penguin press

How Celeste Ng Writes Novels That Reach Our Inner Selves

Penguin Press author Celeste Ng made an indelible impression on readers when her debut novel, EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, was published in 2014. It won the APLA Alex Award for Fiction and was a New York Times Book Review “Editors Choice.”  A Times reviewer noted:  “If we know this story, we haven’t seen it yet in American fiction, not until now …”  This week marks the arrival of Celeste’s second book, LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, which explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following rules can avert disaster. 

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Fellow Penguin Random House author Jodi Picoult: “I read LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE in a single, breathless sitting. With brilliance and beauty, Celeste Ng dissects a microcosm of American society just when we need to see it beneath the microscope: how do questions of race stack up against the comfort of privilege, and what role does that play in parenting?  Is motherhood a bond forged by blood, or by love?  And perhaps most importantly:  do the faults of our past determine what we deserve in the future?  Be ready to be wowed by Ng’s writing — and unsettled by the mirror held up to one’s own beliefs.” In this “Meet Our Author” interview, Celeste offers a window into her daily routines, the inspirations behind her stories, and how Penguin Press has impacted her writing career. How would you describe your writing regimen and routines? Right now, my writing time is scheduled around my son: when he’s at school, I’m writing. That means I’m basically at my desk (or reading or doing related work) from 9:00 until 3:00. I usually start off the day by reading over what I wrote the day before; usually I can see how to take it further, or I’m horrified and frantically get to work rewriting. As needed, I take breaks to visit the library, do research, or read other people’s books—there are few things more inspiring than seeing brilliant work fellow writers are doing. And when I get really stuck, I go for a walk: that always seems to jar things loose. Of course, throughout all this, there’s a healthy dose of Twitter for work breaks. Where do inspirations for your book characters and storylines come from? I’ve realized I approach writing as a psychological exercise: I’m always asking, “Why would someone do that?” If you pay attention, people are always doing things that don’t make logical sense, whether it’s as large as deciding to walk across the country or as small as picking a fight with someone they love. But there’s always a reason people do what they do. I’m interested in that emotional logic, what shapes a person and how that drives him or her to act in very specific ways. So my stories usually start with something I don’t understand—a character’s inexplicable action, or an unexpected reaction to something—and the story is my way of trying to figure out why this happened. What elements of LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE do you think will resonate most strongly with readers? Motherhood is a big theme in the novel, and one I think a lot of readers will relate to. There are mothers everywhere in this book—the mothers you’re born to, the mothers you choose, the mothers circumstances give you. The novel also raises questions about art: who gets to make it and what role does it play in a life? And of course many readers will probably flash back to their teen years as they watch Pearl and the Richardson children try to navigate their families, friendships, and first loves. In what ways has Penguin Press impacted your writing career? I’m unbelievably lucky to have landed at Penguin Press the first time, and am thrilled to be with them for a second book! Everyone there has been fantastic to work with, but several deserve special mention: Virginia Smith Younce made my novel better and stronger through her insightful editing. Juliana Kiyan’s deep understanding of my work and smart, tireless advocacy have gotten my books in the hands of people who championed it. The marketing team, Matt Boyd, Caitlin O’Shaughnessy, and Grace Fisher, have been both creative and enthusiastic in their promotion, and, of course, Ann Godoff and Scott Moyers’ leadership makes it all possible. Put simply, it’s meant a lot to be at an imprint that really gets my work and knows how to help it find its audience. I’m so proud to be with Penguin Press and to get to work with everyone at Penguin. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better publishing experience.

THE FIRST LOVE STORY Inspires New Ice Cream Flavor: Original Cin

the first love storyPenguin Press has partnered with Ample Hills Creamery to make a new flavor of ice cream – Original Cin – inspired by Bruce Feiler’s new book, THE FIRST LOVE STORY: Adam, Eve, and Us, on sale today, Tuesday, March 21.  Ample Hills is inviting customers to choose their own story, with a custom five-pack of ice cream pints. Original Cin –  cinnamon ice cream with housemade fig newtons – is one of the new flavors.  

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From New York Times columnist, PBS host and bestselling author of Walking the Bible and Abraham, THE FIRST LOVE STORY is a revelatory journey across four continents and 4,000 years exploring how Adam and Eve introduced the idea of love into the world, and how they continue to shape our deepest feelings about relationships, family, and togetherness.  In this fresh retelling of their story, Feiler travels from the Garden of Eden in Iraq to the Sistine Chapel in Rome, from John Milton’s London to Mae West’s Hollywood, discovering how Adam and Eve should be hailed as exemplars of a long-term, healthy, resilient relationship. At a time of discord and fear over the strength of our social fabric, Feiler shows how history’s first couple can again be role models for unity, forgiveness, and love.

Penguin Press’ Scott Moyers on Yvon Chouinard and LET MY PEOPLE GO SURFING

Igloo-earth11As Penguin Random House continues its ongoing commitment to social responsibility and business practices that minimize our impact on the environment, our new Climate Change series article features an interview with Penguin Press Vice President and Publisher Scott Moyers. He worked closely with world renowned environmentalist

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and Patagonia co-founder Yvon Chouinard on his book, LET MY PEOPLE GO SURFING; a 10th anniversary fully updated trade paperback edition was published by Penguin last fall. In this interview, Scott offers insights into Mr. Chouinard’s book, business philosophies, core values, and environmental activism as well as the “contagious success” of Patagonia, whose primary mission is “to use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”  The recent news on the Earth Setting a Temperature Record for the Third Straight Year reminds us all of the urgency of global warming and the importance of how we consider the environment. [caption id="attachment_4876" align="alignright" width="225"]Scott Moyers Scott Moyers[/caption] What brought about your initial contact with Yvon Chouinard and how would you characterize the experience and process of working with him as his book editor and publisher while presenting all aspects of his life and business?  Yvon Chouinard is powerfully inspiring because he has stubbornly refused to do anything with his business that does not advance its core mission: “to use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”  You can’t be in partnership with him without learning that, one way or another.  I was submitted the book by his agent, Susan Golomb, in 2004 or 2005, and I knew enough about Patagonia’s brand halo, as they say, and was sufficiently taken by the voice on the page, which even in proposal form had that thrilling ring of authenticity and irreverence, that I went for it, and was fortunate enough to prevail in a heated auction. (It helped that no one has a bigger crush on Yvon Chouinard than Ann Godoff.)  But really diving off the deep end with him was something else entirely.  First, everything was slightly irreverent, and counterintuitive – what business leader calls his memoir “Let My People Go Surfing?”  Which is from the company policy that when the surf’s up, employees should feel free to hit it.  And he wanted to do an oddball trim size, with all sorts of funky sidebars and a lot of art.  And he and Patagonia nudged us over to using a different kind of paper, recycled, of course.  And on and on. [caption id="attachment_4877" align="alignleft" width="300"]Yvon Chouinard Yvon Chouinard[/caption] But what really hit me was the story of the business itself. Just one story for now: there came a point when Patagonia commissioned a holistic environmental impact study of their entire business.  What came back surprised and dismayed them: the worst thing they were doing to the planet was using so much factory-farmed cotton. As you can imagine, cotton shirts, etc., make up a big chunk of the business.  What did they do? They pulled all of their cotton products, reinvented their supply chain, sourced their cotton ethically and in such a way as to catalyze environmentally responsible cotton growing more generally… in short, they used their market power to be a force for good and not ill. And ultimately, in the long run, they were more profitable by doing so!  In the short run, of course, they had to absorb a tremendous hit to the bottom line. Needless to say, if they were a publicly held company, this might have been impossible, even unimaginable.Though thanks in no small part to Patagonia’s example, there’s been a change in consciousness, and perhaps it’s less unimaginable than it was.  I hope this book has contributed to that; I think it has. How does LET MY PEOPLE GO SURFING, divided into a History of Patagonia and eight Philosophies sections, best inform and inspire readers through key takeaways from this environmentally-responsible businessman/adventurer and his company?  I think the bottom-line takeaway for your own life and work is that, in area after area – design, production, distribution, marketing, finance, HR, management, environmental stewardship – if you don’t blink, if you keep fear at bay and keep your focus on the most quality for the least harm, you will be a magnet for talented, big-hearted colleagues and customers, and your story will carry.  Every time this company took a short-term hit to innovate in the direction of greater responsibility for the state and fate of the earth, the more successful they have been in the long term. How transferable are Mr. Chouinard’s approaches to business, life and the environment to other industries and individual readers?  No one wants to leave their values at home when they come to work. Yvon Chouinard never did, and his company has been an enormous force for the good.  We all are part of the problem that is the global sustainability crisis, including global warming, one way or another. Activism and capitalism don’t have to be opposed, in fact they can’t be, if we’re going to keep this planet of ours and all the creatures on it. What factors were involved in the decision to produce a new edition of LET MY PEOPLE GO SURFING on the 10th anniversary of its first publication and what are examples of some of the most significant new content?  9780143109679-205x300Back in 2006, “sustainable business” was just emerging as a concept in mainstream terms.  Part of the good news of the past decade is that sustainability has become cooked in to the mix of business education, at the MBA level and down, and LET MY PEOPLE GO SURFING is widely taught. The past decade has been a period of great growth and thus change for Patagonia, and it has also really doubled down and then some on its environmental activism, so there was so much more to tell. Yvon added a good 20% of new material to the book, including an entirely new chapter on environmental activism, and Naomi Klein has added a passionate new foreword. There are revisions throughout the book, my favorite being that it’s now in four-color and Yvon and Patagonia have added many wonderful new photographs.  One way or another, all of the additions only sharpen the point, which is that, as Naomi Klein puts it in her foreword, “This is the story of an attempt to do more than change a single corporation – it is an attempt to challenge the culture of consumption that is at the heart of the global ecological crisis.”  And to have fun doing it!  Contagious fun, contagious righteousness, contagious success – that’s Yvon Chouinard and Patagonia, and that’s LET MY PEOPLE GO SURFING, now cleaned up for the next 10 years, and then some.

Meet Our Author: Ottessa Moshfegh

Ottessa MoshfeghOttessa Moshfegh’s debut novel EILEEN, published by Penguin Press, was one of the literary events of 2015. Garlanded with critical acclaim, it won the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction, was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and was named a book of the year by The Washington Post and San

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Francisco Chronicle. But as many critics noted, Ottessa Moshfegh is particularly held in awe for her short stories. homesick for another worldHOMESICK FOR ANOTHER WORLD, on sale now from Penguin Press, is the rare case where an author’s short story collection is, if anything, more anticipated than her novel. And for good reason. There’s something eerily unsettling about Ottessa’s stories, something almost dangerous, while also being delightful, and even laugh-out-loud funny.  Her characters are all unsteady on their feet in one way or another; they all yearn for connection and betterment, though each in very different ways, but they are often tripped up by their own baser impulses and existential insecurities. HOMESICK FOR ANOTHER WORLD is a master class in the varieties of self-deception across the gamut of individuals representing the human condition. In this Meet Our Author Igloo interview, Ottessa takes us inside her world: How would you describe your writing regimen and routines? Obsessive and neurotic and captivating. I wake up, I work, I dilly dally, work, take out the trash, work, pace around, eat, work, shower, work, read, work, go for a walk, call people, work, eat, work, sleep. Toward the end of writing a book, I often sleep with my computer under my pillow… What differentiates your approach to conceiving a novel as compared with your short stories? The motivation to write a short story often comes from an abstract, mysterious noise in my head, and I can take my time concentrating on that sound and experimenting with what words, voice, characters, and narrative movements are being described by the music in my mind. Writing a novel is that, plus a million pounds of pressure at my back, loaded with questions about how my life is being reflected in this writing process, and what I want to learn and say to the world. So, novels are more prolonged and intense journeys, although they can start out as playfully as a story. ottessa quote1Where do inspirations for your characters and storylines come from? They come from my life experiences, overheard conversations, dreams, the imagination, the ether… In what ways has Penguin Press impacted your writing career? Penguin Press has been a miracle in my life – this team has been so incredibly supportive, positive, and – I think – gutsy.  I tell everyone how blessed I feel to have a publisher that understands my work and sees its value today and the potential for the future.