One of the many things Robby and I are grateful for is that the material we have chosen to adapt not only has a sane author, but also, an incredibly smart, kind and supportive one. Wendi Kaufman is truly a collaborator--someone we want involved in the process and who shares our enthusiasm for the development of the story.
Wendi and I seem to be "soul sisters." If I were going to write a short story about a 12-year old's struggles growing up in New York City, and if she were going to write a musical about the same topic, I think our final products would look strangely similar. We joke that it may be the Gemini twin connection, since we are born a week apart, or that I just managed to channel her while I was adapting her story. Whatever it is, I feel very lucky that it worked out the way it did.
While her blog, The Happy Booker, is technically on “hiatus,” I think it’s worth taking a look at, since all the wit, charm, intelligence and humor that makes Helen on 86th St. such a great short story, can be found there.
After hearing nightmare stories, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief when we were first negotiating the rights and discussing the best way to go forward. Wendi said that she wanted to give us our space in the beginning and the last thing she wanted was to be an like our overbearing mother-in-law. Thinking back to our conference call last week, I actually do think of her as a mother-in-law. But Wendi is one of those rare, lovely, mother-in-laws that you think of as a second-mom and you welcome into your family. (Speaking of families, I welcomed the newest addition to mine this weekend--my beautiful six-day old niece, Vivien.)
To read the original short story of Helen on 86th St. that was published in The New Yorker, you can click here.