|“What makes you happy?” Grossy said as he loped along the trail beside me.|
I huffed and puffed, trying to keep up with his runner’s legs. “Happy?”
It was the spring of 1998—a little over a year after my brother’s suicide. Getting through the day without curling into the fetal position was my number one goal. I crammed as much work into each day as possible, hoping a packed schedule would keep me upright. Grossy was the instructor for the hiking and backpacking class I’d signed up for so I could fulfill the physical education requirement for my bachelor’s degree. At the time, our hikes were the only breaks I took.
A marathon runner and endurance athlete who’d already hiked half the Appalachian trail, Grossy ran our courses before leading our class. He worked hard to connect with his students, both the athletes who easily finished our three and sometimes four-mile hikes, and those like me who struggled to keep up.
That day, he’d asked his assistant to lead so he could focus on the stragglers.
At first, I ignored Grossy’s questions, but he refused to accept my mumblings about duty and getting by. Each time I saw him after that walk, he asked what I wanted from life and harped on the importance of finding my happiness and taking the risks needed to pursue it.
I wanted to believe he was right, but then a fresh wave of grief would convince me that happiness wasn’t an option. Still, I caught his infectious love of the woods and spent years after that class backpacking Kentucky’s wild trails.
He and I walked in the same graduation ceremony. I watched him get hooded for his Ph.D., then cry in his wife’s arms as he repeatedly whispered, “I did it” into her neck.
When I contracted Lyme disease in 2015, I spent many hours shuffling along the trails near my home. At the time, I was unemployed, seriously ill, and lacking hope. These strolls were the one break I took from my misery. On them, I began to answer Grossy’s questions.
Without knowing it, he’d planted the seeds that would eventually give me the courage to pursue writing and start my business. When life gets tough, I still think of the stories he told about fording icy rivers in Maine while completing the Appalachian Trail, or the doubts he must’ve wrestled with as he completed his Ph.D.
Life is filled with guides like Grossy who cheer us on and challenge us to be our best selves. They plant seeds that help us grow into who we really are.
Every year, I make a list of the people who’ve supported my growth and I thank them for their role in my life. I recently looked up Grossy to see where he was. He’s an ultramarathoner residing in Virginia and continues to live out his dreams. In a few days, he’ll receive a thank you letter from me.
That leads to my final challenge of 2022.
Between now and next Monday, December 20, 2022, I want you to do one of the following:
Write a thank you letter to a person who’s supported your growth
If that person is a writer, please write an Amazon or Goodreads review for one of their books or share their writing online
Send me an email with a screenshot of your Amazon review or a quick note about who you’re thanking and what you told them, and you’ll be entered into this week’s drawing for a one-hour coaching session with Amy Eaton. You’ll also be entered into my grand-prize drawing for a ten-page manuscript review and one-hour coaching session with me.
Those of you who complete all three challenges, will also earn a spot in Start S.M.A.R.T. in 2023. If challenges aren’t your think, you can also purchase a spot for $49.
Your review doesn’t have to be a brilliant analysis of their work. Instead, just write 3 – 4 sentences about what you liked. That’s it.
Here’s a template you can use.
[book title] is a [type of book] about [insert your answer here]. Here are the three things I liked. Here’s why you might like it too.
Here’s a quick example:
In Plain: A Memoir of Mennonite Girlhood, Mary Alice Hostetter writes about her upbringing with poetry, humor, and curiosity. The book is a fun and easy read that will keep you hooked from beginning to end. I admire how she writes about her struggle to belong without losing sight of the love that holds her family together. I highly recommend her book.
While that might not seem like much, starred Amazon reviews influence the algorithm that decides when and how a book gets recommended to other users. Gain enough starred reviews on your publication day and you might qualify for some of Amazon’s bestseller lists. Even when written long after a book’s launch, the author benefits from your endorsement. Like it or not, those stars influence readers’ purchases.
So, as we wrap up 2022, who’s served as a guide for you, ? How will you thank them? Best of all, how will you blaze a trail for those behind you?
Many thanks to those of you who participated in this week’s challenge.
I wish you all the best as we prepare for another year of writing on.
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