The welcome sign at the door, courtesy of @pmantha08.
Event: Open House at Random House (#RHOpenHouse)
When I signed up for the Random House Open House last week, I had no idea what to expect. It was well publicized and described as an interactive day with Random House staff and authors. I thought, if worse came to worse, it could be a fun day in New York and I could blow off my academic obligations for a couple hours. So I packed my bag and left for the city on Thursday night with little to no expectations.
Yesterday, I woke up in Brooklyn and took the slow but steady C train to the Columbus Circle subway stop, arriving 9:00am. The event began at 9, but I was cautious about being on time. Isn’t it better to be fashionably late? My social cues are still in their developing stages, but I decided to take a quick walk up and down Broadway to kill some time.
When I decided I had walked enough (it was cold, I was in heels) I made my entrance. A long line of young women were standing inside the lobby, handing out name badges and complimentary gift bags. The gift bags include tons of exciting stuff, including books, a copy of Shape magazine, and the schedule for the day. Smiling and friendly, the staff directed me to the 2nd floor to begin what would be a very exciting experience.
The event was better than I could have ever imagined. A day full of health and wellness panels, I schmoozed with Random House staff, authors, and assorted guests. Breakfast was sponsored by Celestial Tea and Kind Healthy Snacks. They had prepared delicious sample parfaits for the guests to try. I grabbed a quick breakfast and went to find my seat for the first panel: Eat it to Beat it with Dave Zinczenko.
David Zinczenko, the co-author of Eat This, Not That, a correspondent on “Good Morning America” and an avid nutrition activist, was engaging and entertaining. He had prepared a slide show presentation about the mystery ingredients in certain processed foods. Did you know that there are wood chips in Vitamin Water? Ugh, neither did I.
Then there was a quick break where guests were encouraged to try illy issmo’s new coffee drink. Ironically, after checking the ingredients in the new product (thanks, Dave, now I’ll never stop) I found that this coffee drink ALSO had wood chips. Or cellulose gel, in case anyone is interested in the scientific/nutritional name. I managed to say no to the wood chips and made my way back to my seat.
The next panel featured Charles Duhigg, an investigative reporter for The New York Times and author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, and Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of it. Charles Duhigg talked about habits; he discussed how, for nail biters, most times they chew at their nails to distract themselves from the anxiety or stress they are feeling. Once they bite down too sharply and inflict pain upon themselves, they are finally distracted enough from the previous stress and focus upon the experience of pain at their nail. As a nail biter myself, I found this psychological study fascinating. Additionally, Kelly described the best ways to slowly break bad habits, instead of trying to quit cold-turkey, she recommends allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable, not indulging in your habit before getting to it. As time goes on, that discomfort will be come a habit and the habit may break.
Kelly McGonigal, one of the panelists who discussed willpower and habit next to her book, The Willpower Instinct. Courtesy of @GothamBooks.
When we broke for lunch, I was amazed at how much I had learned already. We travelled up to the 14th floor for a delicious sandwich lunch from ‘witchcraft, a company co-founded by Tom Colicchio of Top Chef. So good.
I sat down at a table with the publicist and marketing director for Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange is the New Black, the book that has recently become the popular show on Netflix. While I have neither read nor seen the show, the Random House staffers provided fascinating information about the state of female prisons and the activism that Kerman is currently working towards to improve current conditions. They gave away copies of the book and I immediately put it on my to-read shelf when I got home.
After lunch there was an overwhelming three panels, but they were all wonderful. Jenny Rosenstrach of the blog, Dinner: A Love Story talked about preparing and cooking for a busy family. She gave advice about quick recipes, allowing your child to try a variety of different foods, and also not forcing foods upon anyone. She had a refreshing and unique take on the family dining experience.
Next up was Tara Kraft, the editor of Shape magazine and author of the new book The Bikini Body Diet. While Tara discussed the importance of understanding how much food you are putting into your body daily, Michael Olajide, a middleweight champion boxer and star trainer for many celebrities, talked about (and demonstrated) the importance of maintaining a fitness routine. Olajide wrote a book called SLEEKIFY!: The Supercharged No-Weights Workout to Sculpt and Tighten Your Body in 28 Days. In the book (of which guests got a signed copy COMPLIMENTARY with our tickets) Olajide explains the importance of jump roping and how great it can be for an overall cardiovascular workout. Plus it takes a lot less time than running!
The last panel was the keynote. It featured Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place and Lift and a cancer survivor, Gretchen Rubin, the author famous for her book The Happiness Project, and Lisa Belkin, who moderated the panel and is a senior columnist for Huffington Post. The three women were vastly entertaining. Kelly, a woman who loved to laugh and make the best out of any situation was energetic and upbeat, explaining that sometimes, in order to live life to the fullest, we have to undergo pain and suffering. Gretchen, who has made it her mission to be happy everyday, recommends always entering and leaving a room with heartfelt welcomes and goodbyes. Both women were inspiring about their ability to be positive and make the most out of it all.
The day finished with cocktails and desserts. Both were provided by the authors Erica Duecy and Michele Stewart who wrote Storied Sips and Perfect Pies & More, respectively. The guests mingled with the panelists and the rest of the Random House staff. They were treated to complimentary books and everyone was feeling good.
Overall, I had an incredible day at the Random House Open House. Apparently, this was the third one that they have hosted. The previous two were completely different, the first focusing on a mix of literature and non-fiction while the one last spring was mostly a prelude to the best novels of summer 2013. If there is another Open House in the spring, I highly recommend taking some time to enjoy yourself and spend a day learning and playing with authors. I had a lovely time. AND I got a ton of books.
Complimentary books galore (sorry the titles are backwards). Some include: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld, an advanced copy of Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan, and Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman.
**Note: I apologize, I do not have a smart phone and was unable to take pictures myself during the event. However, I went on Twitter and found the wonderful photos taken by other guests and staff members. Those who have taken the photos are acknowledged in the captions by their Twitter handles. Thank you to those who helped make this post look more attractive! Additionally, if you are interested in learning more, looking up #RHOpenHouse on Twitter is a great way to look at the tweets and pictures posted throughout the day.