Contest Information           

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Meet the Final 6 

     My name is Andrew Hannah from Manchester, England; I'm currently working on becoming an author. My dream is to become a successful author.
 

     I self-published a book last year called ‘PREY’. Looking back at it now with a newfound perspective, I wish I would have spent more time on it. Knowing what I know now, I would have done things very differently; this was a massive learning experience for me. 
 

     I have had a lot of help over the past few months from an already established author who has helped me, given me advice, and even helped to improve my confidence.  Over the past several months, I have spent my time writing short stories of many genres to practice and improve my writing skills in every way that I can. In the future, I plan to focus on my writing, improve and perfect it in every way. For my next step towards my goal, I have decided to use books and characters from the public domain and bring these classic stories into the modern age.  I plan on using a modern style of writing while paying respect to the authors who created these tales by not steering to far from the original outline of the stories. My idea is to bring these three classic stories under one umbrella and to tell one story from them in a trilogy of books. 
     

     I am starting this project by writing a modern-day version of, ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, this should be finished in the next month or so. Once this is complete, I will be writing ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, based in the same fictional town as the former and finish the trilogy off with ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’, tying it all in with a twist. 
My plans after this are to begin a fantasy novel that I have been planning for many years, which I have been saving until I feel my writing skills are good enough to carry this story into the future due to the complex storyline and the huge character developments that I will be implementing.
     

      Since I was a six-year-old child, I have been writing ever since the first time I had to write a story about how chips are made. When I was nine years old, an author came to my school and did an assembly about his life and how he became an author; I remember being in such awe of this man. That day I decided that I wanted to be a writer. Growing up I would write stories of my favourite characters from TV; I must have written at least fifty short stories about batman. I was from a rough area, and my friends lived lives of crime; my parents were good, loving parents and pushed me to do well at school to make a life for myself when I grew up. I never told anybody of my dream to be a writer, I was embarrassed and thought people would laugh or judge me or it would ruin my stupid tough-guy persona, but in truth, it truly was a persona. When I wrote, it was an escape from a life I wanted to escape, and it was my thing, only I knew about it.
When I was just fifteen years old, I moved to another part of the country and from then on, I had to work to survive, and my dream of becoming an author went out the window, well at least I thought it had at the time especially when my first child was born when I was only nineteen years old. 

 

     I have had many jobs in different professions throughout my life but still, hold on to my dream of becoming an author one day. I continued to write in my spare time, but never did I believe that I would do it professionally.
Back in 2019, I worked as a debt collector; I hated and resented the job and was disgusted in the person I had become. I suffered from severe depression and anxiety to the point that I did not even want to get up in the morning and would often have panic attacks. I began to write a story as an escape from my unhappy life. Seven months later, when I had nearly completed my manuscript, I lost my job due to the Covid-19 pandemic. On the very same day, I self-published my novel. Something changed in me that day, I decided to start calling myself an author. I was no longer in a job I hated and I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.  I physically felt lighter, my relationship with my two children got better and stronger, and I started believing in myself. I began to earn enough money from book sales to continue living life the way I had before losing my job. 
     

     I read a book called ‘The Secret’, which helped me with my self-belief, confidence and I began to look at the world in a different light; the things I wanted out of life gravitated towards me.
I believe that I should win this contest because I have a dream that I will never give up on, a dream that I have had since I was a six-year-old boy writing a story at school about a chip. I will not give up until I become an inspiring author and I will continue to better myself as a human being and build a life for my two children and me. I want them to have the life that I never had and provide them with the things I could not have, and most importantly, to be a man they can look up to and respect. 
      This is not just about my children and me though it is about everyone else too, so that people like me can see that they can achieve their dreams. Hopefully, one day I will help people achieve their dreams too, like somebody who has helped me achieve mine. 

Thank you,

Andrew Hannah

     My biggest dream is to have a traditional publisher publish my books and in turn, help others regain their strength to deal with whatever they are facing at this point in their lives. I write many different genres, including a children’s series of books about getting off the pacifier, a book about what happens when a loved one dies, I created a fantasy world (with almost a Hobbit/Harry Potter feel to it), quite a few horror stories and my memoir, which chronicles my abuse growing up and how I got away from it all to start a new healthy life. I am also writing a book on how to help someone currently in the terrible situations I grew up in, to get out and gain strength. I have written and self-published self-help books as well. It has always been a dream of mine to meet someone who has read one of my books, say how much it has changed their life for the better. 

 

     Anyone who has ever held a conversation with me will tell you I am a very positive person. I love life! I see the good in everyone and everything.

 

     You would never know it unless I told you, but I have lived a very difficult, painful life. But I never let it get to me. I refuse to be squashed down! As a child, I never let anyone know what was going on in my life. I chose to remain positive and look for those good things in my day instead of dwelling on the bad things that I couldn’t change. I had to do this so no one would ever know what I went through on a daily basis. For I had a terrible secret. And no one could ever know.  I grew up being horribly abused. It started with my father and continued to my boyfriends. The abuse just continued from one person to the other. From the time I was born I was used and abused, being raped, beaten, broken and repeatedly sold, and then when I couldn’t take anymore, I almost took my own life. The reason I didn’t do it is I was afraid of surviving and having to explain why I felt the need to do it in the first place. And at that time in my life, I couldn’t admit what was going on. I was ashamed and felt guilty because I was told it was my fault. All the abuse was because I did or didn’t do something. I made THEM do what they did to me to keep me in line. To teach me a lesson. Or so they told me. It took a very long time to disbelieve those lies. But with lots of therapy and the support of a loving, patient husband, I have learned to trust myself and listen to my inner voice. And with God’s love, I have learned that I am enough, just the way I am. I am not broken; I am merely reborn as a stronger, more positive me. A phoenix, if you will. And the love I now have for myself enables me to love others fully. I truly appreciate life and all the good things in it. 

     

     My family is the most important thing to me. I am happily married to a wonderfully supportive and loving man now, and together we have three incredible daughters. One of whom has unfortunately been chronically ill for the last 6 years. Hospitals, feeding tubes, tons of medication, seizures and sleepless nights are very normal for me. Alarms that go off in the middle of the night because of dangerously low blood sugar, helicopter rides to the trauma unit, tons of tests and Epi pen injections for anaphylactic reactions are all big parts of my life. Even my dog is chronically ill— she has epilepsy! You might think that with all that craziness I would not have any time for dreams.  But I make the time.  Dreams are so important. They give a person hope that the future will be a better place. They give you drive and motivation and the will to keep going. So I write my books and illustrate them (I draw on paper and digitally with Procreate on my iPad) while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, while waiting in the car, while in the ER waiting for test results and while waiting for my daughter’s blood sugar to go up or come down. I create before bed, I create early in the morning before anyone else gets up, and I create any time there is a free moment. I am actually writing this while my daughter is in surgery, having a procedure done! I create for me and my sanity, I create to help others and I create to show my kids that you should always follow your dreams. They need to know how important dreams are.

     

     I’m the kind of person who is always volunteering and I love to do good for other people. Before COVID hit, I used to volunteer at the local community center by teaching art on Friday nights, creating all the props for the haunted maze we have every Halloween, and through the various other events held there for the residents of our town. I have a big heart and I have a need to help those that need my help, whether it is through answering a simple question online about how to care for a pet, bringing someone a hot meal, or even by giving a person in a bad situation a place to stay for awhile. If you need me, I will always be there to offer any assistance I can in any way. 

     

     I have discovered that life is precious, and the gifts God gave me are not to be wasted. If I were to win this contest, I would really benefit from the coaching sessions. They would really help me focus my energy in one area and hopefully help me achieve my lifelong dream of being a “real” published author who can change people’s lives with my work. I have known for a long time that if I can survive everything I have been through, it’s for a good reason and I have great things to bestow on this world. Through my writing and my art, I will change lives for the better! 

 

 

Thank you,

Melissa Kehm

My name is Rebecca, and I am sixty-two years old. The fact that I am entering a competition is so unlike me!

 

I have always had the dream of creating a new company. I have always stopped myself because it is a scary world of information out there. Too much to sort through - just to start. My dream has always been pushed to the waste side because of this fear.

 

I have never had a coach to help me. I look forward to having someone guide the way. I want to help others in the future.

 

My store would be a co-op for new artists. I'd help get them on their feet in the art world: they would sell their products and grow through the exposure. I would love to join forces with others, share networks, and borrow each other's tools and equipment. We would be a community.

 

Working together is the key to success and I hope to create that world for others.

 

Thank you, 

Rebecca Barter

 

BACKGROUND STORY WAS ASKED TO BE REMOVED FOR POSTING PURPOSES. 

THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENT WAS 1,000 WORDS

 

 My idea for a book would be my journey and transformation over the past four years, from 2017 through 2021. I have a few objectives and dreams I hope to achieve with the writing of the book. One objective is improvement. The experience of writing my story will improve my communication and cognitive skills, as well as others I have not yet identified as impacted. Another objective is closure. The timeframe and major pieces of my story deal with the passing of my parents. The act of recounting the events and crafting the story for the book will help me with closure. Another objective is inspiration. I hope my story inspires others who may be facing similar circumstances as I did. I also hope that being a published author inspires others to also consider authorship. A dream I hope to, someday, achieve is to be a writer. Writing my story may lead to a change in profession. I would love to be a bestselling author someday. I know winning the contest will not make this dream come true even after writing a book, but I believe winning the contest will set me on a trajectory to eventually achieve my dream. I pick up my story in March of 2017. At the time I was 44 years old. I worked as a trainer at a local bank. I was doing well at work, but I was not making “bank.” Finances were tight, but not as tight as they were in my 20s. Physically, I smoked, I drank heavily, I was overweight and suffering through another painful bout of eczema. I was living in South Philadelphia with my roommate. I have lived with my roommate since May 1996. It has always been a platonic relationship. My parents were still alive. As an adult child, I had grown distant from my parents. I was busy living my life and not paying much attention to my parents. Despite living 17 miles away, I rarely saw them. I would visit when the mood struck me, or they called me to visit. I would take them to dinner on special holidays, such as Mother’s Day. My relationship with my parents was about to change. I got a phone call from my father the first Friday night in March. My mother had a stroke and was in the hospital. She was not paralyzed but was suffering speech and memory issues. My parents were both in their late 70s at the time. My father was constantly in and out of the hospital for heart and lung problems since he was in his late 50s. My mother, up to this point, remained relatively healthy, requiring only mild blood pressure medication. I usually was visiting my father in the hospital, now it was my mother. For the next few months, I became more involved with my parents. I was at the hospital visiting my mother as often as I could visit. My father was barred from visiting my mother at the hospital because he had an incontinence issue at the hospital while visiting my mother. Eventually, my mother recovered and could return home. I spent more work from home days at my parents’ house to help my parents with care and housework. Focusing more on the care of my parents started the chain of events that I attribute to my transformation. Being concerned with the health and wellbeing of my parents, as well as being at my wits end with my eczema led me to quit smoking after 30 years in May 2017. I got a promotion at work to senior facilitator in August 2017 and was placed in charge of a new project and team in August 2017. Just as things were starting to change, seemingly for the better, some unfortunate events happened. My house became infested with fleas in September 2017. It took several months to eventually irradicate the fleas. This prevented me from entertaining at the holidays as I was accustomed to. The anguish caused by the relentless flea infestation put a strain on my relationship with my roommate. My project at work began treading water. Rumblings of dissatisfaction from project team members with my handling of the project started circulating, calling into question my abilities. My mother had a relapse and suffered another stroke in November 2017. Sadly, she never recovered and passed away on December 23, 2017. While these events were devastating, they also fueled further growth and transformation for me. With my mother gone and my father in ailing health, I became much more devoted to taking care of my father. I would be out of the house for 17-20 hours daily during weekdays driving from home, to work, to my father’s house, then back home, fitting in gym, shopping, and socialization where I could. I very rarely got more than three hours of sleep a night. With such tight schedules, my organizational skills improved. I began to care more about people in general. I also started to form a different relationship with my father. One that I feel was much deeper than I had with my father growing up. It is one that I will cherish to my grave. During this time, I changed physically. My eczema flare ups were extremely painful. I needed to take strong steroid medication to alleviate the legions and pain. As I spent more time with dad, I ended up spending less time doing physically destructive things, such as going out to bars and drinking heavily. My eczema flare ups became less frequent and severe. I needed less to no steroids. I also began to lose weight. I was always a member of the gym. I made sure to fit in a workout at least twice a week. I joined a second gym to change up and vary my workouts in August of 2018. The encouragement and motivation from others made me try and fall in love with running. I began to run races. I ran my first 5K race in October 2018, then ran two 10K races back-to-back weekends, traveling out of state for the second race. Running helped catapult my physical fitness to another level. I began to get the body I always wanted. I felt “alive” when running. The entire act was both physically grueling, mentally challenging, yet provided me a sense of calm and clarity. I continued to run races through 2019. In fact, the more I ran, the more I was able to accomplish in 2019. I started my own business in 2019. My business, GCL Professional Services, performs market research, merchandising, and compliance auditing services. The business ended 2019 profitable and continues to be profitable. I began to come into my own at work. As a facilitator, a large portion of my job involves public speaking, I reenergized my participation in Toastmasters, which in turn helped to further improve my facilitation. I also improved the training programs I managed by adding additional content to make the programs more interactive for participants. The improvements were regarded as superior by management. I was duly recognized for the improvements. I was placed on additional project teams to share my innovation. As my contributions led to successful completion of these additional projects, my credibility as a HR professional increased. I was no longer thought of as someone who “stepped in it” to get a senior level position, but as someone that earned his position. As 2019 drew to a close, I planned the introduction of a rebranded me for 2020. My successes with both my project work and my corporate citizenship work were to be recognized in March 2020 on the company intranet site. I had two speaking engagements scheduled for April 2020 to promote the partnership between the Bank and a non-profit technical school where the Bank would offer career preparation services to students. Sadly, my rebrand would have to wait for a series of setbacks 2020 would deliver to me and the world. 2020 did not start well for me. My father passed away the first Saturday in January of 2020. I felt some guilt that I was not there when my mother passed away. I was also not there when my father passed away. A company that I did consulting work for since 2006 closed on my birthday in January 2020. Then, the world went on lock down because of Covid-19 in March 2020. My rebrand showcase plans were replaced by marching orders to adapt my instructor-led in-person training programs into virtual programs. I felt that everything I went through the past three years prepared me to handle that task, as well as the other urgent projects that cropped up that required flexibility, creativity, and innovation to complete successfully. I was performing at what I considered my best levels in 2020. Everything I went through over the past three years with work and parents prepared me to be the agile leader I needed to be. As one major setback after another presented itself, most caused the pandemic, I was able to maneuver to a solution with increasing speed and effectiveness. I saw the gaps in my current experience and decided to take on additional study in the Fall and winter of 2020 and earned two HR certifications. These changes were not just confined to my professional life. I became regimented and organized with other aspects of life. I stepped up my workouts to include more strength training. I began to focus on developing relationships with other partners for my own business. I re-established communication with my uncle and aunt and planned on visiting them in June of 2020. While the world was suffering, I was in many respects thriving in 2020. When I look back, I trace the catalyst for my transformation back to March 2017. The call from my father setoff the chain of events that transformed me from that person I was four years ago. I never planned to change. I will be forever grateful that I did. Objectives I could not imagine ever accomplishing four years ago I have either done or have reimagined my objective into something meaningful and relevant to the current me. The exciting part is that the story is never truly over.

 

Thank you,

Gregory Ludwig

Countless people have inspired me.  For most of my life, I have struggled with self-worth and self-esteem.   Though sometimes, I get a spark in my own fire by setting a fire under other people and watching them succeed.   My dream would be to inspire others.  Some of the people who inspired me I knew for years.  Others, I crossed paths with for merely minutes.   But it was the power of the words they used, that made my soul sit up and listen.  That seems to be the greatest gift you could give someone – a push in the direction of where they are supposed to go.

 

I have a story that describes how I’ve tried to be inspirational.   When you look at me, one would automatically think I am having a love affair with food.   (And that’s true!)    Usually, when you see someone like me – you would never guess what I am going to reveal:  I am… a marathon runner.   Well, I was.   I haven’t run a marathon in several years, but running a marathon is one of those things you can claim throughout your life.   And I ran five-and-a-half of them.

 

I’ll be honest, I have never been very physically adept.   Growing up, I was awkward and uncoordinated.   My mother used to call me “Christopher the Klutz” right to my face.  I was your typical “get-picked-last-for-teams-in-gym-class” kid.   I was probably the last person you would ever see crossing a finish line, much less six of them.   But I am here to say, if it was possible for me, it is possible for anyone.

 

How did I get started?   Well, they say:  the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  My first step was when I used to write for a magazine when I lived in Southern California, and I was interviewing someone about fundraising efforts at an organization called AIDS Project Los Angeles.  They mentioned marathons and I said, “I would love to say I ran a marathon at least once in my lifetime, but I know I never will”.  They responded back “well, why not?”  I wasn’t a runner.   Knowing me, I probably wasn’t even in shape. 

 

However, that did not matter.  The training program I would go through would teach my body everything it needed to know about finishing a marathon and all I would have to do in return is, fundraise for them.   Now originally, I was just going to do the half-marathon they offered.  After all, it was only 13.1 miles and $2300 to raise.   But then I thought:  if I can do 13.1 miles, why can’t I do 26.2 miles?   And if I can raise $2300, why can’t I raise $4100?   All it is, is more of the same thing.  It was a mindset, I just had to fully wrap my head around it.   Like someone famous once said, “you made it this far, why not keep going?”

 

Training wasn’t the easiest thing in the world but, I was out to prove something to myself that I could FINISH something that I started.   I had to show up every Saturday morning at 7 am for about 30 weeks straight and slowly ramp up my body for the humungous task of running 26.2 miles.  I would run more than I ever thought I could put my body through.  I jogged at the beach.  I hustled through the city.  I sometimes ran with friends.   But often, I sauntered alone.   And each week that passed, my system got stronger. 

 

My first marathon was in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Part of the deal for fundraising $4100 was that they pay for your flight, your hotel stay, and your entry fee into the marathon.   Well, I went there, and I must have been taken by the beauty of the islands, because it took me over eight hours to cross the finish line.   But you know what -- I’m not embarrassed, why?   BECAUSE I FINISHED SOMETHING.  I did something I never thought I would do.    I put one foot in front of the other, and I did it again… and again… and again.  I was sweaty, I was tired, and many times over those eight hours, I wanted to sit down.  But I didn’t.

 

I knew the finish line was out there… eventually.  And as I passed each mile marker:  10… 20… 21… 22,  I kept thinking, “I made it this far, why not keep going?”  And as much as running is a solitary sport, it never really feels like you are truly alone.  You wear a race bib pinned to your shirt and you can get your name on it.   For most of the route, you will have people lining the streets – people who don’t even know you – but they are yelling your name – “Chris!  C’mon you can do it!   Chris, you’re almost there!”   I cannot even tell you the same sort of adrenaline I’ve ever felt doing something like that.

 

I finished my first marathon and then what?  I signed up for another marathon because that feeling is addictive.   When you run a marathon, the whole experience – they treat you like royalty.   It’s the closest thing you can do to becoming a minor celebrity for a few hours.   And I got better – for my second marathon, I shaved two hours off my Honolulu finishing time.

 

A huge part of inspiring others is encouraging them to do something outside of their comfort zone.   And I was so uncomfortable at first!   I’m not an athlete and I never felt like one doing marathons.   I’m just a regular person who had a challenge set out in front of him.  Of putting one foot in front of the other and to keep on going until I crossed the finish line.  I wanted to finish something, and I wanted to be able to say that I did something less than one percent of the population has done.   Because the pride I felt for myself when I went out and crossed that “finish line” was UNBELIEVABLE!   And even if running isn’t somebody’s thing, I want to inspire someone to start working on their dream (big or small) – start it and FINISH it.   

 

Thank you,

Christopher Hulse