Judy Pace Christie ’78 is about to find out what Hollywood is going to do with one of her books.
Christie’s book, “Wreath, a Girl,” has been optioned for film and television by veteran independent producer Lauren Taylor of Los Angeles, who recently sold the story of Texan Kathy Murphy and her Pulpwood Queens Book Club to Dream Works.
“Wreath, A Girl” is the first in a planned trilogy of stories following a 16-year-old who lives alone in a junkyard until she can graduate from high school. The second book in the series, “Wreath, In Summer,” released last December, and Christie expects the third installment, “Wreath, To College,” to be out by the end of this year. She and her husband, Paul, a recently retired middle-school science teacher, formed a publishing company, Brosette & Barnhill Publishing, in 2014, and the Wreath trilogy is their first indie publishing project.
Christie, a long-time journalist and current book columnist for the Shreveport (La.) Times, has written nine novels – all of them since she turned 50 — and seven non-fiction books, including five in her Hurry Less Worry Less series. “Picking up the phone and hearing a Hollywood producer on the other end is a unique thrill,” Christie says. “Lauren Taylor’s enthusiasm about Wreath as a fresh story with a strong female role model makes me quite excited. A screenwriter will be hired to adapt the book, and I’ll try hard not to look over his or her shoulder—all those years of newsroom editing trained me to be flexible.”
Alumni from the late 1970s may recognize Christie from reading the Lariat, which she edited and for which she wrote a weekly humor column. Others may remember her from her time as an executive with the Gannett chain of newspapers, including being top editor of four papers and a consultant nationwide.
“My studies at Baylor and being the editor of The Lariat prepared me for a wonderful career as a journalist,” Christie says. “That work allowed me to do such things as have lunch at the White House with Nancy Reagan, meet astronaut Neil Armstrong, cover the devastation of a tornado, investigate housing-system abuses and on and on.”
Christie says that like her character Wreath she started writing when she was 11 by keeping a diary and that she still has all of them. “I wish every girl would keep a journal,” she says, “to help sort out her thoughts, record the rapid changes of life and to fire up her creativity. My young diaries helped me become a more observant person and taught me to process and describe life. That has served me well as a journalist and as a novelist.”
The Wreath books focus on issues as far-ranging as homelessness, teen romance, and abuse. Christie says she decided to include a plot point that Wreath does not have a cell phone or laptop because “I wanted to explore ways for modern kids to communicate without the interference of cellphones or Internet. Wreath is forced to be more resourceful without technology.”
Christie included student and book-club discussion questions in the books and will provide additional free teaching resources by e-mail, including a guide to writing fiction. “Wreath, A Girl” (Amazon link) has been read by schools and book clubs across the United States and is part of this year’s assigned eighth-grade reading list at a highly-rated middle school in Louisiana. “My producer and I are talking to schools from coast to coast about ways to use Wreath to encourage reading and critical thinking on relevant topics,” she said.
Christie’s answers to Getting to Know’s question generated one double-take when she said that one thing that’s not on her resume is that she “was once chased by a monkey.” Asked for details, she said, “I was running late for a news meeting at the daily paper in Shreveport, La, in my stereotypical 1980s suit and pumps, living in a neighborhood that was trying to be gentrified but not quite succeeding. A monkey dashed out of a yard across the street and toward me. While I had fantasized of owning a chimp as a kid, I did not react well to the reality of the encounter and raced toward my Toyota, reaching it moments before he did. The monkey climbed up on the hood and jumped up and down, staring at me through the windshield. House painters across the street were still laughing when I drove off, the monkey headed in another direction. By the time I got to work, my colleagues had made up a news budget line about it—and my dream of owning a monkey was over.”
Here’s more on Judy Christie:
- The most memorable thing that happened to me at Baylor was…I am close friends with a group of 10 women who met in North Russell Hall in 1974. We get together the first weekend in November every year for our “Baylor FunFest.” We’ve seen each other through marriages, divorces, births, deaths. We laugh a lot when we’re together – and cry some too.
- A recent happy Baylor experience…My niece Melanie Pace, a 2016 high school grad (and excellent young writer), just made her first visit to Baylor and was blown away—by the campus, faculty, other potential students, and the way the visit was organized. The attention to detail that Baylor gives potential students is impressive. The hope of her at Baylor brings a green-and-gold smile to my face.
- I’m being inspired right now by…the Texas Hunger Initiative and what it’s doing to end hunger in the United States — and THI staffer Erin Nolen, the daughter of my Baylor roommate, who is devoted to making the world a better place by ending food insecurity.
- My approach to saying no to requests for my time and resources is…When you say “no” to one thing, you say “yes” to something else.
- My daily reading includes…a Psalm and at least a few pages from a novel.
- The advice I give young college graduates is…Travel as much as you can.
- My favorite app is…Flixster. Last year I saw 52 movies in a theater. My husband and I love to go to the movies.
- My most prized possession is…my library card – free books at your fingertips.
- If I could have one meal from the road again…any meal at the Palace Café on Canal Street in New Orleans.
- I always splurge on…pens & stationery. A Baylor friend (class of ’78) and I write letters to each other several times a month. I also write the 92-year-old mom of a Baylor friend – and she writes me. Her commentary on Baylor football is priceless.