All posts by Amy Brinker

Romantic Valentine’s Day Book and Wine Pairings from Winc

 Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic partner, a best bud, or with the greatest love of your life (you!), we’ve got you covered.  Winc wine delivery club has chosen some  great book and wine pairings to cuddle up with.  For example… valentines-independent-wine-club-book-pairing-publishing-group
heart The Sweethearts Emma: Jane Austen said, “It’s such a happiness when good people get together.” So, grab your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day and snuggle up with Austen’s classic, Emma, a sparkling comedy of love and marriage. Nothing delights Emma Woodhouse more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. And we bet nothing with delight you more than curling up with this witty, charming novel and an equally complex and delicious wine, like The Independent Zinfandel.
See all the wine and book pairings here!

Tips for Starting a Book Club with Winc

There’s no denying that books and wine make a great pair (looking at you #bookstagram 👀). And what better way to enjoy both than with friends? We’ve teamed up with Winc to remind you just how easy it is to kick off that book club you’ve been meaning to start: Step 1: Have a book club brainstorm. Think about what kind of books you’d like to read and how often you’d like your book club to meet. Step 2: Once you’ve hammered out the details, invite some friends! Give your friends an overview of what they can expect –monthly meetups, discussion questions, and plenty of snacks and wine, of course! Step 3: Select a book! Whatever book you select, make sure it’s long enough to encourage a good discussion, but short enough for people to finish on time. Step 4: Get busy reading! Reading a chapter or two] a night before bed is not only be a great way to wind down, but will also help you chip away at the book in time. Step 5: Gather! As the founder of a book club, you may enjoy hosting the first meeting. But, though you might have started the club, you don’t have to host every meetup. Change locations and take turns hosting amongst members. Step 6: Let the discussion flow. There are no rules once everyone gathers, but it can be helpful to have a discussion guide to spark conversation. Come up with your own focus questions as a group or use a reading group guide. And don’t forget the wine to fuel conversation! Check out Winc.com for a complete guide on how to start a book club and, of course, for plenty of wine delivery recommendations! 🍷
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Congratulations to George Saunders, Winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction!

George Saunders, famed short story writer, has won the Man Booker Prize for his first full-length novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. From The Man Booker Prize website: The 58-year-old New York resident, born in Texas, is the second American author to win the prize in its 49-year history. He was in contention for the prize with two British, one British-Pakistani and two American writers. Lola, Baroness Young, 2017 Chair of judges, comments: ‘The form and style of this utterly original novel, reveals a witty, intelligent, and deeply moving narrative. This tale of the haunting and haunted souls in the afterlife of Abraham Lincoln’s young son paradoxically creates a vivid and lively evocation of the characters that populate this other world. Lincoln in the Bardo is both rooted in, and plays with history, and explores the meaning and experience of empathy.’ Lincoln in the Bardo focuses on a single night in the life of Abraham Lincoln: an actual moment in 1862 when the body of his 11-year-old son was laid to rest in a Washington cemetery. Strangely and brilliantly, Saunders activates this graveyard with the spirits of its dead. The Independent described the novel as ‘completely beguiling’, praising Saunders for concocting a ‘narrative like no other: a magical, mystery tour of the bardo – the “intermediate” or transitional state between one’s death and one’s next birth, according to Tibetan Buddhism.’ Meanwhile, the Guardian wrote that, ‘the short story master’s first novel is a tale of great formal daring…[it] stands head and shoulders above most contemporary fiction, showing a writer who is expanding his universe outwards, and who clearly has many more pleasures to offer his readers.’ -Read the rest here. Browse below for Saunders’ rightfully beloved works:
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The Life of a Book: An interview with Celeste Ng, author of LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, and Jaya Miceli, cover designer

Ever wonder how a book makes it from the author’s mind to a reader’s shelf? We’ve we delved deep into two very different books before: But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This time, we’re so excited to host an interview series all about Little Fires Everywhere, the second book by Celeste Ng. Her first book, Everything I Never Told You, was a smash hit and ever since fans have been waiting with bated breath. This final post in the series features a podcast interview with Celeste Ng all about her book, and the designer responsible for the beautiful cover, Jaya Miceli.   Listen to Celeste talk about family, secrets, empathy, and activism:  A Q&A with the designer behind Little Fires Everywhere’s beautiful cover art: 

Did you interact with Ng when planning your design?

I worked closely with the art director, Darren Haggar. We bounced around ideas and tried to figure out a mood/setting that would best capture the closeness and secrets in this particular town. I came across Amy Bennett’s artwork and we both felt we’d hit upon something.

What were some ideas for this book that you didn’t end up using?

Some of the ideas were very abstract and some were too specific to the book. I painted some tudor homes. 

What is your favorite part of your job? What’s the hardest?

I love reading the manuscripts. The hardest part is creating a cover that fits the tone of the book and that is also visually striking.

How has your approach to designing covers changed over time? What did you most want this cover to convey?  

I was especially pulled into Ng’s book. I really loved the compellingly intricate and complex storyline and characters. The hard part is the process. I do a lot of art/photo research and sometimes create my own illustrations or hand-lettering, which can all take time. For this particular cover, finding Amy Bennett’s artwork was a perfect fit for Ng’s book. The evening hues, the aerial view of winding roads and the light in the homes, the idyllic sweet suburban street. You know that all can’t be right here. 

Thank you so much for following along with The Life of A Book! Be sure to grab a copy of Little Fires Everywhere, especially now you know all the behind-the-scenes work that has shaped it.  
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The Life of a Book: An interview with Assistant Director of Publicity at the Penguin Press, Juliana Kiyan

Ever wonder how a book makes it from the author’s mind to a reader’s shelf? We’ve we delved deep into two very different books before: But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This time, we’re so excited to host an interview series all about Little Fires Everywhere, the second book by Celeste Ng. Her first book, Everything I Never Told You, was a smash hit and ever since fans have been waiting with bated breath. In the coming weeks, we’ll interview different people who have been a major part of making the book: a marketer, the book designer, a sales representative, and finally, Celeste herself! This week’s interview is with Assistant Director of Publicity at the Penguin Press, Juliana Kiyan. What do you think is special or unique about LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE? Why will readers want to get their hands on it? I think I can only start with its author, the wonderful Celeste Ng. She’s an incredibly thoughtful and keen observer, expert craftsman, and indefatigable worker. These qualities all shine through in Little Fires Everywhere, but it’s just as important to note that she embodies them off the page as well. (I’d be shirking my duties if I didn’t say to check her out at @pronounced_ing!) She’s been a terrific partner to all of us at Penguin Press and PRH since the early days of Everything I Never Told You, and it’s a thrill to be a part of this next step in her long career. Celeste is a bona fide talent, and Little Fires Everywhere is a seriously unputdownable read. How did you market this book differently from Everything I Never Told You? Launching a second novel is a very different process from a debut. With a debut, the goal is to introduce a new literary voice to a wide audience and persuade people to take a chance on the book. We were fortunate to achieve this with Everything I Never Told You, as readers from all over were just as taken with Celeste’s gorgeous writing and the Lee family as we were. With a second novel, we certainly want to reach the fans of the first book and expand upon that, while also making it clear this isn’t Everything I Never Told You 2.0. The reasons why you fell in love with the first book are in the DNA in Little Fires Everywhere, but this is a wholly new story. In terms of publicity, the first item on my check list was easy, thankfully: people were eager to read the new book! Celeste’s profile has risen since her first book published, and many were looking forward to her next work.
Juliana Kiyan
How would you describe your job and how you worked on this book to a layman? What are some of the steps you take when you first start working on a title? Ultimately my job is to help get a book out into the wider world in ways that compel readers to check it out and hopefully buy it. As a publicist, I work on connecting with media and with booksellers. On the media front, we aim to secure reviews and interviews with outlets that people know and trust and that have a wide reach. We line up as much media as we can at publication in order to get the book in front of a wide range of potential readers, and we continually build on those opportunities from there. With booksellers, we plan events that bring the author out to different parts of the country to connect directly with fans and customers. Booksellers are among a book’s earliest readers, and it’s incredibly exciting to hear from a bookseller who fell in love with a book and is eager to support it by hosting an event, by handselling, by writing a staff recommendation. My colleagues and I pursue all these avenues and more to, essentially, get the word out. With a beloved author like Celeste, this was all a lot of fun. We began working on the publicity and marketing campaigns for Little Fires Everywhere relatively early, maybe about nine or ten months before publication in earnest. We had a rich foundation from our experiences with her first book, and we laid out our top goals and priorities. Early on in the year, Celeste visited the office, and that was the first of many productive discussions we’ve had as a team. It’s hard to believe we’re finally at publication. Describe the book in one sentence. Through the lens of the placid suburb of Shaker Heights and a deeply human cast of characters, Little Fires Everywhere is a finely observed examination of privilege and identity, words and action, secrets and belonging, and what it means to be a mother. How closely do you work with the editor, art department, etc. when working on a title? We all work very closely together. Both Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You were true team efforts from beginning to end. The publicity and marketing generally come in closer to the book’s pub date, but in the case of Little Fires Everywhere it was all hands on deck from the day of acquisition. We all loved the first book and couldn’t wait to dive in right away. Celeste’s editor, Ginny Smith Younce, and I have spoken and emailed more about this book than either of us could ever count—we always want to make sure we’re on the same page. Same with our marketing team: Matt Boyd, Caitlin O’Shaughnessy, and Grace Fisher. Marketing and publicity are very intertwined, and it’s important that we connect regularly since our efforts play off of and benefit each other.  Marketing is also doing the crucial job of working with sales to make sure booksellers and accounts have everything they need as we approach publication. We’re all on Team Celeste and proud by association. Anything else you think would be interesting for readers to know? If it ever comes up in casual conversation, perhaps ask Celeste about her former career as a miniaturist. She is a fountain of information when it comes to teeny tiny physical recreations of objects from everyday life. Tune in next week for the next interview in this series, and learn more about the book below:  
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The Life of a Book: An interview with Sales Manager Megan Sullivan about LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

Ever wonder how a book makes it from the author’s mind to a reader’s shelf? We’ve we delved deep into two very different books before: But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This time, we’re so excited to host an interview series all about Little Fires Everywhere, the second book by Celeste Ng. Her first book, Everything I Never Told You, was a smash hit and ever since fans have been waiting with bated breath. In the coming weeks, we’ll interview different people who have been a major part of making the book: a marketer, the book designer, a sales representative, and finally, Celeste herself! This week’s interview is with sales manager Megan Sullivan.

When you describe Little Fires Everywhere to book buyers, what is your hook? What is memorable or unique about the book? Why would they want it in their store?

First a little back story. I had been a buyer and bookseller at Harvard Book Store for many years and when I was hired to be his co-rep in New England, Karl Krueger invited me to an author dinner with Celeste and a bunch of booksellers even before I was a rep. I was excited to meet her as she lives just minutes away from me. Her book Everything I Never Told You was the first book I read as a PRH rep and is special to me for all this, so when I heard she had a new book coming, I hounded the editor (okay, asked politely a lot). I read Little Fires Everywhere as soon as the manuscript was posted, about 4 months before sales conference and I was immediately hooked. A sophomore novel can often slump a bit relative to an author’s first book. Not so this one—it dazzles. Rich characters and sense of place, Celeste is able to make you see the story from a variety of perspectives. I told my stores that this will be one of the biggest books in the fall and they should pile it up.

Megan's Workspace
Megan’s Workspace

What do you like about this new book? Do you have a favorite moment or line? Were you surprised by anything?

I think the character development is richer in Little Fires Everywhere. And there are so many moments to pause and think that I don’t have a favorite. Elena Richardson, the mother of the Richardson clan, surprised me. She could have been written as a cookie-cutter wealthy woman, unaware of her privilege, but I felt Celeste wrote her with some compassion.

What’s your favorite thing about your job? What would surprise a layman to know?

I love getting to read books so early! It’s so much fun to talk with booksellers when you know one of their favorite authors has a book coming. I often feel like I’m a bookseller still just in a slightly different role.

Do you have a favorite bookstore in the Boston/Cambridge area?

I love all the stores around here, but I spent 14 years at Harvard Book Store and it’s part of my DNA now.

Tune in next week for the next interview in this series, and learn more about the book below:
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The Life of a Book: An interview with the editor of LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, Virginia Smith, Senior Editor at the Penguin Press

Ever wonder how a book makes it from the author’s mind to a reader’s shelf? We’ve we delved deep into two very different books before: But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This time, we’re so excited to announce an interview series all about Little Fires Everywhere, the second book by Celeste Ng. Her first book, Everything I Never Told You, was a smash hit and ever since fans have been waiting with bated breath. In the coming weeks, we’ll interview different people who have been a major part of making the book: a marketer, the book designer, a sales representative, and finally, Celeste herself! Let’s kick things off with a Q&A with the book’s editor, Virginia Smith. Read on below! What do you look for when you acquire a new book? How does that apply to Celeste Ng? It depends on the kind of book, of course, but I love to encounter a fully-realized world. And Celeste does that as well as anyone writing today. From the first line of Little Fires Everywhere, you are dropped into a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, where everything is meticulously planned. And where something is deeply wrong. The gun is loaded, so to speak, and you’re dreading the moment it fires. I was traveling when Celeste’s agent Julie Barer sent me the manuscript for the novel, and I read it in one furious sitting, stuck on the tarmac at La Guardia in a cramped, delayed plane. I cried, I gasped, I laughed, I cheered, I hummed along to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. By the time we finally landed, everyone else on the flight was asleep, but I was nearly bouncing in my seat, excited to get out and tell my colleagues how wonderful Celeste’s second book was. How is your work different with a debut vs. a second book? One obvious difference is that you don’t have to “introduce” a non-debut writer. And that was certainly the case with Celeste, who immediately established herself as one our most captivating writers with her stunning first book, Everything I Never Told You. The love that book received was so heartening to see, especially in a difficult time for debut fiction. But it was a reception truly earned. And now Celeste has created something even more exceptional: a triumphant second novel. These are a rare species, but Celeste is a rare talent. The job of the entire team at Penguin Press is to spread that good word to our bookselling partners, to media, and most importantly, to readers.
Author Celeste Ng
Author Celeste Ng
What do you think was your biggest impact on Little Fires Everywhere? In my mind, I am her ideal reader. By happenstance, I am exactly the same age as both Celeste and one of the main characters in Little Fires Everywhere. And while every person’s experience is unique, I felt like my personal history gave me insight into the world Celeste has created. The novel is set in and around a high school in the late 1990s. Celeste artfully evokes the quality of teenage life in that period, and I could read those aspects of the novel out of my own experience. I knew Celeste had nailed the landscape. Now, twenty years later, I find myself the mother of two young daughters, so the novel’s beautiful exploration of the possibilities and pulls of motherhood also resonates with me on a deep level. What do you think would surprise a layman to know about your job? What is your favorite part? People who aren’t in publishing are generally surprised that editors are involved in all aspects of a book’s publication. And I enjoy that. It’s an honor to advocate for creative work I love. I trained and worked as an actor before coming into publishing, and I appreciate how important that support is for an artist. It’s also a great privilege to work in a community of people who are all so excited about writing. And I enjoy all aspects of bookmaking, from the puzzle of editing to the aesthetics of the physical book. I’ve been lucky throughout my career to work with wonderful mentors who have taught me the importance of all of those aspects of publishing. I find the sales process invigorating. Our launch at Penguin Press is fun. Ann Godoff is just the platonic ideal of a publisher, and I decided to be an editor after hearing Scott Moyers pitch Tom Ricks’ FIASCO at the Columbia Publishing Course in 2006. Working with the two of them makes me better.
Virginia Smith
Editor Virginia Smith
How are you involved with the other aspects? Art, marketing, publicity? I’m very fortunate to have talented colleagues who bring experience and expertise to bear on books I love. I enjoy seeing the vision of the art department worked out in the cover design, strategizing about a publicity campaign, and getting into the weeds on the marketing plan. It is particularly great in this case because our whole team worked with Celeste on her first book. We all had such a lovely experience partnering with Celeste for Everything I Never Told You, as she is just a delight and a star in every sense. Why will readers want to read this book? Because it’s just fantastic? One of the things I love most about Celeste’s work is her profound empathy. Every character in her Shaker Heights is fully realized—and the novel is still completely propulsive. We are plunged into a chilling mystery from the opening line; a seemingly perfect family is undone by secrets; the underlying racism of a community is uncovered; and mother-daughter relationships are powder kegs ready to detonate. Celeste’s meditations on the complexities of motherhood are worth the read alone, but the novel’s examinations of identity, belonging, and the nature of art are equally powerful and rewarding. She writes about issues that polarize us today with such heart for all involved. She tells a good story, which of course is job one, but she is also searching for what motivates each of us—and what sparks a fire. Tune in next week for the next interview in this series, and learn more about the book below:
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Congratulations to our 4 Lambda Literary Award Winners!

Here are our 2017 Lammy Award winners in the following categories: LGBT Nonfiction HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS by David France, (Alfred A. Knopf) Lambda Winners   LGBT Science Fiction / Fantasy/ Horror THE DEVOURERS by Indra Das (Del Rey) Gay Mystery SPEAKERS OF THE DEAD: A Walt Whitman Mystery by J. Aaron Sanders (Plume) Visionary Award j woodson Jacqueline Woodson, author of such acclaimed books as the National Book Award-winning BROWN GIRL DREAMING (Nancy Paulsen Books/Puffin), received the Visionary Award for “breaking new ground in the field of LGBT literature.”  Tony Award-winning actress Cynthia Nixon introduced Woodson as a “writer who is part of the institution but stands outside it and critiques.” Congratulations to our award-winning authors, editors and publishers. View the complete list of 2017 Lambda Literary Awards winners here. Learn more about our Lammy award-winners here: