Inspiration, Challenges, and Advice From Penguin Random House Canada
Heartening Shared Messages of Kindnesses and Understanding.
Interviews with Lavanya Narasimhan, Manager, Special Markets & Business Development, PRH Canada; Elizabeth Kribs, Associate Publisher, Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers; and Sarah Smith-Eivemark, Marketing Manager, PRH Canada.
Lavanya: It sounds cliché, but in times of extreme adversity and difficulty, you also always see innate, undeniable humanity emerge. Doctors volunteering in hard-hit regions; strangers reaching out to help others; people connecting by creative measures in an isolated world—the worst circumstances can bring out the best in people and that’s always reaffirming and inspiring.
Also, I’ve developed a new appreciation for undeniably silly yet thoroughly entertaining internet memes.
Elizabeth: I’m heartened by the shared messages of kindness and understanding between colleagues, as well as with our creators and agents.
Sarah: During COVID, my role has expanded to include working with our independent sales channels—the team’s flexibility and openness to ideas that support independent booksellers has been truly inspiring, and genuinely motivating.
Elizabeth: The transition to working from home with my partner and 8-year-old son has certainly been a challenge. I’m getting the opportunity of a lifetime to REALLY get to know my family. On the other hand, we all need time apart too, which is hard to come by but it’s vital for your wellbeing.
Sarah: As a person isolating solo, I miss spending time with my colleagues and our authors. Now more than ever, I’m reminded about how lucky I am to work with people I think of as family and friends.
Lavanya: I moved to Toronto in November, so it’s been tough being away from my family and many of my friends. Social distancing has also curtailed me getting to know the new city I live in, which I’ve been looking forward to, especially as the weather gets warm.
However, I do feel supported by my friends here, my Penguin Random House Canada colleagues, and even the city itself. About a week into social isolating, I had a back injury that left me unable to stand. My teammate brought me supplies, a person in my building recommended a doctor, and my doorman helped me pick up my medicine—small but incredibly helpful gestures that made a huge difference to me, and made me feel a little more settled in a new place.
Sarah: Following a detailed daily schedule has been a lifesaver for me. Time works strangely lately but knowing what I’m meant to do next gives a sense of structure and productivity to my day, even if the next scheduled activity is simply “eat lunch.” Box checked!
Lavanya: I wouldn’t dream of giving advice to anyone else! But I have half-joked to friends and colleagues that I’ve been practicing “mindful wallowing”, where I allow a short bout of sadness and self-pity—a really indulgent, often shallow rant of “I just miss going outside/seeing my family/eating at a restaurant”—before reeling it back in and reminding myself of how lucky I am, being deeply grateful for those who are keeping the world together through all this, and figuring out how to help those who don’t have it as good.
Elizabeth: Now that I’m not commuting, I really have to carve out time to spend just reading. I’m currently reading THE BARREN GROUNDS, a fantastic middle grade novel by David Robertson, the first in a fantastical Indigenous-themed series coming out spring 2021 – check it out on our Reader app!
Sarah: For the first month of quarantine my attention span was fairly shot, so I read a lot of poetry collections and graphic novels (note to future self: read more poetry and graphic novels). My concentration is, however, slowly returning, so I’m about to start a novel I’ve been saving as a treat: THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET by David Mitchell. I’ve been told I’ll be swept away!
Lavanya: I was able to read the new Kevin Kwan (author of CRAZY RICH ASIANS), which publishes in North America in July and it was delightful. It felt like drinking a fruity, fizzy cocktail on a rooftop in the middle of summer and transported me out of my all-too-familiar apartment for a few hours. Shout-outs to a few cookbooks since I’ve been cooking every day and my goal for this time was to become a better baker: BUTTER BAKED GOODS and LET ME FEED YOU by Rosie Daykin, Gina Homolka’s SKINNYTASTE series, Tieghan Gerard’s HALF-BAKED HARVEST, or (of course) Alison Roman’s books at least once a day.