UPDATE: Well, that was fast. Universal Pictures has closed a 7-figure deal for Breathe Deeply, the book that Deadline yesterday revealed had gotten a $2.3 million publishing deal for authors Susan Spencer-Wendel and Bret Witter from Harper Collins. It’s Spencer-Wendel’s tale of facing her mortality as ALS begins to take a toll on her. Just as Universal did when it won the last big book auction for Fifty Shades of Grey, the studio bought the book without a producer assigned to the material, and as Deadline reported, author E.L. James and her agent Valerie Hoskins have been in town meeting producers for a most coveted job.
EARLIER, JUNE 13, 2012, 8:17 PM: Breathe Deeply, a proposal for a book by Susan Spencer-Wendel and Bret Witter, just got a whopping $2.3 million publishing deal from Harper Collins. It now has the attention of Hollywood, and I expect that this unusual, touching tale of a woman facing her own mortality will result in a quick film deal.
Spencer-Wendel is a longtime court reporter for the Palm Beach Post who, at age 44, was diagnosed with ALS, the degenerative ailment most commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease that destroys the nerves that power muscles including the lungs. Spencer-Wendel is feeling the effects already, and is racing the clock to write what in her proposal she calls “A book about living.” It is hard to get through the 12-page proposal without getting misty. She wants to leave behind a record of a life well lived, and achieve a few more experiences before it becomes too difficult for her.
Among other things, she has a 14-year old daughter and is trying her best to create memories for the teen, and her husband, that will bring them happiness when she is gone. She and her daughter love the reality show Say Yes To The Dress, and they will head to Kleinfeld’s so the teen can try on wedding dresses for her mom, because that was always the plan before the author took ill. She will leave behind the money so her sister can eventually buy a dream dress there when her daughter is ready to get married. Spencer-Wendel knows she will soon lose her power of speech and the ability to type, but she is determined to write 240 pages by October, even if she will need special equipment that will get her words down by following the movement of her eyes. She will be helped by Witter, who wrote the bestselling cat tale Dewey. All this came out of a Wall Street Journal article written about her illness. Foundry Lit + Media made the book deal and Gersh is shopping the movie rights.
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