Category Archives: adaptation


The Importance of Feedback

One of the things I miss from college is writing workshop classes and getting regular feedback from my classmates. It was a simultaneously an uplifting and affirming experience (people like my work! It doesn’t totally suck!) and a very humbling experience (wow, X, Y, and Z don’t work at all).

To write, I think, is to be constantly humbled in some way. If you can’t take criticism or you think you’re set to win the Pulitzer after one draft, it’s going to be a long and uphill haul for you. Writers have to grow thick skins—and so do agents for that matter! Not to sound dreary, but rejection is inevitable at some point in the game. Think of the feedback you may be getting from agents or editors as a chance to grow and look at your material with fresh eyes. They know what’s selling and what’s working in the market. It’s a delicate balance of believing wholeheartedly in your work and fighting for it, but also being humble enough to accept that you’re probably going to have to revise. And re-submit. And revise more.


Be open to having people look at your work and offer critiques or praise of what they think is working. If you can, join a writer’s workshop or community—or get other writer friends to take a peek and offer macro suggestions. Having friends offer feedback on micro changes like typos and grammar errors is also crucial. You want to make sure your writing is as close to finished as possible before submitting to an agent. Believe me, we notice.

In short, really utilize the power of feedback. Use it as a way to start a conversation that will hopefully shape your work into the best book it can be, in all stages of the writing and publishing process.

Who do you turn to for good feedback on your work? How do you think thoughtful and respectful critique has changed your work?


The classics

Last Saturday, my husband Steve and I went out to play golf and, as often happens, we were asked if we wouldn’t mind if a third player (someone we didn’t know) joined us. We agreed and played our round with a very nice and interesting man named Ed Chapman. It turned out that Ed had been in the Berkshires for the previous two weeks doing the sound design for a play that was opening that night at The Barrington Stage, a theater in Pittsfield about 45 minutes away from our home in Great Barrington. The play was THE MAN OF LA MANCHA.

Pablo Picasso, Don Quixote (1955). Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Pablo Picasso, Don Quixote (1955). Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Later that day, I asked Steve if he had ever seen the play and he hadn’t and I just knew he would love it so we bought what turned out to be the last two available tickets for this past Saturday night. Indeed, the play was absolutely wonderful in every way—everyone was raving about it afterwards. But as I was leaving the theater, I heard a woman behind me say that it was “dated.” How, I wondered, could a play based on the classic story of Don Quixote be dated? The message is an evergreen one and important, I think.

And this made me wonder why time and again we return to the classics—in theater, in film, in our music and yes, of course, in literature. Authors such as Herman Melville, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde are constantly referenced and imitated in more recent works.

I wonder what value you see in the classics. Which of our many iconic authors do you consider classic and why? Who are your favorites?


Adaptation dichotomy

For our office book club this month (category: thrillers), I read, not a random suspenseful mystery pulled out of a hat, but the book adaptation of a very popular television show. I have not seen said show (though I’ve heard great things), so even though I thought it was a bit weird to have such a detailed and faithfully recounted literary version, I went along with it, because why not.

In the end, the book was fine—I enjoyed it enough, but it was forgettable in the way some books are. I’m still interested in watching the show, but I guess, now that I know how it ends, it won’t be as fun. It got me thinking, though, about book adaptations in general.

Why is it so much more natural for a book to be turned into a very good (or at least entertaining) TV show or film, but not the other way around? You could say, I guess, that the wealth of material in a book can be expanded, cut, intensified, used as inspiration for a spin etc. But then, if there’s less material, say, in a 100 minute movie, isn’t that a writer’s job to add the depth and extra detail to make it a good book, too? If readers are allowed to be outraged by a less than stellar film adaptation, while those that have not read the source material look blithely on, wouldn’t avid movie buffs allowed to do the same if they went on to read the book?

Maybe. But I just don’t see it happening as much. And I don’t see readers getting excited about literary versions of their favorite movies or TV shows the way they would about their cherished books getting a shot at the silver screen.

I remember as a kid reading scads of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Alex Mack books, but that was only because I wasn’t allowed to watch any channels other than PBS for quite some time. The only way I could know about these super cool characters was to read about them. I’m sure the books themselves lacked something found in the TV shows and I can say with relative certainty that the writing quality was not quite up to par with other books I was reading at the time. Still, I loved them. But I don’t think the genre (can we call it a genre?) of book adaptations would really spark my interest at all any more—no matter how much I loved a show.

There’s a difference in the way one connects to a character on screen and on the page. Some things are better seen, some are better read. What about you? Agree? Disagree? If you’re in the latter camp, what are some good book adaptations you’ve read?


Page to screen

Oscar weekend is upon us, which has me thinking, as it inevitably does, about book-to-film adaptations, so I polled the office on this dreary winter day about their favorites (excluding DGLM titles, because that’s just cheating).

Sharon went for literary classics: Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, the recent musical film of Les Miserables, and Jane Campion’s take on Sense & Sensibility.  (For Baz Luhrmann adaptations of literature starring Leonardo DiCaprio, I’m personally much more partial to Romeo + Juliet, but I’ll allow that maybe you had to be a certain age when that came out to actually have found it appealing.)

Mike Hoogland will vouch for Fight Club, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Sniper.  I definitely have feelings about all of those choices, so I guess those movies are doing something right!

Rachel’s more up my alley, though: The Virgin Suicides, The Commitments (seconded by me!), and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Jim and I also both picked good old Bridget Jones.  In fact, my taste in book-to-film adaptations overwhelmingly runs toward the contemporary update of literary classics: the Brit Lit curriculum makes great fodder for high school comedies.  For example, Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You are two of my favorite movies.  I prefer Clueless to Emma, but Taming of the Shrew is among my preferred Shakespeare plays (and I also love, love, love it in musical form in Kiss Me, Kate).

WakingthedeadMy all-time favorite book-to-film adaptation is Scott Spencer’s Waking the Dead starring Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly.  I love the book and I love the movie, which is pretty rare for me.  I even love the soundtrack.  I think the movie is criminally underrated and the book should have been read more widely.

Jim was on a roll though, so he picked many more, most of which I heartily agree with: Adaptation, American Psycho, Apocalypse Now, Rebecca, The Godfather, Silence of the Lambs, Leaving Las Vegas, Election, Precious, and Children of Men.

I could name so many more, too: Jurassic Park, Stand By Me, Trainspotting, Brokeback Mountain, The Princess Bride…Basically, if you’re looking for a memorable movie with strong characters and a compelling story to tell, it probably started life as a book.

And now I have to head home for the weekend, because writing this post has made me want to build the Netflix queue to end all Netflix queues and stay curled up in doors away from the arctic chill of February till Monday.

What are your favorites?  Least favorites?


Fifty Shades: The Movie

So FIFTY SHADES OF GREY by E.L. James finally hit the big screen this past weekend after what seemed like a million bumps in the road, including losing actors left and right. It made a splash in the box office just as it did in the publishing industry. The movie brought in $94 million its opening weekend: the highest-grossing President’s Day Weekend ever.

But how long will the film industry feel the ripples of this splash? The book was/is an absolute phenomenon. James’s Fifty Shades series has sold an absurd amount of copies—both when it was self-published and after Random House picked it up. Imitators and parodies of the books soon appeared on shelves and e-bookstores. It’s paved the way for other fan fiction and other self-published authors to have a chance to land with a big publisher and/or movie studio.

So will we begin to see more erotica made into films? Given the success of Fifty Shades on opening weekend, it’d be easy to definitively answer yes. However, reading is an intrinsically private experience, which lends itself to fantasy. Watching explicit scenes on a big screen in a room full of people is a different matter entirely. Could Fifty Shades be an exception?

Your guess is as good as mine: What do you think?

P.S. Saw American Sniper this weekend. The movie ended, and everyone walked out silently, somberly. No one said a word. A completely full theater, and not one sound was made. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. What did you think of this movie/book? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this one, too.


Technologically Ambivalent

DGLM has had some technological challenges this past week; the cable that carries the internet into our office was somehow severed. (Sabotage obviously. I blame the North Koreans, fresh from their triumph hacking into the Sony Pictures system, exposing the unguessed-at truth that Hollywood folks can be small-minded and mean.) Anyway, my inability to access email, our office network, or the majority of my saved files was disorienting. Then Sharon, tech genius that she is, showed me how to access my e-mail via my spam filter.  This seemed to me thrillingly covert–a bit like crawling into a locked building through its garbage chute–but the interface was so basic. There was no “undo” button, no save.  The result was ugly. Outlook Express and iOS have been saving me from myself. I see that now.

Our computer troubles also allowed me some time to muse on my fraught relationship with technology. I grew up in a family of late (to never) adopters. My parents were unmoved by cable, video games, computers, VCRS, or even color televisions.  I had mixed feelings about this when I was a kid. I cultivated a friendship with a kindly agoraphobic neighbor who watched TV all the day long. To her I owe any knowledge of the A-Team, daytime talk-shows and soap operas that I may possess.

Still, I’ve followed in my parents footsteps.  My sons have had comparatively little exposure to technology.  Given my line of work and benign but inchoate ideas about child-rearing, it seemed natural to favor books over tablets, paper over gaming devices, outdoors over indoors.  But this year—specifically this Christmas–that’s about to change.  We’re buying our sons their own computer.

We are: a) caving or b) emerging from the rock under which we’ve been living, because as it turns out, the standardized tests that kids in our town will take later this year require them to type.  And so it seems cruel not to allow them to build the skills that they will so obviously need.

I can still remember the day when I realized that a computer,  not a pencil, was a truer, faster connection between my thoughts and the page.  I felt a little sad, because I still love the physical act of writing. For me, a good fine line felt tip pen is a source of pleasure.  Today, however, few kids are taught cursive at all.  I’m no Luddite, but part of me finds it awfully sad that reading script will be a skill reserved to archivists. Or–who am I kidding?–an app.

Technology is a great boon—it facilitates so much—but I’m curious about your relationship with it. Or, in the words of Ali G,  “Tech-mology: Is it Good, or is it Whack?”



From book to stage, and beyond

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned here before that in addition to books, I also love the theater (along with my colleague, Jim McCarthy, with whom I share stories of good and bad plays for sport). I think there’s something so magical about a good theatrical experience. I’m proud to say that I saw the original production of Rent off Broadway at The New York Theater Workshop in 1994. It was a profound experience that the few of us lucky enough to see the show with the original cast in that tiny space will never forget.


It got me to thinking about books as plays. We often talk about books as films, but plays are so expensive to produce and so often don’t work that the number of shows from books is a lot more limited. What translates to the page doesn’t always translate to the stage. I’ve always loved Les Mis, although I’ve not yet seen the new production, and I recently saw and really enjoyed Matilda, both based on books.


A lot of other Broadway shows I’m thinking of are based on films, like Rocky (couldn’t live up to the source material), Kinky Boots (loved the show, didn’t see the movie), and Billy Elliot (saw at a regional theater in Maine this summer). This is a lot more obvious a transition because it’s already a visual medium.

Image result for kinky boots

What books would you like to see adapted for the big stage? Would you turn your favorites into a musical or a dramatic adaptation? Gone Girl, the Musical! So many fun ideas to consider, I don’t even know where to begin!



It’s been a very crazy year for me, one that brought film adaptations for not one, but two of my clients’ books; Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and James Dashner’s The Maze Runner. I can say that seeing books you know and love made into films is a very surreal and emotional experience, and I feel lucky that both authors wound up with movies that so perfectly bring their books to life. Music is a key component in any film, but in If I Stay, both the original music and pop songs were an huge part of the experience, while the orchestral score in The Maze Runner amped up the tension and excitement in each scene.

And though I didn’t represent the book (clearly), I’m so excited about Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming adaptation of Inherent Vice. I’m a huge PTA fan, whose There Will Be Blood ranks in my top 5 movies of all time, and which features a fantastic score that anchors the film. I was excited when Sharon tweeted a link to the soundtrack listing for IV, and I’m listening to the songs to get ready to see the movie.  I’m fascinated by the selection, and I’m eager to see how they fit into the film.

Any movie adaptation or soundtracks you’re looking forward to this fall?


Spoiler alert!

I’ve been thinking a lot about spoilers lately.  You can’t really talk about them without citing them, so if you’re really averse and somehow magically haven’t had Gone Girl ruined for you yet, you might want to click away.

With all the book-to-film adaptations* this fall—perhaps not more than usual, but more than I usually have any interest in—I dedicated my vacation reading to finally getting to two books I’ve been meaning to read for quite a while, before the movies could ruin them for me.  I might just be the last person to read Gone Girl, and I wasn’t exactly early to the This Is Where I Leave You bandwagon.  Fortunately, my experience with the latter was spoiler free—the only thing I’d been forewarned about was that it was really, really good.

Now, this isn’t me getting on my soapbox about spoilers, because I tend to think that if you aren’t passionate enough to prioritize something you don’t get to quell the conversations of those who are.  (I’m almost always the late one, so I’ve come to this via zen-like acceptance of my own bad impulses to get angry at someone for talking about something they care about, as if talking about something you care about isn’t a fundamentally important part of the human experience that I value highly.)  I know there was also that whole thing about how people actually like spoilers, contrary to what they think, but I’d argue that it changes your experience anyway, in a way that’s interesting but not ideal.  I know I get distracted by spoilers, and it takes me out of the experience of really enjoying the thing in the way I otherwise would.  To each their own, of course, but I’m not going to start seeking them out, and I’ll still probably have to ban myself from social media on Sunday nights when all the good TV is on for the rest of eternity.

But sometimes—like when you’ve put off reading one of the buzziest books of the last few years until the eve of the release of a film adaptation and you work in publishing—spoilers are not entirely avoidable.  To be fair, I wasn’t totally spoiled with Gone Girl.  I somehow made it all this time without finding out exactly what the twist is. When Stacey read it for DGLM book club, I fled the room.  But I can’t imagine it’s possible at this point to have heard of Gone Girl and not know there’s a twist.  And like all books (or films) that are built around a major plot twist, knowing there is one is pretty much spoiler enough.  It didn’t take me long into the book to realize that there was really only one option people would actually have been impressed with in the way I knew people were.  Unfortunately, while I found it clever and admirably crafted and insightful—that “cool girl” diatribe is everything—I missed my chance to have the opportunity with the novel that so many others did.

The thing about thrillers, or mysteries, or other twisty types of fiction is that I really enjoy the puzzle of trying to figure it out before I’m meant to, but I don’t like it when I win.  I want the author to best my whirring brain and catch me by surprise.

So having finished Gone Girl with quite a bit of like and admiration, but no love, I’ve made a pact with myself:  next time a big buzzy, mysterious novel comes along, I’m reading it right away.

*Like The Maze Runner, based of course on DGLM’s own James Dashner’s novel of the same name.  I know I’m biased, but I thought it was a perfect adaptation.  Exactly what you always hope book-to-film can be, but it almost never is.


Before the camera rolls

There is a book. Well, not always. But the other day surfing Netflix I realized just how many movies are based on books. There was an entire category devoted to them. And most were movies I had never realized were based on books.

So what’s the process behind turning a book into a movie?

One of the cooler things we do here at DGLM is meet with people in the film industry—production companies, packagers—basically anyone in development. In other words, we meet with people in the film industry who are looking for ideas, which they then bring to the studio, producer, or actor they’re representing.

In a very broad sense, these meetings are always the same. The producer is looking for great storytelling, there is a brief pause, and then we hear what the producer is actually looking for. Memoirs written by ordinary people who’ve lived through extraordinary things. Something geared toward an audience of middle-aged women. Something with a lot of action that can be done on a budget under $X. We then go back and forth with the producer explaining the various projects we have that might be of interest.

My point is that most people would be surprised how much the market dictates which movies eventually get to the “roll the camera” stage. Market and monetary constraints are king. So if there is a book you really, really want to see get made into a movie, be loud about it. If there’s a market, there’ll be a movie.

If you need further evidence, take The Fault in Our Stars, The Giver, and If I Stay, all films which were developed, in part, because of fan support.

So how about it? What do you want to see on the big screen?