This is my favorite line from The Adventures of Ai, a brand-new book by Craig Bouchard. "You have to understand something about my sisters and me. We don't giggle. We laugh."The story begins here, with three little girls desperate for a story from their father. Through changing perspectives and flashback structures, the writer pulls us back, farther and farther from present-day life, into history.
Despite its cover, The Adventures of Ai is written for older readers (not my K-5 babies), such as middle school students.
This story is a story-within-a-story...within-a-story. The title character Ai is three stories deep (kind of like Leo DiCaprio in Inception). Before you ever reach Ai, you are introduced to surprising details about the Japanese culture, told from the perspective of someone just learning to navigate life and language in a new place. The main character is getting to know the Hara family in Tokyo. His view as an outsider to Japanese culture helps us learn about these ways, different from my own, alongside him. The actual photographs included throughout the text help us to connect to the storyteller.
Through casual conversations, we meet historical figures we may already know, but with a new perspective. And from there, the story of Ai takes off. Ai has a charming ability to interact with and understand nature. For those of us who fell in love with The Secret Garden, stories of greening things remind us of our own childhood imaginings! Out of the entire book, this is the piece I enjoyed the most. I love a fantasy, and you can't go wrong with a fantasy in a forest. Ai faces troubles and decisions and has to find her own mental fortitude to solve them!
A couple days ago, I blogged about the adventures I had in Vegas, but I knew I was far from done with sharing about this conference. The whole reason I went (aside from the free drink coupons) was to learn about the business!
I know so many of us have had similar experiences on TPT - we start out as basic sellers and plug along for a few months (or years) and decide that maybe we're ready to take the plunge. We debate the pros and cons of spending the 60.00 to become premium sellers. Finally, we decide to "just go for it" and "hopefully I'll make the 60.00 back!"
So we put up products, sell items, get feedback and cheer, get feedback and cry, make adjustments, and try to figure this mess out. But it's better to share, because, as Rachel Lynette said (that JRK said before her), "A rising tide lifts all boats."
During the sessions at the conference, I heard a few specific and concrete tips that I have begun implementing and I though you'd like to as well. Here's what I learned in Vegas:
Tip # 1
This one was big. I know that, because we're teachers, we love cute. We say it all the time, "Oh, that's so cuuuuute!" But in several of the sessions, they mentioned the importance of having functional product names. If your product is titled "Pop the Top!", NO ONE is searching for it. It's cute, but the only people who will end up on that page are the ones who clicked through from a place you're advertising it. Name the product something functional, like "Mixtures and Solutions Science Stations Activity and Game" and people might actually search for some of those words. The product cover can include any name you want, but the name of the product on TPT when you "Add a new product" should be searchable. BIG TIP for me!
Tip # 2
This one's easy. Just do it. Add a custom category and then put you products in it! It makes your store more easily navigated. And it's easy to do! On a Mac, to add more than one custom category for a product, you can select the first category, hold down the command key and then select the second or third one you want.
Tip # 3
For me, finding a community is tricky. I tend to be a bit of a lone wolf and it's hard for me to sustain relationships when I've never seen you. Consider me like a two-year-old - the face on the screen in the little TPT circle is hard for me to connect to a real living, breathing, problem-solving person. So I have to really work hard on building a community that I consistently communicate and organize with! This conference, I think, really helped me in that respect. I met real people and I'm looking forward to organizing with them!
Tip # 4
I spent all day yesterday doing this one. When a piece of feedback is clicked on the little "Marked as helpful" button, that piece of feedback is cycled to the top of the string of feedback for that product. The more times it's clicked, the higher it goes up the chain. You as a seller can only click it once, but DO IT! Read through your feedback and click "Mark as helpful" for any feedback that is specific and highlights the strengths of your product. That feedback will show up first and it will give your buyers a good picture of why they might like to buy your product. Because let's be honest: "Thanks" or ":)" never convinced anyone to buy anything.
Tip # 5
Rachel Lynette told us this one, and I was like, "Oh. Duh." You know that little quote space on the top of your store? Well, on mine, and apparently on many sellers', it read, "Follow my blog, Buzzing with Ms. B, for teacher tips and tools!" Well, Rachel, (this is so duh that you probably already know it, but I'm going to say it just in case) said, "Don't do that. Don't send people away from your store when you've finally gotten them there. The purpose of your blog is to drive people TO your store, not the other way around." O.M.G. that was embarrassing. Because she was talking to me.
Use your blog, pinterest, and facebook to provide content at least 80% of the time. Don't do freebies all the time, because then your followers/fans/viewers expect something tangible all the time and they'll wait for it. Do freebies and giveaways randomly and infrequently.
Tip # 6
Possibly my favorite piece of advice. Rachel Lynette was describing how to work with other TPT sellers, and she encapsulated several guidelines into this one guideline. "You know, don't be a jerk." I wrote it down verbatim, because I knew I wanted to quote it. It's my kind of advice. It applies not just to blogging, or selling, or any other specific niche, but to the world. If you're a jerk, according to Rachel Lynette, "you will not get invited to play in other peoples' reindeer games." So if you've made some mistakes, ask for forgiveness and try not to do that again.
I'm home again. After a whirlwind three-and-a-half days in Vegas, I'm back. I've resumed my position on the couch, laptop on lap, TV on Weeds (but goodness, how I despise Mary Louise Parker), bowl of frozen cherries at my side.
I may look calm on the outside, but inside, my brain is racing. You know how you feel when you have 8,000 things on your to-do list but you don't know what order they go in? That's what's happening here. Why am I so full of stuff?
Four Words: TPT Conference in Vegas.
I. Had. A. Blast. I attended awesome sessions and listened to great TPT and blogging stories that gave me so much to think about, and so now my head is full of list after list of things to consider: ad pages to include in my products, and rewriting my titles and product descriptions. Following up on some of the relationships I started with great people I met, and making myself a schedule and sticking to it.
Unfortunately, I already didn't do one of those things today. I woke up late and then I really HAD to finish the book I was reading, The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. It only took me about five hours (I wasn't really all that close to the end but it was soooo good), but I've already spoiled one of my resolutions about dedicating specific time to blogging, writing, marketing, blah blah blah.
So I guess I really have to jump on it now. Like, for reals. So I'm going to give you a little debrief (Like an episode of Entertainment Weekly, you won't get the whole deal, but you'll get the gist) of my trip!
Before I left, I had plans to room with four other ladies I'd never met. I mean, we'd "met", you know, by sending irreverent facebook messages to each other, but that was about the extent of our relationship. Oh, and once Natalie sent me wine, forever leaving an indelible mark on my lush's heart.
But basically, I had no idea what to expect from these (mostly Texan) girls. It's a little nerve-wracking, spending three nights in potentially close quarters with virtual strangers (haha get my pun? Because we only communicated virtually? heehee) But when one of them arrived a double-sized bottle of wine, happily proclaiming that it was only eight dollars, I knew we were going to be A-OK.
One of the best things about the conference was that they know what lies deep in the hearts of teachers. This included free drink coupons LOTS of time to talk. Oh, and free stuff. Lots of free stuff.
These are our swag bags full o'teacher stuff. By the end of the conference, I had collected this variety of freebies:
The happy hours and meet-ups were some of my favorite things. In the midst of this talking- picture 600 teachers smushed into one space and EVERYone uses their teacher voice - the noise was deafening - I managed to squeeze through and around and meet some bloggers and sellers who I really admire.
Amy, who is an absolutely adorable individual. If I used the word "adorbs", I would use it to describe Amy. But I don't use the word "adorbs" because it's pretty ridiculous.
I met these charming ladies, too, and so many others.
Confession: when I met Jennifer Runde of Runde's Room, I'd already downed both the free drink coupons TPT had given me. Kind of fast, actually, because big groups aren't exactly my favorite. (I'm not the go-up-and-talk-to-you type.) So when I walked up to Jennifer, full of liquid courage, I said, "Hi Jennifer! I'm Chrissy from Buzzing with Ms. B, and I love your blog. It's so specific and full of thorough teaching practices!"
I was doing well so far.
"Thank you!" she said sweetly, gesturing with the international sign for thank you.
"I'm so impressed with your consistency in posting, too."
"That really makes my day," or something kind along those lines. "I'm blushing!" she said.
To this point, I appeared to be a normal individual. I should've stopped while I was ahead.
It was at now that the wheels came off the cart.
"Well," I stumbled here, not sure what was to come after that grand opening. "You should constantly....be....flattered.... of yourself?" What? What does that mean? Is that English?
"Thank you," she said, as I silently prayed that the teacher talk in the room was so loud it drowned out my ridiculous words. "I appreciate that!"
Lovely woman. Thanks for not calling me out on my absurdity.
See the glass? My downfall.
At one point in the weekend, some of my roomies and I decided that we wanted to take advantage of the fun photo booth in the corner of the meet-up room. We made our way over to stand in the line and giggle. While I was there, I met Ari, the Science Penguin. Anyway, all of a sudden, Paul (yes, that Paul), Deanna (yes, that Deanna), and John Yoo (yes, that John Yoo. I know, I didn't know who he was either, but he's a muy importante individual.) headed over to the booth where we were standing. They nicely asked (I guess they didn't actually HAVE to ask, because they were the ones paying for the photo booth in the first place) if they could cut. John graciously announced he would trade selfies for a cut in the line. So I did! I snapped a picture of Deanna and Paul,
and then John snapped a picture with me!
Considering I was about four drinks deep in my five-free-drinks evening (we met up with some preggos and they gave us their tickets :) I think I'm maintaining pretty well!
Later that night, we hit Fremont street and had some fun adventures there. I'll spare you the details, but our first picture pretty much sums it up. See the photobomber? Yeah? We didn't.
I close this account with the crowning moment of my trip. I, probably as many of you are, am a big fan of Kristen from a Teeny Tiny Teacher. Her writing style is inspired and I love it. So when someone whispered to me in the midst of a crowded room, "There's Kristen! Like, A Teeny Tiny Teacher Kristen!" I was like, "I must go bother her." So we headed over. Sure enough, there she was in her teeny tiny glory. "Hi, Chrissy!" she said brightly. "What's your blog?" "I'm Buzzing with Ms. B," I said. "Oh, I know your blog! You're hilarious!" Kristen said. "AAAAA! You know who I am!" I squealed, trying not to wet myself. I couldn't believe I was on the teeny tiny radar! She agreed to pose for a picture with us and so my evidence is below:
So there was all the fun stuff from Vegas. I intend (I really do) to share some of the bullet points of my learning from the trip too, as soon as I can muster the energy. Vegas kind of wore me out.
I linked up this post with A Burst in First! Click over to read all of the other fun Vegas posts!
Yes, you read the title right - this post is about summer, and I have a LOT to say. But you can also enter to win my latest product! So humor me, read my summer post, and then comment with your favorite thing you've done this summer and your email address, and I'll choose a magical random winner later this week!
So I'm right up there in summer. I know because my butt is wearing a comfortable groove in the couch again. Don't get me wrong. I've been doing tons of stuff. My mother makes me wake up early three days a week
yes, three days a week of my summer
to go to the gym with her. And although it's starting to grow on me, the gym is still one of the worst places in the world. It's only one step up from Best Buy, and that's just because there's actually something to do at the gym. Of course, by "something" I mean excruciating, soul-sucking machines that force you to repeat awkward motions in three sets of fifteen. You do all of this so that, three weeks later, you can read the scale and see that you've gained four pounds. Yay gym.
This morning, after doing my time in the second-most-horrible-place in the world, I headed over to the pool. It's a neighborhood pool that you have to buy a membership to belong to, Once you've paid, they give you a key, and it's a swim-at-your-own-risk sort of thing. So today, after the gym, i decided to head over to the pool. I took out my key, unlocked the gate, and walked inside... and saw...
that I was ALL BY MYSELF!
Yes! I had the WHOLE pool to MYSELF!
I immediately commenced to doing my favorite things:
sinking all the way to the bottom
floating around the pool with my eyes closed like a dead person
laying on a towel and reading Game of Thrones
I did these things for two hours, all by myself, and then I headed home. Home is about a 45-second drive from the pool, so yay.
That pretty much sums up the last few days, really. I sit around and work on stuff. Occasionally, I get a hankerin for somethin tasty and I eat huge bowls of cantaloupe or Greek yogurt with peanut butter in it. And honey. Lots and lots of honey. It helps me pretend it's ice cream, which I clearly cannot have because I gained four pounds by going to the gym. I consume cup after cup of coffee to keep me from eating something far more delicious - a frozen yogurt place opened up five minutes down the street. Cruel. It's probably for the best that we're broke.
This is what my cat looks like when I am watching TV.
So I sit and watch the cat and then I sit and watch Wilfred. When I get sick of Wilfred's sick humor, I bust out the big guns: I Love Lucy. And sometimes, I just get tired of the scenery, you know? That's when I move from the couch...to the loveseat. It's like a whole different view over there.
When my husband comes home, I pepper him with questions about the world: So what happened at work today? What did you have for lunch? What should we have for dinner? The poor man.
So anyway, if you're looking for something to do as you're repositioning from the couch to the loveseat, check out my new product: Super Hero Themed Classroom Decor Set! I'm so excited about it....almost enough to change my own theme from bees.....but not quite :) And if you'd like to win it, leave me a comment about your favorite thing you've done this summer and your email address! I'll choose a random winner this week!
If you're like me, you've got a stack of books that you're "meaning to read" as soon as you "have the time." Sometimes this stack is full of half-read books that you foolishly attempted to start during the school year. You've got a pile of professional books you're kind of looking forward to...in a way... and a stack of personal books you've been gifted or accumulated on your hopeful trips to the bookstore!
In my professional stack, I have four books. I just finished posting about the last professional book I read, Igniting a Passion for Reading. You can read about that here!
I'm also excited about The Revision Toolbox by Georgia Heard. I'm going to put together some writing training for my campus using this book as a guide for the revision parts. She's one of my favorite writing authors, along with Kelly Gallagher.
Teach Like a Champion is our summer reading book study. The next-to-last week of school, when I could TASTE summer already, my principal had an idea for me to run an optional summer book study for teachers. We only had a handful of teachers sign up, but I'm still looking forward to meeting with them. Sometimes small groups are the best! And I'll be able to share all of our conversations with you!
I just purchased Comprehension from the Ground Up by Sharon Taberski. I am SO EXCITED about this book! I love Taberski and I think she's done a beautiful job of identifying what's important in reading instruction. Can't wait!
My personal stack is still kind of small. I'm working on it, though! Personally, I'm more of an impulse reader. I judge books by their covers all the time.
I'm partway through the first Game of Thrones, and while I'd like to read the series, they're so lengthy that they'd be the only thing I'd be able to read for a long time. So that may have to wait.
I bought I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak because I really enjoy his writing. It's been sitting on my shelf for several months now, so maybe I can finally attack it this summer!
And one of my friends loaned me Divergent. There's a series that I can probably finish pretty quickly, so I don't mind starting it!
So what's on YOUR summer reading list? And what should I add to mine?