Melissa Yancy’s short fiction has appeared in One Story, Glimmer Train, The Missouri Review, Zyzzyva, Prairie Schooner and many other journals. She can be found online at www.melissayancy.com.
What was the most unexpected part of your stay at The Madrones?
The quality of the Pinot Noir in the Anderson Valley was a surprise (but probably only to me). I went to college in major Pinot country in the Willamette Valley, but I’m not a big Pinot drinker. A lot of it just tastes flabby to me, and I haven’t really understood all that talk about Pinot and terroir. But the combination of coastal, foggy air and plentiful sunshine of the Anderson Valley creates interesting diversity in the Pinots there. Even within the same winery, I had Pinots in really different styles. For the first time, I think I got what all the fuss was about.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of your retreat?
Jim and Cyndee at The Madrones made everything so easy. I loved how spoiled I felt. To have nothing on the to-do list except write and drink wine?
What did you work on during the retreat?
A novel-in-progress. I write a lot of short fiction, which I can fit into my work life, but a new novel benefits so much from immersion.
In what way did the vineyard setting inspire you and/or your writing?
Galileo said, “Wine is sunlight, held together by water,” and never has that felt more true than it did in the Anderson Valley. Even though I live in California, it’s easy to forget the different kinds of beauty the state has to offer. The project I was working on concerns on oenophile and meditations about the earth, so the setting was perfect. As a city dweller, I just don’t spend that much time thinking about leaves.
What other activities did you do during the retreat?
I did some wine tasting, of course. I particularly loved Toulouse Vineyards. A young man came in whose girlfriend had broken up with him and taken all their wine. He had a wad of cash and was ready to restock. They are serious about their wine up there.
Also, I got pulled over by a trooper—that was excitement! I was driving about 25 miles an hour but failed to stop for the school bus that was parked on the other side of the street. He saw how clueless I was and let me off with a warning.
Did you participate in any activities or events arranged by the retreat host?
Yes! I happened to be there during a monthly get together of local winemakers. They brought cheese and crackers and sausages, and of course, bottles of wine, including unlabeled home experiments. Some of the guests had lived there for 35 years, so it was it was a great chance to hear stories about the area.
Any tips or advice you think might be helpful for future residency applicants?
It’s California, but it may be colder than you expect. Bring warm clothes. And snacks, of course.
Can you sum up your experience in eight to ten words?
Why can’t my life always be like this?