Congratulations to Kelli Yauger for Winning the December 2022 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

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

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received as a writer?

Though her letter, Kelli shared the sweet story of how she came to love writing. Enjoy her winning submission:

Dear Grandma,

Let me start by saying how very deeply I love and miss you. You’ve been gone for 18 years, and yet, I still find myself talking to you and looking for your approval. You’ve always encouraged me to follow my dreams with passion and sincerity. I haven’t always done that, but this last year I’ve heeded your advice and started a freelance writing career.

It’s going to take a lot of hard work and persistence on my part, but because of you, I know I can do it and be good at it.

I can remember being a child and learning to read and loving books just as much you did. If I hadn’t seen you reading and writing all the time, would I have still loved it as much? I don’t know…

Even when you couldn’t see to read anymore, you never gave up on your love of books. We would go to the library and check out their extensive collection of audiobooks, and eventually you ended up checking out every one they had.

I look back fondly on my summer breaks from school, having a reading list of books I read over the summer and needing to add a separate piece of paper with it, because I read so many. If I hadn’t had you actively taking me to the library, would my life have gone in a different direction? We’ll never know, and I’m glad it all turned out the way it did.

With a strong foundation of my love for reading came my love for writing. I always kept a journal, as so many have, but I wrote like I was talking to someone. Very conversationally, and that way of writing, believe it or not, is very in demand right now.

Grandma, you wouldn’t believe how big the internet is and how easy it is to find information nowadays. All the books you could ever want, and there’s always an option for someone to read them to you. You would’ve been amazed.

I never wanted to be an author, but I did always want to write a cookbook in your honor. I believe that will be one of the things I commit to doing in the upcoming months. I know you’d be proud of the woman I became, but more importantly, I am. And I got that from you… Thank you!

With love always, Kelli