Tori Spelling Writes a Picture Book - What Next?

Thar she blows!  Here comes a full-scale tirade.  I tried to resist.  Especially since writing this rant of a post does not count toward my write-a-thon goal.  BUT after gnashing my teeth over this issue for the past week, I could stand it no longer.

It seems that Simon & Schuster's Aladdin imprint announced last week that they will publish a book "written" by Tori Spelling.  'Aladdin said "Presenting ... Tallulah," illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, tells the story of a young girl who just wants to be herself.'  Huh.  Too bad the author doesn't feel the same way.  With at least two plastic surgeries under her belt, perhaps Spelling should practice what she preaches.

Let's start with a little background, shall we?  Spelling is the "poor little rich" daughter of media mogul/billionaire Aaron Spelling, but is perhaps best known as the virginal (at least for seven seasons) Donna Martin of Beverly Hills 90210, produced by Daddy Spelling. She later starred in a sitcom based on her own life called So NoTORIous.  Despite her first wedding costing upwards of $1 million, that marriage went up in smoke a year later when Tori went public with her affair with Dean McDermott.  She met McDermott on the set of the illustrious made-for-TV movie, Mind Over Murder.  Within a month they called each other "soul mates," and plotted out of their respective marriages.   McDermott had been married to Mary Jo Eustace for twelve years and produced two? children (McDermott and his wife were in the process of adopting a newborn daughter when he met Tori.  An upstanding gent, he opted not to go forward with the adoption, leaving that to his ex, and took joint custody only of his son.  What a Mensch.).  Tori and Dean now have two children of their own, who they famously parade in front of the cameras on their reality TV-show, Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood.  Oh, and she and mother Candy Spelling have been carrying out a years-long feud in the tabloids.

I ask you: what in this resume qualifies Tori Spelling to write a children's picture book?  (Having children doesn't count, by the way.)  Well... she is a celebrity, and certainly not the first one that has entered the children's book market.

Both aspiring and established authors regularly lament the rise of the celebrity author - drawn now to the children's market as it has grown large and lucrative.  There are two primary reasons why "real" authors cringe over celebrity books.  First, each publisher only has room for so many titles on its list each season.  Each slot that goes to a celebrity author is one fewer for other writers.  Second, celebrity authors command huge advances - far more than even the most renowned children's book authors receive.  In order to earn back the advance, the publishing house must then use a disproportionate amount of its (also limited) marketing and PR resources to promote that book at the expense of others on their lists.  Even Jane Yolen has a hard time.  She said, "I have over 250 books out, have won a great number of awards within the field, have been given four honorary doctorates for my body of work, but have never been on 'Oprah' or spoken to Katie Couric or gotten a $100,000 advance for my work.  I am not complaining. I do very well by the ordinary parameters of the field. But I have been thinking about getting out my pointy bra and brushing up on my singing and dancing... because -- you know -- if it's celebrity they want ...''

Then there's another celebrity author nuisance.  Most of them, with a few exceptions, can't write their way out of a paper bag.  In this article, Trev Jones, a book review editor for the School Library Journal says, "most of these books are pretty bad, although it's hard to pan them all. Some of these people can write, but many can't. And there is seemingly no connection between whether they can write and whether they will get published."

Can Tori Spelling write?  Since she has written a couple of "books" (Hollywood tell-all memoirs), I decided to be fair and evaluate the writing first-hand.  I skulked in a corner of Barnes and Noble surreptitiously reading passages from her first book, sTORI Telling, hoping nobody would see me.  In it, I found these examples of scintillating prose.

"I decided to mend bridges with my mother. I hugged her and told her I loved her. She said she loved me too, and we both cried. These moments happen in our relationship." Wow!  So profound.

Regarding her affair: "Dean and I hid our relationship from the cast and crew. In the beginning of the filming I called Charlie (her ex) every night, but now I called him less and less. I'd email him from Dean's room to say it was late and I was going to bed." Nice.  "Charlie wanted to come pick me up at the airport, but I wanted to be able to say good-bye to Dean. So I lied to Charlie and told him I was coming home a day later." Being honest about lying - terrific.

This one really takes the cake, though.  Here she is talking about how her husband wanted to have sex with her upon her return from filming.  A reasonable request from a husband of his wife.  But Tori sticks to her moral guns. "The fact of my affair was bad enough, but to physically go back and forth between two men seemed like it would compound the offense." Umm... ya think?!?

This segues nicely into my next question.  If you are thinking of either publishing or purchasing a children's book, should you take into consideration whether the author is an appropriate role model for children?  Up to now, you could have read this post thinking it's all sour grapes from an unpublished, aspiring children's book writer.  That's partially true, I admit.  But as a parent, I find it both infuriating and disheartening that publishers are so focused on what will sell that they no longer care about an author's level of talent or his or her reputation.  I get that publishing is a business.  Publishers need to make money to keep publishing books at all.  The argument goes that the profit from celebrity best-sellers enables them to publish more work from lesser-known authors.  I'm not going to debate that contention here, but I do find it frustrating that "playing it safe" in publishing means putting out books of dubious quality by authors of even more dubious credentials.

BUT - it's not the publishers' fault that this stuff sells.  That, my friends, falls on our shoulders - the consumers.  If there were no demand for a Tori Spelling book, there would be no Tori Spelling book.  We teach corporations what to sell to us.  Why should they be the gatekeepers of quality when we fail to do the job ourselves?  So consider the following in your analysis of Spelling's "qualifications" to write for children:

  • She has had at least two plastic surgeries, including a noTORIous breast enhancement surgery.
  • Shooting back at the ever-reputable Star Magazine, which claimed she was "too thin" at 95 pounds, Spelling quickly tweeted to her fans that she was weighing in at a healthy 107 lbs - on 5'6" frame.  Am I the only one that questions whether that is a healthy weight?  Especially since probably 10 of those pounds are attributable to the ridiculously large breasts resulting from the aforementioned boob job.
  • In sTORI Telling, she recounts a scene with her mother where she breaks down in tears because her mother wouldn't pay for her $10,000 wedding suite.  To be fair, Tori apparently didn't know her parents were having "money problems." (Might that be because of the blow-out wedding???)
  • Although I did not peruse her second book, Mommywood, I read in the reviews that during the 3-D ultrasound of her first child, she worried (aloud) that his nose looked too big.  Seems like a natural reaction to the first glimpse of your first baby.

Her book will hit bookstores in the fall.  If it makes the bestseller list, I have some suggested titles for a follow-up:

Mom, Can I get a Nose Job?: A Surgery sTORI
Don't Know Much About hisTORI: Learn Along with Tori Spelling
My House is Ten sTORIes Tall: A Counting Book
My Brain is a mysTORI: Tori Spelling Science Series
Remember to use the LavaTORI: Potty Training for Dummies

Oh, and Tori?  Demi Moore called, and she wants her daughter's name back.

OKAY - time to retract the claws and wait quietly for Paris Hilton to write a children's book.

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