Photo Zac Peterson/Ithaca Voice

ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca author Megan Shull’s book “The Swap” has been optioned by a major national movie company — the first step toward bringing the acclaimed novel to the silver screen.

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MarVista Entertainment and Original Pictures, which works regularly with broadcasters like the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Hallmark, has optioned the film and television rights to the book, according to Publishers’ Marketplace.

Shull, an Ithaca native and Cornell graduate who still lives in town, confirmed the news in an email on Thursday.

“I’m not a big screenwriter in a writing room in Hollywood — I’m just here walking through the waterfalls, and going to Wegmans,” she said.

“So, it’s pretty rad that we still live in a time where one person can write a story and it can grow and be shared with the masses.”

“The Swap’s” sky-high popularity

Published in August 2014, “The Swap” tells the story of a boy and girl who switch bodies on the first day of middle school and learn how to live as the other.

The book has been described as “Freaky Friday” with a twist — and, perhaps, more popularity.

“The Swap” has rocketed up to the number one place on Amazon.com’s list of Childrens Humorous Literature. It was also sixth in Amazon’s category of most popular children’s ebooks — just behind classics like Lois Lowry’s “The Giver” and JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

See related: Quintessentially Ithaca event imagines beloved local author, mayor swapping places

Megan Shull
Photos courtesy of Shull

Now that it’s been optioned by a major film company, the reach of the novel is poised to grow even larger.

“To have the book optioned is just affirming in regard to the creative process, and hopeful too— that there is still so much room for all of us to create and build new things, and share our hearts with the world,” Shull says.

“As I like to say when I am speaking with kids: How cool is it that I write something that starts in my heart and travels up into my brain, and then comes out my hands and then ends up . . . after a trip through a huge printing press, and delivery trucks, and bookstores . . . in their hands. A film adds another stop on that journey and it’s just cool to think about: so much is possible.”

Screenshot of Shull’s book on the Amazon best seller list. (Arrows and exclamation points inserted by Ithaca Voice editor.)

What does being “optioned” mean?

Shull explained that MarVista has essentially rented the film/television rights to her book. The company will look for a screenwriter to produce a script that could then move the project into production.

That means it’s not definitive if or when the movie will get made. But it’s a definite possibility — one that Shull was first made aware of, by her agent, at the beginning of 2015.

“The timeline is fluid. At this point it’s out of my hands, but in some really wonderful hands,” Shull writes, “and I’m happy to be along for the ride.”

‘Cameos to all of Ithaca!’

In September 2014, Mayor Svante Myrick and NPR personality Amy Dickinson joined Shull for an event at the Hangar Theatre to launch a national book tour of “The Swap.” Shull spoke at length about the importance of Ithaca to the book’s creation.

“It doesn’t take place in Ithaca … but so much of the love I feel for Ithaca is in this book,” she said at the Hangar Theatre event.

Looking into the crowd, Shull said, “I see people I grew up with; I see people I went to high school with; I see people I just met … I hope you all feel a part of this book.”

“I feel incredibly lucky to have been born and raised in such a special place,” she added in the email on Thursday. “The beauty of Ithaca and the generous spirit of the sweet people who live here informs so much of my work.”

In other words, it’s the personalities of Ithaca — rather than just its author — that are in some form represented in the book.

Shull at the Hangar Theatre event this fall. (Photo Zac Peterson/Ithaca Voice)

So we asked Shull: Is there anyone you’d cast in any of the books roles, if you could?

“If I had a magic wand, I’d give a huge shout-out to Kyle Dake, Conor Stokes, and my nephew Kevin Cole who were each kind enough to entertain my endless research questions — their shine inspired a little bit of magic in THE SWAP,” Shull said.

“I’d also give a cameo to our Mayor, Svante Myrick, because he is awesome (and I was so honored that he read the book!). Okay wait. Cameos to all of Ithaca! Heck, yeah! Why not?”

(Shull was quick to add that she had no role in the casting of any production.)

What else is next for Shull?

We also asked Shull if she was worried that kids might see the movie rather than enjoying the book.

She said that she wasn’t troubled by the prospect.

“I write because I want kids to feel less alone. Any time that happens, no matter the medium, it’s wonderful,” she said.

She added that she does have new book — one she’s now “racing” to the finish of. It’s set to be published by HarperCollins in the fall of 2016.

“So I’m keeping at it over here,” she says.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.