Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Wandering Scribe does book deal

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?

24 comments:

Clive Keeble said...

Yawn, bigger yawn, oh of course it is Silly Season time ; all kinda unreal for this guy, fairie talk. Plenty of good recently published books going straight into the "chopper" (re-cycling) and a publisher chooses to waste trees and valuable distribution miles on this future dreck. No wonder outsiders believe the booktrade and publishing trade is doomed.

Seriously, this must be the biggest non-story of the year.

Anonymous said...

Crikey, I'd missed this story. I wish I didn't share your cynicism, but I can't help it. I hope we're wrong.

I have a plum tree in my garden. I wonder if I could get lots of money out of a publisher if I talk to it? Better still, I could pitch a tent under the tree and live only on the plums and pretend I was raised by fruit flies who were mean to me, or something...

Brenda Coulter said...

Oh, bless her heart. I'm sure all she needs is a room of her own and a nice long weekend to write that book.

Yes, Michael, I'll sit with you at the cynics' table. From the time I first heard of this woman (several months ago), I've had the feeling her homelessness was a stunt. How convenient that she just happens to write well and--oh, look--there's a library with internet access! Why not start a blog?

Sure, homelessness is a heartbreaking reality for many people. But don't tell me this woman hasn't been innundated with offers of help since she started blogging her woes. She can't accept help because she doesn't trust people, she tells us again and again, and she suffers from low self-esteem. But if that's so, where did this cowering blob of humanity find the nerve to negotiate and sign a book contract?

GC said...

Did I mention that I live in an abandoned missle silo on an uncharted island in the south pacific, communicating via scavenged computer parts 'the boat' brings me every four months?

Does the self-manufactured illusion of a writer / artist improve the reception of the art ... or can the work stand on its own merits, if any?

In the endless search for product recognition and black financials, does truth even matter? And as humans go, has it ever mattered? Can the world ever live up to our perception of it?

Francis Ellen said...

I love the way these publishers are so clever about what'll sell they always end up in a fight over rights.

I'll certainly read the book if I get a night off sticking pins in my eyes.

Isn't this just Orwell revisited?

Of course, he didn't tell so many porkies (being so overwhelmed by the stench of the working classes after all) but the man could write.

No doubt we'll get a follow-up book about how it was all a crock after all.

Clive Keeble said...

>Isn't this just Orwell revisited?<

Er no, Orwell was making social studies ;after all he worked as a plongeur (kitchen porter) in Paris let alone his self-imposed hardship in Wigan.

If I was "Wandering Scribe" commissioning editor I would have been tempted to have 'run the blog by' some *real* homeless people at a "soup kitchen" : homelessness, especially for the mentally sick or those who have been abused - either as youngsters, or by their partner - is not a "fun" topic.

I note that similar 'hard life' and 'abuse' bios are referred to as "inspirational" - this lady scribe does not inspire me with confidence and will not add a jot to "joe public's" understanding of what it is like to survive in such an environement.

If this scribe should be a faker then I hope that all those who are involved in foisting this bio on the booktrade will be dismissed from their posts.

kitty said...

At first I took her blog at face value, but then the cynicism prevailed and I began to have doubts.

Her blog was interesting at first, a chance to see how someone would cope with living like that, where you'd find the basic human needs.

She may be a fraud. However, the "Truth" blog vile. The guy seems to take it seriously, almost personally.

I'm still not certain why people have such a visceral reaction to this woman. I've known a couple of people like her. From our point of view, she seems to have a lot going for her, yet we have no idea what goes on inside.

I stopped reading her blog, not only because she hasn't posted much of anything since her book deal, but also because she's become repetitive and quite boring. And I have absolutely NO interest in reading an "Oprah book."

Wobblingscruffbag said...

I cried fake right from the start, and I still do. I look forward to the truth coming out.

wanderingscribe said...

Hi Grumpy,
Thanks once again for mentioning my "tribute" site to Anya.

Like yourself, the more I read about the details that are slowly emerging, the more I am inclined to cry foul.
Anya's tale seems to be morphing from one about a primarily homeless person and their struggle to survive on the streets to a biography but she isn't in the least bit famous and was only (supposedly) homeless for a few months.

As you mentioned though, the "poor me, abused as a child" angle will guarantee a few more sales although it was strangely missing from the blog.
Could this be a cynical ploy to make the book more appealing than that of merely a well spoken bag lady?

Kitty
If you passed a gang of kids on the street making fun of an old woman, would you walk on by or stop and intervene when you saw an injustice being perpetrated?
If you did intervene, would you be taking it personal?

All I am doing is highlighting various discrepancies in the wanderingscribe blog and standing up to be counted when I see something not right happening.
Sorry you find it so "vile" (you don't really explain the reason, just lash out) but I don't take anything on the net personal.
It's all made up anyway, isn't it.

Take Care,

WS

Wobblingscruffbag said...

Not mine. Mine is the true story of a true Knight of the road, and I'm sick of having my Blog plagiarised by the so called wanderingscribe!

wanderingscribe said...

Looks like Anya was right about how easy it is to knock a book out in a matter of days as her book is already being advertised on Amazon.

Abandoned: The True Story of a Little Girl Who Didn't Belong

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0007245726/203-4390567-7128763?v=glance&n=266239

320 pages long and released on 8th May 2007.

Or perhaps it was a scam all along ........

Anonymous said...

child abuse is the flavour of the month? god you are a shitty old git aren't you.

Linda Corby said...

I love to see some good luck stories. Would like to think it was real. My main problem is how someone who can write that well could have become homeless in the first place?

I've had a hell of a life, or should I say life has been hell for me in parts. Although i have also had some very good times in the past.

I know what it feels like to be desperate. The internet and being able to blog on it opens up so many doors! I am trying to open up some doors myself, and you are all welcome to take a look at my blogs. Sounds awful but isn't it nice to know that we are not all alone, we can reach out over the net and make friends. Good Luck, and do come and visit me, Linda

Wobblingscruffbag said...

No thanks. Your statement 'how someone who can write that well', shows clearly that you are a person with pitifully low expectations of an author, and that you are something of a mental cripple. Shove your blog.

J. K. Rowling said...

Looks like another loser is jumping on the bandwagon,
Why can't people realise that writing an interesting book is not a simple matter and not every tom dick and harry can do so.

Give it a rest, Linda.

If you were any good you wouldn't have to resort to trying to drum up publicity bu leaving posts on other peoples blogs.
Do you see J.K. Rowling doing that?

Take a hint .....

Adrian Weston said...

A very entertaining cycle this - but one that raises all sorts of stuff - not just about blogs. I've been working recently with Rana Husseini a Jordanian journalist who exposed the Norma Khouri book 'Forbidden Love' (a book about the author's escape from Jordan where she was at risk of being killed to preserve her family's honour) to be a fake. The book ended up being withdrawn and the whole thing exposed very publically which must have cost the publisher a heap.. and did nothing for the credibility/profile of the issue either. I guess it raises the question of how/who should check and verify quality and authenticity of content and what the seriousness of the claims are. Some of the Blogs to Books routes are very clearly just about titillation and to be honest who cares/does it matter if they are fantasy (eg Belle du Jour) rather than fact as long as they make for an entertaining read. Those kind of inverted commas hoaxes have always been around... however where it is about serious/important stuff. I'm currently agenting a blog (Sleepless in Sudan) in the hopes of trying to get it published as a book and I have verified that the author was working as a senior aid agency official in Darfur at the time - I also worked on a book for Brasseys over a year ago about Al Quaeda which was authored by an anonymous (but genuine) senior CIA official - who eventually got outed in the New York Times. These books it really does matter if the authors are who they say they are ... but the homelessness stunt. I'm with Clive Keeble yawn yawn yawn - but this is not to downplay homelessness. I guess it does raise the issue of who's being ripped off - public/homeless/publisher? Personally I think the publisher of the book of the blog should donate to Shelter and well, if the book's any good it's still been written and is therefore 'work' and worth reading... and if it's sh$*! then it's dead in the water and rightly so!

Anonymous said...

Jealousy is inevitable from the inept when people such as Anya Peters become successful.
But it is in the nature of things that talented people such as her will grow in stature whilst the losers whinge and mourn.

All, except the puerile, who listen to her interview at World Vision will know that she is genuine.

Anonymous said...

Ooohh.
Someone's a bit put out that the site at http://wanderingego.blogspot.com/ is digging a bit too deep. :)
Good luck to 'em is what I say.

A damn site(sic) more interesting than the original one.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, you all need to actually read the book before you start sprouting off. What Anya went through was disgusting and none of you well-off dickheads will ever truly know what it is like to be her. Stop making assumptions and leave the poor girl alone. Instead of sitting at your computer bad mouthing homeless people trying to get back on their feet, why don't you get outside and do something good for the world? Actually, I wouldn't expect that from scum. How about you all get off your arses and spend a few months living in your car? Stop expecting the worst and just be supportive of this poor woman. She's a much better person than all of you heartless people.

Anonymous said...

"top expecting the worst and just be supportive of this poor woman. She's a much better person than all of you heartless people."

I work with homeless women and have done for several years. All I can say is the blog struck me as a particularly nasty piece of bandwagon-hijacking. Further, as many of my clients have been hideously abused, I find the current binge of publishing abuse memoirs for profit really, really icky.

RainWildman said...

Well, so what is this woman doing that every other writer WHO WANTS TO GET PUBLISHED does not do? Writing is NOT hard. Writing a novel is easy. I have done one in a few days. I have also published papers as a scientist.

Any child of about, what 6 or 7, can write. I wrote a short story when I was about that age. It was far better, too, that anything I tried to write in later years, when I listened to the 'experts' who laid down lots of rules etc. But that is what makes the writing difficult --- the rules. And it is also what kills the writing, and the writer.

Writing using rules, as publishers insist upon, is like puting the grammar before the meaning. It is giving more importance to the rules, than to the real communication.

But writing that really communicates is a joy to read, and a joy to write.

I eventually came to the realisation that if I was going to be able to do any worthwhile writing, I was going to have to accept that it was going to have to be done as a hobby, a non-earner, and rather than earning from my pen, I was going to have to earn so that I could write.

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