Rick Bailey is a creative nonfiction writer, with a special interest in the food and wine of Italy. He grew up in Freeland, Michigan, on the banks of the Tittabawassee River. He taught writing for 38 years at Henry Ford College. A Midwesterner long married to an Italian immigrant, he has learned the language and food of Italy. His book of essays-- American English, Italian Chocolate: Small Subjects of Great Importance -- was published by University of Nebraska Press in 2017.
Did the retreat meet your expectations?
What did I expect? Breath-taking natural beauty, check. Excellent food and wine, double check. Tons of quiet time to work on projects, triple check.
What was the most unexpected part of your stay?
The night of my reading I had dinner with Marcy Gordon, Rebecca Gomez Farre, and Stephanie Rosebaum, wonderful writers and enthusiastic foodists. In the dinner conversation I was converted to Sonoma. In the Eastern time zone, it seems like, wine-country-wise, it’s all Napa Napa Napa. This experience converted me to Sonoma. I can’t wait to go back.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of your retreat?
I drove over to the Pacific coast looking for whales. Maybe they saw me; I did not seem them. But it didn’t matter. What a delight to drive along the Russian River and to hike into the Armstrong Redwoods Reserve to shake hands with a 1400 year-old tree. I also loved going to tasting rooms and listening to people talk about wine. What they say, I don’t taste—beef blood, for example, or sweaty saddle leather. But I think with more practice I might be able to make some connections between wine-speak and wine-taste. I’m willing to dedicate myself to this linguistic-oenophilic apprenticeship.
Did the vineyard setting inspire you and/or your writing? In what ways?
Being on the west coast and sleeping Eastern Standard Time hours really worked to my advantage. I’m an early riser in Michigan. On this retreat I was awake at 3:00 a.m. every day and ready to work. The apartment was comfortable and stocked with good coffee and, aside from what-was-that bird outside my door, totally quiet. By 8:00 a.m. I felt like I’d already done an honest day’s work (for a writer) and could put my heart and palate to work on local pleasures. True, I faded every night by 9:00 p.m. but in so doing stayed out of mischief.
What did you work on during the retreat?
I sketched in a template for some chapters for a book on eating and drinking along Via Emilia between Bologna and Rimini (for seafood, turn left and drive to the Adriatic; for meat, turn right and drive to the foothills of the Apennines). I also put the final touches on my second collection of essays, which will be called The Enjoy Agenda, and submitted it for publication shortly after the retreat. (And it was accepted for publication by University of Nebraska Press about eight weeks later!)
No one can write 24 hours a day! What other activities did you do during the retreat—any napping, hiking, or exploring the local area?
No napping. Are you kidding? On this trip I was also working on the last few days of an itinerary for a National Park trip with friends visiting from Italy. I took part of one day of the retreat for reconnaissance, driving down to Muir Woods and Sausalito.