I am as delighted as I possibly can be to announce that HarperOne will be publishing my memoir, the “Caitlin book,” otherwise known as LITTLE MATCHES, in April of 2021.
I began writing this book a little over two years ago with much encouragement from readers of this blog. Thank you. And thanks to everyone in my daily life, especially Nick, for the constant support and encouragement.
The past few years have not been easy. But with this book, our kitten gets to live a bit longer.
In the coming months, I will be sharing photos, book news, and tidbits of inspiration. To be part of that,
“I always pull back and picture myself in time and in space geographically. It makes me removed enough to ultimately feel that there is not much I can do to change the shifts of the world, but also inspired enough to think – what is my role in this lifetime?”
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When I was pregnant and my baby was due mid-summer, I wanted a July baby. July seemed to be a vibrant month: warm, lush, expectant! August seemed so enervating–I associated it with long, bored days of childhood, when all I seemed to do was lie about on stiff, dried-out grass, listening to the drone of insects and distant lawnmowers.
I spent every minute of July 30 in labor and when Caitlin was born an hour after midnight, I sang that old ditty to myself: “30 days hath September, June, July and November,” and thought, “Darn. August 1.”
It wasn’t until well into the afternoon, when a hospital administrator brought in the birth certificate, that I realized we were still inside of July and that I had my song and calendar all wrong.
I was delighted. It was like being given a gift. The gift of an extra day.
Forever after, for me, the days around July 31st swam together and became Caitlin’s birthday days.
This year, I spent much of the 30th organizing bookshelves and found a little gift inside a book from long ago.
Yesterday, I felt pushed to write a post but I also felt too lethargic and sad and also happy to receive so many messages that made me smile. The birthday memories, at least, are all happy as opposed to that other anniversary which I will dread for the rest of my life.
Today seemed like the best day to do a post. So here I am.
As for updates,
I know I said I finished the book months ago, and I did, but “finished” means I finished writing it, not revising and perfecting, which is quite necessary and something I’ve been doing all spring and summer. I am now getting to the end of the entire process, nearly two years after I made the decision to start.
I’m eager for you all to read it and hope you will find it engaging and uplifting.
Mallory’s mother, Diane Shader Smith, spoke with her trademark quiet intensity and passion about Mallory’s bright, positive spirit, and about her enduring legacy. Diane and her husband Mark say thank you to all who attended.
We sold out of the 120 books that Dick Haley, our Boston bookseller brought, and could have easily sold more.
Since the event, so many people have reached out to me to say how stunned they are by Mallory’s writing, and by the power of of her hard, beautiful story. It also provides insight, they say, into what life was like for us. I can attest to that..
On July 17, artist Kara Taylor and actress Amy Brenneman hosted a fundraiser for The Leo Project at Kara’s art gallery. It was a night of art and African drums and overwhelming island generosity.
Jess’s talks are emotional and inspiring. She makes it clear that her project is not just about her, or Caitlin, or even Africa. The Leo Project is more universal than that. It is about love and life and friendship and finding what speaks to your soul and pursuing it. It is about honoring a beloved friend, and about bettering the life of even one person, if you can. The Leo Project is about every participant becoming a more purposeful human.
Thanks to all who honor Caitlin during her birthday days — with kindness, humor, generosity, wisdom, tolerance, empathy. ❤️
“I have always believed in goodness and I know a lot of people say that, but it does feel undeniably essential, and I don’t question it.” –Caitlin, July 31, 1983
This resource center for children, which is her promised tribute to Caitlin, is now a reality. Construction began in January and the walls rise daily.
Last July, when she announced Phase 1 of her project, with a goal of raising $200,000 to buy land and construct the center, I asked, “What happens if you don’t raise all the money?”
She smiled at me in her calm, steady way. “But that won’t happen,” she said.
It didn’t. Phase 1 fundraising is now complete. Construction will be complete by May. Fundraising is now into Phase 2: a $40,000 goal for set-up costs that include a perimeter fence for security, computers, supplies for pilot programs, furniture, a sustainable garden, and initial staff salaries.
Jess on-site with Mungai, her general contractor
Fred the foreman and one of his cheerful workers
♥ Story 2, ANDREW:
Last Friday, Andrew texted me a photo and asked, “Is this still standing?” The photo was of a mini-mart on the other side of the island. At first, I didn’t realize Caitlin was in the picture. Then I picked out her fierce little presence, and realized that it also happened to be International Women’s Day.
Love. Steel reserves. We have everything.
Andrew has never run a marathon but he’s been training all winter. On April 15, he will run the Boston Marathon in honor of Caitlin. John Hancock provided Jess with a number for the Leo Project; Andrew will be their official entrant. Every dollar he raises will go to the Leo Project, but he has to commit to raising $10,000 in exchange for the official number. Please read his story and support him: Andrew’s Boston Marathon for Caitlin & the Leo Project
♥ Story 3, MALLORY & DIANE:
I’ve written before about the incredible Mallory Smith, who followed in Caitlin’s footsteps, relocating to Pittsburgh (from LA) for a lung transplant. Mallory was empathic and bright, a straight-A Stanford grad, avid surfer, passionate writer. She got her transplant in September of 2017 and celebrated her 25th birthday that October. A month after that, she succumbed to a raging infection.
Mallory became another cystic fibrosis tragedy, but today, March 12, we are celebrating her beautiful soul with the publication, by Penguin Random House, of her posthumous memoir, Salt in My Soul, An Unfinished Life. It is on sale everywhere and I urge you to run to your favorite independent bookstore and buy a copy.
From the LA Times review:
The day of Mallory’s memorial, Diane opened up the electronic journal that Mallory had kept secret for 10 years. It was 2,500 pages long. Mallory wanted it edited and published, and she trusted only her mother to read it raw.
“I spent two to three hours a day holed up in my room laughing and crying while I read it,” Diane said. “My husband needed to see a grief counselor after six months, but this was my grieving process.”
Very quickly, Diane, a veteran publicist, understood she had a book on her hands, one that could inspire people facing impossible situations, that could help medical professionals better understand and deal with their patients, and raise money for cystic fibrosis research.
She found an editor and then a publisher, who gave her a healthy six-figure advance, none of which she will keep.
She already has more than 60 talks planned around the country to promote the book — at hospitals, universities, law schools, medical schools, high schools, tech companies and the New York Public Library.
Nick and I will be hosting a celebratory hour for SALT IN MY SOUL on July 11 at Framingham Country Club at 6:30 in the evening, and we will welcome everyone who wishes to attend. Diane will be talking about Mallory, and Jess will be on hand to show us photos from Kenya, as the Smiths are generously donating all book sale proceeds to the Leo Project.
♥ 4, St. John:
So here we are, Nick and I, back on St. John, the place our family loved best. As I’ve previously written, “boat day” was always the highlight of our vacations here. On boat day, we would go out with a captain and visit a few of the British Virgin Islands. We’d enjoy the wind and water, do a little snorkeling. Pop into a couple of the various beach bars for conch fritters and painkillers.
On Sunday, the two of us did boat day with Captain Cleve, a St. John native who is an all-around wonderful person and great captain. In the morning, he texted Nick to say that he’d decided to use the bigger and newer of his two boats for our trip.
We boarded at 8:30, went through customs on Tortola, then headed up to Norman Island, which we hadn’t visited since 2013 with Caitlin and Andrew.
It was beautiful, but as we plowed through the waves, I was wondering if I even wanted to do this anymore. There are memories in all of these islands, and those memories are bittersweet.
I looked at the empty spot beside me, where Caitlin would have been sitting, and wondered, Are you really with us?
At Norman Island, we moored and jumped into the water. At hull level, we noticed Cleve’s lively logo then saw the “33”– a number which has become Caitlin’s “signature” “sign” to us.
Seeing that 33 delighted us. It felt like a little hello from Caitlin and we spent the rest of the afternoon feeling upbeat.
At the end of the trip, back on St. John, we were docked at the fueling station when the peace was suddenly broken by someone’s super loud ringtone playing that old Meow Mix jingle. Meow meow meow meow 🎶 meow meow meow meow 🎶 meow meow meow meow, MEOW meow meow meow..
I mean, super loud.
We whipped our heads around to see where it was coming from. On the boat behind us, the embarrassed captain was laughing apologetically and scrambling to answer/quiet his phone.