Gossip Girl creator Cecily von Ziegesar went out with a proposal last week for a novel she’s been working on called Cum Laude. It’s about a preppy girl from Greenwich; a hippie from Manhattan; and a jock-turned-artist from Westchester, whose work is said to display some violent tendencies toward women. There is also a college-age boy and his beautiful younger sister, who suffers a terrible fate. This is according to an editor at one of the finer literary houses in town, who read the first 150 pages of the proposal before passing on it.
It is weird on first blush that this editor even saw the proposal, considering the books its author is famous for. But Ms. von Ziegesar’s literary agent, the eminent Suzanne Gluck of the William Morris Agency, wants to sell Cum Laude as a book for adults, not teenagers: a dramatic change of course for an author whose name is all but synonymous with young adult chick lit, a genre she helped propel to ubiquity six years ago when, as an assistant editor at the well-oiled teen book packager now known as Alloy Entertainment, she launched the blockbuster Gossip Girl franchise for Little, Brown.
According to one knowledgeable industry source, Ms. Gluck has already received at least one offer in the seven figures. The book had not been sold as of press time, but interested parties—mainly editors who specialize in women’s fiction—were apparently told that an auction would be held this week.
It is unclear if Cum Laude is really any more “adult” or literary than Ms. von Ziegesar’s previous work, or– and here one thinks of YA star Stephenie Meyer, whose latest book is sitting near the top of the adult fiction list– if the repositioning is an attempt to capitalize on the fact that so many of Ms. von Ziegesar’s readers have recently grown into 20-somethings. After all, the Gossip Girl books have all kinds of drugs and sex in them, and Janet Malcolm scrutinized them in a long article for The New Yorker in which she compared Ms. von Ziegesar to Tolstoy. But the whole thing made Pub Crawl wonder: Do all YA authors aspire to write “grown-up” books? And if so, can they?
RACHEL REILICH, A 29-year-old L.A. transplant living in Brooklyn, writes a fashion-themed YA series called Poseur for Ms. von Ziegesar’s former editor at Little, Brown. She said she is used to people asking her when she’s going to come out with her first “real” book.
“It’s sort of like the equivalent L.A. question,” she said. “Anybody who’s a waiter or a waitress, people ask, ‘So, what do you really want to do?’ Nobody’s ever permanently a waitress. To a certain extent, I think YA has that reputation.”
Ms. Reilich, an M.F.A. grad who started outlining her first novel for adults last spring, worries that her YA books, populated as they are by silly high-school kids dealing with silly problems, could prove to be a black eye when she tries to make a go of it in the adult world. “It’s kind of difficult to shake off your YA reputation,” she said. “I remember, as a young girl who loved Judy Blume, as I started to read more mature fiction, I was incredibly dismissive of her adult fiction even though I loved her as a YA author.”
She went on, “I don’t think that YA fiction should be taken less seriously than adult fiction, but it inevitably is, just because in this culture, teenagers are taken less seriously than adults.”
For this reason, Ms. Reilich decided to publish Poseur under a pen name, “Rachel Maude”—a choice that she admits was motivated by fear of what others might think if they were aware of her roots in YA. But when those concerns might actually arise is a separate question altogether: Since she first hooked up with her agent and started writing Poseur, Ms. Reilich has had almost no time to work on anything else. All she has so far for her novel—which she would not discuss, saying only that “there are no teenagers in it”—is the beginning of an outline, “a bean,” she called it, “a booger.” Pretty soon, Ms. Reilich said, she’s going to start devoting more time to the project, restricting her Poseur work to just … five days out of the week.