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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Read This

If you haven't listened to or read former Vice President Gore's speech on January 16, 2006, you should.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Freyed Around the Edges

Thank you, Oprah Winfrey and Doubleday, for (albeit belatedly) taking responsibility for your actions.

This from today's Publisher's Marketplace:


Oprah Winfrey extracted a reluctant admission from James Frey that his book A MILLION LITTLE PIECES is full of lies, and the essential truth is that he views everyone in the book as "characters." Appearing on the show, publisher Nan Talese presented a disheartening view of any scrutiny the book was given at Doubleday (nor did she mention that she wasn't really the book's editor). Talese was simply "dismayed" by the Smoking Gun report and "sad" about revelations since.

Shortly after the show, Doubleday as a house recanted its earlier position of full support and did issue an apology:

"The controversy over James Frey's A MILLION LITTLE PIECES has caused serious concern at Doubleday and Anchor Books. Recent interpretations of our previous statement notwithstanding, it is not the policy or stance of this company that it doesn't matter whether a book sold as nonfiction is true. A nonfiction book should adhere to the facts as the author knows them."

They add: "We bear a responsibility for what we publish, and apologize to the reading public for any unintentional confusion surrounding the publication of A MILLION LITTLE PIECES."


Very little in the scheme of things. And very late. But at least the most powerful voice in publishing today has taken responsibility for her actions, as has the actual publisher. Huzzah.

Is it wrong of me to hope that the growing number of class-action lawsuits (currently, 3 nationwide) against Frey and Random House will bleed Frey dry so that all his ill-gotten gain from A MILLION LITTLE PIECES will go to his lawyers?


Am I cynical for wondering whether Oprah and the folks at Doubleday are doing the right thing for the right reason, or whether they did it because their reputations were on the line?


But hell, for whatever their actual reasons, in this case actions and words are the same, and Oprah and Doubleday are speaking them loudly indeed.

So again...thank you, Oprah and Doubleday.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Over? I'm Afreyed Not

First, please make sure you read FOXTROT this week. Kudos, Bill Amend!

Second, thank God for The New York Times. Thanks to Writers Net and Backspace regular Rozinante for posting this link, and for ongoing commentary about this topic.

Third, this post, written by Writers Net regular Mya Bell (and posted here with her permission), was quite fascinating to me:


I just discovered the movie has been in the works much longer than I realized. Oprah must have known about the production before recommending the book.

TheZreview.co.uk announced Warner Bros.' acquisition of film rights on 29 May 2003:

"Warner Bros. have picked up the rights to the autobiography by James Frey called A Million Little Pieces. They have charged Frey with writing the screenplay for the movie will production company Plan B producing. The book
centres on Frey's drug addiction."

The Internet Movie Database (imbd.com) listed the production on 30 Sept. 2004 (the same day there was an announcement in Variety, I believe) as follows:

Directed by Laurence Dunmore

Writing credits James Frey (memoir)

Plot Outline: A young drug-addled writer approaching the bottom of his descent submits to two months of agonizing detox at a treatment center in Minnesota.

Production Notes/Status:
Status: Announced
Comments: In development

Elston Gunn's Weekly Recap from 6 Oct. 2004 lists it as follows:

"* Laurence Dunmore (upcoming THE LIBERTINE) will direct A MILLION LITTLE PIECES, based on the book by James Frey, for Warner Bros. Pictures. The story is described as a first-person nonfiction account of a man's recovery from a nearly fatal addiction to drugs and desperate living. Plan B and John Wells are producing."

On 2 Nov. 2004, LauraK mentioned on the Jennifer Aniston forum that Frey's screenplay was done. I don't know if this is a reliable source.

Later, it was announced that Mark Romanek would be directing (rather than Laurence Dunmore).

Hollywood.com is still listing this as a true story:

"Based on the true events in the life of James Frey, the story is an honest portrayal of the destruction and reconstruction of the life of a recovering drug addict. Story depicts in great detail his attempt to get clean, battling his counselors every step of the way."

Sam's Club hasn't amended their book listing even after all the controversy:

"... A Million Little Pieces is an uncommonly genuine account of a life destroyed and a life reconstructed."

I also came across a poster who said negative comments regarding the book had been removed from Oprah's forum.

--- Mya Bell


Mya, thanks so much for sniffing out this information. As she mentions on Writers Net, "If there are people seeking to confirm or deny it or to round out the picture further, we might all get a better understanding of it."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Me? Worried?

Forgive me if I've already posted this...but we have a buyer for the house. Huzzah! Tomorrow (sorry...today) she, along with her agent and an inspector, are coming over to do the structural inspection. So in the morning, I'll be cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Yeah, I know, they're here to inspect for damage and stuff, not to grade us on cleanliness. But it's the house equivilent of wearing clean underwear in case you get hit by a truck and have to go to the hospital.

We're looking to close some time in March. And that means...we have to get a new place. As of this coming Saturday, the househunting will be in full throttle. (Gah. Wasn't that a Charlie's Angels flick? Apologies...it's late...)

So, bookwise, the WIP is rolling along. After much hair pulling over the WIP not being the same calibre as HB, I'm moving past it and writing through it. Up to 16,000 words. I think I had a goal of hitting 20,000 by this coming weekend, when my editor will be reading HB in its entirety. Here's hoping that I surpass that 20,000-word mark.

Hell...let's revise the goal to 24,000 words by Friday.

Yeah. That would be sweet...

Off to bed...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Head over Heels

So Tax Deduction the Elder and I were watching DRAGON TALES. In this episode, Emmy can't do a cartwheel. So TDTE starts doing practice cartwheels. This gets me thinking: I used to LOVE doing cartwheels when I was about 8. So I clear away all the toys and stuff, take a deep breath, try not to think about how idiotic I would look wiping out in front of my four year old...

...and I did my first cartwheel in 27 years. My feet left the floor, and everything!

So I say to my son, "Did you see? I did a cartwheel!"

He shrugs and says, "Yeah, yeah." The "whatever" was implied.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Men Are Here!

My editor chatted with me yesterday. He's such a nice guy. :-) I'm so lucky to be surrounded by terrific men in my life:

Loving Husband: The alpha of all the Jackie Kessler men. LH is my main man, the icing on the cake, the light of my universe, the...oh heck, you get the idea. (Smooches, honey!)

Tax Deductions, Elder and Younger: My darling fric and frak, the cutest pro-wrestlers-in-training, the terror of housecats everywhere (at least, in our house).

My Pop: Because my daddy is bigger than your daddy. :-) (Hi, Dad!)

My Agent: He rules. Totally. Anyone who can put up with my inane new-author questions deserves a medal. (Note to self: send agent medal)

My Editor: I love him (in true professional crush style, if I may borrow a term from Nadia Cornier). And I ain't just saying that because I'll be getting feedback on HELL'S BELLES in the next few weeks...

Jon Stewart: Jon for President!

So thank you, men, for being in my life.

"It's raining men, hallelujah..."

Update on the next book
Up to just under 10,000 words. Huzzah! Starting to think there's actually a decent book in here, begging to get out. Huge thanks to Heather Brewer for putting up with my "Yeah, but does this WORK" questions and for reading the horror that is the raw draft.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Latest book news

My agent just told me that HELL'S BELLES has been scheduled for release in January 2007. Woot!

Separately, I've been plodding forward with the next book, THE ROAD TO HELL. And lemme tell you, the road is a long, winding one... I've got about 7,400 words so far, and I just untangled a sticky plot point. Slowly, slowly, slowly...

Friday, January 13, 2006

In Sum

A January 12, 2006 editorial from the L.A. TIMES sums it up perfectly:

"It's hard to know which is worse: a writer who acts as though there is no distinction between a novel and a memoir, or a publisher who does not care."

But perhaps more unsettling is how more and more, it's not the content of a book that counts but rather the person who wrote it (or had it ghostwritten). What does it matter that Frey exaggerated his supposedly true experience as a drug addict and his fight for recovery and redemption (which now may all be a load of baby poo, because if he lied about being in jail, let alone events leading up to his girlfriend's suicide, then who knows if he ever was a drug addict to begin with)? It's the fact that this man (allegedly) went through this harrowing experience (poor li'l drug addict) that matters.

At least, that's what we're being told. The man experienced this, and the book is his story, his so-called emotional truth. The book itself is now secondary to the man.

And this is the reality. When celebrity pets--PETS, for God's sake--get books sold and people like Frey get away with ignoring basic facts--that a true story actually be, you know, true, and thus turn the word "memoir" into a parody of real life--there's little room left for writers who want to actually tell a story. Watch out, authors. Your jobs are being outsourced to the personality of the moment.

And what's really sad is that the public keeps lapping this up.

Someone tell me, please: what ever happened to accountability?

-- Hey, you hear the one about the publisher who didn't bother with the most basic of fact checking for a non-fiction book?

-- No, I'm afreyed not.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lies, Damned Lies, and James Frey

It's official: we live in a world of reality television that is scripted and memoirs that aren't real.

The truth has been whittled down to what can sell. And if the truth ain't good enough, hell, make it up.

Shame on you, James Frey, for calling your fiction a memoir after you couldn't sell it as fiction.

Shame on you, Doubleday, for not doing even the most basic fact checking for something that, no matter how you slice it, is supposed to be non-fiction...or, in other words, facutally accurate.

And shame on you, Oprah Winfrey, for choosing to stand by Frey's "emotional truth" instead of calling his "memoir" exactly what it is: a lie.