Irene Watson – My Treasured Literary Mentor
Guest Blog by Judith Anne Desjardins, LCSW, BCD
My heart and stomach hurt when I found out that Irene died last week. Over the course of the last two years, she became an inspiration, a guide, cheerleader, role model, mentor, and friend. It is rare to find all those attributes rolled into one woman. But then again, Irene was a rare woman.
I was truly blessed by God when I first made her acquaintance in 2010. My book, Creating A Healthy Life and Marriage, had just been released and I sent a copy to Irene for a review. I was brand new to the literary world and knew absolutely nothing about the process of getting a review, entering book award contests, marketing. I was a first-time author and publisher. To say I was “green” was an understatement. I was also severely challenged by the world of computer technology.
I was surprised and delighted when my book received a very favorable review, and I was struck by the detail and depth of the review. The reviewer had taken a serious look at my book and she “got” the message I was trying to convey. I wrote Irene and asked her if I could send a “Thank You” note. She graciously arranged it and I was very happy to make that live connection.
Then I was contacted by Irene and told that my book had been entered in the Literary Award contest. I didn’t fully understand what that meant, but I thought it would be a good second step in marketing. I wrote Irene and thanked her.
Visiting her website, ReaderViews.com, I was intrigued by the idea of making a book video. It seemed to me a very smart thing to do. Here again, I had no experience with a project like this. I contacted Irene and asked if she could explain it to me. She took the time out of her busy schedule to respond and suggested I study some of the book videos featured on the website. I took my time and carefully studied the various videos. I made notes about the ones I liked, and why. I wrote Irene back and said I was ready to embark on the mission. It was both frightening and exciting. When I ran into some snags trying to register on line, I contacted Irene. Once again, she took the time to walk me through the steps. She was very patient and kind.
The book video package I selected said that I had two trial attempts to make the video. I was to provide a lengthy outline of the material, music, and theme I wanted covered, and it would be interpreted by the producer. When I received the first version, I did not like it at all. The photos, the voice over, the script did not properly reflect me or the message I wanted to convey.
I contacted Irene in an agitated state and asked if I could work directly with the producer. She understood my nervousness, my desire to produce an excellent product, and the importance of the amount of money I had invested in the project. She was patient with me and set up the connection. She went the “extra mile” with me and said they wanted to make me happy. I was able to work closely with the producer on the revision. Through that collaboration, I learned how to co-produce a book video and how to obtain permission for the use of specific copyrighted music. Ultimately, I was very proud of the video and feature it on my website and on my business Facebook page. Irene posted it on her website, Amazon, and U-Tube.
My next contact with Irene was when I received notification that my book had won two awards. If Irene had not entered my book in the contest, these awards would not have happened. I am very grateful to her.
I came to know Irene as a role model when I read her weekly Newsletter. She provided important tips and advice for aspiring writers and challenged all of us to do better, work harder, make a commitment to excellence, and spear-headed a drive for “Books for Troops,” which sent hundreds of donated books to Iraq and Afghanistan. She was not afraid to expose fraudulent websites, shady practices, or laziness.
Her ultimate show of strength was her stand against Amazon, who suddenly and arbitrarily erased all independent reviews from their website. Irene spent long hours and several days to repost thousands of reviews. The same thing happened to Nicole Sorkin from Pacific Book Review and Midwest Book Review.
When Amazon removed the reviews a second time, with no justification and no response to her inquiries, Irene reposted them. She was NOT going to be defeated. She rallied readers, authors, and independent publishers and reviewers to make a stand against Amazon’s arbitrary removal of the hard-won reviews. She cared deeply about us and was our champion!
Irene mentored me through the process of becoming a Guest Blogger on her bloggingauthors website. Again, this was a whole new area for me and I was frightened. She took the time to help me. She never judged me as being inadequate for the task, and she gave me the courage to risk.
She also became my friend. We shared correspondence about our struggles, our challenges, our families. Whenever something great happened with my book, or my private life, I immediately contacted Irene. She would always respond the very same day.
Irene was an upbeat, energetic, enthusiastic person. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she was positive in her expectations and jumped to be responsible for her treatment decisions. She was never a “helpless victim.” She wrote about the cancer in her newsletter, twice. She was so positive that she convinced me she would overcome it. Cancer may have taken her life, but it could not diminish her spirit or her impact on the world around her. She is a living testimony of Love, Courage, Defiance, Strength, and Service.
God bless you, Irene, I love you and thank you for all the ways you touched my life and my heart.