By Heather Baker

When was the last time you dared to fail? Pursuing your dreams often means opening yourself up to the possibility of failure. For theatre and journalism double major Courtney (Fassler) Walsh ’98, the dream was being on stage and screen.

“The idea of studying something I was genuinely interested in excited me,” said Walsh of her decision to study theatre at Bradley University.

With her father’s encouragement to pursue her talent for writing, Walsh added a second major of journalism. “I always say I did one for me (theatre) and one for my parents (journalism),” she said. “Even then, somehow, he saw something in me I didn’t see in myself.”

Her dad was right. Walsh wrote her very first one-woman play over one of Bradley’s holiday breaks when everyone else had gone home. “It was quiet in the dorms, so I wrote and wrote. It was wonderful,” she said.

Since that first play, Walsh has published nine inspirational romance novels, two craft books and several full-length musicals. She takes inspiration from the world around her — from trips to little snippets of conversation she overhears.

“Inspiration is all around — you just have to slow down long enough to let it sink in,” she said.

A Sweethaven Summer,” Walsh’s debut romance novel, was on both the New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller lists. “It was a surreal experience. It had been a tough road to publication and the release was a bit of a struggle. Receiving the news was like a little gift from God. If I had to do it over I would’ve soaked that up instead of being almost a little embarrassed to share it,” Walsh confessed.

The drive to push past her fears arose from the lessons of her theatre professors. Paul Kassel and Nina LeNoir pushed Walsh to “dare to fail gloriously.” They were influential in her life and left a lasting impression, along with an English professor, who used a simple sentence of encouragement to nudge Walsh to pursue writing.

Walsh took a job as a reporter after graduation. She realized that the schedule of an actor’s life didn’t suit her. However, her theatre studies do not go unused as she harnesses what she learned in her acting classes to improve her writing. She also directs shows for The Studio, a performing and visual arts studio she created with her husband, Adam Walsh ’98.

Starting The Studio had been a dream of theirs for years. Anytime they passed an empty building they’d say, “In another life, I’d open a performing arts studio and youth theatre there.” One day they realized they don’t get another life and now was the time to pursue this passion. They wanted to create a safe place where children could explore their creativity and “dare to fail gloriously.” At The Studio they use music and theatre to build and instill confidence in the children. “There is nothing like seeing a kid shine in their element — seeing them find a place where they belong — that’s what we live for,” shared Walsh.

Walsh’s advice to current students is to not get locked in to anything permanent. “While the world wants you to believe you’ve got it all figured out the second you enroll, there’s room to explore and shift and adjust along the way,” she said. “I think it’s the perfect time to push envelopes, to develop strong beliefs, to challenge yourself to learn and grow. Learn everything you can and remember you’ve still got a TON more to learn. Remain teachable, work hard and believe in yourself… this is just the beginning for you!” she said.