Congratulations to Elizabeth A. Pickart for Winning the October 2018 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The challenge was to write an essay that answered this question:

Tell us about a time you worked really hard for something.
Did you achieve your goal? What did you learn from the experience?

Elizabeth explains how a dream-gone-bad is sometimes still a dream-achieved. Enjoy her winning submission:


“Please send us book two—if accepted, we’ll be looking at a February 2019 publishing date.”

I stared at the email, completely stunned. This was the moment I’d been waiting for all my life. A publishing contract! Three weeks before, I had submitted book one, briefly mentioning that book two was also finished. But I never expected them to request book two—not so soon! Yes, it was completed, but was it polished? Was it completely line-by-line, word-by-word obsessively edited? No.

“Mom! I need you!” I screeched over the phone, now in full-blown panic mode.

My mom, a retired English teacher, has always been my editor, my go-to person for writing questions, and my rock. I couldn’t possibly do this without her.

 It took us three days. For seventy-two bleary-eyed hours, I checked and double-checked every last word, snatching hours of sleep when I could—when my whirling brain would shut off for a little while. I’d never worked so hard in my life. Not in college getting my bachelor’s degree. Not in graduate school getting my master’s degree. But here at home, at my kitchen table, with my kids running in and out on summer vacation, editing painstakingly with my mother over the phone to meet a deadline—a deadline on a dream I’d been dreaming my entire life.

And we did it—we pulled it off! All 193 pages. I crossed my fingers and submitted it.

It was accepted!

I was beyond ecstatic—completely giddy that my “impossible” childhood dream was coming true.

Then I received the publishing contract.

Red flags flew high and mighty—waving strong through my tears.

And just like that, my dream slipped away.

I did the unthinkable—I turned down a publishing contract. A two-book publishing contract.


Was my hard work worth it?

Absolutely, without a doubt, yes!

Do I regret turning the contract down? No. I only regret not knowing all the “little things that are really big things” in the publishing world. But I’m learning. And this experience taught me many things—even some things I wish I hadn’t learned, because now my trust is a little rattled, my perception a little jaded, my heart a little wary. But that’s okay. Because I also learned just how deeply I believe in my book series—and in myself. Now, when the right contract comes along, the contract that will help my book series soar to heights greater than I ever imagined, I will be ready. And I will rise to meet challenges I don’t even know exist.

Because, at the end of the day, I am a writer. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. Being a writer is simultaneously the hardest, most gut-wrenching challenge I’ve ever attempted and brings me the most fulfilling, soul-feeding joy I’ve ever experienced.

And it’s my passion.

Is writing hard work? Absolutely.

So is chasing dreams.

But being true to myself and trusting in the talents I’ve been blessed with?

Well, that’s how I learned to fly.