When first-time author Jennifer Belle dropped off a wrinkled, oversize envelope containing her manuscript at a Manhattan literary agency in January 1995, odds were it would end up with a rejection slip or in the trash like most other unsolicited material. Instead, Belle's novel Going Down was published in July to good reviews and is already in its sixth printing. Last month, Madonna bought from Belle the rights to produce a film based on the darkly comic tale of Bennington Bloom, a 19-year-old college student estranged from her parents and supporting herself as a call girl.

First person: "It's really thrilling when somebody you don't know says they like your book. It's also thrilling when Madonna tells you she likes your book."

Second opinion: "What the hell. Not everything has to be Paradise Lost in order to succeed on its own terms," says Belle's agent Tina Bennett.

Résumé: Off-Broadway actress, cocktail waitress, telephone sex operator ("It's not very exciting, but I worked from my home") and residential real estate agent serving some oddball clients. ("One woman asked me to donate an egg so that she could have a baby. She said, 'I'm a writer and you're a writer.' ") An unpaid editor of the literary journal Mudfish for five years.

Vitals: Twenty-eight years old. Born in New York City. Single; lives alone in a Greenwich Village railroad flat furnished with a giant plastic hot dog and a TV on the stove.

Report cards: Dropped out of Bronx High School of Science at 17 ("I was horribly truant. They called me Cutter Belle"). Earned a GED, enrolled at New York University, transferred to City College of New York and dropped out in 1989 to take up acting. First role: a troll in Sleeping Beauty.

On Madonna: "One minute she's a pregnant woman, the next minute just an incredibly powerful businessperson—then she changes into a soft, beautiful star."

Up next: A second novel titled High Maintenance waits while Belle writes the screenplay (due in December) for Going Down. Just in case, "I did send $50 to the [New York] Department of State to renew my [real estate] license."