CopyKaavya: More 17th Street Adventures, and Skurnick sets the record straight

By Carmen Comment

But first, the New York Times jumps on the 17th Street bandwagon, pointing out what might be a common thread between Kaavya Viswanathan and Megan McCafferty: Claudia Gabel, who is actually acknowledged in both books. How’s that possible? Because Gabel was an editorial assistant at Crown at the time SLOPPY FIRSTS was published, then moved to Alloy Entertainment when Viswanathan’s book was being prepared then, and is now over at Knopf Delacorte Dell Young Readers Group.

Random House spokesperson Stuart Appelbaum was quick to deny a connection. “Claudia told us she did not touch a single line of Kaavya’s writing at any point in any drafts,” said Mr. Applebaum, who added that Ms. Gabel was one of several people who worked on the project in its conceptual stage and left before “editorial work was completed” on OPAL MEHTA. But Gabel worked at Alloy from the spring of 2003 until November 2005 — just about when Viswanathan’s finished book was available in galley format to hook booksellers into flogging the book. The timing just doesn’t sound right in this case…

Meanwhile, Lizzie Skurnick, who was interviewed yesterday in the Harvard Independent, pretty much corrected the record on the entire piece on her blog yesterday (though she pointed out that “no offense was taken” at the way the piece was slanted). The bottom line? “Packaging does not, apparent conventional wisdom aside, involve taking a budding author and having her sit down in a room and copy 40 awesome scenes from bestsellers of yore. Nor is it a mind-warp scheme that yields $500,000 checks from those poor dupes at Little, Brown and other major houses on a monthly basis.”

And John Barlow offers up his own take on working with the book packager over at Slate, describing in fascinating detail how he was hired on to work on the Sweet Valley Books and then deemed not good enough for prime time. But still, “it was a great way to learn that you can’t write a book by committee, and to be paid 10 grand to learn it. So, thank you Sweet Valley boys. It was great fun, really.”