BIG-BUDGET KID STUFF
A children's issue is an appropriate spot to record that some humongous movie deals have recently been put in place for children's books, each involving sums adult properties only occasionally aspire to. Perhaps the most surprising was the purchase of a yet-to-be-published picture book, Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera, due from Harcourt's Silver Whistle imprint this fall. Nickelodeon pre-empted movie rights as a possible vehicle for Rosie O'Donnell; the book tells the story of a girl whose aunt turns out to be Santa's sister. Both the author/illustrator and her editor, Paula Wiseman, felt from the start that the book had movie possibilities. Primavera's agent is Steven Malik of Writer's House.
The late Kay Thompson was extremely protective of her character Eloise, the six-year-old who lived in the Plaza Hotel, and in fact withdrew all but one of the books about her from circulation five years after they began to appear in 1955; they were triumphantly relaunched by Simon & Schuster last spring within months of Thompson's death, with two titles then, and two others to follow. Movie companies had been interested in them for years, and it was Teletubbies distributor itsy bitsy Entertainment, in the person of president Kenn Viselman, who landed a deal, in association with producer Denise Di Novi, for a feature movie and a TV series. S&S children's president Rick Richter and rights director Carol R der put it together with the aid of Hollywood lawyers and the Thompson estate.
Meanwhile, Dinotopia, originally published as a lavishly illustrated book by the late Turner Publishing, and now a continuing HarperCollins series by author-illustrator James Gurney, is to be an ABC-TV Hallmark miniseries, bowing in spring 2001. Word is that the series, which will require extensive location shooting and computer-generated dinosaurs, will be a costly one. (One thing the films probably won't reproduce: Gurney drew affectionate pictures of his packagers, the late Ian Ballantine and wife Betty, as characters in the first volume.)
RETURN OF THE TRUMP
After several autobiographical exercises, real estate magnate Donald Trump is about to let loose with a new volume, this time on the state of the nation and how perhaps a new political party (involving The Donald himself?) might be able to set things right. It's called The America We Deserve, and it's scheduled to appear, as the millennium turns, from Los Angeles-based Renaissance Books, which bought world rights. The publisher was introduced to Trump by Dick Morris, another of its current authors-and, like Trump, a Random alumnus. A first printing of 175,000 is planned. Trump will also read an audio version of the book for the company's spoken-word side; his editor, who told PW the manuscript is largely done, is Arthur Morey.
UP FROM UNDER
It's news when someone thought of as an underground writer (even as a "legendary" one, according to the New Yorker) surfaces at a commercial house; and that's what has happened to Dennis Cooper, published for years by avant-garde Grove Press and now, thanks to his agent, Ira Silverberg at Donadio & Olson, about to be a Rob Weisbach author. The novel, which is untitled, was sold on the basis of an outline to senior editor Colin Dickerman at Weisbach's Morrow imprint, who was the high bidder in a small auction. Silverberg described the book as "an in-depth look at outsider youth culture at the turn of the millennium," and added that Cooper has been inspired by the work of Carson McCullers.
It was an off-Broadway play by Joanna Brett Buckner that persuaded agent Elizabeth Sheinkman of the Elaine Markson agency to take her on. "I was impressed by her storytelling ability and her terrific ear for dialogue," she said. Now those gifts, and work in the MFA writing program at Columbia headed by Michael Cunningham, have paid off. Sheinkman has just made a two-novel deal for Buckner with editor Dan Smetanka at Ballantine. First up is a book tentatively called Swimming, about a youth who accidentally kills his brother, and the impact it has on his life and all those around him. The six-figure deal was for world rights, and Smetanka, a former scout himself, has already been fielding many foreign queries. Sheinkman had planned an auction, but Smetanka's interest, a long talk he had with Buckner about her book, and, of course, a pre-emptive bid, took the novel off the table.
LAMENT IN LARAMIE
The killing of gay University of Wyoming student Matt Shepard last October sent shock waves across the country, and now Columbia University Press has signed an assistant professor at the university, Beth Loffreda, for a book on the Laramie murder. Called Losing Matt Shepard: Life and Politics in the Aftermath of Anti-Gay Murder, it will chronicle the trials, and also look at gay and lesbian life on the campus (where Loffreda is a faculty adviser to the gay community). The book was acquired by Columbia executive editor Ann Miller, and is tentatively scheduled for fall 2000.
Pat Strachan, executive editor at Houghton Mifflin, has acquired a new novel, Wild Decembers by Edna O'Brien, to be published next spring.... Bob Bender at S&S has acquired an account of the recent Everest expedition that discovered the body of George Mallory, lost on the mountain for 75 years, and it will be rushed into print by November. Expedition leader Conrad Anker will collaborate with author David Roberts on The Lost Explorer. Agent was John Ware.... Ace cookbook agent David Vigliano has sold a book by music great Isaac Hayes, called Cooking with Heart and Soul, a journey around his favorite Southern eating, to Putnam's John Duff, who pre-empted.