|I am holding MY book! It is in libraries, schools, homes and on Amazon. |
And I'm referred to as "an author". Someone pinch me!
Editor’s Note: Nicole Knudtson was the fourth of nine RSM US LLP (RSM) employees given an opportunity “pursue their passions” as a result of the firm’s 90-90-9 program. Through 90-90-9, RSM is celebrating its 90th anniversary by providing nine employees with $90,000 ($10,000 each) and nine paid days off to fulfill their personal dreams. Read Nicole's story:
After my anonymous application was submitted, I waited – nearly long enough to have forgotten about RSM’s 90-90-9 contest. Until…the call came. I won! I was in complete shock. I wish I had recorded that call because it’s funny as I play it back in my head now. The RSM leader who called was so excited for me, even though I questioned if he called the right person.
After the shock, came pure excitement, then worry as I realized how much I had to do to make this dream a reality. How the heck do I do that – and in less than 12 months? I didn’t have an illustrator or a publisher… And what if it wasn’t any good?!?
An illustrator and the creative process I knew I couldn’t take the normal path, as publishers were signing authors for spring of 2017! I’d have to self-publish. After some research, I selected CreateSpace through Amazon. It gave me full creative license and ownership, while allowing me to set my own price, order on demand and use their procurement process.
Finding an illustrator required less research and more convincing! Katherine and I met in the third grade. I’ve always been amazed by her artistic talent (doodles through math class and singing at my wedding), while I was more into numbers and process. (I was her bridal attendant, tracking things down to make it her wedding go smoothly for her.) Although we’ve been busy raising our own families, we’ve stayed connected and I’ve been watching and supporting her pursuit of her design and illustration career. What better way to pursue my passion than to also help her achieve one of her dreams! (Check out her blog post from her perspective.)
I just had to convince her.
Katherine was excited but nervous to take on such an important project for me. We decided that we wouldn’t worry about the “right way” to publish a children’s book, but instead do it “our way,” collaboratively. The plan was to get the book ready to launch by the end of tax “busy season,” which aligned well with Katherine, as that was her available time before her husband and kids would be out of the classroom and back home for the summer!
Thus started the creative process! We were so aligned on our vision that it didn’t take long for our story board to take shape. We had so much fun working in meaningful pieces into the illustrations as shout-outs to our families.
And the book is launched!
It was an amazing moment when the books arrived. With our first order of 500, we were ready to hit the road to share the book and our message. And RSM sent a camera with us one day to create a fun video of our story.
Book Tour - 2016
When I wrote the application I had hoped to convince one or two RSM offices to have my family come share our story. Wow. The response was overwhelming! With the girls on summer break, we had just a few short weeks for our “book tour” before our rising freshman had to start high school volleyball. Somehow we managed to visit 10 offices…between my normal business travels!
As we visited each office, we were given tours so we could learn about the history of the office and the community. Each book event was unique and casual, encouraging lots of interaction. We were able to tell about our family history, our creation of the book, the 90-90-9 program and have the girls read the book. The rooms were often packed with 30-50 employees. It was fun getting the girls comfortable talking to large audiences. Each event also allowed for individual conversations with attendees as our family signed and distributed our book. One of the most popular parts of the events were the Q&A sessions. We’ve never been short on questions, and many generated extreme laughter over something one of the girls said. They certainly are very honest and highly animated kids!
Our “favorite part” so far?
That’s easy. It’s the feedback, comments, and stories we hear. Since publishing, there haven’t been many days that have gone by where we haven’t gotten a note, letter, text, email, IM, voicemail or someone personally telling a story about how they relate to the book or how it’s impacted them. We even received an email the day after my winning application was announced from a gal who asked her husband his favorite part of his day, which resulted in a fantastic conversation over dinner. These stories are powerful, touching and so valuable to my family and me.
Our dream was to make an impact by encouraging others to better connect in a positive way. I have to say that our dream has not only been accomplished but continues to exceed our expectations.
I have a few more office book events this fall, including Boston, New York City and Phoenix. And, we are trying to fit in a Chicago trip, as well.
With our firm’s focus on diversity and inclusion, I was excited to have my dream so closely aligned with our Family First and Women’s Leadership groups. To be able to make the impact reach a bit further, I decided to create a Spanish version of the book. I didn’t want a literal translation as they often aren’t as fun to read or don’t always make sense. I asked a few friends if they’d tackle this task to make a fun-to-read Spanish version with the same positive message. As soon as they received the book, they had so much fun they worked on it all night and created such a beautiful version that some of my Spanish-speaking proofreaders commended their “knack for Spanish poetic writing!” I’m excited about having that out on Amazon later this fall.
The Unforgettable 2016
I will be eternally grateful to RSM, our offices, our leadership team and the 90-90-9 selection committee who made this dream possible. Not only have I fulfilled my dream to publish my book and share the concept behind it, but I was able to have a once-in-a-lifetime summer with my family where we created memories that will last forever.