It's time for a new Mentoring Mondays, and today I am so excited to have my friend Lisa from Beyond The Attractions and the WDW Fan Zone, and author of Beyond the Attractions as well. You are going to love this interview, Thanks Lisa!!!
- Introduce yourself and tell us a little about your blog, website and book.
I’m the mom of three boys ranging in age from 21 to 2. Our “family-moon” trip to Walt Disney World with my stepson over a decade ago was so special that we were hooked and the once-in-a-lifetime trip has become as-often-as-we-can Disney World trips.
Before we had very small children, my husband and I agreed we would wait until our children were 5 or so to take them to Walt Disney World. Well, the thought of waiting more than even a year to vacation at Walt Disney World had us re-thinking our position. I started to extensively research Walt Disney World from the perspective of a mom with a toddler and planned my son’s magical first trip. Families of preschoolers face some pretty unique challenges when it comes to travel so I took what I learned and wrote Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers.
I’m also the proud co-creator of WDW Fan Zone with my friend Stuart Sternberg. The fabulously talented columnists at the Zone share their love of all things Disney while staying true to their unique perspectives. We feature a new article every day along with Disney contests and our newest feature WDW 411. Our special team researches and answers questions on Disney topics.
My other blogging home is Chip and Company where I contribute a weekly article. Chip and Company has park news, planning tips, giveaways, and more.
- What inspired you to start your blogging?
I was starting to become involved in social media and was learning how Twitter helped me connect with other fans in the Disney community. When I read thoughtful Disney articles from Disney bloggers (which was often), I was sharing them through Twitter. Chris from Everything Walt Disney World and Chip and Company approached me and asked if I would be interested in contributing weekly to Chip and Company. I was thrilled to have the chance to share my enthusiasm for the most magical place on Earth.
- How did your blogging lead to your becoming an author?
I took the road less traveled. I actually wrote my book first and started blogging later. I admit that at first I was a little apprehensive about starting to blog and putting myself out there. It took about one article for that concern to dissipate – everyone in the Disney community has been so warm and supportive. Blogging lets me be more informal and more opinionated about my Disney likes and even dislikes than I am as an author. Of course I share my opinions in the book but I need to be a bit more objective and even-handed in presenting attractions and dining experiences. As a blogger, I think I’ve written about 50’s Prime Time Cafe, Illuminations, and the Epcot Food and Wine Festival more than other things because they are personal favorites of my family! I can also share the ways Walt Disney World has strengthened my blended family.
- Did social networking play a role in you & Stuart coming together to create the WDW Fan Zone?
Absolutely! It was hard not to notice Stuart (@DisneyGeekDad) on Twitter. He was so genuinely supportive of the Disney community and passionate about Walt Disney World. It turns out that we live in the same town and finally met at a Disney fan meet Stuart organized in the summer of 2010. The rest, as they say, is history. When Stuart spoke about some ideas he had for a site, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
- What was the hardest part of writing Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers?
The hardest part is also the best part. The most challenging aspect of writing an annual Walt Disney World travel guide for me is staying current. No sooner do you send your manuscript out to print and Disney announces a change. That’s why I have an Updates page on my BeyondTheAttractions.com website that lists changes at Walt Disney World that occurred after a particular edition went to print. To stay current, I read over 75 blogs a day (thank goodness for Google reader!), follow many fans on Twitter, and get to make some research trips to Walt Disney World. That’s the fun part. The hard part is fact checking every fact and every price in the book each summer (thank goodness for spreadsheets!). The most rewarding part is helping families with young children create a magical vacation that works for their particular family.
- Do you think being a blogger was an advantage/disadvantage in writing your book, and why/why not?
Being a blogger has definitely been an advantage in writing my book. Writing a blog post at least weekly has improved my writing. However, the biggest advantage is being able to connect with other Disney fans who have shared their support and opinions. Comments on a blog or Facebook page are a great way for me to step back and get a fresh perspective on Walt Disney World from other bloggers and parents who visit Walt Disney World with young children. That helps my book immeasurably.
- What do you feel is the best way to promote your blog, book, ect. and get your name out there?
I think you have to first know your target audience. This will help focus your efforts on who to contact to get the word out. As an example, my target audience is families with young children who are planning a Walt Disney World trip. Before contacting a non-Disney blogger to review my book, I read the blog and make sure there are preschoolers in the house.
Tying your book’s promotion to Disney-sponsored events is very helpful. Much of my marketing is done in the winter months before the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.
Also, connect with other authors to exchange ideas and experiences and get involved in the Disney community as much as possible. You’ll receive tons of support. Using giveaways in connection with social media is a great way to spread the word. If liking your Facebook page or following on Twitter is a method of entry, you will broaden the number of people talking about your book.
- What do you feel is the best way to keep our blogs fresh and interesting?
Don’t force yourself to write or overextend yourself, be honest, and write what interests you at the moment.
If I’m inspired to write, I’ll often write multiple articles at once because I know there will be other weeks when my life is too crazy to be able to devote the time to writing that it deserves. I try not to overcommit to writing articles because then it becomes another chore on the “To Do” list and something I have to do rather than enjoy doing.
I think the reason blogging is so popular is because people want a real, honest opinion and not just the company line. I try to be diplomatic if I don’t care for something but I still share my opinion. For example, the Disney Dining Plan doesn’t work for my family right now (but may in the future) and I don’t like Dole Whips.
Oftentimes I have a plan on what my next article will be about and then scrap it because I’ve been inspired by an announcement by Disney, another article I read, current events in my own life, or maybe just the weather that day. Whatever the reason, I follow my instinct and write about what interests me at the moment I’m writing my article.
- You are a very busy lady, Mom, Blogger, Co-founder of WDW Fan Zone, Author. How do you stay on track and keep everything organized?
I couldn’t function without my calendar and to-do lists. If you ask my husband, he’ll probably complain about the never-ending to-do lists I have scattered on the kitchen counter. On any given day you’ll find at least one and more likely two or more. I think I have very strong time management and organizational skills. If I were honest with myself, I think I would have to admit that to some degree I thrive on being busy. Although I sometimes wish I had more free time, I’m not sure I would know what to do with myself. I’m don’t know if it’s a personal failing or not but I’m sure it helps me to accomplish everything I need to do!
- Do you have any Disney Vacation rituals?
Before we brought our small children to Disney, it was always lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern on the day we toured Magic Kingdom and Illuminations and a pastry from a World Showcase bakery as many nights as possible. With two kids under six, we’ve had to be more flexible and put these traditions on hold some years.
The only two rituals we always adhere to these days is making Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) for at least one table-service meal a day since we all need a break and I’m too much of a planner to not have an ADR, and being able to park hop. We either have annual passes or Park Hoppers for the flexibility. This is especially helpful since we usually stay in the Boardwalk Resort area and often eat dinner in Epcot or Hollywood Studios. We love to stroll and both parks are within walking distance which makes for a very pleasant way to spend the evening.
- Do you have a Disney Vacation tip you would like to share with our readers?
May I offer two? Spend some time planning your Walt Disney World vacation and don’t try to do everything.
- Anything you would like to add?
Thanks again Lisa, it was an honor to have you!! Hope all of you enjoyed this as much as I did! Have a Magical Day!!