If you consider that gravity is a natural force which causes two separate particles to accelerate towards each other then the inaugural “Gravity Summit,” which was held on Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at the UCLA Faculty Center, was perfectly named.

Attracting a sold-out crowd of senior executives and decision makers from over 60 Fortune 500 companies and small businesses — more than 120 social media leaders and learners in all — the event gave attendees a forum through which they could share knowledge in person. It also gave attendees an opportunity to create new online connections following the event using the Gravity Summit network on Ning.

Gravity Summit seminars are designed to educate, inform and empower marketing professionals, small business owners, advertisers, and c-Level executives about social media.  Matthew Gilbert and Rodney Rumford at UCLA Gravity Summit on February 25, 2009

This unique educational event was launched by Rodney Rumford (author, consultant and CEO of Gravitational Media) and Beverly Macy (the managing partner of Y & M Partners and a UCLA Extension instructor specializing in social media classes).

“The goal of Gravity Summit is to help bridge the gap between the new social media marketing tools and the business community, “ Rumford explained. “And we continue to educate and share information with our Gravity Summit alumni through an exclusive online social network community where they can continue sharing and building on the relationships that formed at the event with trusted peers and industry thought leaders.”

Beverly Macy and Matthew Gilbert at UCLA Gravity Summit on February 25, 2009This was the first of several similar events to come that will take place on other college campuses nationwide. At each event individuals representing top brands are invited to speak based on industry expertise and their potential to provide unique insights into their social media marketing strategies.

Speakers at the UCLA event included:

  • Rodney Rumford, CEO, Gravitational Media
  • Beverly Macy, Managing Partner, Y & M Partners
  • David Reis, CEO, DEI Worldwide and Founding Member of WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association)
  • Justin Goldsborough, Social Media Manager, Sprint
  • Ann Glenn, Senior Web Producer, Sony Pictures Imageworks Interactive
  • Tony Adam, SEO Manager, Yahoo
  • Ricardo Bueno, Blog Director, Real Estate Tomato
  • Renée Barrett, Principal of Awareness, Action, Accountability
  • Karl Kasca, CEO, Kasca & Associates

Of those listed above,  PowerPoint presentations are available online from the following individuals (via SlideShare):

Beverly Macy, Managing Partner, Y & M Partners

Rodney Rumford, CEO, Gravitational Media

David Reis, CEO, DEI Worldwide and Founding Member of WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association)

Justin Goldsborough, Social Media Manager, Sprint

Ann Glenn, Senior Web Producer, Sony Pictures Imageworks Interactive

Tony Adam, SEO Manager, Yahoo

365 Days: 87/365 (February 25, 2009) [Matthew Gilbert and Justin Goldsborough at UCLA Gravity Summit]The event presented a tremendous opportunity for attendees to learn with and from each other.

I actually tweeted a good portion of the event live as it happened while sitting alongside Justin Goldsboroughfrom Sprint who was doing the same (as were several other attendees — all using the official Twitter hashtag: #gravsum).

This generated complimentary online discourse while the presenters simultaneously shared their information in person. Warren Sukernek of Radian6 engaged me at one point and I also connected with Carol A. Stevenson, a public relations professional and fellow Santa Clarita, CA resident who introduced herself to me from across the room!

By all accounts, the inaugural Gravity Summit was considered a great success — especially by co-founder Beverly Macy.

“We were able to build a brand in 60 days,” she noted. “We started planning the Gravity Summit event in late December 2008 and after the event we were quoted in the Wall Street Journal online. That’s the power of social media and specifically Twitter.  We ‘tweeted’ our way to the Wall Street Journal.”

Ricardo Bueno and Matthew Gilbert at UCLA Gravity Summit on February 25, 2009The next Gravity Summit will be held on May 5, 2009 at Stanford University and another is in the works for Harvard University in the fall.

Notably, the Stanford event was originally planned for June but it was moved ahead one month due to significant demand.

“At the conclusion of the UCLA event, we realized the overwhelming need for social media marketing thought leadership in the business community, so we moved the date up by one month,” Macy added.

Importantly, registration for the Stanford event is extremely limited: less that 100 registrations will be accepted. However, a new option for this session is live online participation!

For more information and to register for Gravity Summit Stanford go to http://gravitysummitstanford.eventbrite.com. And, for additional information about Gravity Summit in general, please read the following articles:

In closing, I feel quite fortunate to have attended this event. Although I had to leave early at 3 p.m. to teach a class at DeVry University in Bakersfield (a three hour adventure), the learning from this experience continues online and in the personal relationships that I created.

I also want to personally thank both Rodney and Beverly for making special accomodations so I could participate despite some significant personal limitations. I am definitely looking forward to future Gravity Summit events!

Adonya WongAs a parent to a child with autism, Adonya Wong understands the unique challenges and rewards that responsibility entails.

As an author, Adonya hopes to share that experience with others affected by autism and those wanting to learn more about it.

Her first book, In My Mind: The World Through The Eyes of Autism, creatively explores the inner world of an autistic child  through the form of a children’s picture book.

From exciting adventures to silly games and conversations with imaginary friends, the main character of the story — inspired by Adonya’s son, Nicholas — brings readers into his world.

In doing so, he demonstrates how one child with autism sees the world, and, in turn, how the world often sees a child with autism.

Adonya’s motivation for writing her book stemmed from the realization that there was a scarcity of literature directed to and written for autistic children and their families.

In My Mind was written to help raise awareness about autism, and she hopes that the reader will gain a deeper sense of compassion and tolerance for those “different” than themselves.

To help promote her book, Adonya has  launched a “Globe Trottin’ for Autism” vrtual book tour starting on January 19 and concluding on January 29, 2009. During the tour, 11 different blogs will promote In My Mind and feature her answers to questions about life with autism, writing, the publishing process, and discussing future projects.

Along with insightful interviews, you can read reviews of In My Mind and listen to an audio interview by Autism Hangout. To learn more about the book you van watch the following video:

I came to know Adonya during the December 16, 2008 Autism Twitter Day. As a result, I was invited to participate in this unique marketing initiative. This blog entry represents day 2 of the 11 scheduled stops.

As part of my participation in this unique event, I had an opportunity to ask Adonya some questions. I asked her about issues relevant to the themes of this blog: social media, education and autism (an issue of great personal significance to me).

Below are my questions and her answers — please feel free to post any questions you might have for Adonya in the comments section of this blog:

1. Tell me more about your son, Nicholas: what does he like to do, what are his strengths, what are his dreams? In what ways is Nicholas an inspiration and teacher to you?

Nicholas is an avid reader and quite the talented artist.  We go through about 6 Doodle Pros a year, so, hopefully, Fisher Price will see this post and send me vouchers once a month or quarter.  He also enjoys the computer to the point where, some nights, he gets a little teary eyed when told to shut it down.

Early last year, I stumbled upon a nifty little application, Zac Browser, and it has really opened up the Internet for him in ways I couldn’t have imagined.  The creator, Jon LeSieur, has a grandson on the spectrum, and he developed this application to simplify his web experience, thereby, making it more enjoyable for him.  I’m grateful he decided to share it with the world.  I highly recommend it!

I wish I knew what Nicholas’s dreams were.  He doesn’t always speak conversationally and his cognition of such a complex question is a bit low.  Whatever his dreams may be, I’m sure they’re grand.

I credit Nicholas for being my grounding source.  I feel that his presence in my life has made me more patient, tolerant and empathetic of others.  With every new day, I learn to just “be” and go with the flow.

He often tells me, “It’s okay, Mom” as he wraps his arms around me, and it is in these moments that I truly know that everything is going to be okay.

2. In what ways do you think you book can be used to educate and inform people not affected or touched by autism about what it is like to live with a diagnosis?

I initially didn’t write the book to educate folks since being a writer wasn’t even anything I was contemplating at that time in my life.  I didn’t even realize I had a story in me until I finished typing out the words to In My Mind.  The book, literally, came to me in a flash.  Some would say it was Divine Intervention!

As for me?  Couldn’t really say, but apparently, I am supposed to share my life’s experiences which is why I’m here today, talking about my first published work.

The book has been read by several people not “living” with autism and based on their responses, I can say that my book is shedding a different kind of light on the mind’s of those looking into our world.  In My Mind is a perception-based book.  People are often too quick to judge what they see without looking for the deeper/hidden meaning behind someone’s actions.

It is my wish that my book will get folks to stop the judgments and be more accepting of those perceived as being “different” than themselves.

3. What role did social media play in the production and/or promotion of your book: did you use any specific websites/services to develop ideas for your book and which websites/services are you using to market your book?

Social Media has played a huge part in promoting my book — it seems to be the current trend in getting people to notice you or your accomplishments.  Shortly after I received word that my book would be published, I put up a presence on MySpace and Facebook.

I have since added several Ning networks (most of them dealing with either writing/published authors and autism) to that list as well as Twitter (which is how I met you, my friend).

I also have a website that I put up shortly before the book’s pre-release.

4. For the aspiring published authors out there (myself included), describe the process by which you found and were signed by your publisher. Also explain what the writing and production process was like — in what ways was the Internet part of that process?

Finding a publisher was easy.  Although, I didn’t choose the self-publishing route, I did get signed on by a Print-On-Demand publisher.  Getting published the traditional way meaning going with a well-established and widely recognized (by way of their name) publisher requires money (finding a literary agent) and, oftentimes, years of walking the grounds.

My publisher has lowered the percentage of manuscripts they choose for publication from 4 to 3.5%.  My experience with them, so far, has been positive.

My suggestion to an aspiring author is to get your story on paper.  Then join groups like Critique Circle and get others to mull over your work.  Now, this is not something for the faint at heart.  If you’re someone who doesn’t like criticism in any form, I suggest you choose another path.

Anyhoo, some of the members of Critique Circle are editors, and I’ve read of a few people getting signed because of their relationship with these folks via this platform.

I didn’t use the internet to help me with my book as I am living with someone on the spectrum.  I had my everday experiences to fuel my writing.  Children’s fiction is my genre of choice, and I don’t anticipate having to do any “outside” research for any of my work.

I recently purchased a book by successful self-published author John Kremer titled 1001 Ways to Market Your Books.  I am also a member of his Ning network, Book Marketing.

5. Will the book have any kind of online companion presence, perhaps a resource site for parents and other interested individuals?

My website is a work in progress.  However, I do offer links to sites that have been helpful to me over the years.  I will be updating it soon with writing/publishing information.  But I anticipate that happening after my site goes through a redesign. I will, however, be adding worksheets for children that I hope will stimulate their imagination and encourage them to follow their dreams.

Special thanks to Adonya for writing her beautiful book and including this blog in her Virtual Book Tour!  If you have questions of your own about In My Mind, please leave them in the comments section of this blog, below.

Also be sure to visit the next stop on the Virtual Book Tour, The Bon Bon Gazette, where Adonya will answer additional questions.  While you’re there be sure to place your daily entry for her giveaway.

To enter, simply comment about your relationship with autism, what you are doing to raise awareness, and how In My Mind has touched your life. Be sure to visit all of her stops to qualify for this amazing prize!

One lucky reader will win a gift basket containing an autographed copy of In My Mind, a copy of Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wish You Knew, packages of Enjoy Life™ and Namaste Foods™ goodies, an eco-friendly cleaning starter kit (Whole Foods® 365™ brand), and (1) $50 Amazon.com gift card!!  This prize is valued at $200!!!

To learn more about In My Mind and what it’s like to live with autism, visit Adonya’s website or her blogIn My Mind is available online at Amazon.com, Books-A-Million.com, Borders.comTarget.comTate Publishing and coming soon to a bookstore near you! Note that a portion of the author’s proceeds benefit Tulsa Autism Foundation.

You might also want to visit the other stops on the Virtual Book Tour:

So, what’s in your mind about autism now?