Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tupelo Hassman’s "girlchild"

Tupelo Hassman graduated from Columbia's MFA program. Her writing has been published in Paper Street Press, The Portland Review Literary Journal, Tantalum, We Still Like, ZYZZYVA, and by and Hassman is a contributing author to Heliography, Invisible City Audio Tours' first tour and is curating its fourth tour, The Landmark Revelation Society. She kept a video journal of girlchild's book tour for the short documentary Hardbound: A Novel's Life on the Road.

Here she shares some ideas for adapting her debut novel, girlchild, for the big screen:
Imagining girlchild as a film has been on my mind since girlchild was a zygote, when she was just about thirty pages, maybe eight of them any good, and I was still an undergrad at the community college where I now teach. Complete hubris, right? The book was still a twinkle in my eye but I was able to imagine its film version! This confidence is all thanks to my first Creative Writing prof, Jim Krusoe. Jim is the one who introduced me to filmmaker Michael Hacker, and so it began.

Michael was looking for stories to adapt for the big screen and I have no idea what I was looking for but over the ten years since we met, a novel grew where there was none, as did one of my greatest friendships. Michael has been there through the bad things that can happen in a decade: the death of my father, the brain injury suffered by a dear brother, innumerable breakups that are pretty specks in the past now but were so very important at the time, and, for each of us, the heart death of losing a beloved dog. We’ve been friends through the good too: my acceptance to USC as a first-generation college student, then to Columbia, Michael’s marriage to the world’s most beautiful bride, my engagement to the man who has made me believe in the future, and the publication of girlchild.

Michael will be the one to adapt girlchild for the big screen. The script he’s written is a gorgeous creation, at once perfectly like and unlike the novel he’s watched grow almost from nothing, “grow straight toward the sky as if soil were only a myth,” as Rory Dawn, girlchild’s protagonist says of plants that have taken root in the metal graveyard of the Calle, the trailer park where she lives. Michael’s pushed me about plot points, we’ve argued about chronology, he’s listened to every concern, in short: I don’t know if there would be this girlchild without Michael.

And bonus: Michael Hacker is a brilliant independent filmmaker.

Over the years I’ve dreamed of my favorite actors to fill the roles in the story of Rory Dawn’s life (even though I’ve never been able to cast a Rory Dawn, even in my imagination): Juliette Lewis for Rory’s mom, Josie, Holly Hunter for Rory’s grandma (we’d have to age her, but it would be so worth it), Tina Fey as Rory’s casserole-toting friend, Pigeon, Jeremy Davies as her brother, Ronald, and thinking of Josh Brolin as The Hardware Man gives me a perfect sad chill. I haven’t had to worry about filling the role of filmmaker, though, because the future of my girlchild has long been in hands I trust.

Here’s a quintessential Michael moment: When I left Los Angeles for grad school in New York, Michael and I were having goodbye coffee at a sidewalk café in Los Feliz. I handed him the self-addressed stamped postcard I’d brought as my I’m-going-away gift and he took out a pen, wrote on the postcard “Come back!” and ran right across the street to drop it in a blue postal bin. Message received. girlchild and I aren’t going anywhere.
Learn more about the book and author at Tupelo Hassman's website.

The Page 69 Test: girlchild.

--Marshal Zeringue