Winning a national essay competition run by the New York Times, with publication in its magazine, is a good start for a 17-year-old writer's career—and having a well-known writer as your adoptive mother doesn't hurt either. Both factors helped young Ashley Rhodes-Courter place a book on her adoption at 12 and her tough years in foster care before that, with Jennifer Weis at St. Martin's, who won it in an auction run by agent Joelle Delbourgo. The book, an expansion of her winning NYT essay, which she's writing with her adoptive mother, Gay Courter (The Midwife, River of Dreams) is called Ashley's Story: How I Was Lost in the Foster Care System and Found by a Family. Weis bought North American rights, will publish in fall 2004.