On being ... alphabet soup

By Ingrid Sapona

I used the alphabet as a prompt to look back at some of the things that were noteworthy to me in 2011 and it was a fun challenge, so I thought I’d do so again looking back at 2012.

A is for apps. Now that I’ve worked on an app, I (kind of) get what they are. Welcome to the 21st century?
B is for basics. When my business started to dry up during the first half of the year I was forced to return to the basics of networking and beating the proverbial bushes to find clients. Fortunately, my efforts paid off and work has picked up a bit. The trick, of course, will be trying to continue to network, network, network.
C is for Charlie Rose. I’m thrilled that I wake up to him every day, thanks to CBS’s new morning show.
D is for disasters, of which there were just too many this year.
E is for elections, which are never ending in the U.S. E is also for Ehud Olmert, former Prime Minister of Israel. Mr. Olmert was noteworthy in my books because, in stark contract to candidates in the U.S., he waited until December 2012 to announce whether he’d be running in the January 2013 Israeli election. Why does the U.S. need a four year election campaign when other countries do it in under two months?
F is for friends. Earlier this year when work had slowed to a near stop and I was watching my pennies more than ever, friends were especially generous and understanding.
G is for guns, which Americans have been brainwashed into thinking make you safer.
H is for human and hero. This year we were reminded that even some we laud as heroes are human.
I is for inspiration. Somehow this year I felt generally less inspired. I fear that may have come through a bit in my columns. (If so, I’m sorry.)
J is for jubilee. I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle of it all and I hope that when I’m her age, I’m as spry as Queen Elizabeth was during her jubilee year.
K is for “kidding around” and the harsh reality that not everyone finds the same thing funny.
L is for looking forward. I’m hoping 2013 brings better things for all.
M is for milestone. Writing the 250th On being … was a big milestone for me this year.
N is for Northwestern, my alma mater. I went to my 30th reunion this year. I was pleased to find that since we all aged (gracefully?) at the same rate, everyone looked the same (in my eyes, at least).
O is for Ontario Wineries. Having visited over 90 over a relatively short time to work on the app, I’m amazed at how wonderfully unique each is.
P is for patience, which I noted I lack in direct proportion to how fast I think something should be done. More importantly, I noted that being that way doesn’t help make things happen faster.
Q is for questioning one's self. Ever notice that when you hit a rough patch, you question yourself more?
R is for root canal. This year I discovered root canal can even be something you look forward to. All you need is a really really handsome endodontist (and lots of freezing).
S is for Sandy. Though I generally don’t refer to friends by name in On being… I have to tip my hat to my friend Sandy, who I teased about having a devastating storm named after. My Sandy is an awesome consultant with the patience and good humour of a saint and one who I owe much to for all her computer and business advice.
T is for tragedy, turning away, and tacit. (See G and V) I honestly think that as a result of the near daily reports of tragedies as a result of gun violence, Americans have adopted a tacit coping mechanism that has allowed them to turn away from the issue. I know the right to bear arms is “enshrined” in the Constitution – but the Constitution can be amended. It was amended to ban liquor – and then again to allow it. Hell, in the 70s there was talk about a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning! Why has no one taken up the cause on behalf of all the innocent victims of gun violence? T is also for time – and frankly, I think the time has come…
U is for unknown. This year I was reminded on many occasions that no matter how hard you try to cover all the bases, or how qualified you are, or even how thorough you are, there are always unknowns that you can’t anticipate and that can trip you up. (Who was it who said something about “the best laid plans…”?)
V is for violence. (See G and T) Remember when V was for victory? There has always been violence, I know, but this year the amount of it has felt overwhelming. I know some think it’s just a fact of life. But should it be? Must it be?
W is for wine industry. Working on the app I gained an appreciation for how the industry works.
X is for xasperated. (I know, that’s not how you spell it – but honestly, coming up with a real “X” word is nearly impossible.) – See G, T and V. I realize that at this point, some of my readers may be exasperated with my going on and on about gun violence – but honestly, I think it’s time for those who oppose guns to become as vocal as those who favour them.
Y is for year – even though we got one extra day in 2012, the year went by in a flash.
Z is for zzzzs… which, like many of you, I hope to have more of in 2013.

Happy New Year!

© 2012 Ingrid Sapona


On being ... a virtual labour of love

By Ingrid Sapona
Before I get too far into today’s column, I feel compelled to warn you that it could just as easily have been titled: On being … an act of shameless self-promotion. You’ll see why in a few minutes – assuming that fact doesn’t turn you away. (And if it does, so be it – at least I’ve been honest.)
Since August I’ve been busy – very busy – with a huge project. I’m please to say that project – the Ontario Wineries Guide – was “published” this week. The guide is a smart phone app, which means that publishing it doesn’t involve a printing press or paper – it means it’s now available on iTunes and Google Play.
I got the inspiration for the app in 2011 after reading about Sutro Media, a travel app publisher, looking for new ideas and authors. To be honest, at that time, since I didn’t own any device on which an app could be used, I only had a vague idea of what a travel app was. So, figuring maybe it was time I tuned into the 21st century, I bought an iPod Touch to see what all the fuss was about. Pretty quickly, I realized all I had been missing.
The first app I purchased was Sutro’s Niagara Falls guide. The app was easy to use and well designed. Clearly Sutro knew what they were doing. So, in August 2011, I pitched them on the idea of an app about Ontario wineries. Unfortunately, they rejected me (ok – they rejected the idea – but it felt like they were rejecting me). Apparently they had already committed to another writer who had pitched them that idea. I was bummed and mad with myself for being so late to hop on the tech bandwagon.
After that, periodically I checked to see if Sutro’s Ontario wineries app had been published. After about nine months I began to wonder what was going on. So, having nothing to lose, I re-pitched the idea to Sutro. Well, seems the other writer never came through, so in late July 2012, Sutro gave me the go-ahead. It was exciting, and it came at a time when my business had kind of dried up, so keeping busy with anything was welcome. Of course, just after we agreed to do the app, business picked up. (Isn’t that one of Newton’s laws or something?)
Other than having to follow a few rules for using Sutro’s software, I had complete say regarding content, which was one of the appealing things about the project. Keep in mind that Sutro’s OK didn’t come with a cheque or any kind of advance. Our deal is pretty straightforward: they provide the software and technical stuff and I do the writing and marketing. In terms of money, I get 1/3 of the proceeds from any sales. (It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that at $2.99 a pop (gross price), I won’t be retiring on the proceeds from the app!)
Because I had decided the app’s focus was on the experience of visiting wineries, I developed a checklist of questions I’d ask the wineries – things like the tasting fee, whether picnickers were welcome, etc. The majority of wineries graciously took the time to chat with me and were encouraging of the idea.
But, a handful questioned my motivation. To some extent I was prepared for that. After all, I was an unknown to them and I thought they might be concerned I might say something unfavourable about their winery. To allay their concerns, I always approached them in a very positive, up-beat way and I always explained that I was writing the app because I want to share my joy of exploring Ontario and Ontario wineries. In other words, I wanted them to understand that my interests were aligned with theirs – to promote Ontario wineries.
Despite my energy and enthusiasm, a few still wanted to know what I wanted from them. When I told them all I was after was a wee bit of information, some were doubtful. What I soon realized was that they assumed my reason for speaking with them was to hit them up for money – either in exchange for favourable comments, or thinking I expected them to pay to be included. When I assured them that the app is a labour of love on my part, though their tone sometimes remained skeptical, they usually answered my questions.
Anyway, the release of the app this week was a huge step for me and a big relief, though it hardly means the end of the project. I’ll periodically update it and expand it to cover new wineries (not to mention the 30 or so that I didn’t get to for the initial release). Perhaps more significantly, the release marks the first step in the next phase: marketing it, which will be something brand new to me. (I at least knew how to write – how to market is a whole other matter!)
Ok, by now you probably figured out why I mentioned the alternative title for the column. Though publication of the app truly was a labour of love, in some respects, this column also is my first foray into marketing it. Sutro’s marketing mantra is tell everyone you know – and encourage them to tell everyone they know. (Sutro also suggests making it easy for folks to find the app on-line by providing a link to it. So, assuming they know what they’re talking about: click HERE, in case you want to find it on iTunes and if you want to find it on Google Play, click HERE.)
So there you have it – the news – and story – of the app that’s kept me busy since August. Though naturally I’d love it if folks embrace the app and if it prompts people to visit Ontario wineries, the truth is, the fun I had exploring wine country and writing about it was reward enough.
© 2012 Ingrid Sapona