Doubleday’s Todd Doughty Makes His Literary Debut With LITTLE PIECES OF HOPE

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Todd Doughty, author photo credit: Michael Lionstar

Todd Doughty, SVP, Deputy Publisher, Doubleday, is now also an author, having written a book, LITTLE PIECES OF HOPE: Happy-Making Things in a Difficult World, published by Penguin Life on Tuesday, October 12. Described as “an enchanting collection of lists, musings, prompts, and illustrations that will inspire you to cherish all of the things – from the extraordinary to the everyday, from the big to the little – that bring hope into our lives,” LITTLE PIECES OF HOPE is brimming with the pleasures of life, inspiring readers to look for and celebrate the good things that surround us.

In this Meet Our Author Igloo interview, Todd talks about the genesis of his book, how it was created, the editorial and publication process, and what he hopes reader takeaways will be.

When and why did you first start writing down lists of things that make you happy?

Metro-North is entirely to blame for this book coming into being. The W.H.O. declared a global pandemic on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 and on the still-then-packed train ride home that evening, I decided to create a list of “happy-making things.” That first inventory included everything from Ella Fitzgerald’s recording of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies,” Twin Peaks, Stephen King’s twitter, an old gray-muzzled dog with happy eyes, a really good burger, fat goldfish and someone believing in you…and many, many more. It was a grounding presence at a very scary moment and allowed me to focus on things that have brought joy to my life, and I thought I would share with others in case they were feeling the same way too. And after that first day, I just kept going. And going. And going…as it turns out, there are now over 3,000 happy-making things in the book, along with 16 essays (on everything from “Taking the Leap” to “Small Towns” to waxing poetic on Templeton the Rat, red velvet cake, and Mary Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life) and very specific mixtapes. There are also “special edition” lists on the 80s, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and “Things You Might Consider Doing Today.”

At what point did you realize that what you had been writing could be collected and presented in book form?

From that first post to the days and months after (even until now), reading the comments from friends, family and strangers has been such a gratifying part of this wonderful and crazy ride. People responded with their own thoughts, additions, or substitutions. After a few weeks, some friends began to say that “this should be a book.” It was part conversation, part connection – there’s a very fine line between memory and discovery, and people were relating to the posts in a way I never anticipated. And a book wasn’t something I even considered when I started; it took about 90 minutes to two hours each night to create each individual post, and that was just my blissful, daily escape (I wrote everything in the notes app on my iPhone and tried to make sure there were no repeats). Then last summer along came the brilliant editor Meg Leder

How would you describe the editorial and publication process?

There’s a line from Sleepless in Seattle when Tom Hanks’ character is asked to talk about his wife by radio host Dr. Marsha, and he says, “How long is your show?” That’s how I feel when talking about the amazing Penguin team. So here goes! I’ve never been on this side of the publishing fence before, and Meg Leder was the north star extraordinaire. She helped me see how the framework of the book could exist outside of Instagram; how the flow of the book should feel for the reader; and what additional material (50% new!) needed to be included in order for the book to grow. Once the book was in place, the process took off from there. Meg found Josie Portillo, the genius whose gorgeous art graces the cover and is featured throughout the book – you’ll see people, places, and things over the course of the entire 246 pages. Sabrina Bowers is a designer whose talent knows no bounds: the lists themselves have a zigzag yet curated, rhythmic feel to them. When we discussed the design, I mentioned I saw different fonts, sizes, items on individual pages, and wanted the book to have the same feel of the posts – a surprise on each page. Sabrina took my simple suggestions and turned the book into an experience, and something beyond my wildest dreams. Randee Marullo and Karen Wise’s attention to detail in the copy edits – again, managing over 3,000 items!! – was legendary and I don’t know how they work their magic, but they do. Brianna Harden’s cover is a burst of joy itself – that yellow!!! To work with the incredible, amazing, and creative publicity – Rebecca Marsh, Sara Delozier and LeBria Casher– and marketing – Molly Fessenden and Amanda Inman– teams has been a dream come true. Suffice to say that I know I am very, very lucky.

What do you hope readers take away from LITTLE PIECES OF HOPE?

The hope is that the book provides a happy, thought-provoking break for the reader. You can dip into the book for a short visit, or read chronologically – it’s part devotional, part escape. The idea is to inspire readers to listen, read, remember, watch, look at, and discover. A friend of mine once said that we all are carrying around an invisible bag of rocks, a weight that no one else can see. Whether it’s a regular old bad morning, or a really rough time in life, it’s important to remember that there are touchstones that bring us all joy in one shape or another: music, art, movies, books, photographs, tv shows, memories, feelings, sayings, objects, recipes, experiences, family and friends. It’s good to ask: What’s that one (or more) thing that got you through? And then to share it with others. That’s what I have tried to do with LITTLE PIECES OF HOPE. If the book brightens the day or lightens the burden for even just a moment, then the connection between us has been made.

Posted: October 12, 2021