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Reality TV to Discover the Next Bestselling Author?

Taiye Selasi, Andrea de Carlo & Giancarlo de Cataldo to judge Italian reality show for writers

Taiye Selasi, Andrea de Carlo & Giancarlo de Cataldo to judge Italian reality show for writers “Masterpiece”

The publishing industry has been needing a shot in the arm, and a new reality TV show set to air on Italy’s Rai 3 channel could be it. The New York Times reports “Masterpiece” will feature aspiring novelists competing for the chance to have their debut novel published by Bompiani. Novelists Taiye Selasi (Ghana Must Go), Andrea de Carlo (Due di Due) and Giancarlo de Cataldo (Romanze Criminale) will judge.

According to the article, the channel’s call for manuscripts yielded 5000 submissions. A team of readers and producers then cut the list down to a total of 72 camera-ready writers.  Selasi, de Carlo and de Cataldo then edited down to 24 contestants based on the manuscripts and interviews.

On each of the six episodes, a group of four writers will be given a writing assignment based on an event curated by a judge. The writers will be given half an hour to complete the assignment, and then read it aloud. Two of the writers will be cut in this literary quick fire, with the remaining two tasked to deliver a 59-second long elevator pitch of their novel in progress. The winner of this round will emerge as a finalist. And so it will go until six finalists, and three fan favorites, meet for the chance to win the publishing deal.

The show will be a compelling test of the producers’ ability to convey the stories that go into crafting a story as well as the public’s appetite for watching writers write. If it does well and/or gets adapted for other markets, it will also test the publishing industry’s comfort level.

Publishing, much like  fashion, is a notoriously elitist and cloistered world so it will be interesting to see how insiders respond to the contestants in particular. Will the writers, like the personalities on Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model, struggle to be taken seriously in the industry once the cameras stop rolling?Or will they fare like American Idol’s past competitors–winners and finalists–who have gone on to collect the most coveted industry trophies and enjoy pop-culture acclaim?

Selasi told the Times the show reflects the need for writers to shed the blanket of shyness.  “Shy or not shy…you’re going to have to — if you want to be a published writer — expose yourself in some way.” Fellow judge de Cataldo says “Masterpiece” attempts to answer a more dire need.

“The book is dying, and we must do everything we can to save it. Even a talent show.”

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