Flipper Knows How to Throw a Christmas Party! Penguin Holiday Style



By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis / @zaralibrary

I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to blog about a passion that I’ve had since I was a little girl—creative writing and the mystical world of books.

From the moment I learned how to read, to turn those pages, and be able to decipher its literary code (I was six-years-old), I had fallen in love with language and the world it offered me as a place of imagination and solace.

My love of reading naturally evolved to the art of writing, both in penmanship and context, where I was instructed on a daily basis to perfect my script under the watchful eye of my father who coerced me to write out pages and pages of the alphabet until my letters were not only correctly written, but beautiful to look at.

It was in this act, which I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, that I was taught the importance of furtive determination, patience, practice, and the power of diligence.

As I matured in reading, my penmanship naturally followed.

Simultaneously, my love of language and stories welled up with such a wealth of fullness, that I was inspired to risk venturing into the work of writing, myself. While I wasn’t vain enough to believe that I could be a successful, published writer like those writers I had read and appreciated at that time, every move in my small, young life was formed to move in that direction.

My love affair with words and books only compelled me to remain in the art of its ambiguous, yet meaningful path. Whether it was journalling privately on my own time, writing short stories and poems for school assignments, and then later submitting work as entries for contests or publication, or joining creative writing classes, to working on editorial boards and panels, as well as working as an editorial assistant for a small publishing house—words always moved me and led me forward.

And because I’ve been fortunate enough to have been blogging about books for five years, now—since December 2011—I’ve also been privileged to have been introduced to one of the largest publishing companies in Canada: Penguin Random House Canada.

On Tuesday, I was pleased to be on the invitation-only guest list to attend the 2016 Penguin Holiday Party held at the Penguin Random House Canada head office as a thank you for my continual work for them.

And let me tell you…Flipper (PRHC’s penguin mascot) certainly knows how to throw a party!

2016 Penguin Holiday Market Party, 320 Front Street West, Toronto. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

Guests were treated with a variety of food goodies: a hot plate of meatballs, a variety of chips, flat breads, and Melba toast, a vegetable platter, caramel popcorn, butter tarts, and blueberry tarts, other sweets, as well as an alcoholic beverage bar.

Penguin Random House Canada successfully transformed an office conference room into a gorgeous and festive party room. Two large screen televisions boasted a crackling fire in a fireplace while guests were able stand around elevated stool tables chatting about work and their love for literature.

I stopped by the colouring station and put my mark on the large canvas of railroad and trees. I only regret that I didn’t colour more on the canvas…I may have actually completed it on my own (I’m that type of an introvert.)

Colouring Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

 After a little colouring, I made my way to the Spinning Wheel to try my luck at winning a book prize. As the wheel turned, I chanted and hoped to win the genre, Literary Fiction—and my wish was granted!

I was offered the book, Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, but because I already own the book, I was able to choose any book from the prize lot instead.

It was a tough decision between Joseph Boyden’s Wenjack and Clare Mackintosh’s I See You. Because I suspected that I might receive the book, Wenjack, over the holidays, I deferred and came away with the new thriller, I See You, by Clare Mackintosh and look forward to getting scared out of my wits in reading it.


 After I snagged a complimentary book prize from PRHC, I did my best to meet a few new people, introducing myself to Jenny, Julianna, Terry, Di, and Rebecca (there was someone else in that mix, but for the life of me, I can’t recall that person’s name).

After some mingling and small talk, I paid a visit to my favourite person at PRHC: Emily, the Digital Marketing Coordinator and Giver of All Good Books. She sacrificed eating a few goodies until later in order to host the Penguin Table, which boasted a number of Penguin Random House Canada merchandise.

Emily and Flipper showcasing some of the merchandise from The Penguin Shop. Look at them both—they are so adorable! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

I only regret not having enough cash in my wallet to buy the card holder and Flipper, the plush toy! Next time, I will try to pop by the Penguin Shop to pick up a few items for myself. I’ve been collecting the Penguin Classics mugs and have been looking forward to adding the following to my collection:

  • Country Life by H.E. Bates (yellow mug)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (orange mug)
  • Traveller from Tokyo by John Morris (pink mug)
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (violet mug)
  • The Common Reader by Virginia Woolf (turquoise mug)


The booth, The Penguin Hotline, next to the Penguin Shop “Express” gave guests an opportunity to recommend books to readers who call or write in looking for gift ideas or book recommendations for themselves. In reading a particular request, I recommended one of my favourite books, The Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra—and in conversing with the host of the booth, we were both pleased to discover we both LOVE that novel!

See? It’s wonderful to surround yourself with book lovers. Book lovers are truly part of my tribe.


The Penguin Hotline. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

But, Julianna and I were drawn together as true introverts, me, the creative writer, her, a young woman with a Masters Ph.D. in Philosophy. We circled the party, finding our way to the Craft Centre next to try to make our own ornament out of hot chocolate powder, marshmallows, candy cane, and green, and red sprinkles.

Crafting Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

Here’s the end result of my ornament that my daughter was so pleased to receive when I arrived home:

Penguin Holiday - ornament.jpg
My handcrafted ornament. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

I think the next time around, I will skip the hot chocolate powder and only use green and red sprinkles. But, the ornament was so convincing, my seven-year-old wanted to dump it out and make it into hot chocolate for her to drink.

While I was tempted to try my hand at decorating gingerbread cookies for my kids, the lineup was a tad long and I grew impatient, so I skipped that activity, instead making my way to the beverage bar to order a non-alcoholic drink (I’m trying to stay on Santa’s good side in lieu of last year’s catastrophe!).

After by-passing the snack table (I already had a tart each!), Julianna and I made it to the photo booth, to pose and play, a fun way to commemorate the evening:

Me, as a reindeer. I barely made it back to the last picture in trying to change my prop, which resulted in a surprising expression of exasperation. The photo booth hosts tried to console me, but told me I was welcome to come back and try again. (c) Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House.
For the second try, I brought a friend with me. Julianna, the Snowman and me, Chicken Drumstick Holder. And no, I have no idea why I’m holding a chicken drumstick, or how that fits in with a Christmas theme. Still, it was fun! (c) Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada.

Overall, it was a fun evening to celebrate the holidays, the wonder of literature, and the continual success of the book publishing industry.

Thanks, Emily, and Penguin Random House Canada for showing your appreciation to those who love books and work hard to ensure the book publishing industry continues to flourish, as well as encourage readers to continue their love affair with the written word.

My holidays have officially started—and I’m glad it’s a Penguin Holiday that started it all.

Thanks, Flipper. You really do know how to throw a party!





Author: zaraalexis

Writer. Bibliotaphe. Fountain Pen & Stationery Addict. Lipstick Junkie. Justice Advocate. Wife. Mother. Warrior.

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