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NEW YORK, NY - On the first morning Wendy E. Simmons was in North Korea the news broke: the controversial film, "The Interview," starring James Franco and Seth Rogen had set off an international flurry with North Korea promising "merciless retaliation" against America. She watched the news on the hotel TV and then the screen went black. And then like Lewis Carroll's Alice, Wendy Simmons found herself dropped through to another reality.

MY HOLIDAY IN NORTH KOREA: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth (RosettaBooks/May 2016/Paperback $19.95/eBook $12.99) by Wendy E. Simmons is a memoir about trying to find the heart of a country through a tour of doublespeak, empty public works and factories, engineered crowds and crashed private events. A first-time author, Wendy E. Simmons is an old hand at travel who has been in over 85 countries. She revels in not only the sights but also the friends she readily makes in every imaginable situation. Travel for her has always been about connection.


"A death-defying adventure, filled with despair and tiny pieces of hope, and beautiful-I wish I was as brave as Wendy." -James Altucher, bestselling author, entrepreneur, podcaster

NoKo, as she came to call the country, was unlike anywhere she had been before. The rules kept her tethered to assigned minders whom she renamed in her book to protect their identity: Older Handler, the experienced one who has mastered the art of indirect responses; Fresh Handler whose youth offers Simmons a way to share whispered conversation; and Driver whose tough chain-smoking demeanor hides a more sensitive side and penchant for the glamorous cat's eye sunglasses Simmons brought along as gifts. She's a stubborn traveler as it turns out-she pressed, she cajoled, she took instamatic photos to share-she wanted in.

Simmons had to learn to navigate around the cognitive dissonance that came to be part of the experience. She was soon suspicious that real life events (a wedding where the bride gave her the stink eye) were staged. She also began to rethink and doublethink every action, no matter how casual (tearing up a phrase book she no longer needed to carry with her) or worries that even a decision to leave a bag bought in a gift shop behind could be misconstrued and land her in jail hoping for a Clinton to negotiate her release.

Every hour was to be accounted for with "sights" visited and ticked off an approved itinerary: a factory that is empty on a workday because the thousands of workers "just left" (though there is only one road leading in and out and her car was the only one in sight); a laboratory where men and women were mysteriously staring at but not into rows of microscopes still covered in their thick plastic covers; the audio/video room of the Grand People's Study House where a local guide demonstrates the center's sophistication by playing a bootleg Madonna cover of "American Pie" on a boom box.

In the end, it is the relationships Simmons forged with Older Handler, Fresh Handler, and Driver that became the key to the seemingly impenetrable facade. She found herself both disturbed and moved in a way she had not before experienced anywhere. Profoundly aware of however much she was frustrated by the tour-speak that hilariously defied all logic, she could only have sidelong glimpses into their lives.

Gifted with a remarkable voice and eye, she combines her remarkable cache of photographs and a natural storyteller's skill to bring this long-secretive world to life. As every week another high-profile news story about the hermit kingdom comes out, Simmons' journey brings new insights into why North Korea confounds so much of the outside world and why we need narratives like hers to illuminate the lives of the men and women who call it home.

For more details or to order your own copy of My Holiday in North Korea, please visit

Simmons is also a regular contributor to Huffington Post's Travel blog:

About the Author: Wendy E. Simmons grew up amongst diplomatic families in Washington D.C. and got the urge to travel early on when one of her childhood friend invited Wendy to visit her family in Mexico (when she was 12). Since then she has traveled as often as she can, going to places both familiar and ones marked by as many State Department warnings imaginable. Her weekly columns on travel can be found at Huffington Post and her award-winning photographs have been featured in numerous exhibitions and juried shows across the country. Wendy is also president of Vendeloo, a consultancy she founded in 2001 and Chief Brand Officer of a NYC-based global eyewear brand. She's also owned a bar in Manhattan, worked for a lobbying firm on Capitol Hill, and written a Japanese-language phrase book-though her Japanese is now terrible. Wendy practices Muay Thai daily and lives in Brooklyn in a converted 1800s schoolhouse. For more information, visit

About RosettaBooks: RosettaBooks is the leading independent digital publisher. Its prominent author collections include 52 works of Winston Churchill, 35 titles by renowned science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, 20 works by Kurt Vonnegut, 12 titles from international bestselling business author Stephen R. Covey and 18 works by Robert Graves, celebrated 20th century English poet, critic, and author of I, Claudius and Claudius, the God. RosettaBooks also publishes eBook lines in collaboration with AARP, Harvard Health Publications and Mayo Clinic. Publisher of ten Kindle Singles, including Ray Bradbury's The Playground, RosettaBooks has launched nine of them to bestseller status. RosettaBooks is an Inc. 500 company, on the exclusive list of the fastest growing private companies in the United States. For more information, please visit and follow the publisher on Facebook and Twitter.

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