EXCLUSIVE: Ok, get ready to feel inferior. When an eighth grader named Maya Van Wagenen found herself struggling to fit in with her new classmates, she followed the seemingly outdated wisdom from a 1950s advice book for help. Not only did Maya crack the code to becoming popular by using ancient tips from Betty Cornell’s Glamour Guide For Teens, she kept a diary. That journal is the basis for a six-figure two book deal with Penguin Group. And now, at the ripe age of 15, Van Wagenen has become the youngest non-actor to ever make a feature deal at DreamWorks.
The studio has optioned Popular: One Geek’s Quest For The Impossible, as well as that Betty Cornell book. They’ve set Amy B. Harris to script it into a coming of age feature. Harris certainly knows that terrain; she transitioned from Sex And The City scribe to showrunner of the popular spinoff The Carrie Diaries. Mad Chance Productions’ Andrew Lazar will produce with Kristie Macosko Krieger.
This is heady stuff for Van Wagenen, who is now 15, but book publishers went wild for her story of struggle, and how she found social footing by following such advice as: always wearing white gloves, using pearls as a fashion accessory; and never forgetting that a girdle can be a girl’s best friend. The most important lessons conveyed were timeless ones like being open and honest, and kind. She found that each social clique was distrustful of the others, and that all of the kids bore similar insecurities. She was able to find common ground and feel for the first time like she belonged.