Julia Byrd: July 2017 Barefoot Writing Challenge Winner


Julia ByrdCongratulations to Julia Byrd for Winning the August 2017 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The Challenge was to write an essay in response to this prompt:

Describe the pivotal moment when you first realized you were a writer.

Julia gave us a beautiful glimpse into the poignant experience that launched her life as a writer. Enjoy her winning submission:

October 10, 2010: The Day I Became a Writer

Perhaps nothing leaves you feeling as vulnerable and alone as when you’re nearly 800 miles from your family and you get a call that something — but it isn’t clear exactly what — has happened to your father. Your daddy (even though you’re 40-plus years old and should’ve left such terms of endearment back in your childhood).

You switch from “picking out crates for your new puppy” mode to “How fast can I get halfway across the country” mode.

And it’s there, outside the newsstand at Reagan International Airport, that you get the call. You aren’t going to make it in time.

He’s gone.

“We’re so sorry.”

The flight from D.C. to St. Louis isn’t normally a long one — a little more than three hours as you fight the jet stream going west — but it seemed exceptionally long that day.

With nothing else to do, I wrote.

On a tiny iPhone keypad, I wrote a eulogy for my father.

The words came easily — as did the tears — which I firmly believe happened because I was soaring closer to the heavens than to the ground that day. I was closer to him in those three hours than anyone else would be.

My dad was a great communicator himself; I had long been envious of his writing and editing consulting business. His booming voice, which could speak a handful of intimidating-sounding Russian phrases to phone solicitors, exuded self-assurance. He had the passion and the confidence. I had the former, but lacked the latter.

Until that day.

The day my father died was the day I acknowledged that I was a writer. Not because I wanted to write eulogies, but because I could communicate. Make people feel. Make people understand. All with the power of a handful of well-chosen words.

I forced myself to channel his passion and confidence on the day of his death and on the days that followed. It wasn’t easy.

Becoming a writer after that almost seemed like destiny. As if he were passing the torch to me.

And when I finally summoned the confidence to start my own business six years later, I kept a little bit of him in the business’s name. Every success of mine is one of his. He’s with me every step of the way.

With every day, the ache is a little less and the confidence is a little more. I’m proud to follow in his footsteps. And I hope he’d be proud, too.


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