Clay McLeod Chapman's book deal with Hyperion Books 

"Pumpkin" Seeds Bear Rich Fruit

Richmonders have known about Clay McLeod Chapman for a long time, thanks mostly to his "Pumpkin Pie Show," a music/theater/literature hybrid that he has presented on local stages for the past five years. But the rest of the world will soon be exposed to his peculiar, often disturbing, and sometimes hilarious prose, thanks to a book deal with Hyperion Books. Chapman's advance for the deal: a cool $100,000.

The 22-year old author found the process that landed him his lucrative contract a bit surreal: "It could have been a movie, it didn't feel like it was happening to me," he says. Chapman's champion has been literary agent Heide Lange, who saw him perform the "PPS" in New York and was immediately intrigued. The "PPS" features Chapman acting out his stories, and after the show, Lange asked to see as many stories as he was willing to show her. Within three weeks, she had Hyperion rushing to make the recent college grad an offer to preempt any other publisher. In September 2001,the company will publish a collection of the stories that Chapman has already written, to be followed by a novel that he must deliver within two years.

Hyperion is undoubtedly hoping that Chapman's twisted form of Southern Gothic storytelling will resonate with a young audience. "I'm an investment," says the author, whose soft-spoken demeanor belies his usually frenzied onstage antics. "My key asset is longevity."

If the thought of some punk fresh out of school landing such a deal is galling, consider that Chapman has been working his craft for 10 years, first winning recognition from TheatreVirginia's New Voices for the Theatre program when he was in sixth grade. His mother, Sue Henshaw, a potter whose work can be seen at "...but is it art?" says, "He used to follow me around to art shows. He saw all along that, to be a successful artist, you had to be dedicated." In this case, dedication has paid off handsomely.



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