New York Times bestselling author Kelly Corrigan recently lent her considerable talents to a literary fundraiser at The Glen View Club to benefit the American Cancer Society, giving the 200+ women who bought a ticket a two-for-one deal. Not only did Corrigan share passages from her deeply personal new memoir, Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say, she also delivered an impromptu, no-holds-barred, stand-up routine on the comic absurdity of family life – the daily chaos of kids and marriage Corrigan calls “the ultimate improv.”
The annual charitable event, co-produced by The Book Stall in Winnetka and the North Shore Women’s Board of the American Cancer Society, typically raises more than $30,000 for cancer research. Numerous celebrity authors have headlined the fundraiser over the years, including Martha Stewart and Marlo Thomas.
‘This has always been a great event where an author can promote their book and raise money for a very worth cause,” said North Shore Women’s Board’s Chair Stacey Cohen.
The January 24 engagement marked Corrigan’s third visit to the North Shore Women’s Board’s annual ACS fundraiser. The author – who earned critical praise for her memoirs, The Middle Place, Lift, and Glitter and Glue – spoke to a sell-out crowd eight years ago during a national book tour promoting her 2010 memoir, Lift, and again in 2010 to promote her third book, Glitter and Glue.
“Everyone who comes to hear her speak is blown away,” said Cohen. “She communicates so effectively. She has the voice of all of us.”
Corrigan, who lives in Northern California with her husband and two teenage daughters, penned Tell Me More shortly after losing both her father and her best friend to cancer in the span of six months.
“In the period of time around those two events …in the aftermath, I had complete and total clarity,” said Corrigan. “I could distinguish from a mile away something that was urgent but unimportant, and something that was truly essential. And then, over time, I started to slide back into my usual ways…which aren’t – it turns out – that pretty.”
With Tell Me More, Corrigan sought to recapture and distill the emotional clarity she experienced -but subsequently lost – while grieving for her father and friend. Over the span of the book’s twelve short chapters, Corrigan tackles life’s twelve essential phrases, including “It’s Like This,” “I Know,” “Good Enough,” “I Love You,” and “Tell me More,” which together, the author believes, form the foundation for all meaningful human interaction.
“That was really the birth of this whole project,” said Corrigan. “To identify the things that adults in adult relationships have to be able to say to each other to stay connected, and to get through the ride together…to try to name the phrases that make love and connection possible.”
For example, Corrigan prefers the phrase “I was wrong,” versus “I’m sorry,” to express forgiveness, a human emotion she believes “turns the wheel of family life.”
“I believe the words ‘I’m sorry,’ are fairly overused and often come out sounding snarky,” said Corrigan. “‘I was wrong’ has so much humility baked into it that really unties feelings and helps people start again.”
The chapter entitled, I Don’t Know, said Corrigan, is relatively short, but could have gone on for “pages and pages.”
“The very hardest thing we have to accept – even harder than death – is that there’s so much unknown and unknowable,” said Corrigan, who was diagnosed with cancer 14 years ago. “I was not a genetic cancer case…and I have absolutely no idea why I got it or whether or not I’ll get it again.”
In addition to providing daily support for people afflicted with cancer, the American Cancer Society has raised $4.5 billion for cancer research since 1946.
“People are now surviving at record rates thanks in large part to this organization, said Cohen.