Monday, May 4, 2015

A-Z Reflections Post: Maui Hype, Being A "Minion," And Random Thoughts

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This is my third year of doing the A to Z challenge in April. If you’ve missed it, it’s a worldwide blogathon (marathon blogging event) in which bloggers blog Monday through Saturday in April, to correspond with the 26 letters of the alphabet. We take Sundays off for good behavior, though some bloggers (harummmph, overachievers) post on Sundays too. The A to Z challenge is also a blog hop, in which bloggers visit other blogs and leave supportive comments.

Lately, I’ve been getting emails from people who want to move to Maui. As the “#1 island in the world,” Maui gets a ton of hype. Most media and blogs show only the vacation side of Maui, the beautiful side of the coin. I’ve tried to show the flip side of the coin, including the grittier aspects of living here. Yes, the grass is greener here, and it’s also browner.

Maui gets a lot of hype. Tourism is a gateway drug.

If you’ve been reading my posts, Living on Maui: A Beginner’s Survival Guide, I’d like to hear your feedback. Have you thought about living on Maui? If you’ve been interested in moving to Maui, has this series made you less interested in moving here or more interested?

New people bring new energy, ideas, businesses. This is good. New people can also be obnoxious and ignorant of the culture and drive up the cost of housing. This is bad. Seeing rent or housing prices go up so much that people who grew up here feel forced to leave is a sad situation that isn’t being helped by the many who want to move here. As one blogger, I can’t stop the hype, but I can speak my truth so that people can really consider whether Maui is the best fit for them instead of rushing to move to “the greener grass of Paradise.”

Enough on my theme.

The rest of what I write is going to be technical, so unless you're a blogger, you might be bored!

Team Macha logo, finally downloaded it.
This year, I signed up to be a minion. Minions are little helper gremlins who join teams led by Benevolent Dictators, er, I mean co-hosts, of the A to Z Challenge. My team was Team Macha, led by co-host Zalka of MopDog and The Multicolored Diary. Zalka is not just a normal Benevolent Dictator, I mean, co-host, but also one of those crazy people who runs two blogs during the challenge, and blogs on Sundays. Harumpph.

Zalka called out for team members, aka minions, on a Storydam twitter chat (Thursdays at 2 pm EST, hashtag is #storydam). Of course I wanted to be a minion for Zalka, the blogger behind MopDog, because MopDog is the hippest thing to come out of Hungary since, well..(I want to type in goulash but goulash isn't hip enough),.well, just explore MopDog for yourself. It's kind of addictive.

But would it be too hard? Would being a minion be like adding an extra mile to a marathon? In the second or third week of the challenge, there’s a sensation like a burning muscle. Runners call it “hitting the wall,” and you think, “Oh, I can’t do it anymore. I’m toasted.” 

Minionizing turned out to be mostly doable.

The tasks of a minion:
  1. Promote the A to Z Challenge before April 1. Get other bloggers to sign up. This is like being a drug pusher. “Psst, little kid, do you want some crack? It’ll be fun.”
  2. Check blogs for non-participation. (Be an evil informer.)This task involved visiting 30 blogs on the theme reveal list, 30 blogs at the end of the first week of the Challenge, and 30 blogs at the end of the Challenge.
  3. Blog, visit other blogs, leave comments (aka blog hop). Rinse, repeat.
  4. Congratulate people on finishing.
The hardest minion task was the very end. I had to finish my Y and Z post, because I had NOT prescheduled my posts, blog hop, write my May 2015 Maui events calendar, email my monthly blog newsletter, and also check 30 blogs. Ugh. Doing the A to Z Challenge this year also meant making more free time to blog and saying no to things I would have liked to attend: The Ag Fest, The Art of Trash...and all those Maui events in April.

My life during the A to Z Challenge. 

My BIG discovery as a minion is that the A-Z Challenge organizers are big softies. They are not breathing up anyone’s blog. If you fall behind, but try to keep up, that’s enough. If you don’t post at all and/or go AWOL after letter K or so, without explanation, well, then there is no mercy. You get removed from the sign up sheet. But if you keep trying and explain why you’re late, it’s like getting an extension in school.

The secret behind getting more comments
Commenting more gets more comments. That’s the secret. As a minion, I made a bigger effort to visit more blogs and to comment more. I always left my link in my comment to make it easier for the blogger to reciprocate, if desired. For every 2 or 3 comments, I received at least one comment back. For blogs that had participated previously in the challenge, reciprocity reached 1:1. Newer bloggers tended to have trouble keeping up, much less commenting. I always tried to leave a comment if I took the time to visit a blog, even if I couldn’t relate to the blog. I also followed several blogs using Google Friend Connect or Bloglovin.

AC blogs
AC stands for Adult Content. As a minion, I had to visit a few. I thought all AC blogs were highly sexual, but some were rather tame or dealt with non-sexual content like mental illness, suicide, fear, depression, physical illness. The most disturbing AC blog was the person who liked to cut herself. Pass. Other AC blogs were like rated R movies, not too shocking.  I recommend putting on your big boy or big girl pants and visiting a few AC blogs. If you’ve read 50 Shades of Grey or think you might, you can handle it.

Blog hopping in reverse order, from back to front
My theory is that bloggers new to the A to Z Challenge tend to sign up last minute, so I decided to visit the blogs at the end of challenge first and work frontwards, to see if they were getting enough comments. A friend of mine, 50 & Fabulous, said she signed up on the last day, March 31, so that gave me an idea of when the last day sign-ups were. There were hundreds of them.

I thought I would try to visit all the ones up to when my friend, from 50 & Fabulous, signed up, but this has been a hopeless affair. When blogs were deleted off the challenge, the numbering system changed too, so I think a lot of blogs may have been missed when minion tasks were assigned by number. I was assigned 1141-1150 and 1851-1870, but the 1800s were deleted! So I decided to work backwards again and visit from the end of the sign up list. I'm still 60 blogs away from hers.

The youngest blog I encountered: Princess Kaija

An A to Z Reflections post that kind of rankled me:

Actually, to avoid the risk of unconsciously plagiarizing another’s work, I almost never visit other A-Z Challenge blogs. My own initiated posts are a creative spark that make me produce.  (This is a paraphrase.) This same blogger notes his page views went down in April and in previous years always had a slight increase in April. If you're alive on the planet and connected to the internet, you risk unconscious plagiarism!!! If you don’t want to read other blogs, why the heck are you participating in the A-Z Challenge? It’s not just about getting more page views for your blog, it’s about connecting to other bloggers and helping them get more traffic through commenting, which is a magnet for search engines. 

What’s the value of a blog hop? Why bother going to all this trouble?
You could ask, what’s the value of reading, if you’re a writer? A writer learns by reading the writing of others. A blogger learns by visiting other blogs, getting ideas about style and format, which plug-ins to use, what features might be good, and what makes a blog fun to read or to revisit. Blog hopping also builds community, in the same way that social media does.

The idea of having digital friends may seem strange, people you may never meet in real life, but the precursor was pen pals! In the old days, before the internet, people had pen pals, and you shared letters about your lives with someone in a far away place using “snail mail.” Sometimes you got to know that person better than some of your friends. Blogging and commenting on other blogs is a modern version of being a pen pal. If you like a blog, there’s a good chance you would also like the blogger.

True Story: I met a blogger from the A to Z Challenge in real life last fall. DH and I were on the mainland visiting his mom and some friends. At the last minute, my husband wanted to visit the Corbin motorcycle seat factory in Hollister, and I remembered that Susieee lives in Hollister. I dug up her email address since she had commented on my blog and amazingly, she answered the email almost right away, and DH and I met her and her husband within a couple of hours. It was a fun meeting for everyone, and it confirmed my belief that if you like a blog, you’ll probably like the blogger.

When I first started blogging, I had no idea that anyone was blogging about Maui. My idea was to put stuff online and people could find me if they googled long enough. It was the “lone wolf, lone blogger” approach. Now, I’ve met lots of bloggers IRL who blog about Maui, and I’ve realized blogging is much more about networking and connecting to others. 

Mahalo (thank you) to my team members:
Fearless Leader Zalka of MopDog and The Multicolored Diary
Corinne Rodrigues of Everyday Gyaan

Blogs I've enjoyed. There are too many to list, so just a few I haven't mentioned earlier:
Chica In Cuenca
Shanaya Tales
I Like My Bubble

I'm ready to go back to sleep.

Thank you for reading! Thanks to the organizers behind the A-Z Challenge! I'm so grateful my computer didn't die and the internet didn't die, like it sometimes does on Maui. #medone



  1. You were a great minion! Thank you for your hard work. Also, great reflections post! I agree, if you're not going to visit, don't participate in the challenge. It is only respectful to visit others! :)

    I learned a lot about Maui from your theme this year. I probably would't move there, but I would love to visit sometime! :)

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary

  2. Thanks Zalka! I know it was a bit wordy! Glad you enjoyed reading my Maui posts and I've always enjoyed reading about Hungarian culture. Will have to explore your other blog as time permits, but I have followed it!

  3. I didn't get to all your posts, but I enjoyed your theme. It didn't make me want to move to Hawaii though. LOL

    I don't get people like the one you mentioned. Last year, I knew someone who signed up for the challenge but stated they wouldn't visit any blogs. Why bother, I wondered. Visiting and meeting people, to me, is half the challenge.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~

    Member of C. Lee's Muffin Commando Squad

    Story Dam

    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

  4. A real life minion! Well done on completing the challenge. Great work! I have just read your reflections post - and feel like I want to dive back and learn about I shall.

  5. Thank you Patricia! I enjoyed your posts too, when I got a chance to visit them. The more you put into the A-Z Challenge, the more you get out of it. I feel like I received a lot of support my first year doing it and so I get to help out newbie bloggers.

  6. Hawaii is still on my bucket list and I learned a lot from your blog. A to Z is still a challenge after three years. I still need to go back and visit some bloggers.

    Life After Retirement

  7. Wow Courtney I just didn't realise you were also participating as a minion as well!! The coffee on Maui must be super-strength!! I really liked your blog because it did tell the nitty-gritty stuff and although I would probably love to come and visit I would be much better prepared for life there :) This was a great reflections post and covered some of the things I thought too although I did NOT encounter a single blogger who didn't appear to be totally on board with what the A to Z Challenge is all about - inspiring creativity and growing your blog. I'm now all set for the A to Z Road Trip - yee ha Special
    Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

  8. By the time everything is lined up so we could move to Hawaii, I don't know if we'll have the energy to do the move. But, who knows. Can't tell. I liked reading the gritty stuff about Maui. It didn't scare me away from moving to Hawaii one day, but it did put Maui on the list of maybe living there. Really, all I need is a tiny house and a big lanai, along with a bunch of pots to grow vegetables and flowers, if not a tiny plot of land.

    Ever since having breakfast with you and DH, the Husband and I share a breakfast plate and a side of bacon or sausage when we eat out. It's perfect for us. By the way, I still have your shells on my desk table.

    You made a great minion, Courtney. There were times, I'd come to yet another unfamiliar blog and see that you've been there. :-)

  9. Wow! This was outstanding. You gave some good advice and you made the post fun. Thanks for being part of Zalka's team. This year I think we had the best co-hosts and assistant back-ups than ever before. This Challenge seemed to go so much more smoothly this year. We appreciate the work that everyone put into the 2015 Challenge.

    Arlee Bird

    A to Z Challenge Co-host

    Tossing It Out

  10. Catherine GreenMay 6, 2015 at 3:32 AM

    I will have to look back through your posts and learn more about Maui. I am currently watching a British TV series called Tatau, shown on BBC3, about a couple of backpackers that visit the island and get sucked into a supernatural adventure with criminal undertones. I'm really enjoying it, actually! Anyway, thanks for your reflections on the #AtoZChallenge. So far I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to visit blogs and make comments every day, but I am working on catching up, slowly... see you around!

  11. J here, stopping by from the #atozchallenge. Thank you for visiting by my blog recently.
    You have so many fantastic points here! It was a challenge to be a minion, but one that I really loved. And yeah, if you don't plan to visit people, the challenge seems pointless. It's about connecting. I know someone who went visiting, but not commenting. "I don't want to land on mailing lists." Dude, there's an unsubscribe option everywhere. Or just ignore the email. It's a poor reason not to visit blogs. And you are spot on that the best writers are readers.

  12. An excellent Reflections post! It does take a lot of commitment to participate and really make it worthwhile, but then it is a "challenge".
    Stopping in from Life & Faith in Caneyhead.

  13. Fabulous post! You offer wonderfully thoughtful commentary. Thanks for visiting me, and for all the interesting information. I believe I'll stick to North Carolina as my retirement state of choice. I wish you all the best.

  14. What a great recap and terrific perspective on your minionhood. This was my second A2Z year, and my only regret was I still couldn't visit and comment more. I'm always amazed by the wide and deep creative veins I see during April.

  15. Thanks for all that you did to help make this a great challenge! I am slow to visit the blogs, but to be honest, I havent paid ANY attention to the categories. Congrats on completing the A to Z Challenge! Looking forward to next year! See you on the Road Trip!

    Mary @

  16. Congratulations on finishing . I am on the Road Trip now. There were way too many blogs to get around to during the challenge.

  17. Hi Courtney - well done .. and I'd love to visit Maui one day ... good for you for helping out and the changing numbers is a challenge isn't it ... I was a minion for a couple of years with Tina - but this year had a hip op and wasn't sure what state I'd be in. Next year I'll start up again I expect.

    Re that blogger you highlighted in yellow ... crazy chap!! Exactly what's blogging for but to connect with other bloggers .. so please you had a happy time meeting up with Susieee from Hollister ...

    I like to read a variety of blogs - probably avoid the AC ones - but my machine often bombs me out of those ... I have a great time connecting with new friends. Apologies had a lot on in April over and above the A-Z .. but could to see your Maui life .. cheers Hilary

  18. Loving your theme :) I think it's really interesting seeing what everyone chose for their themes! Really enjoyed this reflection post too! Congratulations on being a minion and still finishing the challenge!

    Popping by on the A to Z Road Trip


  19. Thank you for stopping by Debbie! I am still pooped from April, so I do plan to visit you and step up my blogging!

  20. Hey, what have you been doing for the letter "K"? Krispy Kreme Dounuts come to mind for me! Maui is the ONLY place in Hawaii to get these Karnivorous Konfections. How do they compare to the T. Komoda Store and Bakery?

  21. Komoda's is known for their cream puffs and is a local store with a long history on Maui. Krispy Kreme is a national doughnut chain, so totally different categories. People on Oahu, especially transplants who have moved there, have been known to buy boxes of KK doughnuts to bring back on the airplane. Locals who move to Oahu would be more likely to bring back T. Komoda's cream puffs on the airplane, IMHO.


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