This week let me introduce Tiffani Teachey!
Tiffani is a part-time author and a full-time engineer. As an engineer with more than fifteen years of experience, Tiffani has a passion for inspiring the next generation to engage in STEM careers. She values being able to give back and enjoys speaking to kids about her book – What Can I Be? STEM Careers from A to Z.
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Laurie: Hello writers. Welcome back to the Writer’s Way podcast. I’m here today with Tiffani Teachey. Welcome, Tiffani.
Tiffani: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Laurie: Oh, you’re so welcome. I’m excited to talk to you. I’ve been, you know, it’s funny cause I was just messaging with somebody today. So I do a course on How to Publish a Picture Book. So like an intro to publishing. And she said, my friends are all techie. Nobody’s creative. And I said, well, you know, it’s funny cause I’m talking to somebody today, who I believe you’re an engineer.
Tiffani: I am an engineer.
Laurie: And I said, you know, so I don’t know if you consider yourself creative, but here you are, you’ve got a book.
And so I said, you know, don’t put that limitation basically on your friends and your family and other people, because we’re all creative in different ways. So how about you just share with people about your background and your book and your creativity.
Tiffani: All right. So my background is I am an engineer. And I’m from Winston-Salem, Carolina. So I’m from North Carolina, and so I started out just learning as far as from public as far as being able to be well rounded, I started as far as being well rounded.
So I went and learn how to be able to become an engineer and by becoming an engineer. I went to UNC Charlotte. And, wanted to be able to know that I could make a difference. And so I always talk to students, also talk to kids and everything. So by doing that, I said, why don’t I create something?
Now I’ve always wanting to write a book. I just didn’t know what it would be. But I didn’t know that I wanted to cater it towards STEM, science, technology, engineering, math. So by doing that, I felt like this was a great opportunity to not only just be talking to kids. But put it in writing as far as encouraging them to go into science, technology, engineering, math. And representation matters.
So they could see it. It’s a very diverse book. They get to see all different ways. So just my background is, I grew up just well-rounded, all different things. And, technical engineering, and then why not become an author? I wanted to make sure that. Why not? Make a difference. Make a difference.
Laurie: And so how do you talk to kids? It’s asked for your job, or is that something, do you have a side business? Or are you just that’s just your passion?
Tiffani: That’s just my passion. I just like giving back and going to give it back to youth. So a lot of times as an engineer and when teachers and educators, they hear that you’re an engineer. They always encourage us just to come out and talk to the students. So I always come out. Do different hands on activities with the students and encourage them that they can be engineers. They see that we could be any type of things as far as race, gender, and all of that. So I promote that a lot when I go and talk to the kids just to say, Hey, if I can be at, you can be it as well.
I’m always giving back to the youth. Yeah.
Laurie: That must be so impactful for them.
Tiffani: Oh yeah. Definitely. And let me tell you what makes a difference is when I talked to the kids and then maybe so many years later when they become older and had gone through school. And then I see them that they’ve made a difference.
And some of them come back and say, I remember when you talked to me when you encouraged me. And so those, that’s the kind of things that makes me. Yeah. That’s the kind of things that I know I made at least a difference and planted a seed and it grew.
Laurie: Yeah. Yeah, well done. So your book is about STEM. I know. I’m like, you need to talk again. So
Tiffani: I love the kids. So the book is about STEM. It has six different diverse kids in it. I wanted to make sure it was diverse, so then they can say, okay, they can somewhere see themselves in it. So it’s got all different diverse kids, six and I called them the STEM crew.
So through each of it starts with the alphabet, with A astronaut, and it goes all the way to Z, which is zoologists. So I could have left it as being an engineering all engineering, but I want it to show that there’s different parts of STEM that they could see themselves in. And it was just, I mean, the hardest letter in there was Y. But I came up with yacht designer as the, yeah, it was tough.
That was a tough one in the book. But just. And then now more than ever, people were like, well, why didn’t you use this one? This letter? This one for the jobs? But it could be a spin off. I could turn it into a spin on. So, but it just gives them different careers. It has the letter and then it has a good illustration of what it looks like for that career.
And then it tells a little description of that career with that description of the career itself. So,
Laurie: You know what, that is amazing. I love that concept. I was a teacher, I don’t know if you know my background. I was a teacher for 10 years. And I never would have thought zoologist and STEM went together. So I, and I also, I have nephews that are now, you know coming out of high school and friends, kids and things. And so many, it just depends on, I guess, your background, your experience, like your mom, you said was a teacher. And so she maybe she, you know, expose you to a lot of options. But when I went through high school. It was like, okay, I can be a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, a secretary. There’s these boxes that you have in mind, but really there’s so many jobs out there and I never would have put that together.
Laurie: Right. Exposure.
Tiffani: Yes. And what I’ve been told was people who’s gotten the book, a lot of the kids say they love animals. So when they got to see the veterinarians. They got to see zoologists. Those are some key ones where they got to see, Oh, well I could do this with this career because it deals with animals and stuff.
So yeah, that kind of exposure. It’s really important that they can see themselves in it in the career itself.
Laurie: Exactly. They can see that potential and not just, yeah. Oh, I love that. Cool. Okay. So are you self published?
Tiffani: I am self-published. I learned the process and I enjoyed the process. It was a learning experience. But just building a team and knowing that, you know, you’re staying in lane. That was the biggest thing. But also working with them to make sure that they can capture your vision is important. So, you know, finding that illustrator. Finding that design cover, book cover and all that. So yeah, I self published. I enjoyed the journey. It was a good experience.
Laurie: And can I ask, because I feel like there’s a lot of questions lately about why. Why did you choose to self-publish? I know why I did, but why did you?
Tiffani: Right. Well, like I say, I always wanted to be an author, but I didn’t know what. So last October, November timeframe. It popped up on Facebook, I know this is random, but Crystal Swan Bates, she’s of a self published author. She’s produced so many. And she had a challenge on there and it was a five week challenge of how to sell your best. Creating a book. Being a bestselling book author and everything. And she showed us the different steps. I got training and it was a group, live group. So we got to collaborate. Work together. And she worked with us and it was a great experience.
And so by learning that. That’s what I didn’t even think about getting a publisher. I just happened to come across how to do my own and self-publish. So that’s really. It came just came up on me that ironically, that was the process that I was brought to and I just did that.
So I need to think about what it took to get a publisher. It’s just the self-publish part was presented. It said how you could go about doing it. And I just followed the instructions and it came together
Laurie: And it made sense.
Tiffani: In two months. I did it within two months.
Laurie: Oh, well done. That is fast. Sure. So did you have the book idea and then you came across Crystal and so it all just.
Tiffani: Oh, so I had an idea. I said, well, I definitely wanted to do something with STEM and girls and minorities. Just encouraging it. I just didn’t know what route to go about doing it. So it helped me to be able to know. Put it in writing. Outline it. And say what’s going to be the good marketable as far as meeting the target readers, the target market with it.
So then we came up with this idea of what type of book would it be. Which would we want to do a guided journal. Do we want to do, you know, workbook? Or what kind of book? So then we decided the story book, the picture book, cause I didn’t really know what age group I wanted to work with either cause I talked to all different age groups.
But when I thought about it, third graders that level where they make that decision of where that child’s going to go. So I said, okay, why don’t I do that K through two, let me hit them early. And so that’s why I chose to do the K through two, the five to eight year olds with the book and just expose them that way.
So that’s really the route. Why I decided to go that route with me.
Laurie: Cool. So it wasn’t even an option. It wasn’t even a choice. It’s just,
Tiffani: No, it just. Everything happens at the time it happens. And that’s what was presented at the time.
Laurie: Yeah. I love that. Yeah. Cause then you don’t, you know, sometimes too many choices. It’s overwhelming and then you get bogged down. Analysis paralysis and you just do nothing. So I love that you did it.
Tiffani: And then it was an ABC book. So when we decided it was going to be ABC. I was like, okay. The analytical side, I was going to try to make it rhyme. But I said, I cannot. I’m not creative. Like now when we talking about being creative, I tried a little bit. Then I was like, no, we’re just going to keep it simple.
Laurie: Rhyming is hard. People think well the words sound the same. That’s rhyming, but there’s so much to it.
Tiffani: Right? So maybe future wise, but for this book I said, no, we’re going to just do the descriptions. At least they can learn the basics and from that end. But I really wanted to try to do rhyming. But yeah, for a future book,
Laurie: I have the perfect editor for you when you are ready. She is a wiz. She’s fantastic. So let me know when you’re ready.
Was there anything that really surprised you about the process? Or like you said, it was just, you know, lots to learn, but?
Tiffani: Partnering with others with your idea. When I did with the illustrator trying to explain what I wanted. How I want it. Being culturally, you know, being different cultures, different races and ethnicity. I wanted to make sure that my vision didn’t get scrambled in the process of trying to develop what it’s come so. But she worked with me. We were patient. I said, no, that’s not what… No that’s.. I need them to wear glasses. I don’t need that. Take the pants. In a power plant, you wouldn’t wear that.
So after, from an engineering standpoint. It’s trying to explain the technical stuff. I had to try to show some pictures and show and break it down. So with the description of the writing of it, I still had to put another picture beside it so she can get an idea of what the power lines and all the different things, cause the technical side also needs to play a role.
Cause I knew what it was from that end, but then being able to display it with the characters and still make it kid friendly was key.
So, and just let me let you know what the process of finding the right illustrator was interesting too. I used a focus group. So I did test drawings.
I said, I want astronauts. So I had all the different ones. I was going to bid for draw out an astronaut. And so took those and I used my friends as my focus group. Who had kids, and so I used their kids. I used them to say, okay, which one would be more kid friendly. Now there were some good drawings and everything, but. That’s really how I determine which one would be more efficient for the book. So it’s just been a learning process, but that worked for me as far as,
Laurie: Yeah, I encourage people to get samples, but I usually just say, make your own choice. I don’t take it that step farther. So it’s a great thing that you did. You organized a focus group!
I love it. What would you say was the hardest part about the process?
Tiffani: About just the process itself?
Tiffani: Just getting it. Just making sure it gets to the point where it’s ready to go. I mean, like I said, just following the process of staying in my lane. I knew what I didn’t know how to do. And create to put the book together and stuff too.
So it was just more so working with a team and just tell them my vision and then all of us working together. So the hardest thing was just knowing my capabilities and knowing what I’m capable of and allowing others who skillfully, in those skills do that. Do their job. And it all came together and I’m just excited.
Laurie: You trusted them and it worked out. I love that. I don’t know that anybody else has said that before. And I think that’s really important because we can’t do it all. Maybe one or two special individuals who can.
Tiffani: Yeah. Right.
Laurie: Most of us cannot do it all.
Tiffani: And then finding the time to do it as well in the process, like I said, I had a goal to try to get it right before Christmas cause I wanted to kick them sales.
So by putting that goal of the deadline, I think that’s what pushed me also for the timeline of when I wanted everything to be done too. So just sticking to that schedule was a key thing too, of trying to work with everybody. To try to get to that goal and deadline. So that really was a part of, not the hardest, but a part of the process itself.
Laurie: Yeah, that definitely takes energy and focus to keep to the timeline and keep everybody else. Sounds like you have like background in that type of skill though. Like you come across like you’d be a great project manager, so
Tiffani: There you go. Well with the engineering with the work I do, I definitely have to work on projects and timelines with it. So, I guess I use that skill to tie in with this as being the project, and this was what I wanted to do and timeline to try and get it out. So yeah,
Laurie: That makes sense.
Tiffani: Use the skills, play a role.
Laurie: Well-roundedness has come in handy. So you’ve been published now for close to two months. So has anything surprised you about, you know, after it got after you press the big red button, as I like to say? Or?
Tiffani: Yes. Lessons learned, prepare beforehand to market. I was so ready to produce the book. But I wasn’t ready. I didn’t plan the marketing part. So when I press that button, and said, here’s my book. It was overwhelming. Thank goodness for my family and friends the word, word of mouth and all of that. It’s been a learning process from the marketing, thank you for this podcast, but just getting it out there.
Marketing. I will say, what’s the learning piece. Lessons learned from me before I know that I need to do that prior to being ready to pop to market. That was the learning. That was my lesson. I got the book. I did that. Whoa. I wasn’t ready for the market.
Laurie: You know. It’s all consuming just to get that book out there, so I don’t think you’re alone in that.
I think most people, you can really only focus on so many things. Your next book, you’ll be better able to branch out a little bit, but for your first one, like don’t beat yourself up because.
Tiffani: Yeah, it was a lot to learn. But, I’m thankful for the process cause now I can talk to it. People come to me now like asking me, well what did you do? How did you? How did you do it? Cause they want to also create a book too. And I’m like, if I could do it, you could do it. I’m telling people, a lot of people are so close. And I’m like, you can do it. It’s possible.
Laurie: Yeah. So many people, right?
Everybody. You go for a walk with your kids and you have an idea. Or you watch them play and get an idea. And you know, the advent of the internet and Kindle and Amazon, there’s really, there’s nothing stopping us anymore. Just ourselves.
Tiffani: Right. And I’ll share, I know I didn’t go too far in depth, but my mom, let me tell at least where I am today.
My mom was an educator. She actually taught elementary school. She was a title one elementary reading lab teacher. And so I’m just saying it’s full circle that I ended up writing a book dealing with the elementary school students. And then my dad was an entrepreneur owned his own barbershop beauty salon.
So I didn’t have parents that were engineers or anything or tech savvy, but I was surrounded by, they put me into places where I could be exposed to it. So they had my brother and I, he’s a civil engineer, both of us be able to be in a science and math academies on Saturdays and be exposed to people who might be engineers that can encourage us.
So by being exposed, I think my parents played a role in helping us be able to get connected with the engineering. So, which encouraged me to give back as well. And that’s why I feel like this is a piece of giving back, just from a different perspective, but also making a difference.
Laurie: Oh, for sure. And having a teacher and an entrepreneur as a father. Those two sort of professions are constantly learning, right. So they would, they would give you that skill and that yen to always be learning and improving and doing, trying new things, right. You’re not just stuck. Some people just get stuck, so. That’s cool.
Do you have advice for somebody like you who has an idea? You a year ago, what would your advice be?
Tiffani: Just do your research. Don’t spend too much time on the research, but just know that there’s a lot of information out there. There’s a lot of tools and resources already out there of how to publish a book. How to write a book and organizing it.
So I say take advantage of those opportunities. Join groups. There’s different Facebook groups and live groups where you can work and ping off of each other, like minded people who’s going through the process. That’s been great too.
So I say, just take advantage of those types of resources and I think that really will get you where you need to be. And just know, if I did it, anybody could do it. I know people say that a lot, but yeah, the process is feasible where people can make it happen. Just devoting the time is the key part and finding the resources is going to be the key to make it happen.
Laurie: Yeah, I agree with that completely. A lot of steps, but nothing is overly difficult, you know, like life always gets in the way.
But that’s the case for everybody. Oh, I love that. Thank you. Can you share where people can find you and the name of your book? And I’ll post all the links as well.
Tiffani: Okay, the name of the book is “What Can I Be? STEM Careers from A to Z”. And you can find it on my website, which is TiffaniTeachey.com as well as on Twitter, Instagram @TiffaniTeachey and then on Facebook you can look for AuthorTiffaniTeachey or TiffaniTeacheyAuthor. And also it’s on Amazon, and to put a note out there, it’s a number one bestseller on Amazon for STEM education. So and I found that out on Christmas day, which was awesome. So I said to my mom, who celebrated. But also on Barnes and Noble, so definitely check it out. It’s a great book. I know your kids will love it.
Laurie: Yeah, it sounds fantastic. You’ve done a great job. I look forward to the next in the series that may or may not rhyme.
Laurie: Thank you so much for talking to me today.
Tiffani: Thank you. Thank you, Laurie.
Laurie: You’re welcome. Bye Tiffany.
Tiffani: All right. Bye.