Last week, I received an e-mail from Kelly Sonora on behalf of Online Degree World with the following message:

We just posted an article, “Top 100 Edu Tweeters” (http://www.onlinedegreeworld.com/blog/2009/top-100-edu-tweeters/). I thought I’d bring it to your attention in case you think your readers would find it interesting.  I am happy to let you know that your site has been included in this list.

Prior to receiving this e-mail, I had never heard of this list or received an inquiry from anyone producing it. So, without question, my being on it came as a total surprise.  I replied to the e-mail I received, asking Ms. Sonora how she found my Twitter account and chose to include it on the list, but I have not yet heard back.

UC Santa Barbara: 1109 North HallNevertheless, despite the mysterious nature of this recognition, I am honored to receive the distinction.

According to my colleague Bill Sodeman, PhD — with whom I became friendly on Twitter —  his inclusion on the list is a noteworthy event at Hawaii Pacific University where he is an associate professor.

The list itself, which was written/compiled by Courtney Phillips, counts me as one of 29 educators. I am number 84 overall in what appears to be a randomly organized list. In other words, I am not ranked 84 out of 100, but rather I am listed in the 84th position on a list of the 100 top people or organizations using Twitter who are involved in education.

When you review the list you will note that I am in good company. Other educators on the list include the following notable folks:

Universities and educational institutions include:

Publishers, Libraries & Librarians include:

Resources and support for educators and academia include:

All things considered, this was a pleasant surprise and an honor I am proud to have earned. Thank you, Online Degree World, for recognizing my efforts to share knowledge about education on Twitter!

Carl's Jr. Happy StarOn Saturday, January 31, 2009 Beth Mansfield, the Public Relations Manager for CKE Restaurants, Inc. (Carl’s Jr.), visited my UC Santa Barbara Extension “buying behavior” class.

She discussed the popular restaurant’s marketing strategy and, in particular, how the company uses social media in its outreach efforts.

Her two-hour presentation was exceptionally interesting and provided my students with tremendous insight into how a large corporation is embracing social media.

What you might find equally interesting is the process by which Beth wound up speaking to my class in the first place. A chronology of the events that transpired is provided below — note the pivotal role Twitter played in all of this (short version: without Twitter none of this would have happened).

It all began with a burger!

On December 20, 2008 iJustine tweeted that she was going to eat a cheeseburger (one of her more “insightful” posts!). I replied with a tweet in which I asked her what her favorite burger was — and included Carl’s Jr in the list of options (one of my more “insightful” posts).

Although iJustine never replied to me, Carl’s Jr. began following me almost immediately. This was ironic because I had no idea Carl’s Jr. was on Twitter and just three days earlier, on December 17, I had experienced a mild issue at a Carl’s Jr. near my house about which I intended to blog.

A week later, on December 24, I did just that and posted a sensational blog post about a negative Carl’s Jr. experience.  Then, to test the power of Twitter and the responsiveness of Carl’s Jr. on December 31, 2008, I tweeted about my aforementioned blog post, hoping to get a reply from the company.

A day later — New Year’s Day 2009 — I received a reply tweet from Carl’s Jr. along with a direct message (a private communication) from Carl’s Jr. explaining crisscut fries are always more expensive than regular fries, but, as a gesture of good faith, the company would send me some coupons.

At this point I still had no idea who was behind the Carl’s Jr. Twitter account.

Amazingly, the next day, January 2, 2009, I saw a tweet from noted technology writer Shel Israel promoting an interview he conducted with Beth Mansfield, the Public Relations Manager of Carl’s Jr.!

After reading Shel’s interview with Beth, I found my way to her personal Twitter account. I then realized she lived in Ventura, CA (which is just a few miles south of Santa Barbara).

I was surprised because I thought Carl’s Jr. was headquartered in Irvine, CA and assumed Beth would living in that area (in retrospect, I was thinking about Taco Bell which has its headquarters there).

This was really the “tipping point” because, prior to it, I did not know that it was Beth who was behind the Carl’s Jr. Twitter account and that she was so close to UCSB.

Realizing a potential opportunity, I sent Beth a direct message  to clarify if she was indeed in Ventura. She replied, indicating that Carl’s Jr. was based out of Carpinteria, CA.  It was at that point I invited her to speak at my class.  I did not know what to expect, but was relieved when Beth was immediately agreeable to the idea.

We went back and forth via direct messages on Twitter to determine the best date and everything. We confirmed the plans once more via e-mail, and then it all came together on January 31, 2009 — slightly more than one month after iJustine‘s tweet put this entire chain of events into motion.

If you’re interested in what Beth had to say (seven previously posted YouTube clips of her presentation were removed per a request from UCSB Extension), her PowerPoint presentation is available online at SlideShare:

Special thanks to Beth Mansfield for spending time on a Saturday to share some of Carl’s Jr.’s social media marketing secrets — and for Twitter, Shel Israel and iJustine (Justine EzarikJustine Ezarik) for helping to make this all happen.

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?