During my senior year of high school, I lived with the family I’d babysat for since my freshman year. The father was an English teacher at a nearby middle school, the mother a chemical engineer. I cared for their three young children and did housework in exchange for room and board.
Three weeks before graduation, I entered my high school’s creative writing contest. The night before the contest’s deadline, the father and I reviewed my entry until almost one the morning.
Someone else won the contest, but I was stunned by his belief in my potential.
Eight years later, at the age of twenty-six, I finally won my first creative writing contest. Even though I’d just graduated summa cum laude, I doubted my abilities. Certain the announcement was fake, or perhaps this was just a “pity win,” I confronted my creative writing professor.
He shook his head like my concerns were ridiculous, then said, “Of course you won. It was a great piece.” Even though I couldn’t embrace my success, he believed in my writing.
In 2014, I signed up for a memoir writing class during the peak of my battle with Lyme disease. I was forty and most days, my brain felt like scrambled eggs. My ideas were mushy and fragmented. I struggled to retrieve words and quickly lost my train of thought. My spelling and grammar were atrocious. Yet my instructor saw past those deficits and praised the beauty of my scene work.
Each of these mentors taught me valuable lessons about the craft of writing, but their greatest gift was helping me believe in myself.
If you’re reading this email, it’s likely someone has also given you this gift.
This leads me to my final 2021 #Giveaway4Good Challenge.
Between now and 7:00 PM EST on January 3, 2021, I’d like you to thank someone who’s impacted your writing career. This thank you can come in the form of a letter or a short review of their book on Goodreads or Amazon.
In exchange for each thank-you letter, I’ll give you one ticket for this drawing.
Earn 3 tickets for each book review.
Review the Best of Brevity, The Story Cure, or Getting to the Truth: The Craft and Practice of Creative Nonfiction and I’ll give you 4 tickets.
This week’s prize is a one-hour coaching session with me. We can talk about your current work in progress, an upcoming project, or any aspect of your writing life.
You’ll also be entered into my grand prize drawing for a one-year membership to James River Writers, a 3-pack of webinars from The Crow Collective Online Writing Workshops, one Jane Friedman webinar of your choice, a 10-page manuscript review plus one-hour coaching session with me, and a query letter review by Allison K Williams.
To enter this week’s drawing, send me an email. Include the name of the person or organization you’re thanking and one sentence about how they’ve impacted your writing journey. If you wrote a brief review for Amazon and Goodreads, simply send me a screenshot of your review.
Saying thank you isn’t just something nice to do. Expressing gratitude for those who’ve helped you, improves your mental health and wellbeing and deepens your connections with others. It creates a sense of openness within you that can serve your creativity and sustain you as you take risks in your writing life.
Last year I was deeply touched by the emails I received from writers who had expressed their gratitude to mentors and the authors who’d encouraged them not to give up. For many of these writers, crafting these letters benefitted them too.
To launch this challenge, let me start by thanking you. Thank you for trusting me with your time and attention during an age of overflowing inboxes and information overload. Thank you for your kind and generous emails about posts you find meaningful and the writing challenges you’ve faced. Thank you for sharing your tips and tricks with all of us. Your wisdom is a gift to this writing community. Most importantly, thank you for showing up to your writing desk and having faith that your story matters. You’re amazing, and I’m deeply, deeply grateful to you.
So, who are you going to thank?
Your message might be the greatest gift this person receives over the holiday season.
I look forward to hearing about your choices between now and the drawing deadline on January 3, 2022.