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  • Writer's pictureRachel E. Pollock

literary agency and flagrant oenophilia


I’m a fairly flagrant and unrepentant oenophile. So, when i was deep in revisions on the manuscript of The Decadence Papers, one of the motivational tactics i used was Carrot-On-a-Stick, except instead of a carrot, it was a bottle of wine. See, every week i attend a wine tasting at a local bottle shop [1], at which they pour five wines, and if you buy anything on the tasting roster that day, you get a 10% discount. Back when i first started my revisions, they poured a wine called Tabula Rasa, and I loved it. Because i loved it, and because it was on sale, and because the phrase “tabula rasa” figures symbolically in my book, i bought my Carrot-On-a-Stick—a bottle that i’d put away and only open when revisions were complete [2]. I kept that bottle in my kitchen cupboard for four months. Then, when i finished the revisions, i opened it up and celebrated, and it was fantastic! In fact, i even posted about it in this blog, in a post entitled "wino forever." I mean, fine, it was just a couple glasses of wine, but it was more than that, too. It was a ritual of achievement, a treat. And as a motivator, it worked.

Like, no, i didn’t wake up every day and go, “Must keep revising so i can drink that Tabula Rasa.” It’s not like it was 2000-year-old wine found in a pharaoh tomb, or a cask of burgundy hoisted up from some 18t century shipwreck or something, and it’s not like i didn’t drink OTHER wines in the interim. It wasn’t a teetotally type of situation. Really, the wine’s no better or worse than any other similarly-priced red i bought and drank before or since. But it was special because i designated it as such, and that’s how it really worked for me. Because of the success of that tactic, i’ve invested in three more wines. The first is Grapesmith and Crusher, a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington state with a typewriter on the label. This is the wine that i've planned to open when i sign with a literary agent. Bear with me here on the nerd factor, but the significance here is multileveled. First, i think signing with an agent is entering into a partnership with someone, and i liked that the name of this wine involved words that evoke both craft and asskicking, and that’s what i hope any agent of mine and i would do together. Craft beautiful work and kick a bunch of ass. Second, one of my friends who copyedited an earlier draft of the book hails from Washington state and is herself an oenophile, so it’s a neat little acknowledgement of that fact. The second is Mollydooker’s Enchanted Path, an Australian Shiraz-based blended red. This is the wine that i’ll be drinking to celebrate a publisher taking us on. I tasted it about two months ago and about lost my mind, i loved it so much. And, really, if a publisher agrees to take up my book, that’s hopefully the beginning of an enchanted path. Or at least, a path with more enchantment than eye-forking, let’s hope. And the third is another Mollydooker, Carnival of Love, which is 100% Shiraz, same stuff as is used in the Enchanted Path blend. I actually haven’t tasted this one, but I don’t need to, having tasted Enchanted Path. Shiraz is like, my super-favorite [3], so i know it’ll be fan-fucking-tastic when i open this bottle to celebrate the day my book’s released.

Maybe this motivational tactic wouldn't work for everyone. Clearly not for people who hate wine, or AA-style nondrinkers. But, replace wine with whatever might similarly work for you, and give it a shot.

And yes, i've blathered all that before announcing the real joyful news of this post, because yes, i have just opened that bottle of Grapesmith and Crusher and poured myself a glass, because i am now represented by the truly fantastic Jonathan Lyons of Curtis Brown, and his fantastic assistant Sarah Parillo. Here's to the beginning of a great adventure!

Cheers! [1] The Hope Valley Bottle Shop in Durham, NC. [2] This round of revisions, that is. I know there will be more before publication. [3] Shiraz (albeit a cheap crappy bottle) plays a role in an early scene in the book, too.

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