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Hey There, You With the Stars In Your Eyes

Hey Guys, remember when I said stay in touch with good news (though of course bad news and general carping always welcome at the Betsy Lerner Institute of Psychotherapy)? Well, our own Jessica Lahey has landed a major book deal (see below) based on a popular article in the Atlantic. Hot shit. Congrats Jessica, and thanks for not approaching me to agent you. What the hell does a girl have to do around here?

Pubs Have Feeding Frenzy Over Lahey’s ‘Gift’

After a three-day auction featuring 10 bidders, Jessica Lahey’s The Gift of Failure was acquired by Gail Winston at Harper. Winston bought world English rights to the book, based on an article Lahey wrote for the Atlantic, from agent Laurie Abkemeier at DeFiore and Company. Lahey is a middle school teacher and her story, “Why Parents Need to Let Their Kids Fail,” drew impassioned reactions online, after it ran in late January. The book, Abkemeier said, will be “a manifesto and action plan about why parents must learn to refrain from stepping in any time children experience disappointments… so that they may grow up to be successful, resilient, and self-reliant adults.”

39 Responses

  1. Congratulations Jessica!! That’s awesome and, as a school psych and mom, a book I will totally buy.

  2. Congratulations, Jessica.

  3. I know! Way to go Jess.

  4. Congratulations, Jessica!

  5. From the looks of it, you might have to bake her a cake? Congrats again Jess — well done kid.

  6. One of our own, the center of a publishing frenzy! Congratulations again, Jess.

    • Sticking to the genre I know. Can’t write a sex scene to save my life…not like YOU, my dear. The Key? Wet Sand? Oh, dear.

  7. Congrats, Jess. Sounds like you’ve earned it, teaching middle schoolers and all. I couldn’t teach kids all day, not even for a book.

    And Betsy… I bet some of us are a little scared to approach you. I mean seriously, you bite.

    And finally, I want that cake. I really want that cake.

    • Ha, when I was querying my first set of agents, Betsy was on vacation and I couldn’t bear to send the email. I got an excellent agent very quickly, but wondered what “might have been.”

    • Yowza on the bite, She took a chunk out of me and you know what, SHE WAS RIGHT, There I said it. Betsy you were right I was an idiot.When I’m ready to query again I’m going to Betsy, I still have one cheek left…and I’m not talking about my face.

  8. A bidding war, how cool is that?? Nicely done, Jess, good on you!

  9. Congratulations, Jessica! Thrilled for you, that’s wonderful. Will look forward to reading and recommending your book.

  10. Congratulations, Jessica!

  11. Congratulations, Jessica. Anyone, who teaches Middle School, deserves accolades. And a better job.

  12. The notion that kids need to fail is old. It was widely practiced in parochial schools 50+ years ago. Kids failed, repeated grades, learned hard lessons about life. Then the feel-good people took over and nobody could fail. At UMass Amherst (1968-74) failure was regarded as absurd. Nobody should fail. Degrees were awarded to non-attendees like Bill Cosby (D.Ed ’77) He didn’t fail, he just didn’t show up. Financial screw-ups at the School of Ed led to an administration change. There were other screw-ups too but that’s another can of worms.

    • allowing no failure is functionally equivalent to rendering success pointless; or, if the game can’t be lost, what’s the point in playing?

    • Right.
      And we all know what else happened in those parochial schools.

      The good old days, when kids & wives were beaten and everyone was bullied or stuck in closets, are starting to end. Thank you Oprah. Thank you writers, etc. for opening our eyes and exposing those who gloated over the failure & weaknesses of others.

      Things aren’t changing anytime soon. Maybe Jess and others will explore new ways of supporting children without being overbearing. There’s a middle ground somewhere and maybe her book will reveal that.

    • Apparently, the publishing industry doesn’t agree with you, Anonymous. (Damn, I hate shits who rage behind the curtain.) Jess, I’ve said it before, way to go. I’m green with envy, but there’s a big smile on my face. So happy for you. I love reading your articles and have already starting talking up the book to… everyone. May you sell a million copies.

  13. Way to go, sista! Go make us all proud.

    Your title evokes another favorite nonfiction book–Gavin DeBecker’s “The Gift of Fear.” I’m anticipating loving your “The Gift of Failure,” even more!

    Go shows us how it’s done! And…that it *can* be done!

  14. Thanks Betsy and her fabulous peeps!

    My head is still spinning, and I don’t think it has sunk in yet, but I am enjoying the ride. While I hero-worship Betsy, I chased and courted and may have even stalked my agent, Laurie Abkemeier, for over six years. Three is the magic number for rejections, apparently, because she finally accepted my ring last month. She orchestrated the proposal, bidding, and phone interview process like a total pro, and I ended up with my dream editor when the dust cleared at 5PM last Friday. The only casualty may have been the mouse pad on my laptop, what with all that email inbox refreshing.

    As for being a middle school English teacher? Woe is I and up with quitting I will not put. It’s my other dream job. Honestly. I’m either warped from misuse or I really do love these odd, pimply creatures and the stories I get to share with them.

    You guys rock.

  15. This is wonderful, Jess! Congratulations!

  16. Relieved that carping was cool. How does one get an appointment at the Betsy Lerner Institute? Do you accept a sliding scale?

  17. A hearty congrats to Jess. I read the article and I had no doubt big things were in store. Yee Haw Jess, Yee haw.

  18. Yes!!!!!! Congratulations!

  19. Fantastic news! Congratulations!

  20. Wonderful news! Congratulations Jessica!

  21. Wow great premise and no wonder it is a winner. I am living knee-deep in that type of shit.. failed skiing exams, singing auditions gone bad and rotten school results. What about the place of parental failure in all this this?

    Congratulations Jessca on your fabulous news!

  22. Holy crap, amazing news!! I can’t say I’m surprised, of course. A million congrats!

  23. I recollect Betsy sharing the news about the article and it was exciting then, but now? Holy !!!!! Congratulations Jess Lahey. I love your approach…I keep trying to tell my daughter to let my grandson fail. (i.e. start early – he’ll be six next month) b/c I already see too many melt downs when things don’t go his way and her nurturing hand is there to “fix” it for him. Sigh. I will obviously buy the book for her to read. Definitely. Most definitely.

  24. I loved the article and look forward to the book — I think many kids — and grownups — don’t know the difference between failing and losing. One (can be/should be) a beginning and the other seems like the end. Your article helped me remember many gifts of failure that felt awful at the time. Thank you and congratulations!!!

  25. Thrilling news! Congratulations!

  26. Inspiring. Congratulations.

  27. Hey, all. I put up a series of three posts about the whole crazy process, from the viral post to getting the agent to the auction. I’ve always loved reading publishing porn, so I thought I’d contribute to the genre. It’s at my blog; click on my name above.

  28. Boston tonight.
    A sad, scared city.

  29. You guys are amazing. Thank you so much. I will keep you up to date on the adventure as it unfolds. I have always aspired to earn the respect of Betsy’s army of smart, witty and critical writers. You will all be in the back of my head as I write this book. Your opinion matters a lot to me and if you like the book, I figure I’ve done my job and made you proud.

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