One of the best parts about blogging is meeting readers and colleagues. I go out of my way to have coffee, lunch, or dinner with anyone who asks. As a result, I’ve formed some great friendships.

Eighteen months ago at Savvy Blogging Summit 2011, I met Amy Gross from VineSleuth, a wine blog. She and I hit it off instantly. We spent the entire weekend talking about travel, writing, and wine. When she came to Portland for a wineblogging conference last August, we spent an afternoon touring the town, drinking Chilean wine. And in October, we reconnected at Savvy Blogging Summit 2012.

Wine Bloggers Conference
Drinking wine with Amy at the blog conference in August

In early December, I called Amy to ask for advice regarding a possible Real Job (about which I may speak more of in the future). During the call, she asked if I’d be willing to fly to Houston for a weekend in order to share blogging advice with her and her husband. “Of course,” I said.

On Thursday, I flew out of Portland to join Amy’s sister-in-law (Toni from The Happy Housewife, a popular blog about frugal homemaking) for a marathon brainstorming session.

Work and Play

I’d only been to Houston once before. In July 1985, I was part of Oregon’s delegation to the national Future Business Leaders of America convention. I competed in the business math event (in which I placed eighth), but mostly I flirted with the girls. What I remember most about the city is the humidity — and the fact that a bunch of us went out to see St. Elmo’s Fire in the theater.

This time, I didn’t do any flirting. This time, I worked. (And played…a little.)

On Thursday night, we sat by the fire on the back patio, drinking wine and talking about the direction of VineSleuth. I tried to keep pace with Gary, Amy’s husband, drinking whatever wine he was drinking. That was a mistake. Gary is bigger than I am, and a far more experienced drinker. By the time I went to bed at two, I was a mess.

I woke at seven on Friday, and by nine we were working again. We sat around Amy’s kitchen table, talking about the ins and outs of blogging. We discussed content and marketing and networking and SEO and affiliate programs and post titles and workflow and everything else we could think of. Amy never stopped taking notes. I wish we’d recorded the session.

In the evening, Gary took us out on the town to celebrate Toni’s 40th birthday.

Toni snaps a photo of her 40th birthday dessert
Toni snaps a photo of her 40th birthday dessert

We dined at The Four Seasons, then took a taxi to Max’s Wine Dive. Having learned my lesson the night before, I put a brake on my alcohol consumption and let Gary blaze ahead. Good thing, too. Next, we headed to Rebels Honky Tonk to practice our line dancing and bull riding. I wasn’t good at either, but I had fun trying.

photo (8)
Riding the mechanical bull

Saturday was much more sedate. We spent all day working around the kitchen table again. And again, Amy filled page after page with notes about the business of blogging. We broke for Mexican food at one point, but otherwise we stayed on task. In the evening, we did try some wine (and beer), but otherwise things were mellow.

And on Sunday, we spent our last few hours together making sure Amy had a solid plan for VineSleuth.

Blog Consultant

For years, folks have been encouraging me to become a blog consultant. I’ve always thought that was kind of crazy. Who would pay for that kind of thing? Turns out, there’s more of a market than I thought. Plus, I know more than I give myself credit. It’s actually a viable idea for a business.

So, this is something I plan to pursue in the months (and years) to come. I’ll have to find my way at first, making things up as I go along. But that’s what I did when I started blogging, too. And that’s what we’ve done while putting together the World Domination Summit. You make things up, you do your best, and if you’re fortunate, things work out.

9 Replies to “A Weekend in Houston”

  1. Jessica Howell says:

    The bull-riding photo from Rebels cracks me up. On my visits to Houston, we always head there at least once, and it never fails that I add the two-step to my “must master” list!

  2. jlcollinsnh says:

    wanna come to NH for another round? 😉

    I really need to figure out the next steps for my own little blog. The audience is developing nicely and I enjoy writing the thing, but I have zero interest in the business of blogging.

    So yes. There’s a market!

  3. JD, I cannot thank you enough for sharing your weekend and your wisdom with me. I had a great time hanging out with you and Toni (And two-stepping, too).
    And, as you said, I took page after page of brilliant notes.

    Thank you for being so willing to share your experiences and insight. I’m excited for this new direction for VineSleuth and new focus for me, many thanks to you.

    I can’t wait to celebrate my progress with you when I see you at World Domination Summit this summer. 🙂

    THANK YOU!!!

  4. Toni says:

    “Plus, I know more than I give myself credit. ” Yes you do!
    It was great spending the weekend in Texas and soaking in your wisdom!
    I’m thankful for the opportunity and can’t wait to see everyone this summer! #WDS or bust! 🙂

  5. Amy and Toni are 2 of my favorite bloggers, what a blast to spend the weekend working and playing with them!
    I agree…blogging consulting would be a great idea!

  6. JD! I am a conference coordinator for the University of Miami. Basically I’m in charge of coordinating one big annual conference for doctors. It runs three days plus a one day workshop. Last year, we had 1100 international attendees from 42 different countries! It is an amazing job. Anyways, one of the conference’s directors, there are two, is on the subscription list of many meeting magazines including Convene.
    He dumps them in my mailbox so I can get ideas and stay on top of the industry (which is kind of silly because this conference being almost 40 years old is pretty set in its ways just like its directors). Anyhow, what do I see on the top of the December 2012 issue? Feature 113 World Domination. NO WAY! I ripped it open, flipped over to it, and there it was. You guys got a fantastic write-up.
    I have been wanting to go to WDS since Chris came up with the idea. But with my situation, it’s basically a pipe dream. Anyhow, I wanted to congratulate you guys. You are doing something awesome there.

  7. Bella says:

    Okay. I liked this post. Good stuff going on and all that. But Im still a little stuck on why anyone would drink Chilean wine while in Portland. ?!? Since one of the highlights of traveling to the pacific northwest is the great local wine.

  8. Sounds like a really awesome weekend! Very much looking forward to hearing about the blog consultant process (especially if it involves more mechanical bulls).

  9. goosenr says:

    JD- great to see you back at the blogging. I was a loyal reader of GRS until you sold and since have read sparingly. Glad to see you are having fun with this. I have been contemplating starting a blog myself, but currently have too many ideas. I would be interested in any of your brainstorming activities you used for Vinesleuth to help guide me. Thanks for any help.
    On another note, your crossfit and weight loss have been a motivation for me, along with Mark’s Daily apple blog. Lost 17 lbs in last month with Paleo eating and some Crossfit exercise. Keep up the great work.


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