One Year Ago…Update On The Book

Book update. One year ago an author was born. I use the term “author” loosely as I have yet to feel like a full fledged author, yet I have been told to start claiming the title and to get used to being one with a published work.

Yes, this time last year there was toasting and parties and incredible surprises right and left that kept this freshly printed author on her toes and with a big smile on her face. Tears of joy and tears of sadness both seemed to leak out and overwhelm me at times. I still blink in disbelief on what it’s taken and what has happened since the 30×30 book took flight. The book’s stories had been years in the making, the published work involved the generosity of countless backers and took a year to complete, and now a year after the big debut it’s time to look back and reflect on just what exactly has been happening since Life Before The Lottery: Living Beyond The Bucket debuted for public consumption.

First and foremost, thank you to those who have sent stories and updates on how this project and these pages have impacted, inspired, and even disrupted your lives. These stories light up my heart and make all the dirt, blood, sweat and tears and war wounds absolutely worth it. I just can’t get enough of someone detailing a dream that came to fruition or describing “someday” goals that became a reality in their world. People are choosing to live life off the couch and the stories that go with that are incredible.

To the backers who supported this publishing project, of which the book never would have been, I just want to say thank you. You are a part of a story that continues on and I am forever grateful. The harsh reality is that the average author sells less than 500 copies in a book’s lifetime (no, the success of the Stephen King’s and J.K. Rowling’s of this world are ridiculously rare!)  After just a year, although I cannot claim to be a New York Times best selling author, I can stand here with a big smile and say that we’ve gone through a majority of the 1,000 copies of this girl’s very first print run and have roughly 200 left. Not bad for a little Kickstarter project that stemmed from a bad day in a coffee shop. To all those who have purchased, gifted, and even re-gifted copies of Life Before The Lottery…thank you for the support and thank you for making this dream happen! I stand amazed.

So what has happened in a year? Update on the book.

After three book launch parties, an Amazon launch, five radio interviews, umpteen press releases, several rounds of newspaper articles, multiple speaking engagements, one television interview, an ever elusive e-book, several rounds of Amazon battles, some guest blogging, and even a trip to visit the book housed at the Library of Congress…some very cool things have continued to happen. The book is now available through Amazon and local Colorado book stores, but there’s more…

One of the most touching tales has been through the Colorado Veterans Center that took hold of the bucket list concept and rolled out an entire “Make-A-Wish” program helping their nursing home residents identify and cross off their own bucket lists. This partnership program involved staff, resident family members, and the residents themselves. The Veterans Center purchased books and gifted copies to every staff member at the facility, which in turn led to incredible stories of our nation’s heroes continuing their accomplishments. Bucket lists of the nursing home residents are posted on their doorways for everyone to see. This has led to intertwining connections that have opened doors for dreams.

One veteran had always wanted to go to NASA, and although physical limitations prevented him from flying, a nursing home staff member’s relative who worked for NASA was notified and graciously sent hats and t-shirts, setting up a private and personalized online tour that allowed this vet to check off his bucket list. Another veteran had always wanted to ride in a convertible and yet another had always wanted to treasure hunt with a metal detector. Check and check. There have been balloon rides, sleigh rides, nursing degrees, continued education, crochet classes, and even belly dancing lessons that have been an extension of the 30×30 story and a ripple effect of the book. Dreams don’t have an age limit.

A woman kindly told me how she overcame her fear of heights, another addressed her lifetime fear of pit bulls, and even another took her first helicopter ride. I laughed as I read the story of a woman who finally flew for the first time on a flight that her husband piloted–they’d been married over 10 years! There’s been reports of bull riding, finished degrees, road trips galore and even a business started from the ripple effects of this little 30×30 book. It’s absolutely amazing what God will do with the dreams He’s placed in our hearts if we just allow them to breathe.

I am reminded that we never know what hangs in the balance of our decision to do something or not do something.

Am I a New York Times best seller? No. Has this book made a difference? I hope so. Has it been a rough road and a wild ride filled with both smiles and tears? Absolutely. Am I done yet? Not even close. Since the completion of the original 30×30 List (a list of 30 things I wanted to do before turning 30…being blessed to have crossed off 29 of them before the big 3-0), I have since trusted my Maker with a new list and a new set of dreams aptly entitled my “Next List.” A kind heart encouraged and inspired me to create a “rotating” bucket list that has seemed to take on a life of its own since being created just two short years ago. This one started with a list of 30 dreams again, but now a new item is added on every time one gets crossed off. That way I always have 30 bucket list items to choose from. Brilliant.

Cross off’s on this Next List include a new website for my photography business, sunrise coffee on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, hiking a fourteener, blowing a kiss to the Maroon Bells, riding an elephant, visiting Garden of the Gods, photographing the infamous cherry blossoms in Washington D.C., and even an item involving the White House. A recent check left my mouth hanging open as I counted off twenty-four items from the Next List. *Blink blink* Yes, twenty-four. That means that between my two lists that’s now over 50 crossed off bucket list items.  That’s over 50 answered prayers! God is good. If you’ve had the wind knocked out of you, have lost hope, or just don’t know how to move on…it’s worth getting back up. Dust yourself off and start dreaming again. There is definitely life before the lottery. You do not need to hold the winning ticket to live your dreams and see your hopes and prayers come to pass.

What’s Next?

Is there another book in the works? A part of me is hesitant to say it–mostly because I get overwhelmed and can’t even begin to see the “how”–but in all honesty and with as much confidence as I can muster, yes. With twenty-four chapters written up to this point and sitting on my computer, I am confident that some day there will be another book in this girl’s future. Weirder things have happened. Maybe then I will be able to say “author” with the enthusiasm and weight that such a title deserves. Someday.

Thank you for this last year, it’s been quite a ride. I stand amazed.


Ashlee Bratton - Life Before The Lottery

Ashlee Bratton – author of the book “Life Before The Lottery: Living Beyond The Bucket” is a professional photographer, freelance writer, and at times an inspirational speaker with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and master’s degree in business administration.

Along with completing 29 of the 30 things on her 30×30 list, her writing contributions include numerous publications such as Vail’s EAT magazine, creating a 56 page Visitor Guide for a mountain ski town, blogging and guest blogging, being featured in multiple newspapers and e-zines, and various other projects.

Currently, she keeps her camera in hand in Southern Colorado, is a complete and total foodie, and takes plane rides for fun. She likes things that go.

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