October 23rd, 2006

Tom Perotta and the story of how a cover can change - and change again

Not only has he written some great books, but at least one, Election, became a great movie. If you haven't seen it, rent it. It's about a high school election, and stars Matthew Broderick as the embittered teacher and Reece Witherspoon as the sweet as pie on the outside, evil on the inside, candidate.

He has a new movie out, Little Children, which due to some unfairness has not opened in Portland yet. It's called Little Children and it's about some suburban parents who get themselves in trouble and act like little children. It's rated R and definitely won't be appropriate to bring the kidlet to. [Full disclosure: kid has seen R rated movies since age of 5, when I took said kid to Billy Elliot. Yes, that movie about a boy who wanted to be a ballet dancer was rated R. I was told for the swearing. I barely understood what a "fwaahking poofter" was so I don't think kid did.]

Little Children had the original perfect cover image: a pair of crisp Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers, those iconic childhood snacks, facing off against a green lawn. Pepperidge Farm, alas, did not appreciate the homage. The company told Perrotta's publisher, St. Martin's Press, to lose the crackers. St. Martin's substiuted a pair of chocolate chip cookies (baked by Dori Weintraub, Perrotta's quick-thinking publicist) in later press runs. Then in paperback the fish came back - a photograph of live ones stranded in a plastic sack.

Here's an article about Tom and the movie.



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Some thoughts on new book deals

Tidbits from Publisher's Lunch:

Therese Fowler's SOUVENIR, pitched as "in the tradition of Nicholas Spark's The Notebook, paired with the family drama of Jodi Picoult," to Linda Marrow at Ballantine, at auction, by Wendy Sherman at Wendy Sherman Associates. Other books have been pitched as "Gossip Girl in the Gilded Age," "reminiscent of Everything is Illuminated," "Anne Frank in the Cultural Revolution," "in the tradition of Fannie Flagg and Alice Hoffman," "in the tradition of Kent Haruf and Annie Proulx," "The Nanny Diaries meets Prep," etc. And that's just in the past few months. Obviously, I need to start selling my books my claiming that they are a combination of two other best-selling books and/or authors. A couple of years back, an agent pitched a book as "If Elmore Leonard and Janet Evanovich had a love child, this would be it." I think it tanked.

In fact, here's another one from the same issue: Sonja Blue vampire series author Nancy Collins's DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, FASHIONABLY LATE, and THICKER THAN WATER, of her V.A.M.P.S YA series, described as The Gossip Girls meets Anne Rice, to Barbara Lalicki at Harper Children's, in a very nice deal, by Lori Perkins at L. Perkins
Agency (world).

Victorian mystery writer Anne Perry's THE SHEEN ON THE SILK, her first stand-alone historical epic, set in the late days of the Byzantine empire, telling the story a woman masquerading as a eunuch physician who is searching for the truth about her condemned brother -- and the path to heaven, to Susanna Porter for Ballantine, in a major deal, by Donald Maass of the Donald Maass Literary Agency, on behalf of Meg Davis at MBA Literary Agency (NA). [Full disclosure: I saw Ms. Perry read shortly before the truth came out about her being a participant in a murder when she was a teen - her true identity was revealed after they had released the movie Heavenly Creatures about the crime. I've been unable to read her books since. Probably just my own personal issue. She seemed like a nice woman, actually.]

Fran Rizer's A TISKET, A TASKET, A STOLEN CASKET, for a new series featuring a cosmetologist in a funeral home, who discovers some of her customers didn't exactly die of natural causes, to Katherine Day at Berkley, in a nice deal, in a three-book deal, by Jeff Gerecke (world). [Full disclosure: I had a recurring character who was a funeral home cosmetologist, so maybe I should have thought of this series. But I didn't.]

But this is the one I'm holding my breath for: Terrell Owens's LITTLE T LEARNS TO SHARE, on the importance of sharing by one of football's most talked about athletes, to Glenn Yeffeth of BenBella Books, for publication in November 2006, by Ian Kleinert of Literary Group International. Can we say "Newberry"? Well, can we?



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April Henry - Junior Crime Fighter

After work tonight, I went for what might be the last run of the year during the work week. It's going to rain tomorrow, and after daylight savings time ends, it's too dark to run. I was running next to Gabriel Park when I saw a group of teens. Two boys in front, laughing and looking behind them and nudging each other. In the middle two girls and a boy, walking fast. And behind them all, a kid with black dreadlocks down to his shoulders, wearing a black coat and a knit cap.

And in his hands, something on fire.

I looked closer. It was a big double handful of leaves. Then he threw the burning leaves on the ground. I yelled, "Your too old to be doing that!" and ran over to the leaves while the kids continued up the sidewalk. The ground was carpeted with dry maple leaves and they were starting to burn too. The fire was maybe a foot high and a couple of feet across. I thought, "I hope I won't be sorry for doing this," and started stamping on the burning leaves. Luckily, the fire began to die back instead of licking up my black nylon running pants. I have a feeling black nylon running pants and fire are not a good combination.

After putting out the fire, I ran a block to the Tri-Met bus and asked the driver to call the police. Because I could tell that most of those kids were having fun. They liked the fire and they liked me yelling at them.

Then I turned around and started to run home. On my way back past where the fire had been I saw that it was still smoldering, so I gave it some more stamps. The kids were a couple of blocks ahead of me, and I started thinking about slowing down. I didn't want to meet them face to face again.

Then I saw them hustle faster up the block. And a tower of smoke.

They had lit some more leaves on fire and thrown them into a storm drain choked with dry leaves. Smoke was pouring out. I thought of running to one of the houses, but no one seemed to be home. Instead I waved at the passing cars, pointing at the column of smoke and putting my hand to my head, miming a cell phone. A woman stopped and let me use her cell phone. I stood by the fire until the firetruck came. And they wanted me to talk to the police and the arson investigator.

The cop left to try to find them, but couldn't. After everyone was done talking to me, I got a ride home in the fire truck. I got to wear the headphones and sit in a jump seat facing backward. It was pretty cool.

I'm sure they will be calling me for my ceremony down at City Hall soon.

Actually, thinking back on it, part of me is still scared. Things could easily have gone the other way. Maybe when you're 17, you don't think that far ahead.



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