Kathryn Wenzel: May 2015 Barefoot Writing Challenge Winner

Barefoot Writer Kathryn Wenzel

Barefoot Writer Kathryn Wenzel

Congratulations to Kathryn Wenzel for Winning the May 2015 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

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

Memorial Day in the U.S. is a day of remembrance. Most of us have a person, place, or event that made us want to be a writer. This Memorial Day, who or what would you like to honor/remember as your writing catalyst?

Kathryn shared a touching tribute to her third grade teacher, Mrs. Webb, who gave her the freedom to grow as a young writer, and most importantly, laid down a “foundation of acceptance.”

Read Kathryn’s winning submission to discover what this means …

As Memorial Day quickly approaches, people often stop and consider their loved ones who have departed, remembering the fun and laughter of days gone by. As I consider those who have influenced my life and writing, I think of my third grade teacher. Mrs. Webb was a real jewel.

To Mrs. Webb, everything her students wrote was special. Her efforts to help us make sense included admonishing us to draw pictures to illustrate our stories, to look up long words in our student dictionaries, and to spend extra time to make cursive capital letters. When we wrote about our puppies and baby brothers she always gave us stars and big A’s to show her approval.

Mrs. Webb always encouraged her students to read their creations aloud to the class. Some were afraid to voice their experiences aloud, but as the year went by, more and more of us looked forward to sharing what we had written. If we wrote a short story or a poem and showed it to her, Mrs. Webb would stop what the class was doing and ask for everyone’s attention so the student could share their accomplishment.

Of all the teachers I was educated by, Mrs. Webb was the kindest and the most encouraging for students who were learning to share their inner feelings, their experiences, and their creativity. I will always remember her kind words and enthusiasm for her students. This is the type of teacher I have striven to be: a mentor of creative expression.

She took time each day to give us room for expression. Sometimes we would turn out the lights and put our heads down to think. Sometimes we would listen to classical music. Sometimes we would take a walk outside when it wasn’t recess and then go into the room quietly so we could write about what we had just seen or felt. To me, this was glorious.

Now, as I look forward to a career in writing, I plan to use some of these same triggers to get the creative juices moving. Sometimes I will write things out in beautiful cursive script. Sometimes I will go for a walk to feel the breezes and smell the blossoms. Sometimes I will sit quietly in the semi-darkness to allow thoughts to congeal. Sometimes I will read my creations aloud to anyone and to no one.

I have the freedom to grow as a writer because Mrs. Webb laid down a foundation of acceptance. She treasured each attempt at expression and taught us to learn from mistakes, to never quit, but to keep working until we were satisfied.

Just thinking about Mrs. Webb inspires me to write again.



  1. This is an eloquent, evocative and elegant entry – congratulations Kathryn! #HUGSSS

    Your third grade teacher reminds me of my eighth-grade teacher who showed me that falling in love with words is the only way to sustain a career in writing!

    Each and every syllable of your prose is dipped in love, dear friend <3 Your teacher will be hella proud of you!

    BEST wishes

    • Thank you very much for your kind words, Krithika. It is all true and I wish Mrs. Webb were alive today so that I could thank her as an adult. I truly loved her as a teacher and I strive to give students that same enthusiasm that she transferred into my soul.

    • Sharyn Inzunza’s essay grabs my everything! ALL her sentences are polished gems, giving sparkle to the topic challenge. I read her winning piece over and over and ask permission to use it, or parts of it for a painting. A visual concept built with killer text around an essay—with each supporting the other—would team painting fun with words … towards a unique creative product!

  2. Hi Kathryn,

    With the school year winding down, your essay is timely; it provides an opportunity to put the stress of standardized testing and looming education reforms aside for a moment…

    Your essay allows us to think about the great teachers – past and present – who teach not by the book, but from the heart.

    Thank you!


  3. Hi Sharyn,
    I didn’t realize there was a comment section here or I would have answered long ago. The new school year has started here and I am reminded of the impact that a teacher can have on young, impressionable minds. We are training future doctors, lawyers, writers and artists. They need inspiration as well as careful pedagogy and I wish teachers did not feel compelled to simply “teach to the test”. The positive impact of a loving teacher is powerful enough to last a lifetime!

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