When I was in high school, I babysat for a little girl named Michelle, who asked me, “Is Santa real?” Whoa. I went with my gut: “Santa will come for as long as you believe he will.” I doubted myself in the moment, but when Michelle’s parents returned that night, they seemed grateful and pleased.

As a writer, it’s sometimes difficult to believe in oneself. We plug away, hoping for the first—or next—big moment: signing a contract, connecting at a conference, completing a manuscript, hitting the Send button. Yes, even that is a big moment, because it means we’re trying. Still, self-doubt can linger. Receiving positive feedback or an offer is extremely validating. But try as we might not to, we often take the opposite of validation—rejection—personally.

Thankfully, though, validation shows up in other ways, too.

Jenny Shipkowski, a colleague, friend, and tutor, used my two published picture books in her lessons this summer. She extended the learning by suggesting that her students write to me. When I read the letters from Elliot and Zachary, I had my own Santa moment.

Zachary and Elliot connected with my stories. As connection is the goal of the writer, this made my day! In closing his letter, Zachary asked me WHEN, not IF, my next book is coming out. The faith of a child is pure. These letters are exactly what I needed to rekindle faith in myself. Thank you, Zachary and Elliot. And thank you, Jenny.

In the animated film A Year Without a Santa Claus, Santa thinks people don’t believe in him anymore, so he wants to cancel Christmas. But when the tables turn, exemplifying that belief in him is alive and well, that affirmation is enough for Santa to re-up.

Affirmation, in whatever form, is enough for me, too. Enough for me to continue putting forth my best effort. Writing is hard work. It’s not magic. But the potential end result – the faith of a reader – sure is.