The cat is out of the bag, so to speak.
The No. 1 best-selling book based on former Spencer Librarian Vicki Myron and her relationship with the library's cat has landed at New Line Cinema for a film adaptation.
Michael Fleming from the entertainment trade magazine "Variety" confirmed the New Line movie talks and also linked Meryl Streep to the lead role.
"No contracts are signed yet," Myron said. "Somebody leaked it to the press, but we're working with New Line Cinema. They're buying the option to make the movie and Meryl Streep will be playing me."
Pamela Gray, who wrote the script for another Streep film, "Music of the Heart" will write the movie adaptation of "Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World," by Myron and Bret Witter. Myron learned Wednesday night that "Dewey" the hardcover non-fiction book will spend a second week at No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
"It has great appeal," Paul Ingram, buyer at Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, told Michael Crumb of the Associated Press.
Ingram compares "Dewey" it to the hugely popular "Marley & Me," about the joys and headaches of a difficult Labrador retriever. Ingram says that "Dewey" attracts an odd mix of pet lovers and history buffs thanks to its weaving of the cat's exploits with the history of a small town and Iowa.
Myron decided to include more in her book than just the story of Dewey because the town, the cat and Myron herself were closely linked. "When we tried to write just a cat book it didn't work. We had to tell the whole story for it to make sense," she told Crumb, during a break from a book tour in Des Moines.
Dewey was discovered in the Spencer library's overnight drop box in January 1988, a time when Iowa was in the midst of an economic chill that had gripped the nation. Myron bonded immediately with Dewey as she lifted the tiny kitten from the book drop that January morning.
"He was so cold and half starved and very dirty. He didn't look like much until I picked him up and he started purring immediately and he looked in my eyes with his eyes," Myron told Crumb. "He had the most gorgeous eyes I had ever seen and I felt a connection with him right away."
Myron was struggling back then to make ends meet -- a divorced mother trying to raise a daughter, working full time at the Spencer library and studying to get her master's degree. She had only been on the job for six months and had wanted to make the library more homey.
Patrons took to him quickly, and, over time, visitors increased from 60,000 a year to more than 100,000. Many were suffering from the crippling economy that hit the farming community especially hard, and Myron thinks Dewey lifted their spirits and made them a bit more eager to stop off at the library.
"Dewey didn't bring jobs to Spencer, but there were a lot of farmers who came in to fill out the first resume of their life. They didn't know how to use the computer, they were having a tough time and were really down when they came in. Dewey won them over and put a smile on their face," Myron told Crumb during an Associated Press interview in Des Moines.
Myron told Crumb her book is a story of unconditional love, companionship and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps during tough times.
Dewey died on Nov. 29, 2006, at age 19. Since then, the library has received more than 100 offers for a new Dewey, but the library board decided to wait at least two years before deciding whether to get another cat, says Myron, who retired at the end of last year.
She recalls how Dewey's health began to fail in the year before he died and how, to help him put on weight, she would feed him cheese, scrambled eggs and roast beef sandwiches. "And he loved it!"
On the day Dewey died, Myron was about to leave for a trip to Florida when she got a call from the library staff telling her Dewey wasn't acting right.
"He was fine when I left, or I thought he was, but when I went back down there I could see he was in pain," Myron said, in the AP interview. An X-ray at a local vet showed he had a large stomach tumor. She stayed with Dewey as he was put to sleep.
"It was heart-wrenching," Myron remembers. "I called all the staff and they came out to say goodbye, but it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but I knew I had to do it because he was suffering and I'd never let him be in pain."
His ashes were buried in the lawn outside the library. A granite marker was placed at the site.
Myron believes his legacy will live on with the expected movie deal. Gray will be charged with capturing that legacy in a screenplay.
"I know that Pam Gray is going to follow me around for a couple of weeks and I have a feeling Meryl Streep is probably gong to want to follow me around for awhile," Myron said.
Streep was on board for the project regardless of the studio in charge, according to the former Spencer Librarian.
"She was attached before the film deal was made," Myron said. "She'll make it with us no matter which studio we go with. She loves the book and she wants to play the part, so that is very exciting. But I couldn't say anything, and now somebody has leaked it. We don't know if New Line Cinema leaked it to the press or what. But it's on about 10 sites this (Thursday) morning. It's not official. No contracts have been signed, but that's what's happening."
Myron isn't aware of a working title for the film, but the movie has been referred to as "Dewey" and "Library Cat" at some of the Web sites Myron is referring to.
"The film deal is pretty much set, but it's the merchandise and all of the legal end that's not set in stone yet," Myron said. "It is very close, but somebody opened their mouth before we got that far."
Myron thinks production is at least a year away.
"I always knew there would probably be a movie," Myron said. "We had planned that early on once we knew the book was good. But I guess I'm surprised at the Meryl Streep thing. I was hoping for her early on and she agreed. It's wonderful."
Myron suspects film crews will come to Spencer to film interiors and exteriors. Myron will serve as a consultant on the film.
"We don't know what that is going to entail yet. A lot of times they tell authors they have pretty much full control -- and all of my Hollywood contacts are saying 'don't believe that for a minute,'" she said.
A movie script isn't the only "Dewey" project in development. Myron said she is about a week away from closing a deal on a series of children's books. Preliminary plans call for two picture books for children and a novel tailored toward young adults.
Myron has stops planned in Washington, D.C., on the Princeton campus and will work out details for the follow-up book deal in New York.
"It is tiring," Myron said. "But luckily my publicist is building in days of rest here and there. Even though I'm on the road, it's not constant. I'm feeling pretty good."