Industry & Advocacy News
March 18, 2021
Edited by Margaret Atwood, the novel includes contributions by some of today’s most renowned writers.
New York (March 18, 2021): The Authors Guild Foundation announced a deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media to publish Fourteen Days: An Unauthorized Gathering, a unique collaborative novel edited by Margaret Atwood and with original contributions from dozens of major figures from across the literary spectrum. The book will be published through HMH’s Sugar23 Books imprint. All proceeds from the book contract will go to the Authors Guild Foundation, the educational and charitable arm of the Authors Guild. The expected publication date of Fourteen Days is Spring 2022.
Set in New York City in 2020 during the opening days of the global pandemic, the project was the brainchild of Authors Guild president and novelist Doug Preston as a fundraiser for the Authors Guild Foundation. In Fourteen Days, a diverse group of neighbors who are left behind when the rich flee the city gather on the rooftop of their fictional Manhattan tenement and begin to share stories—surprising, intimate, horrifying and heartwarming—and discover connections and community. Preston conceived the book as a collaborative story, an innovative sort of novel, written with contributions from a wildly eclectic group of authors drawn from the full range of narrative genres. Each author has chosen or developed a character who lives in the building and serves as the voice for their story.
“At the Guild, we realized that we had an opportunity in these dark times to do something positive and even transformative through the creation of this unusual literary work. Human beings have always confronted tragedy by telling stories, and this book would be our answer to COVID-19,” Preston said.
He added, “The Authors Guild has poured resources, advocacy and assistance into helping writers, many of whom were already struggling financially, to get through this crazy time. All the proceeds from Fourteen Days will continue this vital work, ensuring that all writers are supported, especially young authors and those from underserved and overlooked communities. Revenue will also continue funding our necessary lobbying efforts in Washington to protect authors’ rights and make sure freelancers get the full spectrum of pandemic relief—which, in the beginning, they were denied.”
Atwood graciously agreed to serve as general editor of the book and reached out to writers in all genres, including mystery, thriller, romance, science fiction, children’s books, nonfiction, poetry, biography and literary and experimental fiction—writers across the entire breadth of literary world—to ask if they wished to contribute to creating the narrative.
The response exceeded all expectations. Among the authors contributing to the book are Angie Cruz, Emma Donoghue, Dave Eggers, Diana Gabaldon, Tess Gerritsen, John Grisham, Maria Hinojosa, CJ Lyons, Celeste Ng, Mary Pope Osborne, Ishmael Reed, Hampton Sides, Nafissa Thompson-Spires and Monique Truong, bringing together a wildly diverse group of authors for a single work rarely seen in the history of American literature.
“Thanks to the writing of our contributors, the cast of lively fictional characters on the Manhattan rooftop in Fourteen Days have much to say to one another about life during the pandemic and even more about life in general, sometimes getting into discussions, debates or outright quarrels—and sometimes finding resolution in unexpected moments of empathy and connection,” said Atwood. “To provide a narrative framework, we structured the work so that the building’s super records the stories and conversations on her cellphone to create an unauthorized guerilla text.”
Millicent Bennett, editorial director at HMH, acquired world rights to the project for HMH’s Sugar23 Books imprint led by Angela Ledgerwood. The imprint is a division of Academy Award–winning producer Michael Sugar’s Sugar23. “Daring storytelling has always had a home here at Sugar23, so we jumped at the opportunity to be involved in such a creative endeavor,” said Sugar and Ledgerwood. “Fourteen Days grabbed us right away because it brings to life a community of people, quite literally, grappling with what it means to be a good neighbor under extenuating circumstances. We are thrilled to be working with such talented authors alongside our wonderful partners at HMH.”
Bennett moved swiftly to preempt the novel. “As a reader, this irresistible, surprising novel immediately captured my imagination and my heart. And as an editor, Fourteen Days feels both inspiring and necessary as a response to the pandemic. Out of the dark, isolating early days of the pandemic, it manages to draw light and hope by focusing on the ways that we survive trauma and keep our humanity intact—through the bonds of community and through storytelling. It’s an honor to be working with the Authors Guild Foundation to bring this transportive work into the world,” she said.
All contributors to Fourteen Days will receive an honorarium, courtesy of Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games fame, who made a major donation to the Authors Guild Foundation to underwrite the project. Liz Van Hoose is the Foundation’s project editor, working with Preston to develop characters and weave the stories together. Daniel Conaway and the Writers House literary agency generously waived their commission for representation of the work.
“We are hugely indebted to all the writers and Dan for donating their time and resources to help make Fourteen Days a reality and allowing the proceeds from the book to benefit the Authors Guild Foundation,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild and Authors Guild Foundation. “The need for programming and support of published writers has never been greater. Our latest member survey revealed that a staggering 71.4 percent of participating authors reported that their income (from any source) had declined since the COVID-19 crisis began. Respondents reported losing 49 percent of their regular pre-pandemic income on average. Given that challenge, it only seems fitting that a book about the COVID-19 pandemic should help benefit those hurting from its effects.”
About the Authors Guild FoundationThe Authors Guild Foundation is the charitable and educational arm of the Authors Guild. It educates, supports and protects American writers to ensure that a vibrant, diverse body of literature can flourish. It does this by advocating for authors’ intellectual property and First Amendment rights, educating authors across the country in the business of writing, supporting the ability of writers to earn a living and promoting an understanding of the value of writers to American culture and society.