Nancy Tossell: June 2015 Barefoot Writing Challenge Winner

Essay challenge winner Nancy Tossell

Barefoot Writer Nancy Tossell

Congratulations to Nancy Tossell for Winning the June 2015 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

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

Talk about a time your writing skills benefited you personally. Did you get Glicken (i.e., free perks or bonuses in addition to writing fees)? Did you solve a problem, help out a friend or family member, or something else?

Nancy shared a lovely story about the avalanche of benefits that resulted from putting herself out there while helping a friend with a writing project.

The Classic “Win-Win” Scenario

I know … “win-win” is a cliché … overused and worn out. I hate to use it, but sometimes the phrase just works.

I did a favor for my friend, Jeanette … and we both won something. The outcome may be different from what you’d expect, but it was better than we both anticipated.

Here’s the situation …

Jeanette’s one of those brave souls who, after more than 20 years of banking, returned to school in her 50s to become an Interior Designer. She graduated just in time for the real estate crash.

Since jobs were scarce, she went out on her own, specializing in Universal Design for the elder population.

We met through networking and became friends.

Last year, she entered a contest by the National Association of Interior Designers.

It pitted her against many well-established designers … and her chances of winning were slim. But she decided to take the risk, and submitted a project she’d done for an 87-year-old woman.

The project was a makeover of a 65-year-old house … in a historic neighborhood. (In Phoenix, anything over 60 years old is historic!)

Contest requirements included a sizable entry fee, ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures, and text to explain each picture. She also needed to summarize the purpose, execution, and success in meeting the client’s goals.

Putting the pictures together was easy. Her writing was … well, to put it nicely … not good.

That’s where I came in. I offered to do the writing for her.

Since I knew nothing about interior design, we discussed the project, her client, and the challenge of maintaining the historical facade. Then we reviewed past contest winners to see how they presented their work.

With limits of 160 words for the summary and two to three sentences for each photo … a lot of information needed to be crammed into very little space.

But we put it together, she submitted her entry … and … we waited five weeks for the outcome.

Now you’re probably expecting me to tell you she won.

She didn’t.

Next would be the “we learned a lot by doing this.” Without a doubt, we learned a lot … and enjoyed working together.

And actually, the outcome was much better for both of us …

Another, well-established designer noticed her work and knew of a project needing her expertise. This led to a referral, and a job, and more referrals, and more jobs.

And what did I get out of this?

A job … and referrals … and more jobs.

Jeanette’s increased business gave her the budget to hire a writer … namely me. You can see my monthly articles on her website,

One of the things I love about writing is the ability to help others, especially small business owners. The pay is lower, but the satisfaction is more than enough “Glicken” to make up for it.


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