A Conversation with Author Gabrielle Martin

Gabrielle Martin, executive director of the Burrell Foundation in Springfield, Missouri, is married to her high school sweetheart, Eric, and mom to two daughters, Alivia and Colette. She is an event planner, philanthropist and marketing enthusiast who likes a good challenge and hopes to inspire others to push boundaries and never stop achieving. 

As a published author of a beautiful children’s book, you realized a dream. What encouragement can you give to a mom who is struggling with pursuing her own interests or hobbies or passions or a big, audacious dream?

There is no magic formula for juggling family, work, writing and other commitments. Sometimes one gets more than the other, but you have to carve out time for yourself amidst the chaos. When it feels like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, pause and walk away for a bit. Learn to rest, not quit.

Through this book’s title and artwork, you have chronicled special moments with your daughters. As your daughters grow, how does the meaning of this book change? What advice would you give to moms about writing down special moments about their children?

The book has actually been a great conversation starter for transitional life moments with the girls. When Colette started first grade, we spent many nights reading and discussing the first day of school pages. Similarly, Alivia, my older daughter, is already asking questions about the college moments illustrated in the book. Don’t even get this mama started on the wedding day pages — I will straight ugly cry.

As for documenting the special moments: I keep an -isms journal for both of my girls, recording the sweet, funny and jaw-dropping things they’ve said since their first words. Not only do I relish in these precious memories, but the girls absolutely love reading about the goofy things they did and said when they were younger.

(1) Younger daughter, Colette, holds a copy of Hold My Hand, Mama. (2) Gabrielle stands beside a display of Hold My Hand, Mama at a local shop. (3) Gabrielle chatted with Ozarks FOX AM hosts Kelly Smith and Jeremy Rabe in 2021. (4) Visit holdmyhandmama.com to see reactions of moms as they read Hold My Hand, Mama; media interviews and information on purchasing Gabrielle’s book. Photographs courtesy of Gabrielle Martin

While writing or reading Hold My Hand, Mama, what memories of your relationship with your mom come to mind?

I could not have documented the older years without reminiscing on some of the pivotal memories I have with my mom. The college drop off, wedding day, and first child moments with her are forever etched on my heart. Now, they are also captured on the pages of this book for my own daughters to experience. Pretty special stuff.

It’s also quite beautiful to watch my girls read the baking with grandma pages and recall present-day memories with her teaching them how to make her infamous “Garbage Cookies.”

One of the themes of the book is how the mom, by holding her daughter’s hand, helps the growing girl be brave when facing the unknown. Who in your life helped you be brave as you created this book? What difference did he/she make?

My mother, of course. She has always been, and remains, my biggest fan and supporter in life. No matter what I’m working on, or through, she is always bursting with pride and words of enthusiasm and encouragement. Everyone needs a hero like that — I’m blessed mine is my mama.

Often, when we give vulnerability, we are gifted vulnerability from others. As you watch people read your book or as you have received feedback, is there a reaction story you can look back on and say, “Yes, this is why the message of the book needed to be shared”?

How do I pick just one? I am humbled and honored each time I watch a reader experience the book for the first time. There was one, in particular, that especially touched my heart, and I was fortunate to have captured her reaction on camera. One of my sweet friends, and mother of two girls, was reading the book aloud for the first time. The last page punched her heart so hard she lost her words, sat back in her chair, and placed her hand on her chest, crying. It was raw and beautiful.

What has the Lord taught you during the process of writing or self-publishing or allowing the public to read your heart?

Writing this book was never a plan of mine — it was a divine assignment. I’ve learned to appreciate and embrace the beauty of faith-guided unpredictability. If your heart is speaking to you, listen to it. If something inspires you, follow it. You will never regret leaving the assumed path to take in different scenery, especially when God is your tour guide.

Interview by Julie Johnson


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