Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Successful Research Trip

I'm back home from my wine country research trip. I won't force you to look through all 91 pictures or watch the dorky videos I took ("This is the neighborhood Jack could live in...") but I'll show a couple pictures and talk about what made the trip a success.

For starters, it was the patience of these two:
Mom and Dad, enjoying the ride on what used to be a military vehicle.

If you're going on a research trip, you must, must, must, must, MUST go with people who understand what you're doing, and who don't mind doing things like cruising through the high school parking lot:

In the past, you guys have talked about feeling awkward doing research, and I've been like, "I know, but you just have to suck it up, and do it." Well, I had to tell myself that same thing a few times while we drove through the parking lot of my character's high school. It was a Saturday, but there were still some students milling about. Not only did I snap a couple pictures, but I took video, and I felt acutely aware of how creepy I might appear.

Somebody braver than me would have gotten out and walked around, but I just rolled down the window and snapped some shots.

The great thing is we live in the time of Google Street View, so I knew I didn't have to walk through the town square trying to capture every store front because that's already been done for me. The most important thing was soaking up the people around me and the energy of the town.

But I didn't drag my parents just to high schools and grocery stores and a crazy amount of kitchen shops. We also went to Bottega - a fabulous restaurant in Yountville - which has many similarities to my MC's family restaurant.

This is by far the coolest waiting area I've ever seen. I actually cheered when the hostess said we would have to wait about 10 minutes for a table.
My main character's best friend was raised on a vineyard inspired by Six Sigma out in Lake County. We were so lucky to be there during harvest, and there was a lot of crushing and sorting and fermenting going on. My friend, Rachel, braved driving the big military vehicle and took us on a tour:

Taken out the back of the vehicle, those yellow containers hold freshly picked grapes. They're headed for the winery where they'll be sorted.

And this is Christian taking pizza out of the way cool pizza oven they built. The pear-and-blue-cheese pizza is totally making it into the book.

This is the first research trip I'd done, and I loved every minute of it. From fumbling around in the bakery in Healdsburg as I tried to figure out how to place an order (why do some restaurants make it so complicated to figure out their system?!?!) to exploring the Culinary Institute campus to exploring the chef's clothing section in Shackford's.

All my exploring completely refreshed me, and I'm eager to get back to my story. We all feel "creatively dry" sometimes. What refreshes you?


  1. wow! that sounds so cool! i'd love to do a research trip someday!

  2. Wow, that is SO cool! Your trip looks really fun, glad you got to go :)
    When I feel creatively dry, i find something that really inspires me. I write fanfiction about things I love. Also, last time I had a sort of creative dry spell, I took a road trip with my family, and didn't write for a few days, besides jotting notes down with a pencil, which, for me, is not a fun way to write. When I came back after taking that break, I found I could write again :)


  3. Awesome pics Stephanie! I love doing on site research and just soaking up the feeling of my inspiration.
    There are a few things that help me when I am feeling creatively dry. One, talk to my sisters because they have some amazing ideas and spark new ones of my own. They help me get re-excited for me WIP. :) Another thing that helps me is to watch a movie, or read books that are similar to what I'm working on in my book. I try to glean whatever information I get out of them. :)

    Btw, I love love love the looks of that cool restaurant you went to. Totally fabulous. And with a cool name like Bottega, it's gotta have good food right? ;)

  4. Okay, I really do have to ask -- what's with the army truck? Just part of the experience? That pizza sounds so... interesting. :P

    LOOOOVE the restaurant!

  5. So so fun! I've always wanted to go to Napa & the Bay area! I really like the more consistent weather.

  6. That trip looked like a lot of fun :D When I get creatively dry, I leave my WIP for a little time. That usually does the trick :)

    - Paige

  7. Ooh, now I wanna go on a research trip!!! :D Unfortunately, I don't have time, as I'm on a deadline :(.

  8. I feel more creative and inspired when I watch a movie. Like Narnia, or LOTR, or Flicka.

  9. Micah, you mentioned FanFiction. That's a wonderful suggestion. I haven't done FF in a long time, but that used to work for me as well!

    Clarebear, those are great ideas! How wonderful to have people in your life who can reignite your excitement. And Bottega was amazing. I had amazing gnocchi that involved all kinds of funky veggies. Including pickled radish :)

    Emii, I asked that too! Apparently they're really common on vineyards. They're Swiss army vehicles called Pinzgauers. It seemed like something you might use for an African safari, and it was a ton of fun. A lot of vineyards pretty them up, but the one we rode in was straight out of the 1970s.

  10. Coolio, Stephanie! What fun!

    To echo some others, I enjoy sparking creativity through talking about my writing with others and watching great movies. (Anyone else fallen in love with Tangled? AWESOME movie!) Also, reading a great book makes me want to dive into my own. Lastly, music. So many scene ideas come to me when listening to classical piano and movie themes. :)

  11. @Rachelle, I have seen Tangled so many times I could quote it from start to finish. :) And that's including the :)

  12. @Rachelle. Ha ha...My whole family would watch that movie ten times a day, if they could! And, yes, I also am guilty of writing in front of the TV. Sometimes I get distracted, but the music in the movie really helps me picture what's happening in my book. And I totally agree that music is a great way to get excited about writing. You can just see it all happening when you listen to music :) .