a breakfast serial

One bite-sized story every morning to uplift, motivate, or provoke thought.

my letter of note

< by Amy Beth Frye >

I met my mentor as a senior at Indiana University. He referred to me as his protégé, and his feedback on my writing proved invaluable. He inspired me — not to mention he changed the course of my life, but more on that later. My mentor was Michael, and his current resume reads something like this: Wrote his first novel as a 20-year-old sophomore in the dorms of IU before graduating 2005; nominated as IU’s Outstanding Young Alum in 2008; winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; nominated for the Edgar, Quill, Shamus, and Barry awards; books translated into 20 languages; praised by Stephen King, James Patterson, and Dennis Lehane. As of August 2012, he’s written nine novels, his most recent titled The Prophet. One reviewer raved he was “among the best there is. And even that praise falls short.”

As a young college senior, I appreciated his thoughts and his encouragement as I considered what my next card would be in this game called life. Though I didn’t know exactly what that would be, Michael did. My dream to work at a magazine in New York City ultimately became a reality, and it all started with his simple suggestion that I apply to the Columbia Publishing Course at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

With his referral, I was admitted to the program. The reference letter he wrote for me? I kept it. And I’ve treasured it. It’s a powerful letter that testifies to my skills and continues to instill in me the same confidence and drive as it did when I first read it.

Here goes: “I’m writing on behalf of a former student at the Indiana University School of Journalism, Amy Beth Frye, who is applying for your fine publishing program. Applying, I have to add, with my encouragement, as I know a little about the Columbia Publishing Course and a lot about Amy, and believe it would be a fine match…The qualities that have so impressed me….are qualities shared by Amydiligence, intelligence, ambition, tenacity, and a love of the craftand I’m sure she’d be an excellent fit with a fine tradition….I taught Amy for one semester at Indiana and have remained in contact since, as she’s often sought advice, suggestions, and critiques. Note the word critiques. How many college students are actively seeking criticism on their writing, decisions, actions, or any element of their lives? Amy is an exception. She wants input that counts, input that challenges, and she responds to it as well as any student I’ve ever seen. She’s a sensitive young woman but extremely strong, with a fine mind and one of the best work ethics I’ve seen in and out of the classroom. She possesses every quality of mind and personality that I would want to find in an editor.”

After the Columbia Publishing Course, I went on to work at The Knot weddings magazine for a year before I realized New York City just wasn’t for me. So I quit my “dream” job, moved back home to Chicago, and have since been working towards a new dream.

But that one letter, written to open a door toward one career, has since propelled and empowered me to think bigger and to explore other avenues. And in my most recent career reevaluation, it did just that. His words have transcended the academic chapter of my life and have proved more powerful and more encouraging than ever before.

7 Comments»

  Jorie wrote @

Love this letter of inspiration, Amy. Keep it forever. What a great motivator!

  Amy wrote @

Thanks, Jor 🙂

  Jackie Frye wrote @

Outstanding!😍

  Amy wrote @

Thanks, mom! 🙂

  Larry Who wrote @

One person can make a big difference in another person’s life. Very inspiring.

  Amy wrote @

Thank you for reading! I absolutely agree. I’m not even sure Michael realizes the degree to which he’s inspired me. Have a splendid weekend!

  Arionne Alyssa (@arialyssa) wrote @

That’s so awesome! 🙂


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