Monday, September 13, 2010

My hole got plugged so my jugs aren't full

Before we get started on this fine Monday morning, thank you SO MUCH to everyone who offered blog organization tips in response to Friday's post.

I asked Joelle Anthony, author of RESTORING HARMONY, to choose one lucky commenter to receive the autographed copy of her book. After a complicated selection process that involved calculating the square root of pi and sacrificing several small mammals, Joelle chose blog commenter ~ M (also known as Mary Alongi). Congratulations, Mary! Email me with your address and I'll get the book to you ASAP!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

I traveled to Salem, OR this past weekend to take part in the 20th Annual Grape Stomp Competition at Willamette Valley Vineyards.

Participants compete in pairs with the "stomper" using bare feet to crush grapes, and the "swabber" using a dipstick-like device to keep the drain clear and the juice flowing into the milk jugs.

I stomped. My dad swabbed.

We sucked.

Something went awry with our drain tube, and despite my dad's best efforts, we couldn't get it clear. On top of that, the teenager I asked to take video of the five-minute event manged to record exactly one second of footage of me stepping out of the barrel.

But this is exactly what I wanted. A learning experience.

Though it's possible I'd do this event even if I didn't have an ulterior motive, I do have one. The third book in my contract, LET IT BREATHE, takes place in the Oregon wine industry. Though it won't be released until August 2012, it's never to early to look for interesting promotional opportunities.

I don't know yet if the 2012 Grape Stomp might be a good place for a book signing, or if my time might be better spent lighting my hair on fire and screaming "buy my book!" as I fling grape pulp at the competitors.

But I do know how the event works now. I know that next time, I'll watch the earlier heats to see which barrels have trouble draining. I know I'll spend more time finding someone to take video. I know I'll poke holes in the bottom of the other competitors' jugs so all their juice drains out I'll wear my hair up next time so it stays out of my face.

It's a bit like writing, no? Even if some of your earliest efforts are abysmal failures in terms of publication or feedback, they aren't wasted efforts. You learn from those efforts, and those lessons will serve you well with future books.

What are some learning experiences you've had so far in your writing? Please share.

And speaking of sharing, here are some of the lovely photos my mother took on Saturday. Enjoy!

A plethora of grapes await stomping.
Dad scopes out the barrels before the competition.
A little pre-competition beverage.
Sizing up the competition before the whistle blows.
More stomping...
Wow, this stomping is lasting on a long time.

Yay, team! Oh, wait – we sucked.
My grape stomping machines.
Getting cleaned up afterward.
Standing in line to get our juice strained and measured.
Hanging with my parents!


Patty Blount said...

Sounds like a fun time!

You're so right about the learning experiences... everything is that way for me from learning to outline (instead of 'pants') to developing characters to writing better action sequences.

Like wine, I like to think I get better with age and experience. :)

Steph Schmidt said...

Seriously? A teen unsavy with tech? I fear for humanity now.

How did you not slip while stomping the grapes? It looks like the bottom of the barrel would be slick.

Génette Wood said...

Looks like you had fun!! We were within about 10 miles of the vineyard, but I couldn't convince my sister that watching people stomp on grapes would be entertaining. (I also couldn't convince her that we wouldn't get lost on the way.)

Learning experiences? All of mine have been about learning the fine art of putting myself out there and bucking up to take the criticisms.

Linda G. said...

So what if your jugs aren't full? Still looks like you had a great time! And you're right--when it comes to writing, no efforts are wasted. :)

Jeffe Kennedy said...

Next year we'll make you an outfit like Lucy's. I feel certain that's the key to success.

Beth Mann said...

First, where did you get that adorable shirt?! Second, I am TOTALLY jealous that you got to do this...looks SO FUN. Third, I'm very intrigued about Let It Breathe, because my current novel involves the wine industry as well! Write what you know, eh? ;) P.S. That post title is hilarious.

Cheryl Ossola said...

My novel is about immigrant stonecutters (sculptors) in the early 1900s. In doing research where my novel is set, I visited a stonecutter in his shop and we talked about how techniques haven't changed much. The pneumatic tools that increased productivity drastically (and caused lots of health problems) are still in use, and I got to try out a pneumatic chisel. It makes your whole body vibrate (and no, don't read any subtext into that!). That visit really gave me a sense of what life in the stone sheds was like way back when.

Keep on stompin'!

Touch of Ink said...

It looks like you had a lot of fun! If nothing else, I now need to add "stomp grapes" to my bucket list :)

Anonymous said...

Ummm. I can't imagine I'm the first person to say this, but: gross! I love wine. A lot. But I do not love to eat, drink, or put my face near anything that's been touched by feet. It looks like a ton of fun, but I can't help feeling a little traumatized by this.

Elizabeth Ryann said...

Um, your team is adorable, and it looks like you guys had great fun. Also: nice jugs. :)

Penelope said...

Between the title and the pictures, I'm loving this post!

Unknown said...

Although I'm more of a Sci. Fi/Fantasy writer, I don't mind a dab of romance every once in a while.

To tell the truth, I wouldn't even be commenting on this blog had one of my best friends not taught me to leave behind my shell. I used to be sooooooo shy and still am a bit, but I've gotten over most of it and will talk to strangers if I must. It's been far more beneficial that I not be shy to what I've been up to. I've finally learned not to worry so much about what other people would say about me and just go for it ... Sometimes.

PS. I first read the title too and had an instant flashback the the "Hairy Butt of Romance" post!!!

Candyland said...

Wow that's awesome! It's really gross to think of drinking feet wine, but if it got me drunk enough I wouldn't care.

Shain Brown said...

Look at that cute stomper chuggin away.

Bookewyrme said...

First: My favorite thing about writing is that absolutely EVERYTHING can be research. Or promotional. Or inspirational. get the idea.

Second: Your shirt ROCKS, and I totally want one! :D


Dr. Goose said...

If anybody were to ever ask why you are doing crazy stuff you can always say, "It's for my book". It sounds so fancy and mysterious. I never have a good reason. Hmmmm...I do now!

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Wow, I'm so jealous! I'd love to stomp a bunch of grapes w/my folks! (Puts on "to do" list.)

In honor of your great achievement, I vow to drink as many glasses of wine as possible over the next few weeks. Don't thank me. That's what friends are for.

Ricky Bush said...

I think that you should have paired you mom up with someone. I'll bet your stomping skills come from her genes.

KatOwens: Insect Collector said...

I love how you can make any event sound dirty when I see the heading on my sidebar!

Claire Dawn said...

I'm all for learning experiences. Pretty much every time something goes horribly NOT according to plan, I think "at least I can use it in a story!"

Trisha Leigh said...

That is seriously awesome. I want to do it. Now I shall use your advice about barrels and plugs and jugs to become a grape stomping CHAMPION.

Er -

Good advice regarding writing, too. I look back on those first (scary bad) manuscripts with pride because they signal the start of my journey and let me know how far I've come. At least, I hope I've come far :)


Patty, oh, you're definitely like a fine wine! In fact, I might consider locking you in my wine cabinet just to see how much better you get in a temperature-controlled environment.

SM Schmidt, no joke, that's exactly why I picked a @#$% teenager. I thought for sure she'd know how to work the camera. The barrel wasn't particularly slick, so I never felt like I might fall. Lots of people held on to their partners, but I was too busy dancing!

LadyGenette, I'm bummed I missed you! It really was a lot of fun to watch, and the wines there are terrific!

Linda G, my jugs will be great next year, I'm sure of it!

Jeffe, I'm putting you in charge of my outfit!

Beth, the shirt came from author Bria Quinlan's "Romance Yardsale" site. Here's a link:

Cheryl, that sort of hands-on research is one of my favorite parts of writing!

Suzi, it's definitely something I'm glad I did (and something I hope to do again!)

courtneykelsch, well, that's how wine was made back in the good old days (and how it's still made in some places). For the record, I think they chucked the stuff we were crushing, but if they were to actually use it, rest assured the fermentation process kills the germs.

Elizabeth Ryann, thank you! I shall devote more effort and energy to my jugs next year and they will be better than ever.

Penelope, video would have made it better though, huh?!

Matthew, talking to strangers is scary for me, too!

Candyland, feet wine is the best kind :)

Shainer, there was a live band playing music while we stomped, so it was really more like dancing in the barrel!

Bookwyrme, here's a link so you can get your very own shirt like that:

Dr. Goose, oh I've been blaming my book writing for my weird behaviors long before it was actually true!

Debra, you'll have to time your next Oregon visit with next year's grape stomp!

Ricky, I will be sure to let her know you suggested it! I might try to drag my brother down for it next year.

KO, it's a rare skill to make everything sound dirty, but it's certainly a great source of pride for me!

Claire Dawn, love the attitude! That's how I tend to look at things, too.

Trisha, come on out to Oregon and we'll stomp together!

Thanks for reading, guys!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE these pictures! I envy your relationship with your parents. You are very lucky. :)