15-Year-Old Sells Memoir, Gets Movie Deal at Dreamworks
When I was 15, I had a journal. I spent hours every week pouring my heart into bound books, documenting every ridiculous moment of my life. It’s kind of like now, except instead of a tattered book with ink smudges, I write in the empty boxes of the backend of my blog. Of course when I was 15 ,I would have been ready if someone had asked me to write a memoir. I would have been confident and bold. Of course I had a story to tell. Didn’t we all when we were 15?
I’ve looked back at the journals of my youth many times over the years. Most of the entries are a complete mess. I start in the middle of stories, and I make assumptions that I will always know who characters in my life are. Why did I ever use nicknames in my journal? My old journals make me feel old, but I am thankful to have them.
Earlier this summer, I read about the incredible story of Maya Van Wagenen. At 15, she became the center of a bidding war for her memoir. Her book, Popular: Vintage Wisdom for the Modern Geek, is Maya’s chronicle of how she navigated the social world of the 8th grade in a new school in Texas using the guidelines from Betty Cornell’s Glamour Guide for Teens.
Maya’s two book deal was announced with Penguin’s Dutton Children’s Book Imprint, and they released this blurb about her memoir:
“When she was eleven, her family moved to Brownsville, Texas. The convergence of her awkward adolescence, culture shock, and the violent drug war in this colorful border town inspired Maya to begin a unique social experiment. She spent her eighth grade year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell, to see the effect it would have on her social standing. The results were painful, funny and profound, and included a wonderful and unexpected surprise—befriending and meeting Betty herself.”
Julie Strauss-Gabel, vice president of Dutton Children’s Books, was charmed with Maya and her writing. “Her voice instantly grabbed my attention. Maya is not only a strong teen voice, she is a standout writer of any age.”
A two book deal is pretty amazing, but Maya’s story happened to also get the attention of someone in Hollywood: Spielberg. According to Deadline, who had the exclusive on the Dreamworks deal, one of Spielberg’s long time assistants, Macosko Krieger, was quite taken with the narrative and really pushed for Maya’s story to be told beyond the book world.
I hereby nominate Maya Van Wagenen to be the president to all 15-year-olds who are furiously writing away in their journals (or blogs). What an inspiration! If I still had an 8th grade locker, I would put Maya’s photo in the door as a face to look at and motivate me every day: keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. Of course, not everyone wins the double lottery of a two-book deal with a movie chaser, but isn’t it pretty great to know such magic actually happens?
Maya’s book will be released in hardback on April 15, 2014. I can’t wait to read it.
The info about the amount of money paid for the rights was posted on a blog that cannot be reposted, but yeah, she's getting $300K for just the book rights supposedly, and more for film rights. What were you doing in middle school?