Category: books

AMY FLEISHER MADDEN : author & indie record label entrepreneur

I’ve known Amy forever, she’s incredible. I saw her at every local South Florida concert when we were growing up. When I moved to Los Angeles I would show up at her house unannounced every week just to bother her. She is the founder of Fiddler Records, a very important institution in the history of South Florida indie music. Her book, A Million Miles, was recently published and has been getting rave reviews. Be sure to check out her links at the bottom because it’s hard for me to wrap up everything she does in a quick intro. I think you’re gonna like this one!

01. What’s your typical morning routine? How do you get your day started?

I wish I could tell you that I run five miles or that I write a thousand words by 10 am… But I can’t because I don’t. My morning starts when my five month old daughter, Elle, wakes up. Sometimes it’s at 5:00 am… Sometimes it’s at 7:00 am… But no matter the time my day starts with her. There’s a lot of singing, some dancing, and of course diapers… Lots and lots of diapers.

02. I’ve known you since the late 90s. We met in those exciting days in South Florida when everything seemed possible, every band was going to get huge. How did you get involved in that music scene? And is it still part of your life?

I have no idea how not to answer this without sounding like a total asshole… But I’m on a bit of a tight schedule (see answer #1) so let’s just get to the good stuff.

03. Your record label, Fiddler Records signed some bands that actually did go on to huge success (New Found Glory, Dashboard Confessional, etc.) This is probably a complicated question, but how did you go about negotiating these artists’ contracts away to major labels? Was that hard?

You’re right, that’s a very complicated question. To put it simply, I didn’t. Bands get big and when they do they don’t always play fair (and to be fair that doesn’t only apply to bands). It was hard because there really wasn’t any negotiating. I worked with bands and put out records that no label would have touched in a million years… Then when a few thousand copies sold it was clear to people what was going on and I had bands muscled away from me with the illusion of points and royalties that were never paid. To be really fucking honest, it sucked. It still sucks.

04. You moved from South Florida to Los Angeles forever ago. I believe you’re living in New York City now. Was moving away from home a necessary step in your personal growth? If so, did you know it would be then?

I’m back in LA now, but yeah I knew. Something in me always knew I needed to leave Miami. I traveled a little bit with my parents when I was growing up and as soon as I could drive I was never home. I’ll make something up and call it the Oyster Theory–let’s just say you’ve got to get a little itchy to make something beautiful.

05. You had your first book A Million Miles published last year. Just the task of writing a book seems like sort of an impossible endeavor, but you wrote it, got it published and it’s gotten incredible reviews. What made you want to write a book?

I thought I was going to die. I had a tumor growing on my thyroid and doctors couldn’t tell if it was cancerous or not–so I started to really think about ‘the end’. I’ve always wanted to write about music and touring and nothing gives you quite a dose of the hurry-ups like terminal feelings. I think I’ve really only talked about this publicly once before–at my Miami book signing–one of my doctors was there and someone asked a similar question and it felt wrong to withhold the truth with my doctor looking right at me. I don’t usually like to talk about it because I don’t want the whole story behind my book to be clouded with the big ‘C’, but I guess you caught me in an extra truthful mood. It’s late. I’m tired.

06. What advice would you give to someone wanting to get a new indie label started? Is that type of bedroom business completely dead?

I think that type of bedroom business is more alive than ever, but I’d tell whoever this wonderful young entrepreneur is that being a label is a lot like being a bank. Sure there’s an art to it, and there’s a need for talent, but at the end of the day the bottom line matters–and that’s a bummer. If you’re the softy emo type (like me) it might not be the best use of your time. Or maybe it is. Just go into things with your eyes open, and read everything you can. And email me if you have a question!

07. Can you describe a moment when you felt like you really made it? What did that feel like?

No, never. I still stare blankly into nothing at all and daydream about different careers and projects I want to start. I feel like I haven’t really accomplished anything. My mom is pretty psyched about the book, though, so that’s nice.

08. Are you working on anything new right now that you’re excited about?

I’m writing what seems to be the next installment (I really don’t want to say sequel) of A Million Miles. I’m also messing around with something that could maybe be a movie? I don’t know. I’m learning how to be a mom, so that’s wild.

09. What is currently inspiring you and in what way? (book, movie, song, podcast, anything really…)

Ugh. Is it horrible to say nothing? Maybe it’s food. Food, yes, let’s go with food. Jon and Vinny’s on Fairfax is fucking inspiring, that’s for sure. Try the meatballs. And my family. My family inspires the ever living shit out of me. Oh, and this young kid, Troye Sivan. His record ‘Blue Neighborhood’ is all I listen to these days. My friend Malia James directed a video for him and it’s stunning.

10. How do you end a typical day? What do you do to unwind? 

What is this unwind that you speak of!? If I have an hour of mental stability left at the end of the day I enjoy a good snuggle on the couch with my husband. You know that scene in Titanic with the old couple holding each other on the bed as the water rushes in? Yeah, that’s us at the end of a long day, just add two cats. It’s adorable.

You can find Mrs. Fleisher Madden on the web:

LOU MONGELLO : Walt Disney World expert, podcaster, author, speaker & entrepreneur

Lou is the host of the wildly successful WDW Radio podcast. If you have any interest in the Disney brand or the parks you’ve probably heard of him. He’s also an author, public speaker, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He’s an inspiring guy. He left behind the life he cultivated after college to dive head first into his passion. That’s something I really admire. This interview is shorter than some others, but only because Lou is a busy guy. He answered my questions on a layover coming home from a speaking gig in the Philippines.

01. What’s your typical morning routine? How do you get your day started?

I’m up around 6:00AM, I get the family off to school and work and then I’m at my desk by 7:00. Triage the inbox, create and post a morning quote and image, and then hit whatever project is next on the list!

02. I’m very interested in your pre-Disney career. From what I understand, you were a lawyer living with your family far from Orlando. What did you originally want to do with your life? It seems like you had things pretty figured out, why weren’t you content?

I was planning to be an attorney forever, but I never woke up excited for work then the way I do now. Getting up to argue every day just wasn’t in my DNA. I’m blessed and fortunate to have found my true passion and calling.

03. Quitting a job and uprooting your family for a bigger dream is something most wish they could do, and you did it successfully. What was the tipping point and how did you convince yourself (and your family) that the time was right to make a change?

I knew pretty early on that this is what I wanted to do, and that I could turn it into a business. I didn’t know how, but I knew I had to try. I never wanted to look back with regret and wonder “What if…?” Fortunately, my family was (and IS) very supportive. I wouldn’t be here without them.

04. Here’s a quick question: Why Disney?

Simple: It’s what I’ve loved since I was a kid. I had gone yearly since I was 3 and was fascinated by the place and the memories my family and I shared. When I wrote my first book in 2004, I never hoped or expected it would turn into anything more.

05. Your podcast is currently hovering around #3 on the ranking of most popular podcasts on iTunes, right below Serial and This American Life. So, first of all Congratulations! That’s a huge accomplishment. Did you ever think WDW Radio would become so popular? Why did you decide to do the podcast in the first place?

Thank you! But let me be clear: That ranking, any recognition, awards, etc. is not about me – it’s about the community and family of people that listen to the show, and allow me to share my passion for Disney with them. I started it because I know the spoken word is much more powerful than anything I could write. You just can’t convey emotion or express yourself the same way. The medium is incredibly powerful and intimate. Plus, I’m a horrible typist.

06. You do a lot of public speaking around the country at all kinds of conferences and schools. What is the focus of most of these talks? Do you tie them all in with Disney?

They range from business, social and new media, Disney, entrepreneurship, to other motivational-type talks. The Disney Difference: Achieving The Ultimate Customer Experience, Leadership Lessons Learned from Walt Disney, “Quit Your Job and Do What You Love Full Time! I Did It, and So Can You!”, The Power of Community – Using Offline Interactions to Increase Online Engagement, How to Create, Grow, Launch and Monetize Your Podcast, and How and Why to Use Live Streaming to Build Your Brand and Business. For students (middle, high school, etc.) some topics include: IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN DO IT! Follow Your Dreams and Do What You Love!, Storytelling, entrepreneurship, etc.

07. Can you tell me a little about the Dream Team Project? You’ve raised an impressive amount of money for charity and I’d love for you to plug it a bit.

It’s probably easier to just read my story about the Dream Team at our website. It explains how it came to be and why I do what I do.

08. As any listener of WDW Radio knows; you love to eat. I bet most people think food in Disney World is mostly just overpriced hamburgers and soda. Is it possible for a foodie to actually eat well in the parks?

Ohhhh yeah!! Some of the best meals I’ve had anywhere in the world (the entire world, not just Disney World), have been at WDW. Don’t get me started on bluezoo, California Grill, Flying Fish, Artist Point, etc etc etc.

09. What is currently inspiring you and in what way? (book, movie, song, podcast, anything really…)

Being a parent, I try to emulate what my father did for me, and strive to be even better. It’s something that motivates and inspires me every day, in everything I do.

10. How do you end a typical day? What do you do to unwind? 

My “day” usually ends closer to the middle of the night, but when it does end, I usually will unwind a little by eventually falling asleep watching something educational on TV, or maybe a movie.

You can find Mr. Mongello on the web:

ANDREA DUCLOS : OhDearDrea blogger & cookbook author

Andrea is a friend; she lives just down the street. I took this photo of her at her sparkle themed birthday party a few years back. She’s the blogger behind OhDearDrea and her cookbook The Plantiful Table: Easy, From-the-Earth Recipes for the Whole Family was just released. We talked about blogging, writing recipes, traveling to India and getting healthy.

01. What’s your typical morning routine? How do you get your day started?

Ideally, I’d like to find a happy balance between ‘sleeping as late as I can’ and ‘oh no, I’ve slept too long and wasted my whole morning”. It’s tough. Some days I’m up bright and early at 7:45 to help my kid get ready for school, but most days I like to sleep in till about 8:45. Then I make a giant bowl of steel cut oats with a bunch of healthy stuff thrown in before jumping on the computer to do a tiny bit of work.

02. You’re a successful blogger. Everyone seems to have a blog this days, but yours really hit and you have tons of followers. How did you build it up to be so widely read?

Mostly luck. I started publicly (over)sharing online at the age of 15 or 16. Ever since then I remember attracting a good amount of followers and readers for no particular reason. When I started this new blog (I took about a year off from my old blog) it seemed to again pick up readers pretty quickly. I think the second time around, part of the draw was that my blog seemed pretty different from a lot of the other new blogs popping up. Everyone was posting pictures of their adorable families while I was sharing my (sometimes too real) story of being a single mom. There were no magic tricks or advertisements, it just sort of grew organically on it own — thankfully!

03. You are very open about your personal life on OhDearDrea. Was that a conscious choice? And have you ever regretted sharing anything?

I’ve always been a very open person. My whole life, I’ve felt that if I can’t feel comfortable being completely honest about who I am and what I’ve done, then I must be doing something wrong. I just like to be an open book. I don’t want people to question who I am; I want them to see me or see my words and know my whole story. I think I can be honest to a fault, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really regretted anything. I feel like I’m lacking that embarrassment gene, things are what they are. I fall, I fail, its life. I kind of see what I share that way too. I mess up just as much as anyone, but I just have to learn and keep moving forward. No regrets.

04. You wrote a cookbook and it just came out! How did the opportunity to write that come about?

Yes, It came out! The second week of December. I don’t want to jinx myself, but so far it’s only had great reviews! I actually had a rather large publishing company contact me about two years ago with the possibility of publishing a book. E-mails were sent back and forth, but at the end of the day I got a, “Sorry, I love your book, but the guys above me said the company isn’t ready for a vegan cookbook.” Well, okay then. This gave me a bit more of a push to consider reaching out to companies. It was sort of one of those “I have a friend of a friend of a friend” things where I got a contact at a company, sent over an e-book along with a little brochure I put together of what I envisioned the book to be, and I got an e-mail about a week later discussing the potential of a book. Despite my horrible grammar, they liked my ideas and signed me up!

05. What was the process of writing the book like? Constant trial and error? Eating nonstop?

It was mostly exhausting. I’m not sure how the cookbook process works for most people, but on top of being asked to do 125+ recipes in three months, I also had to run my blog full time and raise a three-year-old. Most of the recipes in the book are serious staples in our home so it was pretty easy to nail those down. There were a few that took a good amount of tries before getting it right. Mostly, it was rather expensive! I wanted to make full size portions to measure everything properly. So, when I’m making multiple giant meals in one day — well, it took a lot of veggies and a lot of eating!

06. You collaborated with Above The Clouds this year on a trip to India that was open to your blog readers. What was it like setting that up? And what was it like taking a trip to a country you had never been to before, not only as a tourist but acting as a sort of travel guide?

It was pretty awesome! The trip was of course amazing, but even the set up of it all was great. Above The Clouds has been around forever, they definitely know what they’re doing. I didn’t have too many concerns on my end. I was just lucky enough to plan my dream trip and have them really make it happen. We went back and forth on the itinerary for months trying to perfect it. For me, the details are everything (and for Above The Clouds too), so from the hotel, to the first welcome dinner, to the events planned, everything had to have a bit of magic to it. When I (and we) actually got to India it all went really well. I arrived two days early to get over jet lag, scope out the restaurants, and pick out a venue for our goodbye party. Despite language barriers and having almost no sense of direction, I was rather comfortable with my surroundings and happy to welcome the girls to the trip. Above The Clouds then took on much of scheduling type of details, while I just tried to make sure everyone was content and happy.

07. What advice would you give to someone trying to get a new blog started?

I think blogs are pretty great. I wouldn’t have much advice for someone trying to make a profession out of it, except maybe, “Don’t quit your day job just yet” and “Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away.” But if there is no hurry to try to bring in cash from the blog, then go for it! They are a great creative outlet and a great way to connect with other like-minded people that you wouldn’t have met otherwise! Just pick a name, open up a site, and share your story!

08. Are you working on anything new right now that you’re excited about?

Sleeping more. It’s been a hard year, so my main goal is trying to get my health to its maximum potential and to just be happy and have fun everyday. Other than that, I just want to find my voice on the blog again. I feel like I sort of lost it in this tough year, but I do feel like it’s coming back. Outside of blog/business stuff, I’m just hoping to plan a lot of trips! California in May. France in August. And maybe Hawaii at some point. We’ll see where else I end up.

09. What is currently inspiring you and in what way? (book, movie, song, podcast, anything really…)

This may be a strange one, but I’ve been reading A LOT of health books lately. And watching a lot of health related TED Talks. I’m happy to see so much information coming out about the dangers of our current medical system. I’m excited to see so many more people open up to the world of a more natural way of life. No fairy dust or magic tricks, just good ole’ natural food and plants to keep us well instead of pumping chemicals in at every doctor’s wish. I feel hopeful that the world, or at least our sad American diet and culture, will slowly start changing.

10. How do you end a typical day? What do you do to unwind? 

I work on an opposite schedule. The early part of the day is my unwind time. The night is when I type furiously on a keyboard trying to spit out my brain on the blog and answer some e-mails. So to unwind, I like to just kick my feet up outside or on the couch and try not to worry about all the bad stuff, but to focus on the good.

You can find Ms. Duclos on the web:

The Plantiful Table: Easy, From-the-Earth Recipes for the Whole Family