Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The month draws to a close...

One day left in March, and since I work tomorrow I doubt I'll be posting any wrap-up then, so how about today instead? I haven't finished editing my book, but I'm over halfway there. As I've already said, I feel much, much more proud of this product than the first round. It's got better flow, and thankfully my four wonderful editors not only caught a huge amount of my mistakes, but they made excellent suggestions as well. Many thanks to Katie Kelch, Amber LaFountain, Katie Smith and Laurie Gross for reading my book last year and giving me your feedback. I will say that the random underlines that my cousin Kate provided me throughout the novel don't give much guidance as to what she meant, but she's excused since she read the book while feeding her baby.

I have decided on my challenge for April and it is from a suggestion one of my wonderful friends provided me. See? It does pay to beg for help each month. However, as is my tradition, I will not reveal what the challenge is until April 1. Let's just say it involves my feet and a lot of sidewalk.

Thanks again for reading. I realize the majority of the time I post things, it's neither witty nor entertaining but for some gosh-darn reason you guys keep reading anyway. Probably just in the hopes that you're going to get lucky and hit the one post that actually is funny. Today's not that day, and the forecast for tomorrow doesn't look so hot either. Sorry, dude.

The picture above is my super high-tech book editing station. Yes, I am using both my tv tray and a dining room chair to hold the copies of my book. Looking at that pic again, it makes me look kinda messy, which I guess is...true. Dangit.

Monday, March 28, 2011


I am shocked to report I received another wonderful response to my February challenge that included a gift card! This response is from New Balance shoes (by now you know how much I love them, since they're made in America). Their letter reads as follows:

"Dear Ms. Smith, Thank you for contacting New Balance! We are grateful that you took the time to express your thoughts and concerns about our products and services. Total customer satisfaction is very important to us and we appreciate your feedback. New Balance proudly relies on our manufacturing associates to produces a quarter of our North American footwear worn by consumers in the US each year. We are proud to invest in American workers who provide some of the greatest working spirit, commitment to advancement and ingenuity known in the industrial world. In addition, we would like to thank you for your continued customer support. To express our gratitude, we have included a gift certificate to be redeemed with your next purchase through our online retailer Please let us know if you have any additional questions by email or at 1-800-622-1218. Have a good day! Sincerely, James Duprey"

So I'm now the proud recipient of a $10 certificate for Hallman Lindsay Paints and a $25 gift card from New Balance. And I didn't even ask for a response from any of them! Cool!

As March draws to a close, I know for certain I won't finish proofreading my book in time, which is ok. The spark to finish it has been rekindled inside of me, and I can't wait to be done! Especially considering the idea for my next book is taking shape in my mind, and I'm going to need to pour it out onto paper soon before I forget it!

I'm taking suggestions for challenges for the upcoming month. I have a few that I can fall back on if nothing better comes up, but I am hoping someone will come up with a good one for me! You can post it here or facebook it to me! Thanks for reading!

And can you tell spring is on the way and I'm breaking out of my winter doldrums by how many exclamation points I used in this post!? WOW! Exclamation points are the BEST! So are CAPITAL LETTERS!!!!!!! But the very best is CAPITAL LETTERS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS USED IN A SENTENCE TOGETHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I need to eat less sugar.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another response to my Feb. challenge!

I received another response to my February challenge, and this one wins the prize for the largest monetary value. You may remember that I wrote to the Hallman Lindsay Paint Company to tell them that I admired the quality of their product and the fact that not only is it made in America- it's made in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin! I painted the bricks on the lower portion of my house with it last summer and I will say it is the thickest paint I've ever used. It also covered in just one coat, which is something a lot of other paints advertise but lie about. Anyway, here is what their letter says:

"Dear Ms. Smith:
Thank you very much for your February letter to our company! We were very glad to hear about your positive store experience with our staff in Manitowoc, and that you were impressed with the high quality of the paint we make here in Wisconsin. We very much appreciate your efforts to let other people know about our company and our paint! Without loyal customers like you in Wisconsin, we wouldn't be able to continue our business. We hope to see you in our stores again soon. Please find enclosed a gift certificate for $10.00 towards your next purchase at any of our stores. If you are coming through Sun Prairie, let us know- we'd be happy to give you a tour of the plant! Many thanks again for your support of our family owned, Wisconsin-based company. Sincerely, Renee Kalvestrand Marketing Director"

Cool, huh? I never imagined I would get anything worth actual money out of this! I almost can't wait for my next painting project so I can use the gift certificate! And I'm planning on being down near Sun Prairie in June, so what better way to spend a beautiful summer day than touring a pain factory (ok, I'm joking a little bit here.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sometimes someone touches your heart...

Well, as promised, I am going to share with you a wonderful card I received in the mail this week in response to my challenges. It's from my friend Cameo, and it didn't make my day- it made my week! It reads as follows:
"Annie, Hello there! As you are my inspiration, I thought it only fitting that you should receive the first card. I started to make a list of things and people who make me happy and let them know. It is a much better pastime than worrying over the "thorns" that are in the way. A whole year with challenges, it is such an admirable goal. You might find you'll be changed by the experience:) ! I made a list, and wanted to start in April, but I hit 40 people/places in the blink of an eye! So I began today 3/11/11 and I will see how far I can go. 1 person a day, and if I need to add more to my list, well I'll just keep writing! Thank you for being my inspiration. Thank you for your challenges and your blog, I am a fan! Happiness and blessings, Cameo"

I told a few people that I didn't set out to inspire others. I set out to see if I could just complete 12 different challenges. But I quickly realized, just a few days into January, that I DID want to inspire others! I love that I got other people to pay attention to where everything they buy is made, whether that is America or China. I love that I have given people feedback that they value, whether that be my favorite author or my favorite bike company. I guess without initially meaning to, I am trying to spark a change (however small) in those around me. Everyone likes to be appreciated, but of course it means more coming from a dear friend than from Menards!

Cameo, I'm honored that I inspired you to let those who mean the most to you know how you feel. I want to thank you for choosing me to be the first recipient of a card. And I really hope that everyone reading this can do one little thing to positively impact someone else's life. (Sound like the movie Pay it Forward? Tough.) When you think about it, that's what I'm trying to do: encourage others to make the world a better place. I dare you...what will you do?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fan mail continues to pour in...

I've still been receiving feedback from my February challenge, although I also got a small disappointment. My letter to Adam Richman (the adorable host of Man vs Food) was returned unopened. I guess this means my chances of meeting and marrying him are fairly small since I can't even get a letter to him :(

But on a happier note, a few days ago I got a letter from the author Janet Evanovich. It reads: "Andrea, great to hear from you. You'll have to excuse the semi-form letter. I love getting mail, and I read every single letter that comes in, but I've had to stop handwriting responses. Too many letters and not enough time. Hope you continue to enjoy my books and thanks for taking the time to write. Fondly, Janet" (signed by hand). So that was pretty neat! Today I received a response letter from General Mills after I had shared with them how much I enjoyed their Fiber One cereals, granola bars, etc. They wrote: "Dear Ms. Smith: Thank you for contacting General Mills regarding Fiber One granola bars. We appreciate the time you have taken to share your positive feedback with us. We will be very happy to pass on your comments to the product team. We are committed to creating the highest quality products for our consumers. Feedback such as yours helps us to achieve this goal for the future. We appreciate your loyalty and hope you continue to enjoy our products. Sincerely, Kristin Wynn"

I would have to say I'm pretty impressed with the feedback I've received. I never once intended to get anything back, so I'd say the response has been great. I think that makes a total of six or seven people/companies that I've heard back from. Out of 28 days in the month, that's about 1 in 4 return rate. Pretty cool!

I am, however, saving the very best response for its own post. Stay tuned- tomorrow I'll share a really touching card I received in the mail from a wonderful friend in regards to my YEAR OF CHALLENGES!

Now, for an update regarding this month's challenge: I continue to KICK BUTT at editing my book. I feel like I've made some huge improvements, with my proof being that I'm only on page 67 out of 266 pages of the book. I am going over it with a fine-toothed comb, moving portions around, changing the wording, etc, and I really feel like I'm going to turn out a killer product. However, I don't think I'm going to be able to finish this challenge by the end of the month. Luckily, that wasn't part of the challenge- it was only to consistently work on it 15 minutes a day. Like I said, stay tuned! There's more to come tomorrow!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The best response I've received!

Yesterday I received in the mail the very best response to my February challenge that I've received so far. Yes, I would even say it was better than my signed picture of Bob Barker. It was a little envelope that obviously contained a thank you note, but I didn't recognize the name or the address of the sender. I opened the card and suddenly it hit me- I had received a personalized thank you note from one of my new favorite authors, Lynn Austin. She writes some of the most beautiful Christian novels that I've ever read, and I had let her know how they touched my heart and how I couldn't wait to read everything she had written. I also told her part of my purpose for writing my letters was to bring some happiness into other people's lives, and my hope was that they would spread it around (kind of like the movie Pay It Forward). I was fairly certain she wouldn't even receive my letter because I could only find the address for her publisher, but it was so neat that they got my letter to her. Here is what she wrote me, in her own handwriting:

"Dear Andrea, Thank you so much for taking the time to write and tell me how much you've enjoyed my books. I think it's a wonderful idea to write an encouraging letter every day! I know that you've certainly made my day. Thank you! I think we'll be very surprised when we get to Heaven to find out how much those "little things" really meant for Christ's Kingdom. I hope you continue to enjoy my stories and that they are a blessing to you ---Lynn"

Isn't that just the coolest? I had tears in my eyes as I read her letter. I can't believe a real author took the time to send me a card like that. And now, knowing how much it can mean to someone to receive something like that, I'll make sure to send a note to recognize all 4 pieces of fan mail I'll receive once my book is published ;)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Update update update

Well, as the month of February drew to a close I had a few fun surprises. I received an envelope from Trek with 6 stickers in it. I had sent them a letter telling them how much I love my Trek bike and how I appreciate their headquarters is in Waterloo, Wisconsin! I thought it was pretty funny that they didn't send me a letter or anything, just 6 stickers in an envelope. Then I received a letter from Dyson (because I love my Dyson Animal vacuum so much) and they wrote,
"Dear Andrea, Thank you for your letter. We're pleased that you are enjoying your purchase and we appreciate your support. Comments from consumers who use our machines over time are very valuable to development of future products. You might be interest to know that one third of the people at Dyson are engineers and scientists who are constantly challenging and improving existing technologies. Dyson is committed to absolute customer satisfaction." Then they went on to tell me how to contact them (although obviously I already KNOW THAT!). So that was cool.

Then, I got a letter from Menards. I'm sure you know how much I love that store and how much money I spend there. I also totally love that they send me a birthday card with a gift certificate for a free gift and also how they have "Made in America" sales. This is what their letter said:
"Dear Andrea: Thank you for taking the time to write and for the business you have given us. We appreciate your comments about the birthday gift and products made in America and have taken the liberty of forwarding a copy of your letter to those involved so they may enjoy them also. We value your business and look forward to serving you in the future. Sincerely, Arlene Krueger" (signed by a real person!)

I'm pretty excited that I got several responses from my letters. I certainly never expected any feedback, so it was pretty neat. Now, to talk about this month's challenge. I've been...lazy. Actually, I haven't been lazy so much as I've been super busy, so this month's goal had kinda fallen by the wayside. Yesterday I finally had some time off so I spent an hour or so editing my book. Today I've spent another half an hour, and I only have another half an hour to go before I'm all caught up. I feel really good about the changes I'm making, and hopefully it will turn out to be a book that is worth your time to read! Thanks for reading my blog, friend. I'll try to keep it fresh for you.

Oh, can I add that we started a fitness challenge at work? The winning team gets ipod shuffles, so basically I HAVE TO WIN! I've been exercising my butt off (I wish that would really happen) and I am finding it challenging to participate in two challenges at once (haha, play on words. Get it?) I can use your encouragement to keep me active. Thanks in advance. I'll let you listen to my ipod shuffle once I win. :)

And, Lent started today so I've given up chocolate. That's 3 challenges! EEK!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Challenge #3 begins today!

Before I begin talking about this month's challenge, I must add that my final complementary letter from yesterday went to Menard's. I complimented them on how many of their products are made in America and how much I enjoyed their Made in America sale. Thanks to my sister for the idea. And thanks also to Amber, Ken and Ariel who gave me many ideas throughout the month.

This month I had intended to eat vegetarian. Yesterday I went to the store to purchase ingredients for a meal and was shocked at how expensive it can be when you're making meals that contain 4 different types of fresh herbs. Then my brilliant friend Amber suggested I wait to go vegetarian until a month when produce is fresh locally so I won't spend an arm and a leg. I thought that was a brilliant idea, so instead of being vegetarian I have decided to make March "Edit My Book" month.

You may or may not know that I wrote a book last's amazing what you can accomplish when you spend 5 minutes a day writing! After slightly more than a year, I finished writing my book and gave it to several friends for feedback. After I received their feedback I did...nothing. I just set my book aside and haven't touched it since. My dream, like anyone else who writes a book, is to have it published. I decided this month I would spend 15 minutes a day revising my novel or spending time researching how to get your book published, etc. I'm very hopeful that by the end of the month I will have an excellent product that I am proud of and can send off to publishers. I'm assuming it will take a few months to get an agent, a contract, etc, so probably by mid-Sept you can expect to see me on Oprah's Book Club. I'm very hopeful that spending 3 times more minutes revising my book than I spent writing it will help me iron out some of the kinks. And I promise that when I publish my book and you buy a copy, I will sign it. This offer is only for my closest 196 friends on Facebook, so act now! :)