In a deal that has the publishing industry abuzz, Susan Spencer-Wendel, a former court reporter for the Palm Beach Post in Florida, has sold a memoir to Claire Wachtel at HarperCollins for a rumored $2 million. Agent Peter McGuigan of Foundry Literary + Media brokered the North American rights deal for Wendel, whose personal story was the recent focus of a Wall Street Journal article.
The book, tentatively titled Breathe Deeply, was, according to insiders, immediately likened to Randy Pausch's bestselling memoir The Last Lecture. (One source said the book was pitched as "the female version of The Last Lecture.") Like Pausch, who gave a lecture distilling important life lessons after he found out he was dying, Spencer-Wendel set out on a life-affirming adventure upon receiving devastating news.
As the Journal article noted, Spencer-Wendel quit her job after being diagnosed, last year, with ALS (which is better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease). Since that time she has been writing dispatches for her former employer about her world travels, which are part of a "bucket list" adventure. The Journal also reported that Spencer-Wendel was "recasting" the pieces as a book with the intention of pitching it to literary agents.
Co-author of the bestseller Dewey, Brett Witter, will be co-writing with Spencer-Wendel. Rumors are also swirling that book is about to be optioned in a major film deal. Foreign rights to the book have already sold in Italy, Holland, Brazil, Hungary and Israel.