Heading to the beach in the dog-days of summer? Taking some time off to unwind and catch up on your reading? Penguin Random House employees never go on vacation without a good book – see below to learn what professional book-people read on their off-time.
Kristen Fritz, Senior Director, Content Marketing, Digital Marketplace
Her vacation read: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
“As I was situated along the shore of the soothing, somewhat eerie, very magical Lake Atitlan in Guatemala for a week last spring, Richard Flanagan’s 2014 Man Booker-winning novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, proved to be the kind of book in which I got deeply lost while silently willing the world to stay away and let me read.”
Lindsay Jacobsen, Senior Coordinator, Consumer Engagement
Her vacation read: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
“Sometimes you begin a book on vacation and find that the story doesn’t match your destination. The book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling was the perfect companion on my trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Her sparkly-eyed dreams of fame and materialism seamlessly complement a self-serving Caribbean beach getaway. While hanging out with Mindy, I laughed and I cried. I read out loud to no one. I used the book as protection from the sun. I was so enthralled, I even neglected my piña colada.”
Nancy Sheppard, Vice President, Director, Advertising and Promotions, Penguin Publishing Group
Her vacation read: The Magicians, by Lev Grossman
“Here I am with the great staff at City Lit Books while on vacation in my old neighborhood, Logan Square in Chicago. I was there handselling my favorite vacation read, The Magicians by Lev Grossman, in paperback!”
Check out all our bestsellers to find more vacation-reading inspiration!
We know readers tend to be writers too, so twice a month, we’ll feature writing tips from our authors. Who better to offer advice, insight, and inspiration than the authors you admire? They’ll answer several questions about their work, share their go-to techniques and more. Now, get writing!
How would you recommend creating and getting to know your characters?
As an editor, I always asked writers (of novels and even of picture books): “Who is this character in your head? Is he/she based on someone you know? Can you see that person doing what you have your character do?” As an author, I ask myself the same thing. Of course, all of one’s characters have a little bit of oneself in them, but I do find that having a specific image—of a friend, an acquaintance, a child, a person glimpsed on the subway—really helps me focus and be specific.
Specificity is the skeleton key that unlocks the doors of good writing. When a character speaks, the language must be specific to her; she must not be able to speak any other way. When a character makes a choice of beer or shaving cream, he must own those choices; they must come from everything else I know about the character. I think hard about what a character would reach for in the fridge, and why. None of that reasoning, of course, should show on the page (unless it’s a plot point). But as a writer you need to know if it’s boxers or briefs, sports bra or push-up, for every character. You have to know where the hidden tattoos are, and the scars.
After developing an idea, what is the first action you take when beginning to write?
I write copy! That’s the first thing I do. I write what you would find on a jacket flap, or the back cover of a paperback. When I was an editor, and especially an assistant, writing copy was always the most enjoyable part of the job. The better written the book, the easier it is to write copy, even when the book has a challenging structure or tackles difficult ideas. I write copy to see where the story is going. Usually I can eke out a whole first “act” for a book by pretending I’m writing the flap for the finished draft. If a first act emerges and I’m interested in seeing where the story goes, I’ll give it a try as a book.
Is there something you do to get into a writing mood? Somewhere you go or something you do to get thinking?
While writing Enchanted August, I almost always wore headphones and played birdsong or “nature sounds.” Those soundtracks let me believe that I was in Maine. I would go to YouTube and find videos with hours of recorded sounds of the outdoors. You have to be careful not to play the same one too many times or you get to know what nuthatch is going to start calling out after which rumble of thunder, but other than that, it’s a great way (for me) to escape city sounds or household sounds or sounds at the café where I usually write.
And a shout-out to that café: It’s The Hungarian Pastry Shop on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I started going there when I first came to New York in 1981 and basically never stopped. The Pastry Shop is located just a few blocks from Columbia University, so it’s filled with people studying or reading or writing. It’s almost like a library. There’s no internet service and there are no electrical outlets, so you can only write as long as your computer charge lasts and you can’t get distracted by going online. If you go to the Pastry Shop for a visit, don’t be disappointed that the coffee isn’t great, but do order an ishler. Two hazelnut cookies filled with chocolate mousse and covered in dark chocolate. A sumptuous reward for a good afternoon’s writing.
Did you always want to write? How did you start your career as an author?
I never thought I wanted to write but I have been writing since I was very young. I used to write Regency romances when I was about eleven or twelve, about characters named Charles and Caroline who bore a marked resemblance to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. (I read Pride and Prejudice in one sitting when I was eleven years old. My mother thought I had been out at the neighbor’s all day, when actually I was upstairs reading through lunch and dinner. I came down to the kitchen in a daze and have essentially never recovered.)
I began working as an editorial assistant at a publishing company right after college. I wanted nothing more than to be an editor, and I was, for many years. After a while, editors, especially of children’s books, tend to take on the writing mantle. I helped artists write their picture books. I turned out quickie celebrity bios. I wrote a couple of Pokemon chapter books. (“I choose you!”)
Then in 2004 or so, I wrote two early readers under a pen name, Margaret McNamara. Too Many Valentines and 100 Days (Plus One) were set at Robin Hill School, and over ten years the stories stretched into a thirty-book series. Then, I began to write more picture books about things like pumpkins, apples, George Washington, poetry, and a heavenly library. (If you’re interested, you can find out more on my website.) Just a few years ago, I so wanted an author of mine to write a book from Tinker Bell’s point of view that I stole my own idea and wrote a six-book series called the Fairy Bell Sisters, about Tinker Bell’s little sisters, who live on an island in what many would recognize to be Maine. Their success (and I mean the fact that I finished them all, on time, and they were beautifully published) led me to be emboldened enough to write Enchanted August.
Describe your writing style in five words or less.
If you mean how I write in terms of process: Must. Not. Edit. While. Writing.
Read more about Enchanted August here.
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.
“Mark wants to write his next book about Atlantis.”
Even though it’s been almost four years now, I remember that moment with remarkable clarity. In the summer of 2011, we had just published Mark Adams’ second book, Turn Right at Machu Picchu. It became both a critical success and a New York Times bestseller, and the book to buy if you planned on visiting Machu Picchu, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. So when it came time for Mark to submit his next book idea, I was pretty much ready to be excited about anything. Mark could write about java script updates and somehow turn it into a smart, funny, and engaging story. But even I was slightly taken aback when the proposal landed in my inbox.
Before reading Meet Me in Atlantis, my cultural reference points for the legendary lost city could be summed up as follows: an island that had sunk beneath the ocean, alien conspiracy theories, and a vague awareness of a tropical resort bearing the same name. It turns out that the actual history and source of the Atlantis story is far more fascinating and surprising.
For starters, everything we know about Atlantis comes from two dialogues written by the Greek philosopher Plato, dialogues packed with details about the sunken island. The information is abundant, but just vague enough that the specific location of Atlantis is never quite made clear. Today, most academics dismiss the tale as pure fiction, but Mark quickly learned that there is an entire global sub-culture of enthusiastic amateur explorers actively searching for the lost city based on the clues Plato left behind. For them, Atlantis was a real place, rooted in history, and waiting to be found.
What begins as one man’s skeptical inquiry into why people believe they can find the world’s most famous lost civilization becomes a full-blown quest that spans the globe to solve one of history’s greatest mysteries. In the process of investigating the top five possible sites where Atlantis might have once existed, Mark introduces readers to irresistible characters and locales. He unpacks an incredible wealth of history, philosophy, math, and myth into an absorbing narrative that sings along and captures the curiosity of even the staunchest of skeptics (I considered myself to be one of them), making you hope that Atlantis once existed beyond the imagination of Plato, that some of history is actually coded in the popular ancient myth, and that Mark Adams—driven by an insatiable and infectious curiosity—will lead you to rediscover a lost world.
Meet Me in Atlantis is Adams’s enthralling account of Mark Adams quest to solve one of history’s greatest mysteries; a travelogue that takes readers to fascinating locations to meet irresistible characters; and a deep, often humorous look at the human longing to rediscover a lost world.
Read more about Meet Me in Atlantis here.
Ever wonder about the people who work on an imprint or book… or in another department altogether? What exactly do they do? Behind the Scenes posts shed light on Penguin Random House’s inner workings. You’ll meet departments and staff members and learn how they contribute to the books you love.
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Fodor’s is the oldest guide book company in America. Our award-winning guidebooks, website, eBooks, and mobile apps provide today’s traveler with up-to-the-minute information to over 7,500 worldwide destinations. Our vast team of global correspondents offers highly curated, expert advice on how to travel smarter, from the best arts and culture offerings, to tips and strategies for an authentic and immersive experience, and the right hotels and restaurants for every taste and budget. At Fodor’s Travel, our editors travel relentlessly to share the world’s best experiences with you. In 2014, they visited 110 countries and all 50 U.S. states. And our worldwide team of over 700 travel writers bring you the latest, most accurate coverage, and like trusted companions, reveal local treasures and everything you need to know before you arrive. Fodor’s offers the assurance of our expertise, the guarantee of selectivity, and the choice details that truly define a destination. It’s like having a friend wherever you travel.
We’re particularly proud of the Fodor’s Go List, which features the 25 can’t-miss spots that we think should be on every traveler’s radar for the year. Be sure to check out our trip ideas and blog content, too!
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What it’s like to work at Fodor’s
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Fodor’s Year in Review (click image to see full size)
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