High school student's columns basis for pic

Miramax has plucked its latest Wunderkind from a local high school.

Ned Vizzini, a recent Stuyvesant High School grad, has optioned his autobiographical story collection, “Teen Angst? Naaah…” to Miramax and Jane Startz Prods.

The book was published two years ago by Minneapolis-based Free Spirit Publishing, whose president Judy Galbraith discovered an essay Vizzini wrote for the New York Times Magazine.

Vizzini, now 20, is enrolled in Gotham’s Hunter College. He began writing for the alternative paper, the New York Press, at age 15; his columns were the basis for the book.

A collection of vignettes and scattershot advice on teen life in New York, “Angst” has sold more than 15,000 copies.

“Everybody is jumping on the ‘Harry Potter’ fantasy bandwagon,” Startz said. “This book is about the real pains of growing up and the anxieties of being a regular kid.”

Startz, who has a first-look deal at Miramax, has produced a wide range of kids projects, including “The Mighty” for Miramax and the forthcoming “Tuck Everlasting,” a Beacon co-production at Disney.

NEARLY TWO YEARS AFTER VIACOM wrestled the WWF away from USA Networks, the conglom’s book division, Simon & Schuster, is seeking a measure of synergy from the deal.

It has body-slammed the Judith Regan imprint at HarperCollins.

Regan was the first publisher to mine the unlikely book market of WWF fandom, hitting pay dirt with books like “The Rock Says…,” “If They Only Knew” by Chyna and “Mick Foley’s Halloween Hijink.” These and other WWF books sold millions of copies for Regan.

Now Simon & Schuster has signed the wrestling org’s lucrative book franchise to a wide-ranging deal. The WWF will have its own imprint at S&S beginning next fall, publishing everything from young adult novels and illustrated books to autobiographies by grapplers like the Rock and Mick Foley.

THE WIDESPREAD LAYOFFS at Random House Inc., which have come in drips and drabs since mid-December, have finally hit the Crown and Random House Publishing Groups.

The Random Inc. West Coast publicity office has been shuttered, and publicist Suzanne Wickham-Beaird, a two-decade fixture on the West coast publicity scene, has been pinkslipped with her two staffers. Among other cuts Random editor Pamela Cannon was let go, and Carol Schneider, Random’s longtime exec director of publicity, will now work three days a week rather than five.

Crown did not disclose the extent of the layoffs Tuesday. But publicity director Tina Constable acknowledged the imprints have “gone through a very small number of staff changes as a result of budgetary considerations.”

At a time of massive consolidation in the industry, sluggish book sales have forced several houses to contemplate cutbacks. These cuts have been especially severe at Random Inc., whose CEO Peter Olson resolved early last year to maintain a 12% return on sales for 2001.

Knopf, Crown and Ballantine still keep West Coast publicity directors, but one industryite called the closing of the Random West office “the end of an era.”

Once vital L.A. publicity outlets like “The Tonight Show” no longer devote much time to books, and the days of barnstorming, coast-to-coast reading tours largely ended with the advent of cheaper promotional vehicles like the Web and satellite radio interviews.

THE NEW YORK TIMES MEDIA COVERAGE — a beat that encompasses magazines, newspapers and books, as well as some TV and film reporting — is getting an infusion of new blood, courtesy of Inside.com’s untimely demise.

Lorne Manly has been hired as deputy to media editor Dave Smith. And David Carr will cover the magazine industry, replacing Alex Kuczynski, who asked for a switch to the paper’s Styles section.

In a memo to staff, Smith called Manly “one of the most respected media journalists in town.” Before Inside hired him as media editor, Manly wrote the media column in the New York Observer.

Before casting his lot with Inside, Carr edited the Washington City Paper from 1995-2000.

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