Welcome Wednesday has the wonderful opportunity of interviewing Gayle Irwin, an author I met through my - Writing, Wranglers and Warriors - Facebook Group. Most of the authors I feature on my blog write fiction but Gayle is a litttle bit different. I'll let her answers speak for themselves so that you can understnd why.
Hello, Gayle. You have a number of books already published about Sage, your blind Springer Spaniel. Would you classify them all as non- fiction, or are any of them fiction, yet geared towards teaching children and adults some form of lesson?
I consider the children’s books “creative nonfiction” as they are based on Sage’s real life but have some “literary license”. My new adult book, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned from My Blind Dog is nonfiction -- the stories I share are true and the thoughts I share are Biblically-based.
How many books have you published so far?
3 children’s books and 1 adult book
I am also a contributing writer in 4 Chicken Soup for the Soul compilations: Lessons Learned from the Dog; Devotional Stories for Mothers; I Can’t Believe My Dog Did That; and Finding My Faith.
Do you work with a particular publisher or agent?
No. All the books are published by different companies, and I don’t have an agent.
Do you have an illustrator or photographer you particularly use in your publications?
My first book, Sage’s Big Adventure, uses photographs of our dog that either my husband or I took. Sage Learns to Share and Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest were illustrated by Katie Araujo, who lives outside of London, England. Katie and I found each other on Elance.com when I was searching for an illustrator for Sage Learns to Share. I loved how her vibrant illustrations brought my dogs to life in that book, so when I needed illustrations for Cody’s Cabin... I asked Katie to again work with me. My publisher requested some photos of Sage to complement the writing in Walking in Trust..., so I sent her several that my husband Greg or I had taken, and she chose those she thought readers of that book would enjoy.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I have a lovely sunroom in my home that’s become my office. Windows face south and east, bringing in morning and afternoon sun-- that’s where I do a lot of my writing. My husband and I also own 3 forested acres with a small cabin at which we spend a lot of time during summer and fall, and I have comprised many stories and articles there as well; in fact, Cody’s Cabin... was birthed there! It’s tranquil, surrounded by lodgepole pine trees and no houses; I’m especially inspired being in such a lovely setting with no phones or Internet. Sage loved that place as well, and we often walked the woods and dirt roads together, basking in the quiet and sunshine. There are many wonderful memories at that location and I hope many more to come – as well many more stories to write up there! (it’s 8,000 feet in elevation!!)
Have you plans for more books to be published in 2013?
I am working on two more children’s book manuscripts, another dog story (about a rescue dog I helped three years ago) and an educational book about bison on the prairie (that idea has been with me since the 1990s when I lived near Yellowstone National Park – since the idea has never left my brain, I need to write it!). I am taking a writing class at the community college a few blocks from my house, and I’m trusting that the weekly deadline for copy will keep me on track to complete both manuscripts by summer... or fall at the latest.
What is the main message you hope your readers to get from your writing?
I want to inspire my readers as well as educate them. I want them to be inspired to persevere through their own life challenges, to find a strong spiritual walk through the numerous challenges one can encounter in this earthly life, to be encouraged to see value in themselves even if others treat them as lesser, and to be educated about the plight of our natural world, from homeless pets to the destruction of our environment. I also hope they will be entertained by the stories I share between the pages of inspiration, encouragement and education.
How do you organise the demands of your regular activities, e.g. volunteer or paid work, and writing tasks?
My best writing time is early morning, so stories I compose are mostly done from 5:30 to 7:30 am. I work away from home three full days a week (on occasion a bit more) and I write regularly for a community magazine as well as serve as Administrative Assistant to the Board of Wyoming Writers, Inc.; therefore, I do those “jobs” the other two-plus days during the week as well as work on my personal writing on those days and the early morning hours before leaving for work (though not EVERY DAY). I don’t juggle as well as I used to -- the housework doesn’t get done quite so often and I rarely cook anymore! Thankfully, I have a husband who pitches in on those chores without (much) complaint!! I volunteer for animal welfare organizations as I can, mostly for events and transporting rescued animals either to their foster or permanent homes (that happens on weekends on an as-needed basis).
If you were not writing about the animal world what do you think might be your focus?
It would still be something to do with nature – perhaps a stronger focus on the plight of our natural ecosystems. Since I was a small child growing up in Iowa, I’ve enjoyed the natural world, walking the forests and farmlands, traveling with my parents to the lakes of Minnesota and Canada as well as to America’s western national parks and forests. We were an outdoors family, enjoying camping, hiking and fishing expeditions. I find great joy in nature – God speaks to me through His creation, refreshing my mind, heart and soul through cascading waterfalls, towering mountain peaks, soaring eagles, and so much more I observe, hear, smell and touch in nature. Spending nearly 10 years near Yellowstone National Park as a journalist and conservation educator re-enforced that heart-bond to creation; in fact, I’ve written a few magazine articles and helped create two children’s activities books about nature, and I would like to see that aspect of my writing expand. Cody’s Cabin... includes a nature journal at the back of the book as well as vocabulary words and nature tidbits, encouraging kids to get outside and explore; the bison book I'm developing will also weave educational components, teaching children about the bison and other aspects of the American plains, and hopefully prompting them to more greatly respect and appreciate the natural world.
Can you describe Sage in 10 adjectives?
Sage epitomized so many positive traits, and those are brought to light in Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog. A few that come to mind:
What about yourself? How would someone describe you? (5 words)
4. Compassionate – Especially regarding the plight of the less fortunate (particularly animals, children, and victims of various types of abuse) wrenches my soul.
5. Diligent – I work hard at what I set out to do and I pursue my goals persistently.
Apart from dog walking, or other animal care physical activities, what is your main form of exercise?
I actually dislike exercise so the closest I come to is walking. I enjoy travelling and exploring; I like to walk forest trails and observe nature and I try to take photographs while exploring. I look forward to the years ahead to continue visiting national parks, forests and wildlife refuges as well as taking boat excursions on oceans to see whales, dolphins and other creatures. I’d like to take an Alaskan cruise some day as well as visit Ireland and Scotland (those have been my “dream vacations” for nearly 15 years). I also hope to spend winters in the American Southwest sometime in the future (the older I get the more I dislike Rocky Mountain winters!), soaking up desert sun and being inspired by that type of landscape!
Gayle Mansfield Irwin is an award-winning writer who possesses a strong background in animal welfare, including work as a public relations coordinator and a humane and conservation educator. She has been a writer and public relations professional for more than 25 years and served as a journalist, editor and freelance writer for various publications in the Rocky Mountain West. She is the author of three children’s books and one adult non-fiction book, and she’s contributed to various editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Mrs. Irwin received the Horizon Award in 2008 and the Milestone Award in 2012 from Wyoming Writers, Inc. She is a member of the organization well as the administrative assistant to the Board; she’s also a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Learn more about Mrs. Irwin, her writings and speaking endeavours at www.gaylemirwin.com.
Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog is a devotional-style nonfiction book paralleling Mrs. Irwin’s life with her blind dog Sage and her faith walk with God. Life lessons combine with stories of times shared with Sage and showcase courage despite adversity, joy in spite of trial, and perseverance despite obstacles, among many other topics. Westminster Kennel Club media staff and former Seattle Times pet columnist Ranny Green said of the book, “Walking in Trust is an exhilarating celebration of life, accented with spirited storytelling designed to nourish the soul and empower the heart."
Read an Excerpt at Cladach Publishing
Or “Look Inside” at Amazon.com
Gayle - Thank you so much for coming to Welcome Wednesday. It's been a delight doing an interview with you. Best wishes with all future ventures - including enjoying your new 'rescue' dog, Mary.