Monday, January 30, 2012

Mentoring Mondays - Amanda - The Disney Chick

I am very happy to have Amanda from the Disney Chick with us today for Mentoring Mondays.  Amanda is a fellow member of the Magical Blogorail, and a wonderful blogger.  I am sure you will all be inspired by her interview.

Blog:  The Disney Chick

1. Introduce yourself and describe The Disney Chick.
Hi, I’m Amanda and my blog is The Disney Chick. I started the site more than three years ago, and I write about everything Disney - recommendations, recipes, travel stories, and commentary on the latest Disney news.
I first visited the parks when I was about six years old, and I was hooked. My family joined Disney Vacation Club when I was in my early twenties, and now we visit WDW almost every year. My travel companions are my mom and my sister, and we always have a great time.
People often ask me about the name, because I’m not the type of person who would ever self-identify as a “chick.” But several years ago, I was in a bar with friends and a group of guys started talking to us and it came up in conversation that I was leaving the following week for vacation. When I told them I was going to Disney, they gave me the look that strangers give adults who voluntarily go to WDW (y’all know the one I’m talking about). I had to leave the bar for another event, and my friend told me later that after I left, one of the guys asked, “What happened to that other girl? You know, the Disney chick?” I decided to own the title. 

2. What inspired you to start blogging?
I was a reader of Disney blogs long before I became a blogger, and reading other people’s stories and advice made me want to throw my two cents in. My family’s situation – no spouses, no kids – makes for a different perspective, because we’re not interested in how to enjoy the day with kids or how to have a romantic vacation. We’re just looking to have a fun time and create some new memories together.
In addition to the parks, I’m a huge fan of animation – the process, the art, the way it can make fantasy a reality without the limitations of live action. If filmmaking is an art, then animation is the purest form of creative expression. Walt’s famous quote, “"I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse,” appears on so many different pieces of merchandise now that it seems trite to mention it here, but when you think about the empire that was created because of what happened when one man put pencil to paper – how can anyone not be in awe of that?
I envisioned The Disney Chick as a place where I could marry the two interests – write about my experiences in the parks while letting my geek flag fly – and it’s worked out pretty well.
3. If you could give a blogger just one piece of advice, what would it be?
This is going to sound incredibly cliché, but be yourself. When I first started blogging, I was trying to be everything at once – a news site, a recipe blog, a review site, a place for commentary. Eventually I took a step back and realized I wasn’t actually breaking any news stories, and my kitchen (in a ridiculously tiny NYC studio apartment) was not conducive for trying to make complicated recipes, so those posts were becoming a pain-in-the-youknowhat. So I cut back on the recipes (although I would like to start cooking again), let the bigger sites handle the Disney news, and I started posting about whatever Disney-related thing was occupying my mind that day – good, bad, or ugly. And slowly but surely, the readers came.
4. What has been the absolute best thing you have done to drive traffic to your sites?
I started being really honest. There are great Disney blogs out there that can tell you how to plan the perfect Disney vacation that’s full of magic and pixie dust and unforgettable memories. And while I’m a huge fan of Disney, there are also some practices, promotions, and business decisions that I am disappointed by. I used to keep those opinions at bay because I thought they would put me at odds with the community, but one day I wrote a post that laid out all of the icky factors regarding the Disney Princesses, and the traffic spike was enormous (to date, it’s still one of the most highly trafficked posts). I realized then that being a fan and being a (friendly) critic aren’t mutually exclusive positions.  To this day, my most popular posts are the ones that I was the most passionate about, or that I had the most fun writing.

5. Any advice on how to maintain followers and get them talking about your blog?
I think the more you find your voice, the more your readers can get a sense of your personality, and that’s something people connect to. Facebook and Twitter make it easy for people to share content they like, and if your site resonates with people, then they will share it with their friends.
Twitter is also a great tool for building a following, because it allows the community to connect with you, and if they like your tweets, then they’ll usually visit your site. And as your follower base grows, you’ll have a bigger and bigger audience to share your content with.
There’s a temptation for new bloggers (and I was certainly guilty of this) to go into it thinking that you’ll become immediately successful. As I mentioned earlier, I started my blog trying to be everything to everyone, and it didn’t work. Over the years, I’ve focused the tone a lot more, and if my site is the place where readers come when they want commentary on the latest Disney news with a dash of sass and humor, then I’m happy to occupy that little corner of the blogosphere.
6. Do you have a “go-to” topic for those times you have writer’s block?
Writer’s block is a natural part of the process, but it can be frustrating. I always look at a spell of writer’s block as a sign I need another trip to WDW, but trips don’t materialize out of thin air. If I’m stuck, I’ll check the official Disney Parks blog to see if there were any announcements that slipped past my radar that I could post about. If that doesn’t work, I’ll do a little research – because WDW has such a rich history, there’s usually an anniversary or milestone that coincides with that particular day/week/month.
Another trick I’ve found useful is to take a small notebook with you when you visit the parks, and write down things that make you laugh, surprise you, irritate you, etc. I’ve found that when I return home from a trip, I can always recall the highlights perfectly, but then I sometimes forget those moments when I said to myself, “I can’t wait to blog that!” Taking notes along the way keeps the ideas fresh for when I get home, and then if I’m experiencing writer’s block, I’ll flip through my notebook for ideas.
7. How often do you post? Ideally how many times a week should bloggers post?
Well, the answer to the first part is “not as often as I’d like to.” When I first started blogging, my goal was to post something at least three times a week, but recently, it’s closer to once or twice a week, and that’s mostly due to competition from my career and daily life. I think, especially with those just starting out, there’s an expectation that you have to post something every single day in order to build followers, and while that certainly helps, I think holding yourself to those standards can turn blogging into work. I find I write better when I’m not holding myself to a deadline, and I post when the inspiration comes.
8. How important is networking with the fellow Disney Bloggers? Any advice for someone just getting to know the community?
Don’t be afraid to jump right in! We’re a fun bunch. I think networking is really important, since the Disney community is a niche one by nature. You may see traffic from an occasional general travel or food site, but for the most part, I’ve found that the Disney community makes up the majority of Disney blog readers.
Leave comments on other Disney blogs (or Facebook fan pages) so the writers start recognizing your name. Converse with other Disney bloggers on Twitter. Contribute to other sites when asked to help raise your visibility. If it’s possible, attend meet-ups in your area or ask around to see if any bloggers will be visiting the parks at the same time. You know what they say, “Friendships made over Dole Whips last a lifetime.” (Actually, I have no idea if that’s true. But I imagine it is.)  
9. What is your favorite Disney Hero/Heroine, and why?
Megara from Hercules – hands down, she has the best dialogue of any Disney female character.
10. Any vacation tips you would like to share?
While I think WDW is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, I think it helps to set certain goals for things you want to see/do and plan accordingly. Is there a new restaurant you want to try? Make reservations before you arrive. Are you traveling on a budget? Decide upfront how much you want to spend each day, do some research, and know in advance which restaurants/experiences are within your price range. Do you want to stay close to the parks (on property, places like the Yacht and Beach Clubs, or the Wilderness Lodge) or on the outskirts (Saratoga Springs, All-Star Resorts)? Get the big decisions out of the way early (and make them as a family, if possible), and then enjoy the ride.
If you’re traveling with teens and/or adults, I highly recommend a backstage tour. WDW has a range of experiences for various interests and budgets, and they let you enjoy the parks in a whole new way!
11. Anything you would like to add?           
If you’re thinking of starting a blog, do it. Trust me, the first post is the hardest one to write, and then the fun starts.
Thanks very much Amanda!! Be sure to visit her blog and follow her on twitter and facebook.

Have a Magical Day!
Donna Kay


  1. I love reading Amanda's blog because she has a great way of expressing exactly how she feels. Her passion for certain topics is clear in her posts and makes them enjoyable to read! Thanks for another great interview, Donna Kay & Amanda!

    1. Thanks Beth!! I totally agree, Amanda's blog is great!!


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