Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Books-To Film

The Five Top-Selling Novels Now Headed for the Silver Screen March 07, 2005
By Chuck Shelton

Five of the novels whose film rights were most recently acquired are ranked here in order of sales figures, as reported by Nielsen BookScan, for the week ending Feb. 27.
1. THE KNOWN WORLD, Edward P. Jones (Amistad, Paperback, 0060557559)
2. JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury, Hardcover, 1582344167)
3. LITTLE EARTHQUAKES, Jennifer Weiner (Atria, Hardcover, 0743470095)
4. MIDNIGHT FOR CHARLIE BONE, Jenny Nimmo (Orchard, Hardcover, 0439474299)
5. THE HA-HA, Dave King (Little, Brown, Hardcover, 0316156108).

As you can read here in The Book Standard’s Weekly Books-to-Film Deals Roundup, the Feb. 25–announced acquisition of last week’s top-selling book-to-film literary property, Edward P. Jones’s The Known World: "John Wells Prods., with Wells and writer/performer Anna Deavere Smith producing, will adapt The Known World, Edward P. Jones’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel about free black Americans who owned slaves, which was also a bestseller—it sold 276,000 copies year-to-date in paperback, according to BookScan. Two months before its publication, Kirkus Reviews said of it: " ‘. . . should be a major prize contender, and it won’t be forgotten.’ " Smith is also set to pen the screenplay.

Also in this week’s deals report from The Book Standard, the #2 top-selling novel-to-film is the epic fantasy phenomenon Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: "New Line Cinema scores big with the upcoming adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s bestselling Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which has sold 209,000 copies in hardcover since its September ’04 publication, according to Nielsen BookScan. Christopher Hampton will adapt. The epic story revolves around a magician and his apprentice who use their powers to battle Napoleon, but are soon pitted against each other. Kirkus Reviews called it "one of the finest fantasies ever written."

Chick-lit has for the past few years very successfully fed the chick-film engine, and, with Little Earthquakes, novelist Jennifer Weiner delivers the latest lit for Elizabeth Kruger and Craig Shapiro to film-produce. Universal bought the rights for the duo at Double Feature, with the mavericks-turned-establishment-managers/producers Chris Bender and J.C. Spink—the Benderspink boys—attached to co-produce. Currently in the very early development stage. Producers have not yet tapped a screenwriter. Kirkus Review on Weiner’s novel, from Atria Books: "[The book] follows four Philadelphia women as they face the challenges, from trivial to profound, of new motherhood, becoming friends in the process. . . . Weiner pulls her punches with a too-neat ending." Typical—and popular—recipe for the Bridget Jones crowd. Since its publication last Sept., the book has sold 85,000 year-to-date, according to BookScan. The trade paperback reprint is scheduled for July release.

In the No. 4 sales spot for future books-to-film fiction adaptations, the immensely popular YA novel Midnight for Charlie Bone was picked up by Warners, on behalf of Thunder Road’s Basil Iwanyk and Alysia Cotter, who will produce. They’ve enlisted Neil Alsip, a former writer for The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, to pen the script. Kirkus Reviews was not terribly impressed with the novel, which was published by Orchard Books, saying: "Charlie’s adventure adds up to a formulaic, thinly disguised placeholder for the next Harry Potter." That can’t be bad news for filmmakers, though, since Harry’s adventures are few and far between. Young filmmakers will most likely more than welcome a Potter placeholder. Since its publication in March ’03, the book has sold nearly 106,000 copies.

The preternaturally busy screenwriter and producer Akiva Goldsman—he’s currently adapting The Da Vinci Code and wrapping up Memoirs of a Geisha, for which he also wrote the script—will possibly make his directorial debut with Dave King’s first novel, The Ha-Ha. Goldsman is also producing. Calls to his production company, Weed Road Productions, regarding whether he’d also pen the script, went unreturned. No other screenwriter has yet been announced. The film rights were bought by Warners for Weed Road. The book, published by Little, Brown, concerns a Vietnam vet, now mute and unable to write, whose former girlfriend upends his life by leaving her son with him as she heads to rehab. Starring, we’d venture, Russell Crowe and the greatly underappreciated Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Organizations & Conferences: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I must admit, I've never really been a "joiner." Although I've been a published writer for many years it was always the last thing on my agenda to join organizations associated with my writing. All of my writing buddies urged me to join the local RWA, the national this and the regional that. As my writing began to delve into areas outside of romance, I was encouraged to join Novelist Inc., and Mystery Writers of America to name a few. I'm not really sure what my disinterest is exactly, although I more than enjoy going to the the organization parties and conferences. It's great to see my friends, that I only connect with via email and the parties hosted by the publishing houses always have great food.

I suppose there is an inherent need in all of us to "belong," to find a place in life to fit in and find others like ourselves with whom we can communicate on a level that is foreign to anyone outside of this special circle. We each long to be recognized for our accomplishments and contributions and who better to bestow accolades upon us than our peers. As writers, our faces are not readily recognizable to the general population, but to our fans... well that is an entirely different rush. Who can deny the puffed up chest feeling you get when a perfect stranger (at a conference) rushes up to you and says "I love all your work!!! I'm your biggest fan." Or... you hear the whispers as you stroll through the conference hotel ".... isn't that Suzie Q.... I just love her....get her autograph... hurry before she gets on the elevator." Aaah, the rush of celebrity.

Of course organizational conferences range from the mind-numbing to the Vegas extravaganza--and everything in between. Ideally they are set up to network, show your wares, promote yourself or your business and to recognize those individuals who have made a notable contribution to the industry during the year.

So what is the purpose of today's monologue? Actually, I'm gearing myself up for our annual conference, the Romance Slam Jam. http://romanceslamjam.com This is our ten year anniversary. There is that part of me that cringes at the process of simply "getting ready to go," the packing, the remembering to take stuff, my presentation, the right outfit for the right event. And then there is a part that is looking forward to seeing my friends who can appreciate the same woes and triumphs of the writing life.

But one thing I must admit that I always take away from the conferences is a new burst of energy. I'm almost anxious to get home, or at least up to my hotel room to write... to knock out that chapter. It's almost as if I become enfused with the energy and excitiment of everyone there. And all the angst about traveling and having the right outfit and enough bookmarks don't matter anymore. It really is about the work and sharing and reveling in ourselves and each other, by those who truly understand.

So maybe there really is something to the whole joining thing. Instead of waiting once or twice a year to be filled with literary elixir, you can get it on a regular basis, once a month at the location of the groups choice--and you won't need to pack, catch a plane or Amtrak to get there. Hmm, what a novel idea.

Do any of you belong to groups or organizations, local and national? What has been your experience and more importantly what do you find you get out of it?

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Art of Procastination

Taking ones time to do something can be construed in several different ways: they are slow, meticulous, lazy, thoughtful, bored, anal retentive, or doesn't give a damn. But for some, procrastination is not one of the seven deadly sins but rather an art form--that must be mastered. It takes skill to be a talented procrastinator. You must become an illusionist, able to create the illusion that you are actually busy, when in fact you are doing nothing of consequence! You must become eloquent in the gift of gab, able to razzle dazzle bosses, husbands, friends and acquaintances that you have "it" all under control, "everything" will be taken care of, "not to worry," you add as you return to surfing the net, watching tv, shuffling papers from one side of your desk to the next, thinking about lunch or if you remembered to leave enough food for the cat. Ho-hum.

You must become an actor or actress able to display the appropriate expression at the drop of a hat: "You didn't get it?" (frown of concern); "Oh absolutely!" (delight); "Yes, I have everything I need to get it finished." (determined professional face).

I will at this point confess, I am a master procrastinator. I have worked extremely hard at determining the exact point in time when I can no longer stall for another second. I have analyzed just how much time I can get away with in delivering a manuscript, turning in projects at work, paying bills .. the list is long. And I must admit, my explanations are nothing short of brilliant.

They say some folks simply work best under pressure. I guess that must be my face in the dictionary, next to "works best under pressure."

But the art of procastination is not without its downfalls. The anxiety level is not for the weak of heart and spirit-- when you wake up and suddenly realize that the six month lead time you had has dwindled down to three days!! The report that needs to be turned in to the director is due at the ten o'clock meeting... the light company is at the door to flick the switch...and there is an ugly notice in the mail...something about cancelling your car insurance!!

To the true procastinator these are all minor glitches, more like rushes of adrenaline, the fuel that is needed to jump start them into action. Somehow, magically the master procrastinator gets the manuscript done, knocks out a dynamite report to the director, uses the gift of gab to hold off the light company and takes a walk into the insurance company office during lunch and straightens the whole mess out--and makes a new friend in the process!

With crisis abated, the heart rate returns to normal levels and the procrastinator, proud of their accomplishments, swears they will not get themselves into that predicament ever again. "I swear." They set up to do lists, email reminders, sticky notes, buddy systems--anything to help keep them in line even as they go back to surfing the web, shuffling papers and working really hard at looking busy.

Procrastination to the master procrastinator is like a mountain climber's deepest desire to reach the top, a daredevil's dream to parachute out of a plane, to race a car at 200mph. It's the rush, the excitment, the need to know "can I do it, can I beat the odds and the clock?" So just as the climber, the jumper, the racecar driver all have that inexplicable urge... so too does the master procrastinator--the need to achieve at breakneck speed, against all odds.

Of course the rush dissipates and most procrastinators lull themselves back into a semi-stupor, whistling their way through their days until they hear the inevitable tick-tock of the deadline clock ---the pulse begins to race, the head and heart pound, cuss words spew from lips, fingers and feet move furiously toward the goal...once again. Aaahh, what a life!

Don't try this at home!!