BRANDING OUR CHILDREN
Last week’s New York Times arts section had a story about a travel writer with an autistic son whose “wild temper tantrums” abated only when he was riding a horse.
The travel writer had a bent for nonWestern medical traditions, so he and his wife took their son to Mongolia where shamans and horses helped the boy achieve “an amazing ‘recovery’ and ‘healing,’ ” or so the Times quotes the dad. He also said his son’s temper tantrums “all but disappeared” after the trip.
The story is meant to be inspiring, and it is, except for the many business deals that seem to trump and the son’s role in it all. For example:
1) the travel writer dad is well connected in NY, so before the trip he got a $1-million-plus advance from Little, Brown based on a 37-page proposal about the “prospective adventure.”
2) Dad also took a filmmaker along to create a documentary.
3) He made YouTube video of himself and his son riding a horse that “stoked interest” in the book’s auction.
4) He optioned the feature film rights to the producers who made “Lord of the Rings” and “Golden Compass” — with himself as scriptwriter.
5) He says part of the advance is going to a ranch he’s founded to treat autistic kids who like horses.
HOW THE BIG BOYS DO IT
I’m sure this travel writer dad started out with the idea of helping his son, and hey, maybe he needed to finance the trip so he started pulling deals together. It’s just worrisome to see every related industry kick in to make this a million-dollar sure thing with the boy as a much-scrutinized cog. Perhaps Dad realized he needed the PR value of creating the charity ranch in case somebody accuses him of exploiting both his son and autism.
At the same time, the NYT article is written as a kind of a model scenario for writers. It says, This Is The Way the Big Boys Do It. Don’t wait until you write the book or even know how your story ends. Build your power base now. Start the marketing process now. Remember Elizabeth Gilbert? She was writing magazine articles about exotic spas for the rich before jotting down a similar of “prospective adventure” submission, which earned her a sizeable advance that paid for an all-expenses trip around the world and resulted in “Eat Pray Love.” (more…)