EXCLUSIVE: Bill Pohlad’s River Road Entertainment has optioned screen rights to the Joanna Smith Rakoff novel My Salinger Year, and has set Emma Forrest to write the script. Smith Rakoff’s novel, which will be published by Knopf in the winter, is inspired by the author’s own experiences as a college grad who takes a clerical job at the agency that repped famed author J.D. Salinger. The novel deals with an unexpected relationship she developed with the iconic author as she stood as a barrier between him and his adoring public, guarding the reclusive author’s privacy and answering letters that Salinger demanded not to see.

Forrest has an affinity for adapting a book based on the author’s story. She adapted her memoir, Your Voice In My Head, a project that is a priority at Warner Bros with Harry Potter‘s Emma Watson attached, even though David Yates recently dropped out. That book was about her own experiences of losing the psychiatrist who helped her through all kind of personal turmoil when he died of lung cancer without ever telling his patients he was ill.

This makes a couple of projects involving Salinger. There is also the documentary Salinger, written and directed by Shane Salerno. I saw a rough cut of the docu right before I started at Deadline, and found it quite good. It still hasn’t been seen by distributors, as I’d heard that Salerno added much to it after The Catcher In The Rye author passed away.

Pohlad will produce My Salinger Year. Coming off The Tree Of Life, Pohlad is prepping the Steve McQueen-directed Twelve Years A Slave, which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt. The film is based on Solomon Northup’s memoir about his experiences as a free black man in New York before the Civil War, and how he was illegally kidnapped, brought to the South and sold into slavery, a brutal stretch that lasted 12 years. Pohlad is producing with Plan B and New Regency is backing the film.

CAA made the book deal for Smith Rakoff’s lit agents at Janklow & Nesbit, and Caa also repped Forrest, with River Road’s Christa Zofcin brokering. River Road’s Sarah Hammer is overseeing it.