All posts by Natasha Minoso

Honoring the life of Amy Krouse Rosenthal

58846FROM RANDOM HOUSE CHILDREN’S BOOKS, PENGUIN YOUNG READERS, DUTTON, AND THE CROWN PUBLISHING GROUP

We are deeply saddened by the news of our author Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s death. We have had the honor of working with Amy for many years, and have great admiration for her both professionally and personally. Together, we will be privileged to bring the joy of her books to adult and children’s readers for generations to come.

Amy Rennert, Amy’s longtime literary agent and friend, shared this: “Everything Amy did was life and love affirming. She was such a bright light with a great sense of wonder. Amy loved her family. She loved words, ideas, connections. She taught us that life’s seemingly small moments are not really small at all. Amy’s final essay, written under the most difficult of circumstances, a love letter to her husband Jason, was the ultimate gift to him and also to the rest of us. She leaves behind a legacy of love and beauty and kindness.” Random House Children’s Books, Penguin Young Readers, Dutton, and The Crown Publishing Group (3/13/17)

 

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Executive Editor Mark Tavani on The Executive Coloring Book

Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best. When a surprising trend takes hold, it’s easy to think of it as something unprecedented. But sometimes it seems that way due to our own limited perspective. Much of fashion in any field is the re-introduction of things that were popular once upon a time—and such is the case with the adult coloring book trend, which has so affected the publishing business in recent years. Not long ago, a fellow editor shared with me an article in the New Republic about adult coloring books. Putting the fascination with meditative examples of the category in context, the article described a moment in the 1960s when grown-ups were crazed for coloring books, many of which were powered by provocative—even subversive—humor. I hadn’t been around to witness the first big boom of adult coloring, so I was intrigued by the article. Then it identified the genre’s genesis: an incendiary little thing called The Executive Coloring Book. SnipImage[1] The Executive Coloring Book by Marcie Hans, Dennis Altman, and Martin A. Cohen was published in 1961. It begins this way: “THIS IS ME. I am an executive. Executives are important. They go to important offices and do important things.” The work of three young advertising copywriters, it became a surprise bestseller and debuted on the New York Times list just a few slots down from Franny and Zooey and To Kill a Mockingbird. On every page, the authors struck innocent-looking line drawings against deadpan captions. The spark that results is a fierce humor that skewers an era but also comments on the more general phenomenon of corporate culture that is alive and well today, 55 years later. The genius of the thing is that that humor feels perfectly current. So many of today’s biggest companies could stand in as targets for these darts, and so many executives (from the commander-in-chief on down) could benefit from such needling. So we saw it as our joyful duty to bring The Executive Coloring Book back. After all, while this book might not be a vehicle for meditation, in worrisome times what better therapy is there than humor? The Executive Coloring Book is on sale March 28, 2017. Stay tuned for more on how to participate in the re-release of this classic coloring book!
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Our 2016 National Book Award Finalists

This week, the National Book Foundation announced its Shortlists for the 2016 National Book Award: five titles in each of four categories.  Our Finalists: FICTION:   The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead NONFICTION: 9780375423222 Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE: 9780553496680 The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon The winners will be announced at the annual National Book Awards dinner on Wednesday, November 16 during which the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters will be bestowed upon Robert A. Caro, the singular, #1 bestselling, Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award-winning author of The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson biographies.  The award is given annually to an author who has enriched our literary heritage over a lifetime of achievement. Our congratulations to Mr. Caro, his Knopf and Vintage publishing teams, and to Nicola Yoon, Heather Ann Thompson, Karan Mahajan, Colson Whitehead, and to their editors and publishers.

A Note From the Editor: DANCING WITH THE TIGER

Dear READERS:

What you have here is a debut novel that is the work of the first new writer I have taken on in a decade. To say I am excited about the novel and the writer is an understatement. Lili Wright is a mature woman who has travelled, lived, and thought a great deal about the worlds she has moved through. It shows in the power of her themes, in her sensitive understanding of her seriously flawed characters, and in her extraordinary grasp of the contradictions embedded in the Mexican culture.  She is that rare American who has thrown off her carapace of privilege to understand Mexico, whose deeply fatalistic people must manage to survive amid the ferocious drug wars and top-down corruption that are corroding the heart and soul of this bedeviled country. “Poor Mexico, so near Los Estados Unidos, so far from God.” Lili Wright has crafted a literary thriller: A novel of propulsive power, it is told in short chapters and many voices. At the center of the plot is the attempt to recover an artifact purported to be the death mask of Montezuma. It has been found by a looter, a meth-addicted American in the employ of a ruthless narco drug lord who wants that mask for his own collection.  But so do many others, including an expat American collector, a former Oaxacan museum director who now makes money providing (false) provenances for looted artifacts, the addled grave-robber himself,  and Anna Ramsay, a young American who knows that getting hold of the mask will save her father’s reputation as an expert, a reputation that has just been savaged in a report claiming  many of the masks in his collection are forgeries. The setting is ripe for multiple double-crosses. Even the secondary characters have secret agendas and how these play out is complex and unpredictable.
But what gives this novel its psychological power is its multifaceted exploration of how we hide ourselves in plain sight. The front we present to the world is just another mask.
As Reyes, the drug lord, says, “Everyone loves masks. Because everyone has something to hide.”  Indeed, he himself is such a master of disguise that no one can describe him. He is a shape shifter of outlandish proportions and would be a character in an opera buffa were he not a coldblooded killer. Just as chilling is the expat collector, Thomas Malone. “A man in a mask,” he says, “is above the law. He makes his own rules, his own moral code.” Wright is masterful in the way she slowly builds his psychopathology. Anna herself says, “I’ve worn a mask most of my life. For years I thought wearing a mask was a way to start over, become someone new. Now I know better.”  Anna is a very wounded woman, but there is not an ounce of self-pity in her and it is Lili Wright’s extraordinary craft that makes us sympathetic to her even as we wait to find out the source of her emotional scarring. She is a heroine for the moment—think “Orange is the New Black,” think the female version of “Breaking Bad.” Dancing with the Tiger is filled with a large and richly conceived cast, a mix of expats and Mexicans from all social strata. None of them are mere walk-ons, all are brought movingly to life in Wright’s talented hands. It is a highly sensual novel and also an erotic novel in the worst way, and it is sprinkled with very quotable one-liners and acid observations: black humor at its finest. (Anna thinks: “chastity, like abstinence, was a virtue best begun tomorrow.”) This is grown-up fiction: Always gripping, often frightening, yet oddly touching. You care about these people. The debut writer I took on ten years ago was Olga Grushin, author of The Dream Life of Sukhanov, which earned her a place on Granta’s  Best Young American Novelists (2) in 2007, won her the NYPL Young Lion’s prize that same year, brought her a nomination for the LATimes First Novel award and made her one of three finalists for England’s Orange Prize. The thrill I felt on first reading that novel was just what happened when I read Dancing with the Tiger. I’m really excited about Lili and ready to run with the novel. Marian Wood

Who’s Afraid of Mercury Retrograde? Or Why Astrology’s Most-Feared Cycle May be Just What You Need

This July Fourth my family traveled to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina for a vacation. Getting there was no easy trip. We traveled during the astrological period called Mercury Retrograde: a thrice-yearly phase when the planet Mercury appears to move backwards – and travel, communication, and commerce (all things associated with the ancient god Mercury) are thought to go awry. And so they did. But there were deeper lessons in store. We began our travels just a few days after the current cycle began on June 26 (it ends July 20). As astrological tradition holds, it is an especially ill-fated time for travel. True to lore, my wife and our sons, ages 6 and 9, discovered that our outbound flight from New York was severely delayed, causing us to miss our connection in D.C. and leaving us stranded overnight. For added measure, our luggage got lost in transfer limbo. “Now do you believe in Mercury Retrograde?” I asked my wife. She fixed me with a don’t-even-ask look. This kind of travel snafu is considered typical during Mercury Retrograde. But an interesting wrinkle occurred – the type of thing that gets overlooked when people speak with trepidation of Mercury Retrograde. When we returned to New York, upon deplaning we re-encountered the same (very humorous) gate attendant who had seen us off at the start of our trip. He not only remembered us but resumed a joke with our youngest son, Tobias, which he had made at the start of our trip days earlier. This minor light on our journey points toward an under-appreciated facet of Mercury Retrograde: We get the chance to repeat things. People can surprisingly re-merge from our past. Old projects can get revived. Relationships and endeavors we were certain we had left behind, or lost items (and not just lost luggage), can reappear. Mercury Retrograde cycles last about three to four weeks and occur when the planet Mercury traverses furthest from the sun in its highly elliptical orbit. At its point of curvature Mercury visually appears to be moving backwards when viewed from Earth. Optically this is somewhat like when you’re on a train and another train on a parallel track slows, but does not stop, and from your seat appears to be reversing. Everything has its hour and Mercury Retrograde is not just a cycle of missed flights and botched transit: it can also become a time of revisiting, revising, and reconsidering. During this year’s first Mercury Retrograde cycle early in 2013 I heard from a network television executive who had been discussing a show with me the previous year, but talks had dropped off. Now she wanted to talk anew. Signing contracts and selling homes is considered a big no-no during Mercury Retrograde. But even in this area interesting developments can occur. About six years ago, my wife and I reluctantly committed to selling a lake house we own in upstate New York. We were uncertain it was the right move. But we went ahead and signed a deal with a local real-estate agent. I knew that signing deals was considered verboten during Mercury Retrograde, but the agent was understandably eager – and I didn’t feel that I could tell him: “Well, you see Mike, in about four weeks the god Mercury will be more inclined to shine favorably upon our undertaking, so…” One weekend we went to prepare the house for sale and unexpectedly found that our three-year-old son was enchanted with the place. Seeing his newfound excitement, we reversed our decision and decided to keep the house – later to our great relief. This was a decision that had needed reconsidering. Enter Mercury Retrograde. Western astrology has ancient roots extending to the Babylonian and Hellenic civilizations. Yet in its contemporary practice, astrology (as with many aspects of modern life) takes on forms that are actually more recent than we realize. The earliest references to Mercury Retrograde as an astrological phenomenon began in the mid-1700s in British agricultural almanacs read by farmers who believed that the motions of the stars affected planting seasons. “Mercury is turn’d retrograde in Sagittarius, which brings him back to meet the Sun in Conjunction,” went a reading for December 9, 1754 in Vox Stellarum: Or, a Loyal Alamack. In the twentieth century, Franklin Roosevelt’s agricultural secretary and second vice president, Henry A. Wallace, himself a farmer and almanac publisher, felt that the study of zodiacal cycles could aid scientific agriculture. Even today zodiacal charts remain a regular feature of planting almanacs. Mercury Retrograde has currency among many people who don’t follow astrology. Although you won’t find Mercury’s cycles tacked up on the bulletin boards of air-traffic control centers or search-engine offices, lots of people in those fields and others talk or (often uneasily) joke about it. Anecdotally, Mercury Retrograde is considered prime time for internet crashes and travel mishaps, or even disasters. But we cannot sit things out during Mercury Retrograde. Contemporary life is fast moving, and certain things, including signing contracts and taking trips, cannot be placed on hold during Mercury’s thrice-yearly visual reversal. My advice is: Don’t even attempt to hunker down during its cycle. Depending on your outlook, you might have to brace for a few reversals and snafus. But there is another dimension to the matter. You might also find that Mercury Retrograde – contrary to the apprehension it stirs online and in coffee-break rooms – is a period of revisiting or happily reversing situations that you had once imagined set in stone. Mercury Retrograde may place a speed bump into your plans, but it can also loosen things up and unwind knots. So sit back for the ride. It will be an unexpected one.

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  Mitch Grand Central Web ResMitch Horowitz is vice-president and editor-in-chief at Tarcher/Penguin. He is the author of Occult America (Bantam), which received the 2010 PEN Oakland/ Josephine Miles Award for literary excellence. His new book, One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life, is forthcoming from Crown in January 2014. Horowitz frequently writes about and discusses alternative spirituality in the national media, including CBS Sunday Morning, Dateline NBC, All Things Considered, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and CNN.com. He is online at: www.MitchHorowitz.com.

Behind the Reads: Editing The Wander Society

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A note from Meg Leder, editor of THE WANDER SOCIETY by Keri Smith

In 2006, I had one of the most fortuitous lunches of my editing career with Faith Hamlin, an agent at Sanford Greenburger. We sat at the now-closed Steak Frites in Union Square and near the end of the lunch, she handed me a project in a manila envelope, telling me I should take a look at it when I was back at my desk. That project was a one-of-a-kind Moleskine mockup of Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal, a magnificently and quietly subversive little book that we bought three days later, and that went on to sell several million copies worldwide, leading to eight subsequent books and legions of devoted Keri Smith fans. In the ten years since, I’ve shared with Keri ideas and prompts for dream projects. However, in true subversive fashion, Keri always politely acknowledges them, then sends back completely different ideas that are more genuine and amazing than anything I could come up with on my own. So it should have come as no surprise to me that when I asked Keri to consider writing a creativity manifesto—a way to share the integrity that drives her work—she came back to me with a manifesto actually written by someone else: a secret group called The Wander Society. But it did surprise me, and in the most delightful ways imaginable. Because after signing up the book, I started receiving mysterious letters in the mail—strange musings typed on a real typewriter, an envelope of maple tree seeds, a small, badge with hand-embroidered with a lightning bolt.
The Wander Society was reaching out to me, inviting me to join—the lines between reader and editor and author and member starting to blur.
And so this summer I found myself on the shore of Lake Michigan, tying a small Wander Station filled with the society’s pamphlets around a tree. This fall, on my sabbatical in Paris and London, I left behind stickers of Walt Whitman, the patron saint of the Wander Society. A few weeks ago, I spent the afternoon wandering through the Lower East Side, ambling down streets I’d never explored before. I don’t know who exactly The Wander Society is, but I know that Keri’s a member now, and I am too. I know that the regular practice of wandering has opened me up to the possibility of surprise, newness, and the joy that come from discovering new places.
Turns out, I really like the freedom of not knowing exactly where we’re going next—whether it’s a literal journey or a publishing one.

Twitter: @WanderSpotters @PenguinPbks Instagram: @PenguinBooks @WanderSpotters #TheWanderSociety  

Why Would a Woman Join the Military? by Tanya Biank

undauntedI’ve done dozens of interviews since Undaunted launched in early February and am occasionally asked: Why in the world would a woman want to go into combat? The question always surprises me since the answer seems obvious, but perhaps that’s because I’ve been around military people all my life. The military is a traditional place. Throw into the mix nonconventional women and things get interesting.  These women believe they can fight, lead and defend, despite conventional wisdom. I answer the question by pointing out women serve for the same reasons as men, which ranges from patriotic duty, family tradition, money for college, or simply because it’s a steady paycheck in a poor economy. The performance of this generation of servicewomen is not only revolutionizing the military, but as evidenced by my talk radio discussions, is testing social views of traditional gender roles and norms. It helps to keep society’s broader context in mind. A century and a half ago married women couldn’t own property in America. They achieved the right to vote only 93 years ago. The first female didn’t become CEO of a Fortune 500 company until 1972, and two years before that women finally obtained the right to have credit cards in their own name. Meanwhile, in the military, women couldn’t exceed 2 percent of the armed forces and couldn’t be promoted beyond the ranks of lieutenant colonel or commander until Congress changed the law in 1967. By 1973 the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a law that denied servicewomen’s dependents (her children and spouse) basic benefits such as housing and medical care—all the things authorized to military men’s families. And by 1975 pregnant women were no longer kicked out of the service. We’ve come a long way as a military and a society. Yet, being asked on live radio why any woman would want to join the combat arms branches is a reminder that societal gender norms aren’t always in line with official policy changes. It’s not unusual for the pushback to come from other women. Since the book came out, one of the main subjects in Undaunted, Major Candice O’Brien, has been accused by some for putting her career before her family. A few days ago while visiting Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, I met a female officer who shared a similar story. A neighbor felt it was her business to tell the major: “You’re failing your kids.” How did she respond? With more tact than I could have mustered. She told the woman she saw herself as a role model for her children, a person they could look up to and admire, knowing that they, too, through hard work, could aspire to achieve and be whatever they set their minds to accomplish. Such scrutiny is a reminder of just how courageous these women have to be off the battlefield. The challenges, choices, and successes encountered by women throughout their military careers, from issues of discrimination to juggling family and a job, have far-reaching implications for all women in contemporary American society. Women in the military are on the cutting edge of gender debates. Their struggles and triumphs and the price they pay may point the way to the future.

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