meal. Whether Christian or not, this time of year is filled with traditions!

Here in the United States another tradition rolls around during spring, and it looms before us, arriving this year on Tuesday, April 18: income tax day (by the way, not a day I generally sing about!). A tradition in my household is to wait until the last minute to complete and send in the tax forms and what needs to be paid, that way my husband and I keep our money as long as possible (and we usually owe due to our respective businesses – a small business owner gets zapped by taxes, especially it seems, sole proprietorships like ours). So, guess what I’m doing this weekend?!

Other spring traditions include planting flowers and gardens, thorough house cleanings, and yard cleanups. Especially where I live, come April, we’re sick and tired of snow and cold and just want to spend time outside (maybe one reason I’m not so much into spring indoor housecleaning – I want to spend time outside!)

Cabin Front_snow_June 2016
Irwin cabin – June 2016: Still a few mounds of snow!

Which brings me to another springtime tradition in my neck of the woods: “opening up the cabin.” This is especially true for those who have water and electricity and may have shuttered windows for the winter; they go and hoist open the shutters, turn up the heat, and turn on the water. Greg and I don’t have to “open” our cabin – with no water or power to turn on/up and no buttoned-down windows, we simply “go.” April isn’t usually the month we can drive in (or even walk in) to our little cabin in the big woods – we usually still must ski/snowshoe in. And, with a dumping of snow just last week, it will likely be late May, perhaps even early June before we can drive into our forest haven. One year, we could drive all the way to the cabin in early May; that was also the year of a major fire around our place, so we’d rather still walk in, even with hills of snow hanging around, than to go through a scary summer fire season like that again.

Gayle_Cabin_Writing_smallerBut, I do love the tradition of first spring day at the cabin, and I look forward to this year’s “first walk-in” time! My little woodland sanctuary provides respite from the world around me, and rejuvenates my creativity. I wonder what ideas will sprout into stories at the cabin this year? I anticipate creative discoveries and inspired writings!

What are some of your spring traditions? What is it about spring that you most enjoy?

Happy Spring and Happy Easter!

Bunny Face_gray_web

Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin writes inspirational pet stories for children and adults. She is also a contributing writer to several Chicken Soup for the Soul books and writes articles for various magazines and newspapers. She is currently working on new books about pet rescue for both kids and adults. Learn more at


Ancestry Surprises

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

I recently received the results from my AncestryDNA kit, which I mailed into the company just after Christmas last year. It took quite a bit of time to get those results because of the influx of DNA kits around that time of year; at least, that’s what the email updates which I received in January and February said. Within the results I received, I found several surprises. More on that in a moment.

Lozane and Samuel Lonit Mansfield
Lozane and Lonit Mansfield – my great grandparents.

For as long as I can remember, my father and his siblings and their father claimed Native American heritage. I grew up thinking I was 1/16 Cherokee. My father often referred to his father’s mother as ½ Cherokee; her name was Lozane Ard. She married a man named Samuel Lonit Mansfield, whose father was also Samuel Mansfield and whose mother was Ella Locade Baham. I’ve been able to trace Ella’s (who is mostly known by her middle name, Locade) family several generations back. Dad’s grandmother Lozane had a father name William Pinkney Ard, and her mother’s name was Rachel Williams (we think – William P. Ard had three wives, at different times, thankfully, but still not quite sure which woman was Lozane’s mother at this point). William Ard’s mother was Margaret Ard – his father was possibly William Beavers but that is not a known fact either. It seems Margaret had several children but most records indicate no male (ie, husband) living with her other than her male children. So, there’s a mystery. Many of us wondered if the Native American lineage was brought in at this point, and that seemed to be the accepted fact, and the story passed down through generations, including to me.

Dads GreatGrandparents_Samuel Mansfield and Locad Baham Mansfield
Samuel Mansfield and Ella Locade Baham Mansfield, my great-great grandparents.

Now, for my DNA results. What was not surprising was that I’m 42% western European and 26% Scandinavian. My mother’s parents were German/Swiss on her mother’s side and Danish on her father’s side; in fact, her grandparents were full German and full Swiss on her mother’s side and full Dane on her father’s side. They are easy to figure out. Within the western European is also French, and that for certain is from my father’s side (the Bahams), so that wasn’t much of a surprise. What came next was: 9% Iberian Peninsula, which includes Spain and Portugal, and, an even bigger surprise: 13% African, with highest percentages traced to Nigeria, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast/Ghana. And, the biggest surprise of all: NO Native American, not even less than one percent.

Grandpa John's Mom_Lozane Mansfield
My dad’s Grandma Lozane Ard Mansfield – is she part Native American? Not according to my DNA results.

Interestingly, I used to joke that Dad’s side of the family may have African blood. Dad and all his immediate relatives grew up in Louisiana, and not much was really discussed about ancestors. Just snippets here and there, and of course, the claim of Native American heritage. So, lightheartedly, I’d say, “I wonder if there are skeletons in the family closet, like slaves.” And that may not be far from the truth. I discovered a possible ancestor: a slave a man named Honore Baham. However, the more I dug, the more I found that to be less possible. I did discover that Honore was still a slave when he was 30 years old; he belonged to the Baham family, and he was emancipated in 1820 by Renez Baham, brother to the man who seems to be my 4th great-grandfather: Louis Jeanbon Baham. So, Honore the slave, when he was freed, received the last name of Baham (and he could have been the son Renez and a slave woman – there are indicators to that possibility); therefore some of the mix-up in the family tree.

William Pink Ard
William Pinkey “Pink” Ard, Lozane’s father and my dad’s great grandfather.

Thus far, I’ve traced some of my heritage back to the 1600s, with people coming from France to Canada then to Alabama and on in to Louisiana, via different generations. Another branch came from France directly to Louisiana. There seems to be some mixed blood, likely a French ancestor marrying, or simply living with, a freed black woman. I’m trying to learn more about this branch of the family tree.

I’ve found family crests on some of the sides who hailed from France. I’m also learning more about this part of my heritage.

My neighbor, Marian Kingdon, is assisting me on this ancestral journey. She loves genealogy and has traced her family lineage as well as her husband’s, and she’s excited to help me; and I’m grateful for her help. I’m fascinated about the different findings we’ve discovered. I know there’s more about my family tree that I’ll be learning in the weeks and months to come.

Me with my parents, Earl D. Mansfield and Marcia L. (Christensen) Mansfield

Tomorrow is my 56th birthday; I’m more than half-way through my expected life-span. And I continue learning more about my heritage, surprises and non-surprises alike. I recently bought a DNA kit for my father and sent it off a few weeks ago. I likely won’t know results for several more weeks, but I’m looking forward to putting more pieces of the ancestry puzzle together. I wonder if we’ll find more surprises from Dad’s DNA results… or perhaps by further digging into the names and lives of our ancestors. It’s a fun, exciting, and yes, somewhat surprising journey!

Now more than a half-century old, and on the cusp of 60 years of age, I’m learning about my heritage … and I’m thankful I can do so, surprises and all.


gayle-and-mom-and-dadThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Last month I wrote about exploring my family tree and ordering a DNA kit from Ancestry. I received the kit and sent it off; I still await the results. Meantime, I continue my genealogy research, and I’ve made some interesting discoveries.

First, on my dad’s side: one of his distant relatives, 5th-great-grandfather, was brought to America as a slave when he was just three years old. He continued to be sold another five times before age 24. As close as I can ascertain, he and his mother were brought over from the West Indies and sold. He was again sold with his mother at age 6, and then at age 12, sold as individual, and again at age 15, age 17, and age 24. So, the issue of slavery hits home for me. For several years now I’ve donated to organizations that fight human trafficking. I’ve also written about the issue (see these links:


I hope to find more information on this ancestor, hopefully to discover his emancipation papers and more information about his later life, including marriage, owning a parcel of land, and having children, which would eventually lead to my grandfather, my father, and me.

On my mom’s side, I discovered her grandfather was arrested in 1892 for assaulting his 70-year-old father because “the harness which Mr. Christianson the younger had oiled was thrown into the dung pile by Old Man Christianson.” Each filed charges against the other; eventually, all charges were dismissed, concluded the newspaper account. I shared the story with my mother last weekend and we had a good laugh, not only at the antics of our ancestors, but at the writing style of the newspaper reporter.

William “Pinkney” Ard – my father’s great-grandfather on his dad’s mother’s side -he died during the 1920s.

Digging into my family’s past has been intriguing. I’ve hit a few roadblocks, but with the help of my neighbor, who is LDS and an avid family history buff, and the local LDS genealogy library, I think I’ll be able to overcome some of the hurdles and make more new discoveries about deceased family members.

In addition to slavery and African-American heritage, my father’s side has Native American lineage. I haven’t yet found much about that nor have I concluded whether the tribe is Choctaw or Cherokee … perhaps both. That is the quest I’m currently on – I plan to go back to the LDS family heritage library this weekend to review some of the books they have about American Indian heritage. Hopefully, I will make some new discoveries about that aspect of my ancestry.

In my post last month I noted that I hoped to learn where my love for writing came from – that, too, remains a mystery. Although my maternal grandmother and great-aunts were well-versed in some creative arts like embroidery and sewing, no one it seems longed to be the next great author. However, according to my mother, one of her cousins dabbled in painting and was fairly good at it. Perhaps the creative aspect comes from my heritage, and from my individuality comes the love of writing, just as her cousin’s outlet was the visual arts.

Discovering more of who I am as a part of the Christensen and Mansfield clans leads me to know more about my family, especially generations back. But, it also leads me to discover more about who I am as an individual … and I’m grateful for both.

Samuel Lonit Mansfield – my father’s grandfather, my grandpa’s dad, born in 1884 and died in 1959.

Just as we can discover aspects of our family, past and present, we can also discover things about ourselves as writers – what is it we like to write, how we express ourselves (our writing style and genre), and how we engage our readers. And, we can discover things about the characters in our stories – maybe even develop them based on what we’ve learned about our ancestors. For instance, in my pet rescue romance, I could craft my hero as part French Creole and give him the looks of my great-grandfather, depicted in this post (does Samuel look like he could have been a firefighter who helps rescue dogs??). Discoveries can be intriguing, they can be fun, and they can be weird and worrisome!

What new discoveries have you made this New Year, about yourself, your family, your writing, or a combination thereof?


Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming writer. She is the author of several inspirational pet stories for children and adults, and she freelances for newspapers and magazines. Gayle has contributed stories to six different Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the 2014 release The Dog Did What? and last year’s release The Spirit of America, in which she writes about America’s national parks. She supports various pet rescue organizations with contributions from her book sales. Learn more about Gayle and her writing and speaking endeavors at

cody-cabin-cover2   SageBigAdventureFront-small   bobcat-front-cover   Sage Finds Friends_front cover  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

Going to the Fair

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

On Saturday I sat at a booth at the Winter Maker’s Market, a monthly vendor experience operated by Wyoming Food for Thought. The organization helps feed children in need and operates a farmer’s market in downtown Casper during summer months.

I participated in last month’s Winter Maker’s Market as well. Booth space is only $20, and my first sale on Saturday paid that fee with change left over. By the end of the four hours, I had fared well, but didn’t make as much as I’d hoped, considering there are two weeks until Christmas (actually less as this post goes live). Sales started strong but cratered by Noon, and when someone took the stage to sing during the final hour, customers left – the music was too loud to engage in conversation. I will certainly let the organizers know that rock’n’roll music during a December event, especially when the music detracts conversing with customers, is not the best way to conduct a holiday fair.


My children’s books sold the best; my dog devotions barely moved. That discouraged me, especially since it’s Christ-mas. However, my spirits were lifted when a woman came to my table who said she had my devotion books, thoroughly enjoyed them, then preceded to purchase three children’s books and two of my Tail Tales books, one for herself and one as a gift to a pet-loving friend. I was elated! Meeting “fans” is so encouraging!

I have one more fair to attend later this week – an event called the Artisan’s Market. It’s new to the community this year. Writer friends of mine participated in November and said they did well; I’m hoping I’ll follow in their footsteps for the December event.

It’s fun to explore new ways to sell books and meet readers. I love engaging people, and when they learn I donate part of my book sale proceeds to local rescue organizations, they get excited knowing that together, as writer and reader, we’re helping animals in need.

fair-with-ferris-wheelI may not attend summer county – or state – fairs, with rides, games, and such, but I do enjoy a holiday fair, especially when I can connect with readers, sell books, and help homeless pets. Now, if only I can find a way to “bottle it all up” and “fare” as well with online sales.

How do you engage readers virtually? I’d love to hear your thoughts and “secret sauce” for effectively selling online. What are some of your most effective marketing and networking strategies for selling your works?


Gayle and Mary at KnowledgeNookGayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational pet stories for children and adults. She enjoys weaving life lessons, such as courage, perseverance, friendship, faith, trust, and self-confidence into her stories. Gayle is also a contributing writer to six Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She enjoys helping pet rescue organizations and donates a percentage of her book sales to such groups. Her second volume of Devotions for Dog Lovers titled Sage Advice (print version) is discounted 50% for the holiday season when purchased directly from the author (a “Christmas Color Book Cover” sale!) — on sale for just $5.50 until December 20th. Learn more at


Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Walking_FrontCover_small   bookcover_tail-tales_front-coverDog Devotion Book_Cover_Final      cody-cabin-cover2   bobcat-front-cover




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

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

Dressing Up Doggie – Halloween Costumes and Our Furry Friends

Gayle_Mary_reading eventThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Here’s a blog post similar to one I wrote for my own site last week. I hope you all enjoy it.

Today’s the day (or night) that goblins and zombies take to the streets. It’s the spookiest of holidays, and during this season, Americans love to spend money on their kids – including their furry ones. According to the National Retail Federation, the average amount spent on Halloween is about $75, on candy, decorations, and costumes.

Halloween Express lists the top 10 pet costumes. Those include Superman, Ghostbusters, bees, spiders, and lions. The NRF estimates people spend about $350 million on pet costumes, outlaying $1 for every $3 spent on children’s outfits.

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent more than $60 billion on their furry friends last year and will likely spend more than that in 2016. From sweaters and raincoats to sporting team t-shirts and holiday costumes, pet clothing is big business. Practical wear is just as important as fashionista statements, maybe more so. Booties to keep paws clear of snow and ice and life jackets for outings on the boat, clothing and outdoor wear remain popular with pet parents.

For a fun, informative article on pet fashion, visit

For a look at some cute pets in interesting Halloween costumes, see

The first year Cody came to live with us, he became a fireman for Halloween.

I bought holiday scarves for Sage, my blind springer spaniel, but that’s as close as I ever got to “dressing” her. However, one year I did dress Cody my cocker spaniel as a fireman for Halloween, complete with a red hat. He wasn’t terribly thrilled, but he sure looked cute!

Pets may not be very cooperative for playing dress-up. If you plan to take your dog trick-or-treating or have your cat participate in your Halloween party, make sure you “practice” prior to the big night. Also, make sure the costume properly fits your pet, and consider breed, weight, and measurements before purchasing, and ensure your pet can see, breathe, and drink normally with the outfit on.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) offers some important pet safety tips for this time of year. Find those at

Some people create their own pet costumes. For ideas, visit this HGTV website:

Have you ever dressed your pet for Halloween? Wishing you and your pet a safe and fun Halloween!


Gayle M. Irwin is a freelance writer and author living in Wyoming. She creates inspirational pet stories for children and adults. She’s composed several books, including the recently released Tail Tales: Stories of Pets Who Touched My Heart and Impacted My Life.  She is currently working on two more children’s pet stories, including a humorous book about a cat trapped in a school and an educational book about dog rescue. Learn more at




Gayle_signing photoThis post by Gayle M. Irwin


I debated what to write about for my first blog post this month. Originally, I wanted to write about visiting national parks this year, the centennial celebration of the National Park Service. Then I thought I’d write about dogs as October is National Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month. But, I’ve written about that in the past, and I do write a lot about pets and my passion to help them. And many people have written about the autumn season, although as I write this, it appears winter has arrived in Wyoming and other parts of the Northern Rockies (thankfully, only temporarily, as temps are supposed to rebound to autumn-like in my community…. for a bit of time, anyway). So, what to write?

March 2016 snow_neighborhoodIn light of the devastating and frightening Hurricane Matthew on the East Coast and the destructive winds that ripped through Casper earlier in the week, I decided STORMS would be appropriate. Winter is coming, and with that season often comes blizzard conditions and heavy piles of snow – at least in my neck of the woods. Ice storms often grip the Midwestern and Eastern states, and dust storms envelope parts of the southwestern U.S. Whether torrential rains, thunder, hurricanes, tornadoes, snow, or dirt, natural storms occur. Even fires can whip up into storms, racing at tremendous speed and leaving destruction in its wake.

Storms also present themselves in our life. Waves crash on our hearts when relationships crater. Our minds swirl when a troubling health diagnosis comes along. The dust-storm of job-loss wrecks our self-confidence. Yet, through each storm, if we’re patient enough and look hard enough, the sunlight of strength and the rainbow of hope appear. One of my manuscripts-in-progress parallels seasons in nature with seasons in life, including blizzards, drought, storms, renewal, harvest, and thanksgiving.

woman-at-computer2As writers, we also know storms: rejection, doubt, lack of time (or being pulled in too many directions); even the business aspect of our work can be stormy. So much vies for our attention in this world, and people’s lack of attention (or demand for “give it to me quick”) makes writing challenging. We face a lot of competition for readers and many avenues to try to reach them – sometimes the whole business of writing is overwhelming. But, if we focus not on the sales but on the joy of writing, of telling that story that desires to be told, we will enjoy the journey, even if the winds knock us off our feet now and then.

Nearly 10 months of this year has already gone by. My desire when Jan. 1, 2016 rolled around was to be a fulltime freelance writer before year-end. I’m not there yet. I’ve experienced a few storms in my life in 2016, but nothing compared to many friends, colleagues and family members. There is always next year. And, I’ve taken a few extra steps to pursue that goal even more during the coming months, including signing up for a copywriting course and to become part of copywriting community. There seems to be a demand for such work and something that be done at home. We’ll see where this road may lead. Hopefully, it will lead to achieving my desired goal in 2017.

Meantime, National Novel Writing Month begins in a few weeks. I have a work-in-progress that I plan to pick back up and earmark to finish by November 30. In that story, a number of storms happen to my characters, molding and shaping them, growing them, and yes, setting them back somewhat. That’s what happens in storms – beaches are eroded, roofs are ripped off, and areas are burned. But, when the menace is gone, rebirth and rejuvenation begins. The natural world is reborn, our lives are rebuilt, and our characters develop. Storms can be scary, but they can also be life-shaping.

Maybe next time I’ll talk about something less frightening and challenging – like dogs, or national parks!




Gayle_CHS booktable34Gayle M. Irwin is the author of seven inspirational dog stories for children and adults. She is a also a freelance writer for various magazines and newspapers and is a contributor to six editions of the Chicken Soup for the Soul as well as to the short story collection Memories from Maple Street: Pawprints on My Heart, released in July 2016 from Sundown Press.  She is currently working on new books, including BobCat Goes to School, a humorous children’s story about a cat that gets trapped in a school building; Tail Tales: A Short Story Collection About Pets that Have Touched My Heart & Impacted My Life; and Seasons of Life, Seasons of Nature, which parallels the seasons in nature with the joys and challenges of life. Learn more about Gayle and her works at

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