As we start the New Year, we're taking one final look back at 2017. It was a big year for Penguin Random House UK, full of award successes, brilliant titles, and unforgettable campaigns, and the final three months were no different.
October: New reads and Read North East
The National Literacy Trust launched Read North East to the public in October. The campaign aims to raise the region’s literacy levels, which are among the lowest in the country, by encouraging parents to talk and read to their babies and children every day. At Penguin Random House UK, we are proud to support the campaign, which is also supported by the Education Endowment Foundation and Greggs PLC together with local schools, libraries and arts organisations.
So far we have donated over 3,000 books to families across the region. Books have been given away at intu Metrocentre, the Riverside Stadium, home to Middlesbrough FC, and the Stockton Sparkles Christmas lights switch on, along with activity sheets and family reading tips. In 2018, more books will be gifted to the children and families who need them the most, with events and initiatives taking place in different towns and cities throughout the year.
Vintage revealed that Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens (2014) and Homo Deus (2016), will return in August 2018 with a new book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. In bringing his focus to the here and now, Harari will help us to grapple with a world that is increasingly hard to comprehend, encouraging us to focus our minds on the essential questions we should be asking ourselves today. Employing his trademark entertaining and lucid style, Harari will examine some of the world’s most urgent issues, including terrorism, fake news and immigration, as well as turning to more individual concerns, from resilience and humility to meditation. The Vintage editions of Sapiens have now sold 1.2 million copies worldwide in all formats. Homo Deus has sold 550,000 copies and counting…
November: Working to make publishing more accessible
In November we launched an exciting new company initiative, ‘Home Sweet Loan’ to support employees with the cost of a deposit of a rental property. Eligible to all our employees, including new joiners, this new benefit offers an interest-free loan to help employees pay their rental deposit when moving into a privately rented home.
The scheme complements other initiatives from Penguin Random House UK designed to reduce barriers to entry into the publishing industry and attract more talent from diverse backgrounds and low income households. This includes removing the requirement for a university degree, transforming our work experience placement programme, and proactively reaching out to candidates who might not have previously considered publishing as a career through our #JobHack workshops.
On Sunday 26 November British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) honoured Dame Jacqueline Wilson with the Special Award at this year's British Academy Children's Awards for her many literary creations that have gone on to become BAFTA-winning and nominated screen adaptations. One of Britain’s most popular children’s authors, Jacqueline’s work plays a huge role in introducing the nation’s children to the joys of reading. Many of Wilson’s literary creations have gone on to become BAFTA-winning and nominated screen adaptations and the Special Award recognises Wilson’s outstanding contribution in this area.
Also in November, Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, the first volume of The Book of Dust series, was named as the Waterstones Book of the Year. Naomi Alderman's The Power and Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls were announced as Foyles Books of the Year.
November also marked the first WriteNow acquisition, as Transworld snapped up two novels from 2016 mentee Charlene Allcott. Her debut novel, currently titled The List, is a raw, honest and hilarious re-coming of age story about call-centre worker Martha, who must come to terms with the breakdown of her marriage and get her life back on track. It will be published in summer 2018 with a second novel coming out the following year.
December: WriteNow and Rebel Girls
The WriteNow acquisitions continued into December as Penguin General signed the insightful debut novel Music Love Drugs War from WriteNow mentee Geraldine Quigley. The novel tells the story of a group of teenagers and their families in Derry in 1981. The friends' interests are music, love, drink and drugs (probably in that order) but some of them will become increasingly consumed by the ongoing war going on around them. The novel will be published in Spring 2019.
In the same month, the eleven mentees from the WriteNow 2017 programme were announced. Over the next twelve months each writer will work closely with a Penguin Random House editor with expertise in their genre in order to develop their manuscript and get it ready for publication.
It was also announced that there are to be eight Penguin Random House books for World Book Night 2018 amongst an eclectic range of titles from a variety of publishers. Our titles include Emma Healey's bestseller Elizabeth is Missing, Susan Hill's classic ghost story The Woman in Black and Kit de Waal's My Name is Leon.
And finally, towards the end of December a group of London children attended a workshop with Elena Favilli, co-author of bestselling book Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, where they were encouraged to talk and write about some of the inspirational women they look up to in their own lives.
Seventeen children from Year 5 at St John the Baptist Primary School in Hackney visited the Ministry of Stories for the special one-off workshop. Elena introduced the children to some of the extraordinary tales from the book and also spoke about why she and her co-author Francesca Cavallo felt it was so important to bring these stories to life. The workshop was filmed by Channel 4 News and broadcast on their programme that night.
When one of the boys was asked "How does it make you feel as a boy to read a book about girls and women?", he replied:
I feel kind of happy and kind of sad. I feel happy because there's a book full of girls instead of boys, but I feel sad because I don't know most of these characters. I mostly know famous men instead of women."