Tuesday, December 9, 2008

$500K Really? 46 Pages? 9 year old author? (I smell fish)

I wasn't going to weigh in on this from the beginning last month when it was announced that a 9-year old boy wrote a 46-page booklet called "How to Talk to Girls" for his school fund-raiser. He supposedly wrote it himself, he "published" and sold it of course for $3 to get money for the school. A cute idea. Even then the rumor mills were grinding and claiming that the boy really didn't input that much to the booklet, but that having him as a young author would certainly be a great angle. I couldn't comment professionally without knowing more. I really couldn't argue with the intelligence of the kid, my 9-year old daughter hacked her way into the Pentagon. To say she knew what she was doing would be stretching it. To say this kid was all that interested in talking to girls at 9, just has me thinking it's a little "Millions of Little Pieces". Remember that one?

The kid's book comes out and he prints and publishes it for the school. Someone picks it up and somehow, by miracles that simply don't happen to experienced authors, this 46-page cute little self-help book makes its way into a major house. That part is almost believable. I could maybe, if I stretched my imagination think that someone his parents knew happen to know someone else in the publishing world but no, I can't really wrap my head around that at face value. You can call me cynical but I remember a case just like this in the 80's and then there's the Elizabeth Smart story. If it smells like a fish and it looks like it has fins, it's probably stinks if its left out too long. Time will show this too.

I think what really took the bait off the thorny hook for me was today when FOX, a respected network, whose parent company just happens to own the company that published the book in the first place, offers far far far too much for the movie rights. First time authors, big or little, old or young rarely get more than $50K. To offer 10 times that amount? It was unprecidented perhaps - certainly unnecessary. The publisher works with the studio, the studio and publisher owned by the same corporattion? Hand in hand. Too neat maybe?

The tough part - - its a kid. You work with them and suddenly you're a hero. Same as working with a dog. I know, I work with a dog. Dogs and kids right? They make everyone smile? Christmas release, big time movie and book deal for one of these guys? OK - ratings, but the problem is the hype. It's not that fair to the kid is it? McCauley Caulkin comes to mind, Michael Jackson, Lindsay, the Olstens; this sort of instant sensationalism isn't understood by the kid. It can however, be very very attractive and addictive for the parent. Jon Benet ring a bell? She told her mother no. People at the contests said she didn't really want to perform anymore. Maybe you remember hearing how "writing a book" would somehow make Elizabeth Smart's story seem more real. Right. (Halibut!) I'm just saying... maybe I'm cynical, maybe I'm a mom.

I'm sure the book is cute. I helped my kids write cute stories too. It would have been easier for me than baking a cake for the bake sale. But to go that mile-jump to say they did it alone would be both wrong and hurtful. How is the kid suppose to come up with a sequel if he's asked to at age 10? I mean sure, Teddy Roosevelt could have done it, but they learned French, German, and Latin at 8 in the 1860s. Had private tutors and rode horses at 6:00 for P.E. Normal kids at that time didn't even attend school. I'm thinking this kid is above average, like a Lindsay Lohan, like a Frankie Munoz. I don't see him taking the Pulitzer and I swear if he does his parents and he will face more than a few critics. I can't help it. I like the kid, he's adorable. My Mom-mode just kicks in; can't change that. You smell fish you check for bait.

Will I buy the little book? No. I already know how to talk to girls - it never works out the way you plan, but it can be done I suppose.

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