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On Writing: 5 Things Not to do When Visiting Cheesemakers for Your Book

Uplands farmhouse, Dodgeville Wisconsin Some of you have asked me talk about my experiences writing a book. Of course you still want to hear about what fabulous cheesemakers I've visited and see photos of the cheese, and photos of me getting drunk off the cheese, and hear about what they do to the cheese that makes one drunk (is it the B.linens, is it the raw milk, is it Everclear?), but you also want to know about the book in action.

What's it like to write a [cheese] book? What's it like to travel to visit cheesemakers for research? How do you get a book deal? How do you write a book proposal? How do you kick start the writing process? Well, since I'm still figuring all what to do, I thought that the best way to get started was to first write about what not to do. Let's you and I both say a little prayer that I'm a quick learner.

What Not to Do When Visiting Cheesemakers for Your Book.

If you happen to be visiting cheesemakers (or heirloom bean farmers, or butchers or cobblers, or fashionistas) for book research, the following are things I learned to not do. I hope this advice fares us all well.

1. If you have to rent a car to visit people, don't rent a car from the airport if at all possible. Like buying a burrito for $9 or a yogurt parfait for $6.73 on your way to the plane, it's going to about 5,000 times more expensive here than what it needs to be. Why? Because they know they have you by the ovaries. I saved nearly $200 renting a car around ten miles away from the airport. True, getting from the airport to the car rental place can be a little tricky, but sometimes it's worth the effort. Sometimes you can get a relative to drive you.

2. Sometimes it's not worth the effort. Don't overbook yourself. You think that you're doing you and and your book a service by packing in as many cheesemaker visits that time will allow. It can only make your book better because, oh my, think of the things you will learn! Yet it's important to leave yourself enough time to ask the questions that develop naturally during an appropriately timed visit rather than aim to get through the five you managed to write down in your notebook at stoplights on the way over. If you pack too much in, you're overextending your time, and the cheesemaker's time. And they ain't got much time. And when will you have the time to be there with them again? Plus, if you end up too enthralled during your short visit to leave one place on time, you might be late to your next appointment. Which leads me to number three.

3. Don't think your maps will always work. Leave enough time to get lost. You will get lost. And freeway exits and streets you need to drive on will be closed so you'll need to figure out alternative routes if your GPS doesn't register the closure. Psst.... it won't register the closure. Also, leave yourself enough time to figure out how to use your GPS you just bought before driving.

4. Don't leave your camera manuel at home. When taking photos for your blog, you'll need your camera to work. As statistics show, 9 times out of 10, your camera will malfunction when on a trip. So keep your manuel with you. Your amazing photographer friend MollyD may not be there to answer the phone next time you press the wrong button and mess up your camera for your first two cheese stops. Bless you, Molly.

5. Don't think you won't need "Kirstin time," or "Jennifer time" or "Josh time." Leave enough time to breath. This brings us back to number 2. Not only should you not overbook yourself because it's hard to get the info you need during visits when you're always in a rush, it's also hard to get what you personally and professionally need from the trip when you barely have time to fill up your tank. Or empty your tank. Stop, stretch out your legs, and leave yourself a day to go on a walk around a city or sit in a coffee shop and write. Remember, there are coffee shops and wine bars everywhere that need your support.

Have any writing advice of your own to add?