A First-Person Account by
Lynette M. Smith
When our son Byron married Rachael on November 22, 2008, instead of buying gifts for their parents to commemorate the occasion, they created lasting memories that touched our hearts. They each wrote a loving letter to their own parents, describing not only their fondest childhood memories but also the values, life lessons, and ideals they would bring to their marriage.
At the wedding rehearsal dinner, the two of them formally presented these letters in beautiful frames to my husband and me, and to Rachael's parents. Everyone was deeply moved, and we will always treasure these loving mementos because they're so much more meaningful than a purchased gift.
This made me realize that letter writing is fast becoming a lost art, yet thoughtfully written letters mean so much to those who receive them.
Late the following February I attended a presentation by George Walther, who coincidentally made a strong case for writing special letters to loved ones. Two days later I sent him an email about what my son and his wife had done, and it included the text of Byron's letter. Walther replied the same day, remarking how touched he was; and the following day he wrote again, saying that he was moved to share this idea in future presentations.
That inspired me to "share the love" on a broader scale as well. I started by emailing two wedding-planner associations; one had me write a brief article on the subject for its blog and newsletter.
Then it came to me that I should write a small tips booklet to help brides and grooms compose their thoughts and write a wonderful letter to their parents. Thanks to a workshop I had attended several years earlier by Paulette Ensign of Tips Booklets International, I already knew how to create such a booklet. In fact, during the past several months I had been thinking about writing a business-oriented tips-booklet series on good ways to write bad news, but nothing had ever come of that. (As a generally positive person, I think I was reluctant to commit to a long-term focus on bad news.)
So I began to think about the content for my booklet and had an epiphany: that this should be the start of an entire line of booklets on writing commemorative letters to loved ones on special occasions! Fortunately, I was asked at the last minute to be a substitute presenter on March 25 for Home & Small Business Alliance, a local business networking and support group I belong to; its director granted permission for me to use my presentation time as a brainstorming session on the envisioned tips booklet line. The members' input was invaluable—not only for providing tips to use in the first booklet, but also for brainstorming ideas for additional booklets.
The following day something told me I should check into the availability of the domain name, GoodWaysToWrite.com, as a marketing vehicle for my upcoming booklet. Indeed, it was available, as was its .net counterpart, so I snapped them up!
I began to write in early April. As part of a marketing package I had invested in, a telephone consultation was scheduled with Lisa Cherney of Conscious Marketing for April 22. I had originally intended to use this session to devise effective marketing approaches for my copyediting business and website, AllMyBest.com; but it came to me as I finished my first draft on the 20th that I should instead use the opportunity to ask Lisa about the best approaches for publicizing and distributing my upcoming tips booklet through trade associations and corporate sponsors. In our consultation, Lisa suggested that I write two other tips booklets and introduce them first, as volumes 1 and 2. She said that having a bride write to her groom and a groom write to his bride would be easier ideas for the wedding-related associations and sponsors to "wrap their heads around." Her advice was well timed and appreciated, and I was eager to follow it.
By late May I had a final draft for what was now to be Volume 3 and began to think from time to time about the kinds of tips to go into volumes 1 and 2. My primary focus at that point became working with my graphic designer on a logo for the series, working with my webmaster to create the structure for the website (which I envisioned as having a similar look and feel to the existing AllMyBest.com), planning how the site would be navigated, and researching shopping-cart software, and listing the many additional opportunities and occasions on which people could "share the love" by writing a treasured letter. During this entire process, my business friend Andrea Glass of WritersWay.com was my strong support system; we held weekly one-hour accountability sessions to keep us both focused and moving forward with our respective info products.
But I still hadn't started to write Volumes 1 and 2. We had an Alaska cruise-tour scheduled for late June that would depart from Seattle, and Ben and I decided to enjoy the novel experience of taking the Amtrak train up the coast for the 32-hour ride. I had brought my booklet materials along to work on them during this trip, and they were with me as we sat at L.A.'s Union Station waiting for our train, which was delayed three hours. That waiting area had rows of big, overstuffed brown leather chairs; my husband sat to my right, and a young couple sat to my left. I was interrupted in reading my paperback novel by a gently persuasive voice in my head: "Talk to them." I knew immediately what I was being asked to do.
I put my book down and struck up a conversation with the young couple. They acknowledged that they, too, were waiting for the same train. Then I said, "Do you mind my asking, are you two married?" They both looked at me funny, so I quickly added, "Okay, don't tell me. But let me tell you why I asked."
I showed them the latest PDF printout of my Volume 3 booklet on writing a treasured letter to your parents when you marry, and said that my next two booklets in the series, which would become Volumes 1 and 2, were going to be about a bride writing to a groom and a groom writing to a bride. I commented it had been a long time since I was a newlywed, so I was wondering if the two of them might be willing to share some ideas as to the types of things they might write to each other if they were about to be married.
Wow! For the next hour they shared one idea after another, and I wrote feverishly in my notebook to keep up. Their eyes sparkled as they discussed ideas with one another and with me, and the wait for the train was suddenly a treasured experience of its own!
On the train ride up north, we often saw this couple in their seats as we made our way to the dining car, and we'd all smile and wave. But you know, I never did learn their names or find out if they were married!
After our vacation, when I wrote up and arranged the various tips they had shared, there was little I could add. When I published Volumes 1 and 2, I gave "special thanks to the anonymous young couple at L.A.'s Union Station" for graciously sharing the dozens of loving tips that had been included in those volumes.
During the summer months of 2009, I also wrote Volume 4, to help parents write to a son or daughter getting married. The wedding series (Volumes 1-4) was ready for release when GoodWaysToWrite.com was launched.
In short, it seems that the Universe is supporting—and probably initiated—this effort to help people build better relationships by writing treasured letters to loved ones on special occasions, and I'm honored to be involved.