Back in May I wrote a piece about WanderingScribe's blog: this is a blog written by a woman who professes to be be homeless.
I say professes because, having read the thing, I was just a tad sceptical about it. Was she, I wondered, a genuinely homeless woman? Or was she, perhaps, a clever author in search of a book deal? At the risk of doing the lady a severe injustice, I tended to the latter view.
Subsequent comments on that post of mine were divided in their opinions. And, as I noted a few days later, one person went to the trouble of setting up a blog of his/her own, The Truth about WanderingScribe, in which are set out some of the facts and ideas which might lead one to a conclusion about the genuineness or otherwise of the homeless lady.
Since then I haven't given the matter any thought. But now Publishers Lunch reports that the WanderingScribe blogger's name (or writing name?) is Anya Peters, and her book Abandoned is to be published in the UK next May by Harper Thorsons (editor Sally Potter).
The agent for this deal is Camilla Hornby of Curtis Brown. And for those unfamiliar with the power structure of UK literary agencies, let me say that Curtis Brown is one of the two biggest and most powerful firms, and, on average, they accept as clients maybe 1 in 500 of those writers who approach them.
Subject matter of this book is going to be -- wait for it -- a memoir of Anya Peters's abusive childhood and subsequent homelessness.
Well, forgive me for further cynicism, where perhaps some human sympathy might be more appropriate, but if there is one thing that is flavour of the month in the UK bestseller lists just at the moment, it's child abuse. Add in a dose of homelessness and who knows? Could be a big hit. Not to mention a movie and a musical. Lloyd Webber and Elton have doubtless been tipped off already. Billy Elliott done triffic business so why not this?
Ah me. What dreadful things an acquaintance with the book world does to one's faith in humanity.
On WanderingScribe's own blog, the existence of a deal was acknowledged on 17 May. But using edit>find reveals no mention of Harper Thorsons or the agent responsible. 'Advance' doesn't yield a result either. And although agents and publishers are usually quick to reveal the general size of an advance to Publishers Lunch (nice deal = anything up to $50,000; very nice deal = $50,000 to $100,000; and so on) in this case there is silence. Lunch does tell us, however, that Harper Thorsons got the book after an auction. Which means that there was competition from other publishers who could also smell money.
The BBC, I find, also covered this story on 31 May. The comments on it make interesting reading, and cover the full range from sympathy to disgust.
Well, the very least that can be said is that it is surprising to find that an unknown, homeless writer is suddenly able to persuade one of the biggest and most powerful literary agents in town to take her on as a client. One wonders also what sort of a book proposal was cobbled together by this homeless person in order to persuade publishers to bid for it in competition against each other. What, one wonders, is so attractive about WanderingScribe? Surely there are plenty of C-list celebrities still to publish their story?
And another thing. The blog says, 17 May, that she hasn't got the book written yet, 'but after what I've been through with all this, feels like that might be the easy bit.... Writing a book can't be that difficult.'
Actually that's not what most of us find. And this book is scheduled, according to Lunch, for publication next May. Not next year, sometime, maybe. Next May. Usually it takes a publisher a year to get their act together even after you deliver a finished manuscript.
Ah, but, you see, WanderingScribe has spent the last year telling her story to the trees. 'Night after night I told bits of my story to them. Sometimes talking aloud, sometimes staring it into them - all the things I couldn't tell anyone else, all the things my hunched-up spirit was tired of. Trees absorb pain, and some of these will one day be felled and made into paper, and I have this feeling that if I stare really hard into those empty sheets of white paper once I begin to write, I'll probably see my story already there, like a watermark on their blank surfaces.'
Well, apologies to all concerned if I misjudge them, but the more I learn about this the less I like it.
However... Bearing in mind the recent rows in the US about the veracity of various memoirs, one must assume that Curtis Brown and Harper Thorsons have checked this situation out and found it to be completely fireproof. Mustn't one?