Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On cheap wine and editor taste

What’s it like to get a bunch of wine snobs together with a bunch of cheapskates when it just so happens they’re the same people?

That’s what yesterday evening was like for me.

I love good wine, and I love a good bargain. Those two things sometimes coexist at the Grocery Outlet (a surplus retailer with 130 stores in 6 western states offering discounted prices on everything from toothbrushes to lobster tails).

The wine section at the Grocery Outlet is a bit like going to Vegas. Sometimes you toss in a few coins and come out with a lovely little gem of Italian Sangiovese with just the right notes of strawberry and oak.

Other times you check the label to see if you accidentally purchased oven cleaner.

The gamble is worth it, since most wines are under $10, with plenty of bargains to be found in the $2.99-$3.99 range.

A few times a year, they offer 20% off all their wines. Cheapskate wine snobs look forward to these events because if we can just figure out which wines are the real gems, we can buy entire cases for pennies on the dollar.

This was the thought behind a dinner party at a friend’s house last night. Seven of us gathered with nine bottles of recently purchased Grocery Outlet wine and a plan to find the best ones in the bunch.

We intended to determine the best bargains and race back at 7 a.m. the next morning to fight the other cheapskate wine snobs for the good stuff.

But here’s the funny thing – none of us agreed on which wine was “the good stuff.”

I was fond of the 2008 Unsung Heroes Petite Verdot from South Australia. My friend Larie fell hard for a quirky little white blend from California with a ghetto label. Pythagoras – who isn’t generally a wine fan – loved an Italian Pinot Grigio that didn’t have a word of English printed on the bottle.

And while the two Spanish reds I expected to adore fell flat in my opinion, they drew great praise from several members of the group.
It reminds me of an analogy someone shared when I first started submitting my writing to editors and agents.

“Don’t think of it as the editor rejecting you because it’s bad,” she urged. “Think of it more like you’re around a big dinner table with a bunch of editors, and the one next to you passes on your green bean casserole because she doesn’t particularly care for green beans, but the editor at the other end of the table happens to love them.”

It put things into perspective for me. Yes, there are always things we can do to grow and improve as writers, but rejection doesn’t always mean you suck. Sometimes, it just means you offered the editor a spicy Shiraz when she happened to want a citrusy Sauvignon Blanc.

We all have different tastes – even editors and agents. This is a subjective business. The trick is to keep that in mind, and remember that somewhere out there is the person who will love every last drop of whatever you’re pouring.

On that note, I must go practice my kung-fu moves. If the other cheapskate wine snobs think they’re getting their hands on that Petit Verdot, they’ve got another think coming.


Summer Frey said...

Ahhh, jealous. I have to drive two hours to even get to a Whole Foods...

John Ross Barnes said...

So much is subjective, isn't it. I have wondered sometimes if the phrase "objectively speaking" isn't perhaps an oxy-moron.

Catherine Stine said...

Comparing editors' tastes to food tastes--good. Stresses the fact that which books one likes is so very subjective. I like a good cranberry spritzer with a slice of lime myself.

Sarah W said...

I very much needed this analogy today--thanks!

My younger daughter's godfather owns a wholesale wine and spirits business. His wife, who adopted us many years ago, throws fabulous parties - the Christmas one is at the warehouse. All you have to do is wonder aloud what might be in that orange box on the top stack over there, and a glass of it materializes in your hand.

Life . . .is good.

Linda G. said...

Printing this post out and pinning it to my wall. :)

Katt said...

Great Post timing!
I just rec'd notice that I not only didn't final in a particular contest, but my entry required extra judging because two scores were over 40 points apart.
And then I was told (very kindly)that my voice was so strong that some judges would love it and others would hate it....
I tried to focus on the love, though I kept thinking about the 'hate' part,

but now, your analogy, has taken the sting out of it.

Danica Avet said...

Great analogy, Tawna! I've actually had a few rejections back that said something similar. That the story didn't fit their needs, but because this is a subjective business, I might have better luck with another agent.

It's hard to remember that though, when the rejections pour in one after the other. You start feeling sniffly and underappreciated. That's when you hit your CP up for some back patting and "there, theres". Um...wait, I meant, that's when you pull on your big girl panties and restart the process all over again. *cough*

Anonymous said...

Oh. I didn't know you could find good cheap wine! I haven't even got round to trying that Italian Classico Chianti stuff you suggested. I just look at all the cheaply priced (£3-£5) imports at my local shop and I can't taste the vinegar! Maybe I'm just not a wine person at all, but I must be! Because I'm a writer! Isn't it the law that writer women love wine? Besides, I do remember loving every bottle of wine I imbibed on a luxury cruise I went on years ago. Too bad I didn't find out what the stuff was. I'm wine obsessed and I haven't been able to drink any for ages :(

Pamala Knight said...

I totally agree with Danica, especially since I had a lovely rejection waiting for me in my inbox this morning. So, I could use that Spanish red right about now ;-).

Thanks Tawna, for keeping things in perspective for us.

Teri Anne Stanley said...

I'm personally quite impressed that you could sample all those wines and then actually make it out the door at 7 a.m. to buy more!

Teri Anne Stanley said...

I'm personally quite impressed that you could sample all those wines and then actually make it out the door at 7 a.m. to buy more!

Alexa O said...

Another thing to keep in mind is that publishing houses and agencies are just as likely to be full of inexperienced, humorless, and/or incompetent employees as any other profession.

There are fabulous editors out there and there are editors who are more concerned with picking the same wine that everyone else is drinking for fear of exposing themselves as novices if they like the cheap one.

In other words, just because they have the power to say "no" and you are the author with the unpublished book... that doesn't mean that they are smarter than you.

Be confident, write what you love, and love what you write. And drink your $2.99 red wine with ice cubes in it if that's the way you like it. Eventually, you'll meet someone who thinks that is the most brilliant and delicious thing they've ever seen.

Harley May said...

You know how men look at Playboy "for the articles." That's the the opposite for me and your blog. I read your blog for the pictures.

Kidding (not really). Great post. Great analogy.

Candyland said...

If you relate it to food, I'm all ears. That absolutely makes sense, though. It isn't personal. Some people just happen to hate green beans.

Xandra James said...

Does this mean somebody out there will actually love my cooking apart from my long suffering hubby? Yay! :)

Thanks for the words of wine and wisdom!

Elizabeth Flora Ross said...

That is a really great analogy, and I love it! :)

Clever Betty said...

All you lucky people who have easy access to booze - deep sigh. I live in a dry county. For those of you unfamiliar it means the powers that be around here have set things up so that while they have to deal with the consequences of people drinking, no one can make the profits from actually selling them booze. One has to drive at least an hour and 15 minutes to an adjoining county to purchase booze so that you can take it back home and drink it.
That said, something in your post reminded me of a Red Green episode. If you are unfamiliar with Red Green, he's out of the 'Possum Lodge' somewhere in Canada via PBS. On one episode the members of the lodge stole grapes from a neighbor and attempted to make wine. Which became a bright blue color, was undrinkable, but was eventually sold as very effective window cleaner.
I am ever the fan who stalks no loves you, your posts and your analogy, and eagerly awaits your books, Tawna.

Melissa Gill said...

Great analogy and good luck getting your wine.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Awesome analogy! I think I'll have a glass of wine tonight. It's been awhile since I indulged.

Anne R. Allen said...

Brilliant and funny post as usual. But I do have to agree with Alexa. A glance at Publisher's Lunch shows an awful lot of editors have suspiciously similar taste.

Last summer every single one of them seemed to be enamored of heavily tannic zombie lit. Now they're all in love with super-astringent, vinegary dystopian post-apocalyptica.

Wouldn't it be nice if they let their own palates do the shopping the way you and your friends do? Nice for readers as well as writers. I'm looking forward to the time when more of them are asking for some of that Tawna Fenske dry-witty rose...

Dr. Goose said...

Pearls of wisdom Tawna. I'm not a writer and yet I still feel encouraged by this post.


Summer, yes, I have plenty of good wine shops in close proximity to my house!

John, few things I've encountered are more subjective than publishing :)

Catherine, if it weren't breakfast time, I'd be right with you on that!

Sarah, can I come live with you?

Linda G, glad you enjoyed it! Pass the green beans?

Katt, yup, it's important to remember it isn't personal and that SOMEONE will fall in love with your writing eventually.

Danica, critique partner soothing is the best, isn't it?

Suz, give that Chianti a shot and let me know what you think. Depending on how you like it, I can probably steer you toward some other things you might enjoy.

Pamala, ((hugs)) on the rejection. I'll raise a glass in your honor this evening.

Teri Anne, LOL, I've done lots of wine tasting, so I'm pretty good at sticking with small tastes, pacing myself, cleansing my palate with crackers and water, and spitting when necessary (yes, yes...let the crude jokes commence).

Alexa, amen to everything you said!!!

Harley May, oddly enough, I read Playboy for the recipes and the jokes.

Candyland, exactly -- the trick is finding someone who loves green beans!

Xandra, there's someone out there for you, babe!

Elizabeth, glad you enjoyed it. Toast?

Clever Better, I actually lived in a dry town for about six months. Fortunately, the not-so-dry town was about a three minute drive away.

Melissa, thanks! I got all the wine I wanted, and a guy ahead of me was buying FOUR CASES of the same stuff I liked.

Nicole, we shall raise a glass together then!

Anne, you and Alexa have hit on one of my many frustrations with publishing today, but that's an entirely different post :)

Dr. Goose, want to hug?

Thanks for reading, guys!

Jan Markley said...

Cheapskates and wine snobs. Interesting combination with some interesting characters I'm sure ... good thing you're a writer!