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John F. Baker -- 5/22/00

Picasso's Dora to Star in Bio

Dora Maar was Picasso's mistress for an amazingly productive period, 1936-1945, during which she was the subject of many celebrated "Weeping Woman" Cubist portraits. When he eventually abandoned her for Francoise Gilot, Maar, a surrealist painter and photographer in her own right, went mad for a time, eventually became a religious recluse and died only two years ago, leaving a priceless trove of Picasso works. Agent Laura Dail discovered there was no adequate biography of Maar, determined to commission one and spent many months seeking the perfect writer. She told PW she has found one in Alicia Divone Ortiz who, like Maar, is an Argentinean resident in Paris; she has already written a biography of Eva Perón for St. Martin's Press. It's also a St. Martin's editor, Michael Denneny, who was sufficiently taken with the proposal to commit to Dora Maar: The Weeping Woman. He bought world English rights for a "solid" advance, and expects the manuscript to be delivered in July 2001. Dail will translate it herself.

Sad Story, Happy Ending
Linda St. John
is a figure in Manhattan's downtown TriBeCa art scene these days, showing her fashion designs in galleries, running a store for retro clothes and reading from her work in progress. That work, however, is a memoir of a time, growing up in rural Illinois, when her life was very different, not unlike the one revealed in Angela's Ashes.Marjorie Braman at HarperCollins, who preempted St. John's story with a strong world-rights bid, said, "She was dirt poor”so poor there were times she couldn't go to school because she had no sh s to wear." The author's father was what is described as a drinking man, and Linda, her mother and sisters had to survive as best they could. Braman made her bid after a meeting with the author arranged by her agent, Rebecca Kurson at the Lisa Dawson agency. The title is the affecting Even Dogs Go Home to Die; Braman hopes to publish about a year from now.

Flying Start for 22-Year-Old

That's the age of Clay Chapman, a young Virginian for whom Heide Lange at Sanford Greenburger Associates has just made a six-figure, two-book world-rights deal--the week before he is set to graduate from Sarah Lawrence. The sale was to Hyperion, where Peternelle van Arsdale preempted immediately after meeting the author. The deal is for a book of stories, Rest Area, to appear in September 2001, and a year later, a novel. The agent retained movie and audio rights. Chapman has apparently been writing plays since he was 12 years old, and has seen several produced. He invited agent Lange to one in the East Village, then showed her a collection of stories, which she described as "the best of Southern Gothic, gaunt and haunting." Now, while fellow graduates are looking for jobs, young Chapman can continue to write for a living.

Humans Coming and Going
Elizabeth Cohen
is a newspaperwoman, formerly in New York, now upstate, who has had the remarkable experience of trying to cope at once with her own infant and with her 80-year-old father in an advanced stage of Alzheimer's disease. Out of this conundrum, of seeing a sapling sprout while an old tree withers, has come a book titled Whack: A Memoir of Learning and Forgetting, which agent David Black has just sold to Katie Hall at Bantam for a solid six figures, North American rights only. Cohen had sent Hall (the editor of the current hit Flags of Our Fathers, who had worked with Cohen before, as coauthor on another book) some excerpts from a journal she was keeping of her observations on the progress of her two very different housemates. When Cohen shared the excerpts at an editorial meeting, they met with such enthusiasm, she said, that she made an immediate preemptive offer. "It's writing of wonderful humor and dignity, and very moving," she added. She estimated18 months before Cohen has a full manuscript.

Short Takes
Lee Boudreaux
at Random has signed a new book by Whitney Otto:It's A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity, and was sold, world rights, by agent Joy Harris, for publication probably in summer 2002.... Fred Ramey and Greg Michalson have bought, for their new Blue Hen imprint at Putnam, two literary novels, both for publication next summer: The Staircase of 1000 Steps by Masha Hamilton, North American rights, from Elaine Koster; and The Road Builder by Nicholas Hershenow,world, from Sally Wofford-Girand at Elaine Markson.... A much sought-after first novel, Good in Bed by journalist Jennifer Weiner, was snapped up by Pocket's Greer Hendricks in a six-figure, two-book North American deal from agent Joanna Pulcini at Linda Chester.... Forthcoming S&S historical western novel The General's Daughter by Micaela Gilchist has been optioned by Paramount for Nicole Kidman to star, to be co-produced by Lynda Obst and Paula Wagner of Wagner-Cruise; the deal was co-agented by Sandy Dijkstra and CAA's Sally Wilcox.... Jane Heller's St. Martin's novel Sis Boom Bah has been optioned for the movies by J Roth, who has a co-production deal with Julia Roberts, through agent Ellen Levine and ICM's Ron Bernstein on the Coast.
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