Ode to Digital Book World

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For the past five years, I have attended Bradley Metrock’s Digital Book World (DBW) in Nashville, TN. DBW originally started in 2015 as the iBooks Author Conference, but expanded into DBW in 2018. Within these five years, DBW has greatly impacted my professional and personal life. DBW has helped me earn important credentials including Certified iBooks Author Professional, with Distinction; a nomination for Best Book of the Year in the Education category in 2016; and winner for Best Book of the Year in the Exhibit or Event Companion category in 2017. DBW also offered me my first opportunity to present at a national conference. Every year, I get to learn from respected industry professionals in its intimate atmosphere with what has become a group of treasured friends.

Digital Book World is where you will learn personally from the best in the industry, make friends for life, and have wonderful experiences to cherish. Click To Tweet

The first time I attended DBW in 2015, the conference was held in Nashville’s Music City Center – a short walk from the Hyatt downtown. That year, my esteemed colleague and I heard many educators, artists, and publishers speak and show their work. We were especially impressed by The Mozart Project and Breaking Bad’s Multi-touch book with 3D objects. We both completed the iBooks Author exam and brought home the credential for Certified iBooks Author Professional, with Distinction – a rare designation bestowed on self-published authors who use iBooks Author.

The following year, 2016, the conference was held at the beautiful and grand Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. I recall being blown away by the presentations of educational innovators and Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs), Christine and Kurt Klynen and their Joy of Professional Learning. After their presentation, at lunch time, I was lucky enough to share a table with them and Bookwidgets’s Bart Buckinx. We all chatted animatedly throughout the meal. I enjoyed Erica L. Gamet’s session and still aspire to master InDesign the way she does. The connections I made and conversations we shared were almost enough to distract me from worrying about Hurricane Matthew, a Category 3 hurricane, approaching my home’s shores in Fort Lauderdale. Florida. I watched the news from my room in the evenings, helpless with anxiety. Thankfully it wobbled away and I returned with renewed focus to the workshops the next morning.

During this time, I self-published a Multi-touch book, The Medici’s Renaissance in Florence, and submitted it for an award. The Medici’s Renaissance in Florence made the short list and was nominated as a finalist for Best Book in Education in 2016, but not an actual winner. The following year, 2017, I submitted a new book, The Five Treasures of Florida, and was thrilled to win Best Book of the Year in the Exhibit or Event Companion category. This is also when I met Bee Kapitan, who became a close friend – and not because she took home five awards that year for How to Say Cheese, but because she is a positively all-round brilliant person with a huge heart and a sister in spirit. We painted the town of Nashville red to celebrate the acknowledgements of our hard work and got chocolate-overload during Tempered Chocolate’s Green Hour. The next day, we enjoyed delicious hot chicken at Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish at the recommendation of a respected, innovative leader in education, who graduated from Vanderbilt University and knows Music City well. This was my first time trying hot chicken and it has now become part of my annual pilgrimage to Nashville.

In 2018, Bradley invited my esteemed colleague and I to present about reducing textbook costs through technology. This was my first time presenting at a national conference, and I have Bradley to thank for the opportunity. Not only did I present, I got to see Bee and she introduced me to Jamie Perkins, who is revolutionizing veterinarian education with Apple Books and Alexa. I also made a new friend, Sherie Kelley, an author and filmmaker who, turns out, lives just down the street from me in Fort Lauderdale. Since our return to Florida, we’ve been to the Fort Lauderdale Art Museum, Camelot Days, and The Kingshead Pub for trivia night with food of yore to celebrate her birthday. She met my whole family and immediately became part of it. Another friend for life I gained at DBW.

Most recently, in 2019, I am happy to say, Digital Book World has gotten bigger than ever. Advances in technology are bringing voice to the forefront and it seems books cannot go to audio fast enough. People are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help build their lives, schedules, access assignments in Canvas, and so much more. This year, the conference was held at Nashville’s Lowe’s Vanderbilt. I especially enjoyed the pre-conference workshops in addition to the conference. Why? Because Paul Cutsinger, the Head of Alexa Voice Design Education at Amazon, personally helped me make an interactive audiobook. Such fun, and relatively simple! Also, Orna Ross reminded me that the author is the Heart. What we do is relevant and valuable, and there are new ways to do things – our way. The independent way. We as authors are valuable, relevant, and vital to others’ experiences. Also, my quest to become a master of InDesign needs to be prioritized because, indeed, the one format to rule them all is EPUB – accessible across all platforms and devices, thanks to the recommendation of Lars Wallin (Founder, Colibrio). When I have successfully completed writing my next book, My Epic California Road Trip: Returning Home with New Eyes, I aim to bring it into InDesign then make it dance in iBooks Author.

During my epic California adventure in July, 2019, I stayed only in Airbnbs. So, for DBW 2019 in September, this time I opted to use Airbnb rather than a hotel. I am so grateful I did, and totally hit the jackpot! I’ve mostly stayed downtown, but never in Music Row – a charming and historic neighborhood. Staying in Music Row would allow me to walk to the conference – a brisk 20-minute walk away. I found a charming gingerbread house in the heart of Music Row, Nashville’s Urban Storybook Villa. The stairs were painted like books’ spines… Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, etc. How perfect! Not to mention it saved me over $150 per night over the nearby hotels and is much better in every way. Jamie, the host, is a kindred spirit who provided the best Airbnb experience I have ever had. But remember, this place is now mine every year during DBW.

Because I have attended all of Bradley’s DBWs, and am an award-winning travel writer (thanks to DBW’s anonymous, nationwide judges), I feel I owe you my tried, tested, and true must-do’s when visiting Music City for DBW. Here is my annually recurring agenda: As soon as my flight lands in Nashville, always booked for a Sunday, I Uber straight to Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, where beauty lives, to be immersed in nature’s loveliness and to see their current art exhibits. In 2015, I serendipitously found my way here, right after I aced the iBooks Author exam, to be surrounded by a full exhibit of my favorite living artist, Juame Plensa, which was a life-changing experience. After a walk through Cheekwood’s nature gardens, my eyes cheerily transformed by drinking in the bright colors of flowers and beautiful art, I hop in an Uber en route to The Frist, an art museum inside the Art Deco building of Nashville’s former Post Office. There is always a wonderful exhibit and the gift shop offers the best presents to bring home to family, friends and colleagues. If it’s late enough, and I have not already stuffed myself with hot chicken, I will walk over to Adelle’s in The Gulch, for their beautiful gnocchi that come with edible flowers. On the way you’ll pass Union Station, the original train hub, now an exquisite, historical hotel. Right across the street, Amazon’s headquarters are currently under construction. They certainly chose the right city and a very special location.

As you already know, Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish serves up my favorite version of hot chicken. Why? Because their “mild” chicken tenders are hotter than Hattie B’s “hot”! I of course have also tried Hattie B’s, which is excellent and has accurate marketing, but I did not get the same euphoria from their hot chicken as at Bolton’s mild. Now, just so you know, Prince’s Hot Chicken is the originator of hot chicken, but they don’t serve chicken tenders and I just cannot do bones.

You’ll want to visit the Johnny Cash Museum, then step across the street right into the doors of Nashville’s own Goo Goo Clusters Shop. As my Airbnb host Jamie says, “Goo Goo Clusters’ calories don’t count when you’re in Nashville!” After you’ve had a couple Goo Goo Clusters and purchased a box or five to bring home and share, head around the corner to Broadway and pick yourself up a pair of cowboy/girl boots. Fellow filmmaker and new friend Sherie spent $250 one night on a pair of red hot boots that I helped pick out. The store had a deal, buy a pair and get a second pair free of the same value. I was overjoyed when she got me the same pair in my size! Red cowgirl boots with hearts! Let me tell you… walking down Broadway in these boots, hanging out in the Honky Tonks, listening to live music while wearing a cowboy/girl hat and a pretty sundress is perfect – and only done right in Nashville. We hit up Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge where if walls could talk, they would sing Elvis Presley’s after-hours songs for the intimate, mostly locals audience. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge was packed, and for good reason. The music was excellent, the drinks were strong, and the view of AT&T’s Batman building from their rooftop terrace will garner you top Instagram attention. You can also see Broadway and all of Honky Tonk Row laid out from this vantage point. For additional Nashville’s must do’s, visit this blog based on my past excursions, My Top 10 Things To Do in Nashville, TN.

Suffice to say, DBW and Bradley Metrock have had an immense positive impact on my professional career and personal life. I am so grateful to Bradley Metrock and everyone at Digital Book World, and am writing this because I wish the same success for you.

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