I recently attended the Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) for the first time; this year it was held in fantastic Lodi, California. It's got to be the best conference I've ever been to, with all kinds of tastings, trips to the vineyards, talking with winemakers, and meeting so many interesting and passionate people.
WBC had sent out an email asking for volunteers to do blogger reports, updating the group on the goings on in various blogger's corners of the world. I thought, awesome and applied.
Then I remembered that I’m terrified of public speaking. Especially in front of several hundred wine bloggers.
If you were there, you'll know that my speech was a little shaky, because I got stage nerves. But at least I got up there and gave it my best!
Today I'm sharing on the blog what I wanted to share at WBC. My presentation was entitled, From Book to Blog: A Hardhitting Exposé ;) Really, it's just a collection of tips I put together after reflecting on getting my guidebook completed.
My background is varied, but I’ve always loved food and wine. I did a degree in Classical Archaeology, which logically lead to getting into the financial services business, and opening my own practice. A few years ago, I followed my dream of going to culinary school, which included the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) level 1 class, and I just knew that I needed to make wine my career.
In this post, I’ll be sharing some of the process and challenges I experienced in finishing my first book, called Winetripping Okanagan.
After I finished the WSET Diploma at the beginning of 2016, I suddenly had way more spare time now that I wasn’t studying wine 30 hours a week (20 if you count the extra Star Trek TNG reruns & reading mysteries set in ancient Rome).
I’ve been blogging about wine for the last two years, more seriously in the past year. I knew that writing a book was something I wanted to achieve, but I faced some indecision on what to write about, which I’ll talk more about in a second.
WHY I WROTE THE BOOK
My goals for the guidebook were promoting and supporting the family owned wineries of BC’s Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. I want these wineries to be successful, and see myself as an advocate for craft growers & producers.
As much as I love the wineries, my primary goal is to be consumer centric, helping readers find awesome wineries, so I was pretty focused about including only the producers that had mastered both the customer experience in the tasting room, as well as making delicious wines.
This is the cover, which I wanted to be fun and to feature some of the flora and fauna of the region. Ogopogo’s there in Okanagan Lake, which is like our version of the Loch Ness monster, along with our ever-present quails, and even a rattlesnake.
FORMULATING THE IDEA
I’ve been thinking for a while about writing a book, but was having trouble deciding what exactly I should write about. It really became clear when I gave some thought to what people most often asked me about, which was which wineries they should visit in the Okanagan, or if I could please recommend an itinerary for a friend who'd be touring with visitors through the valley. I'm so passionate about this area, and there are over 200 wineries now! It can be a bit overwhelming trying to choose which to visit.
RESEARCHING & PLANNING
Next was the most fun, doing the "research" and getting to visit the tasting rooms, which is one of my favourite things about wine. If you're looking to start a passion project, I highly recommend choosing a topic that’s going to bring you more of what you most enjoy, and in this case it was wine travel. Making the trip up to taste at wineries all the time was a compelling and motivating perk!
INVESTING IN YOUR PROJECT
This next bit is all about procrastination… I wouldn't call myself a procrastinator, but as they might say in a Dilbert cartoon, I am highly deadline motivated.
For me, the decision that really got this going was hiring a designer. I made a big investment in a great designer and illustrator (Laurie Millotte & Rafael Varona), and needed to have the documents ready for them so they could proceed with their work, which kept me accountable. You don’t need to hire anyone, but if you can't create this kind of accountability, it will help. Which leads into my next tip.
Please tell everyone about your project, and when it’ll be complete. If you’re deadline motivated like me, this really keeps you on track, and you’ll have cheerleaders supporting your progress along the way.
I belong to a mastermind group of four women; we meet every two weeks to update each other on our projects, and keep each other accountable, as well as supporting each other, and I highly recommend setting up a group like that.
START SMALL & BUILD
As I worked on the book, I struggled with thinking maybe I didn’t have enough to offer, that the book needed to be gigantic and the most impressive guidebook full of bells and whistles and 500 pages long. This lead to getting stuck and overwhelmed, with very little writing getting done!
What cured this was telling myself it’s OK to start small and build from there, including only the best of the best wineries. So next year, I’ll look back and say, I’m so glad I wrote that in 2016 because it gave me to foundation to improve upon. I can keep adding value to the guide with each edition.
ON WRITER'S BLOCK
With writer’s block, which I had a bad case of, I went old school. I’d put down a stack of sheets of paper, and write the name of the winery on the top of each one, then set my timer for 5 minutes and made myself write by hand, freeform with all my thoughts. Then I'd type up my stack of wineries and fine tune the writing.
I pretended I was writing to my friends and telling them about the winery. My mantra was to be entertaining and helpful. Thinking entertaining and helpful helped me stay focused and finish the book, and be of service to visitors to Okanagan wine country too!
If you're interested in Amazon Createspace publishing, you can find more information here.
Please feel free to comment below with any questions you have and I'll answer there, or message me on Instagram (which is the social media channel I’m most active on) @rachelvonsturmer.
Thanks for reading!