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Ep134 Transcript: Interview with Mira Canion
Andrea Vahl: Have you thought about publishing your own set of books? Maybe you see a hole in the market for some great books or resources and aren’t sure how to go about it. My guest today, Mira Canion, had that same realization as a teacher and she went on to develop an empire of Spanish language books designed to help Spanish teachers. Listen in to this great episode.
Hello, dreamers. Welcome to the late starters club, giving you the inspiration, mindset, and tools you need to start something midlife and beyond remember, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
Late starters. It’s your host, Andrea Vahl. And I am joined today by a good friend of mine. We’ve traveled together. We have traveled together. Mira Canion. She’s amazing. She is a, the author of many Spanish language novels for classroom instruction, photographer, Spanish teacher, world language teacher, and she does stand up comedy on the side. How awesome. So welcome Mira.
Mira Canion: Hello, Andrea. Thanks for having me on your show.
Andrea Vahl: Super awesome. Yeah, and we traveled to Guatemala together for a service project for our church and that was super fun and great to have you there because you helped me translate a lot and also point out when I was making big mistakes at a dinner party.
Mira Canion: I think you brought it up like, Hey, when I was a kid, this is what I made as a mistake.
Andrea Vahl: So awesome. But we really want to, dive in a little bit more into the publishing empire that you have built with these language learners and novels that you have created. You were, a Spanish teacher before you did the novels, right? You started with the teaching.
Mira Canion: I actually started during and that is the biggest thing is when you notice a niche or a missing piece as you’re in an instruction mode where you really don’t get enough of the sustained reading.
And that’s the main point because people always say, I just don’t, I can’t speak the language or I can’t write it or I don’t understand when people say anything. So your passive vocabulary is always bigger than your active. But in order to get that going, you have this issue of getting enough language over and over in a repetitious way in order to really make it stick.
So when we were kids, everybody was fine with ” Oh, you finish a book, you’re like, read it again and read it again and read it again”. And you read it over and over and over again. And that’s what lyrics do a lot of times the refrain has that embedded in there. Like the nursery rhymes or whatever, it’s over and over again. You’re getting the cadence, the fluency of that.
So what I created was based off of some other books that were also out in the market. But they seem to have somebody from the United States traveling to a country and then they come back and I wanted like, Oh, no, let’s teach kids geography because I had kids saying, Oh, the Caribbean, that’s where that is, and you’re studying Spanish and it’s there’s all this content and history around it.
So my goal was, can we make kids smarter about those types of aspects? And teach the language at the same time. Rather than just, Hey, I have a cat. I have two cats. Now I have three cats. Now I have video. Now I love cats, right? And so putting the layering that on there, and so that’s where I introduce some of that while I was still teaching full time, and I know it’s a hard gig, but I think I did something a little bit like what you did.
When I met you, you were doing something with wine, and then all of a sudden you had this aging process with Grandma Mary, and you turned into somebody really old and launched that. And so what I did was I used the same thing with a pirate. And so I wrote a story about that. I dressed up for a conference that I led here in Colorado.
And then that kept going with my image as far as, the story I wrote. And I just kept writing, you know, and then I wrote the teacher’s manual from that as well. It’s a never ending process.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, I love that. And, Las Piratas is your bestselling book, right? Has it sold more than the others?
Mira Canion: From that yeah, that started, it started it out. And, then I have a couple of others like. Agente Secretos y el Moral de Picasso based off of the search for the Spear of Destiny together with Picasso’s Guernica. Another one is from the Day of the Dead. And then the last one that’s done pretty well unbeknownst to me is the Capybara. It’s like on TikTok and all these other things.
And I was writing about it 2014, 2015. And I did the research like, what is this animal? What does it eat? You have to do all of that research because you can’t just make a character based off an animal or anybody else without going. What can it do? What does it live and all of it?
Andrea Vahl: What I love about your books is that you have incorporated your photography into them and like the history and they really are just super unique out there in the market. And like you said, if there’s, if you’re noticing something, if you’re in the market you’re a teacher, you’re noticing there’s not something that you would like to see out there. But we really want to, dive in a little bit more into the publishing empire that you have built with these language learners and novels that you have created. You didn’t know how to publish a book. You didn’t know how to, get art for the cover and all that stuff, right? You just did it, right?
Mira Canion: I worked initially with a publisher, but a lot of the stuff that I was doing was on my own initiative as well in that, I knew people who could draw or I tapped the art teacher from high school and said, Hey, can you draw something like this?
Cause photography’s my game maybe, but there’s so many aspects when we get into talking about business or publishing such that it’s a whole spectrum of things you have to know how to do, whether it’s laying something out and I don’t do all this. I farm it out, but you know, you take the back of the day, you took the picture, you took the role.
And you gave it to somebody and he came back and wow, look, I have the picture. Today, it seems like we have to do everything. So we have all the pictures come right up in our feed. And then it’s how do I maybe crop that or put it in for publication? And that’s different. You talk about 300 DPI and really getting those photos in a certain format.
So they fit the page. Exactly. That’s a lot.
Andrea Vahl: You have to all of a sudden know all this technology. You just go out and you think, Oh, I’m going to write this book, but then all of a sudden, you’ve got to know all the things and then marketing it too. Back in the day I helped you, get your first website up and I forgot about that myself.
Exactly. You’re like,
Mira Canion: well, wait a minute. What’s your name? Let’s get your name. And it was like, before I could blink, it was like, Let’s get your name dot com, and it, it’s all those little things along the way that you line up that, and you learn from people’s experiences and hopefully what we’re doing as entrepreneurs or late starters or early starters is looking at the people who are doing it well, they’ve done the research, they’ve looked into a couple of things and you say, Hey, what have you done?
What’s the pitfalls? Thank you. Yeah, so it is hard saying again, cause every six weeks it seems like technology changes and you’re like, so nobody’s tweeting anymore. Oh, what’s that?
I don’t have any exes I don’t know what that app will do for me either.
Andrea Vahl: That is definitely overwhelming. And I know that you’ve had a lot to do over the years with changing technology. Another thing that I love that you were able to do is you were able to, I mean, you were teaching and then you grew, you just kept adding books.
You kept seeing more books to add. And then, you were able to leave full time teaching. Was that a conscious choice? Cause you couldn’t do it all. Right? You couldn’t do the teaching and the publishing empire that you had built.
Mira Canion: I don’t think many teachers can even do the teaching these days without anything else around it.
Shout out to all those teachers listening to this. so much has added to our plates as teachers. And so part of my mission is taking part of that off their plate and saying, look, let me help you plan. So that’s the part of the readers that I’ve written is, the storylines and the characters and the history are all in the book.
And so they’re written at a level where it’s not overwhelming for the student. And that makes the teacher’s job easier. And then I also create the teacher’s manuals with that. So what it came down to was trying to keep up with a full time job and then starting that website, as you were saying, and then starting to do some of the fulfillment, then that’s where I got to this.
Christmas, you know, Santa Claus like, let me deliver everybody’s books at the end of the day. And all down the chimney. And I was like, Whoa, how do I logistically do all this? And it was a leap of faith going, okay, I’m going to leave out of this. Somebody told me something about if you have about 50% of your income that you can get from your other gig on the side, then you can leave because then you can fill in the rest. And so that’s kind of what I did as I just kind of did a major okay, let’s just do this and it’s worked out, but it wasn’t just coming into the market. Like, Oh, let me just write a book.
Nobody knows who I am. You really have to establish that before you leave, I think.
Andrea Vahl: Because you did, I think you made really smart decisions along the way you started on the side, just a little, a project, whatever. And then you saw how well received it was.
And you were also doing speaking engagements as the pirate and all of that. And it was just gaining momentum. So I think that is smart that you were straddling both worlds and I think it was probably overwhelming, I’m sure. And I know it was overwhelming sometimes you’re like, and you were shipping them out of your garage.
I remember that. You had all the books in your garage for a long time, right?
Mira Canion: That’s right. I had, and the more you write, the more you have. All these things that juggle, like the less you have, the less you have to put in, you know, in the garage. And so it was like, okay, either have to start looking, you know, you start asking people like, what do I do next?
And a lot of times people don’t know your financial situation. And so they say, Oh, why don’t you do this? I’m like Then you have to raise the prices and then there’s all these logistics in it. And it is really tough. Let me tell you to find somebody who really understands and can give a business owner the information that is right there for their business.
I went to school for political science. For languages for teaching languages, and so the challenge and the joke around real language teachers has been, oh, we don’t do math. I tell you what, there’s so much math involved in business, right? The return on investment and all these different terms what’s your profit margin?
I’m like. I don’t know, like it doesn’t matter I don’t know, like how are you selling this? And what, what are you going to use for your hosting the website and how much is that per month and all of these decisions you make. And at the end of the day, you’re like, wow, I’m spending a lot of money.
Yeah, is that worth it? Who knows? And so truly, if somebody’s out there, the one niche that I think you could really make it a dent in is helping individual business owners put all the pieces together and tie it together. It’s not cause you’re doing all the things. All at once. And I think that’s probably where the teaching came in is because truly in teaching, you are doing everything.
And there’s, and yet there’s only one thing you have to do in teaching that’s legal and that’s taking attendance. The more teachers I talk to, yeah, I just do the attendance at the end of the day. And I, I get it. An email from the office please take your attendance. You’re really supposed to do it in the first 10 minutes, and so the whole management of having the portfolio and disciplining, a moment or having the whole classroom management. And if you could think about it if you could think about having 30 adults. In a room and going, okay, let me tell you how you’re going to use the bathroom. This is how you’re going to do it.
Mind blown, right? Like how am I possibly going to have a management system for when, what a kid can do coming up to my there’s tape maybe on the floor, do not cross this line. I need some space, all these things we think of in the classroom, then you can push that off. to the business and going, okay, how is somebody going to contact me?
What, what’s going to be my line? How am I going to present this? All these things is what teaching maybe prepares you for. I don’t know. I’m hoping more teachers are staying with it. Let me just tell you that. And if we can find a way as a society to say, what can we take off people’s plates?
Boy, I would jump behind that 100%.
Andrea Vahl: Right. Teachers definitely have a challenging, challenging job out there. And business owners do as well, I think, but there’s not just the added pressure of the parents of our clients calling in and…
Mira Canion: exactly, and so that, that kind of prepared me this business is, you have the parents.
Who then feed into the kids, coming in and then you have all the rest of your teachers, your colleague in your department, and then all the other teachers, and then you have the administrator and then you have the district and the superintendent and then the public at large going. What are you doing?
And there’s all these layers. And it just is the linchpin right there is the teacher. Every single time we get everything from both sides. And I’m sure administrators will say the same thing. And they probably have a much tougher job in putting it all together. Next time you think about that and saying, how can you help your child out in the classroom?
The number one thing I would suggest, and nobody likes this idea is go in. And observe a class all day long, whatever that might be elementary happens a lot. But then in middle school, it just falls to, to nothing because it’s oh, what’s your mom doing here?
But just go in there and saying, wow, okay, now I understand the dynamics. Now I understand all the pressure and just relieving that. What can I do to help? Because I don’t want to put more book banning on you or more more stress. I want to help and same thing with the book publishing is the self publishing gig is like, you have no idea how to vet everything.
You don’t know what’s selling well, maybe because you don’t have a right pubisher are behind you.
Andrea Vahl: So let’s talk about some of the ways that you get your books out there because I think it’s unique and interesting because you, you do have a unique model in that you’re selling into the districts, into the schools themselves, you’ve got these multiple types of clients where you.
Some teachers are coming to you directly. Sometimes you’re at a conference. So talk a little bit about how you’ve sold your books and how that has developed.
Mira Canion: So with the website, the fulfillment happens, straight from my website, but I also have distributors. So they resell it.
For example, my books are on Amazon. If you want to go there, you can get them that way. But mainly it’s dealing with purchase orders. That’s the bane of my existence is really, when you look at that market is the people purchasing my books are not spending their own money.
Though, when you talk about your business, you got direct with the client, right? Mine is more okay, so I like these books. Now they have to go off and convince somebody. That these are the books they want. And then they have to find the right person in the department. And then now they have to find if the funds are there from their principal, their administrator, or maybe district coordinator.
And then by the time you come back it’s okay, now I have my purchase order. Now we need your W-9. Now we need a quote. And they, you have the quote, that’s a PDF. So my client is literally, Away from that product in a lot of ways, a couple steps away in the funding of it.
So a lot of it’s not directly at a conference. Maybe it’s more of what I’ll speak and people know me and then they say, Oh, I use your books or my kids will, be delighted. I told them, I told my students that I’m going to hang out with the author of the book of copy bought a book and they’re like, no way you’re not doing that.
Then, take my picture and it’s Whoa, look it. It’s the teacher with the author. And so it’s also pushing into schools and having an author visit, for example, when the kids have heard some from questions, just like you have today. And I explained how I got, came up with the idea what’s publishing like in all the things, maybe in Spanish, we talk a little bit in English.
So really my market is the education market and it’s so very different. And it comes with. With all these burdens of figuring out the best way to serve that clientele, too.
Andrea Vahl: And it’s probably just such a benefit that you have had the experience as a teacher, with all the hoops they have to jump through and you can actually help them through the process a lot of times because, you know what all goes into it.
So that’s good, but it’s a lot of work. I just like having someone. Buy it on my website. Don’t have to worry about it.
Mira Canion: And the money too. That’s a, because we have done that before. Just have them buy it. You’re like it doesn’t really happen. And then you need a tax exempt number, you have to have that ready.
And nobody has that for you necessarily. So it’s, and so I think going to conferences and being seen that way as well is just really connecting with the teacher because I think. A lot of us, when we go to a movie, we don’t expect to go, my gosh, there’s Johnny Depp standing right over there, Hey guys, thanks for coming to my movie.
We don’t get that experience. And I think that’s the connection then is knowing that I am a teacher. That’s how, I started, that’s how I still, I’m still a teacher just because I’m not in the classroom, you don’t become a mathematician. I’m like, Oh, no. I don’t do math anymore.
I can’t, like whatever helping somebody out. You’re always going to be that ultraman or you’re always going to be a teacher. You’re always going to have that skillset and apply that. So that’s how.
Andrea Vahl: That’s awesome. So we talked about this a little bit before we actually hit record, but I wanted to ask you this one, this question, because I think you’ve got a really unique answer.
So what is an assumption that people have about you that’s wrong?
Mira Canion: First of all, I had to reach out to a good friend of mine. To ask Hey, we’ve talked, we’ve chatted about this before. What exactly is that assumption that people make? And it took me a, it didn’t take me back. I just had to think about it for a while.
But basically what she said was people assume that I don’t care what other people think about me. And. I just had to really process that and say, what does that really mean? It has to do with my honesty and it has to do with my humor. And basically I’ve pretty much admitted in the last few weeks or maybe the few last few months or so is.
That I’m autistic and there’s a part of me that people have always questioned that I have very loud ringing in my ears constantly, 24 sevens, never going to go away. So I’m very sensitive to sound. And that has been the one thing you see maybe on Sesame Street where you have a character who’s Hey, we’re going to play the instruments.
We better put the earmuffs on to protect your hearing. And I just started always thinking about that and going, you know what? I have a nephew, same thing, where he’s got a little bit of sensitivity. He’s very bright math. And just tells it like it is because that’s how autistic people do this sometimes.
Not everybody, but it’s one of the veins of it of, I really value. Being honest with you and I really being, I value connecting with you. And so I want to make sure that I deliver a truth or some problem solving or helping you out. And so that means I take myself away. And I don’t think what you think about me.
I’m just trying to help you up. And I forget that the common way of dealing with people in this American culture is to preserve one’s image, to preserve the self, to make sure that nobody thinks I’m, causing problem or rocking the boat. That’s a pretty standard cultural value here in the United States.
And so I don’t care about that. I don’t care about that value. As much as I care about making sure I help you and making sure, something and I think that’s where that comes from. And trying to work around that and saying, I have to be a little bit better of saying, Hey, I value this more than I value.
What you’re going to think about me, in wow. And that came out of the blue what are you doing?
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, so it’s interesting. It’s almost like you, that is it is actually a little bit true that maybe you don’t care as much about what people think about you, you’re just.
Putting a high value on honesty as well. So you’re not necessarily there. I don’t think they’re totally exclusive from each other. Like maybe that sort of in combo or whatever, I don’t know. So yeah, that’s interesting
Mira Canion: though.
It’s not necessarily wrong. I would think more of that. I don’t value as much preserving my image and the honesty and the humor take over. And it overshadows that, it’s hard to be human. You’re a standup comedian and you do a lot of funny things, right? You know that in order to deliver the joke or deliver something, you are things, right? And you’re making fun of being a mom. You’re making fun of having dinner all the time.
You’re making fun of where you live. You’re doing all those things. You don’t care what other people say. Oh, you’re making fun of Colorado. You’re making fun of moms. Why are you making fun of moms? Like you don’t care in the moment because you’re, you know, you’re also,
Andrea Vahl: yeah, You’re also putting, you’re also like having to strip away the ego a little bit.
You’re not, you’re just putting yourself out there in a way that says here’s who I am and this is me. And That’s, and I’m going to help you be you and, or give you feedback or whatever that might be, if that, or make a joke about it or something like that, awesome.
I love that. I love that realization. I think it’s interesting when we can have these realizations or even just ask someone like, sometimes it’s hard to even know. how we come across or how we appear to others. So I think that’s a fun, fun thing to get feedback on. Awesome. So I wanted to also ask so what have you done?
I know that over the years you’ve had times of. Overwhelm in, in your business. You work really late. You’re really concerned about making sure the product is really professionally done. Well done. Everything is flowing really well. And I know that you’ve had a lot of late nights working on things and doing.
I mean, As we all have, right? What entrepreneur is like working 40 hours? I don’t know. But what have you done? What helps you to overcome that feeling of overwhelm or when you’re in the middle of it? What kind of tools do you use to get through the overwhelm?
Mira Canion: Besides coffee? I think I’m overwhelmed all the time.
I think it just a little things. I think that’s part of the personality because I’m a big picture thinker. And usually big picture thinkers that, you know, have these great visions and dreams and stuff are not the people going here, let me take notes for you, you don’t rely on me for my note taking, you rely on me for connecting ideas and seeing things where other people haven’t even looked at those two things that are connected or that could be pushed out.
And so the overwhelm comes in recognizing, okay. When can I push that off to where I’m not being creative and then push it off to that corner? And I think there’s a, the book I think I read was is it Daniel Pink? He wrote when, that particular book. And he said, if you had no clock, No alarm and you started waking up and going to bed whenever you want to and then Starting mapping that and just say okay my natural point why we get up is this he said there’s certain Mathematical types of things that you do like different tasks that you perform either in the morning Or in the evening or maybe in the afternoon, depending on your cycle of how you are, if you’re like a late owl or early bird type of thing.
And so thinking about that and saying, look, this is an overwhelm. I’m not getting this done. When do I perform that particular task? The best. And just sticking it over onto that category or sheet in, in whatever that is. So if I start, for example, I get really creative around 8 PM, which pretty much is like one other friend of the entire universe that does this.
I don’t know how this is going to work. And just realizing that. And in knowing which of your, creative partners or other people work the best and saying, I’m going to push this out to this person when they’re in the creative moment. For example, you would never give a teacher something Friday afternoon at 2:30 and going, Hey, I got this great idea.
You’re like, Oh no, I’m out the door. I can’t do it anymore. So it’s finding those peaks as well. In reading that book about looking at the project of the, of it and saying, Hey, when is everything less of an overwhelm and then maybe putting those there now, I don’t know that I’ve mastered that, but I’m working on it right now, finding something such that I could just.
Hook it somewhere else to somebody who can say, okay, yeah, let me take that over. Or this is not in your wheelhouse. Let me take this over. And just finding, ways to do that. And I think the biggest bane somebody out there, hello, anybody at Late Starters Club, can you find a way to make less email?
Can you find a way that I don’t really need to tend to that they have a different kind of hook to them and they just over here. So for example, when I get mail, paper mail, it doesn’t hit me in the face when I’m eating breakfast, it goes into a box and I choose when to unlock it. Can we create something where King Superson can send me something and all send me subscriptions because that’s basically what we’re doing.
We’re like delete,
Andrea Vahl: delete. I think there are tools out there like that. I’m sure I feel like there are some email tools out there that I’m sure someone’s done it.
Mira Canion: There’s the overwhelmed person then.
Andrea Vahl: Email is overwhelming. I hear you there. So this has been amazing.
I know half an hour goes by so quickly, but so crazy. But I do want to, I always ask our guests. Their favorite quote or inspirational saying, what keeps you inspired and love to have you share that with our audience here.
Mira Canion: So a friend of mine who was helping me out many years ago, back in college gave me this quote from a movie and I use it and it fits into what I was telling you about the assumptions that people make about me.
So here it goes. You can never fall flat on your face. If you’re bending over backwards to help somebody out.
Andrea Vahl: I love that. That’s awesome. That is awesome. That’s definitely a great thing to think about just to help others, lift other people up. I think that’s awesome. And oh, and I didn’t have you share your.
I want to, for those of you who are tuning into the YouTube video interview, show your book. I want people to see that.
Mira Canion: Okay. This, yeah, there it is.
Andrea Vahl: That’s awesome. And then flip through it, open up. I love that. So if you’re listening into the podcast, you can go back and there’ll be links to the.
There’ll be links to the Amazon as well. So people can see it, but yeah, just, that’s awesome. There’s drawings in there. So fun. And then in some of your books, you’ve got your photography. So I love how you make it unique and so readable and easy for, there we go. There’s yes. I love it. Cause you go down to these sites.
Mira Canion: Yeah, this book in particular, I had the idea. And then what I did is I went to the sites, took the pictures. So when I had it, for example, I knew I had this car. in there. So I went to the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart, Germany to take this particular photos of the car that I wanted to use. This is from 1937.
So that’s the fun part of it is some people think ah, who’s going to care, whatever, but man, I have teachers just at this last conference. I was at going, my kids went in and the hook from him was, it was a 1937 Talbot Lago car, and they just started looking at that and it hooked this particular percentage of.
Of my students, whereas maybe, the other things in it hook, the other percentage of the students. So that’s the thing. That’s the great thing about stories is you all have an access point to join in. So it’s great talking to you. I know. Love it. And
Andrea Vahl: right. And for those of people who are Listening in, definitely go check out Mira at MiraCanion. com. There’s all the information about her books there and all kinds of stuff. Teacher’s manuals are there as
Mira Canion: Right?
Andrea Vahl: So audio books, I love it. So great. Thank you so much Mira for being on with us and and yeah, keep
Mira Canion: writing.
Thank you. Keep podcasting. Okay. Awesome.
Andrea Vahl: Hope that was helpful and make sure you grab the free guide top tools for late starters on the website at late starters club. com and let’s turn dreaming into doing.
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