Catcher[s] in the Rye

Sometimes I’m surprised with how late to the proverbial train I am. I won’t dazzle you with my slowness to ideas, music, personalities and sometimes very well-known world events. No. I’ll just share one slow-train car today: CATCHER IN THE RYE by JD Salinger.


Yes. The book that most Americans read in either middle or high-school—pending on where you grew up and how progressive your English teacher was at the time. The book that divides its readership almost as drastically as a punch thrown in a rumble between the Greasers and the Socs. The book of such picked-apart meaning and symbolism and behavioral commentary that I’m *still* priming my list of sources to see what they (and their dogs) think about Salinger's coming-of-age novel. 

Which brings me to titling a book. 

I’m working on entitling our latest book in the Red Fred Project this very week. Luke, our child-author living in Pennsylvania, has the assignment of coming up with a few possible titles. I’ve given him healthy parameters, allowing mostly for his imagination to have space to work and breathe. I’m excited to read his ideas. 

I’ve also emphasized the importance of a title’s puzzle-piece placement in a “book” and that it is the entry gate, the backbone scaffolding, and the exit sign—all at the same time.  A title matters; it holds all the words together in its arms.

Back to CATCHER.

I was sitting at the bar of my morning coffee haunt when I read the passage in the book where Holden references the title. Old Phoebe’s sisterly correction of Holden’s incorrect word use of Robert Burn’s poem ‘killed me.’ Why? Well, it's the swapped out word choice, CATCH for MEET, that motivates Holden to share some very personal, inner landscape with someone he trusts. This passage is the salient, pivotal, understood moment you have with the pouty protagonist.

Salinger’s pide-pipering is masterful:

Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.

I sat back on my bar stool and swallowed a big, stinging lump in my throat. I blinked rapidly and rubbed my eyes with my fingers. And then I thought of you.

I’ve been publishing books for four years and I’m going as hard as I can and as fast as I can to find these terrific kids living in all sorts of extraordinary circumstances. And all the while, there is this clock ticking in my heart. Time—and not so much as my time as theirs—is part of the molecular make-up of this project. I’m trying to catch time and ideas and meaning and essence in order to make a book that can be placed in their hands.

You see, we have this opportunity at the Red Fred Project to CATCH the essence and imagination and wisdom of children in the form of a book. And there is nothing else I want to do, all day, every day. "I know it's crazy." Why? Because when you really see it for what it is—the opportunity for them and for us to all hold hands and make something great—it CATCHES you in the very center of WHY you know you’re alive and WHY you know they are alive. We are here to catch one another. 

I’ve shed tears reading and re-reading that passage by Holden. I understand his desire. And I know you do, too. You want to CATCH children, childhood, and all of magic surrounding them. Somehow. 

So, come CATCH them with me.

 Photo courtesy of Barclay Burns

Photo courtesy of Barclay Burns

We are in the time and season when there is a lot of giving going on. Those of us in the non-profit sector are especially grateful for friends, new and old, who have aligned with our intentions and missions. We know we can’t do the work we need to do without the help of you. Each of you.

I need you to help me CATCH them—the unseen, unknown, untold children’s stories—and your financial giving will help me do that. Here are some specific figures where we could use your sponsorship support:

• $25K: Funds a 50 States Book
• $10K: Funds a Local Collection Book
• $3K: Funds Printing of 200 Books
• $600: Rent, Interntet, Staples, etc.
• $200: Marketing Materials

We are a designated 501(c)3 organization with the IRS which makes donations of $250 and higher tax-deductible. You can donate directly to our foundation via this link:

Thanks for your continued support and belief in the Red Fred Project. It means the world to me.

Let's CATCH them. And their stories.

Sitting Across

I'm working on Zeke's book as I type this. As I was sifting through hundreds of images, spinning on his story about this bird who wants to stand up for himself, I came across this image of the last few minutes of our workshop. I'm not sure what we were talking about, in the second the shutter released and captured the gestures, but the body language suggests some vulnerability on his end and a curiosity on mine.

(Suddenly, I have to swallow and blink a few times. Amazing how quickly those things are triggered.) ;))

Lots of emotions in me, on my sleeve, close to my eyes during this month. This world... filled with children making sense of things, on their own, with the normal things of growing up, becoming, learning to stand on their feet... I'm fascinated by the everydayness of the human experience and just how dynamic it can be when we intersect with someone different from us in almost every single way.

What does it do when we're *really* in a space of acknowledging one another? Would the shootings persist? Would the doors remain locked, or might they be propped open—even more? Would our self-interests melt, like couldn't-eat-fast-enough-ice-cream, if we were able to see the OTHER in their vulnerability?

I'm right there with you on this—making sense of it everyday, with all the other everyday-ers. I'm hoping for more opportunities to acknowledge that OTHER by tabling my own experiences in order to listen and sit across from theirs.

All love. All ways.

Mara Jade Wished She Could Fly

"Mr. Graham:

I met you on Saturday, March 5, at Salt Lake Acting Company, at the 3pm performance of "Climbing with Tigers". I bought the book, which you kindly signed, and I had my photo taken with you. Perhaps you remember me.

I attended the performance by myself to see whether two grandnephews and a grandniece would like it. And the performance was wonderful. (I'm taking them tonight along with three of their parents).

I have a friend, Heidi, who has a niece, Mara Jade, who has brittle-bones disease. During the performance the Holy Spirit whispered to me that I needed to get tickets for my friend and her niece. When I got home, I e-mailed my friend. I didn't mention my prompting; I just asked where her niece lived. When Heidi told me Mara Jade lived in Colorado, I thought, "Well, this just isn't going to work out."

Then yesterday, March 14, Heidi posted on Facebook that Mara Jade was going to be visiting her on Saturday (here, in Utah) and did anyone have any suggestions about what they could do together.

I immediately e-mailed Heidi and told her I wanted to buy her tickets to "Climbing with Tigers" for her and her family and Mara Jade. She e-mailed me back and wrote:

"That's interesting because my daughter had a dream that Mara Jade wished she could fly. I cried when I read this. I feel like I need to take her."

Heidi asked for four tickets, and she and Mara Jade and two other family members will be attending "Climbing with Tigers" on Saturday, March 19, at 7pm.

I'm going to give Mara Jade the book you signed for me.

As I said to you on March 5, "What a great mission you have!"

Jo Ellen"
Water-works going on over here, at Red Fred Project HQ today. How do you reply to something like this? It's so invisible and honest and uncanny. This production IS something special and we (Nathan, the Glads, The Jolly Troop and I) couldn't have dreamed this sort of excellence would be so close—so near the creation of the book—and created with such creative mastery, as has been displayed by our incredible creative team with Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory and Salt Lake Acting Company. We couldn't have imagined these types of responses coming in or the mysterious threading of spirit and love. This production represents ALL THE GOOD that springs out of the human heart and mind when all eyes are locked on unfettered brilliance, sown together with kindness.

I can't wait to meet Mara Jade on Saturday evening, our new brittle-bones friend from Colorado.

Don't miss this show, Salt Lakers. Last performance is March 27th. For tickets call SLAC at 801-363-7522 or purchase online at

With all my tiger-striped heart,

Dear Red Fred...

A couple months ago, a third-grade class from Salt Lake City, made me a cape out of felt feathers, colored red, blue, turquoise, and yellow. It's one of my very favorite things. It's like my Superman cape! They also sent this HUGE note with it. Kids... they RULE my world. I couldn't help but laugh and smile at their exploration (and admittance) of synonym use. 


Salt Lake Acting Company's CLIMBING WITH TIGERS

I'm still having a hard time wrapping my brain around this, but next week, the WORLD PREMIERE of CLIMBING WITH TIGERS hits the stage! Salt Lake Acting Company is producing the first Red Fred Project story, by Nathan Glad, as a full-blown production. The creative direction is under the loving care and brilliance of new SLC theatrical powerhouse Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory. The children's book was adapted for the stage by NY playwright, Troy Deutsch. Runs from 4 March — 27 March! You can purchase your tickets here

My dear friend (and he's brilliant with pencils and pens and paint), Jory Hemmelgarn, illustrated this masterpiece as a poster to commemorate and help bring awareness to the play! We will be selling 50 signed copies of this 11x17 work of wonder.

Come to our "Fun!Raiser"

Come to the most colorful, feel-good party of the season! Tuesday, 17 November, 6:30 p.m at Publik. Coffee Roasters, we're having our first "Fun!Raiser" and we want you there! And we need you there! Don some feathers and bring your belly-laughs for a night filled with epiphanies. Click here to be directed to the invite. If you can't make it and would like to make a tax-deductible donation, please click here. Thanks for the support! 

Dear Alyssa

Dear Alyssa,

You have the most beautiful eyes, in the whole, wide world. 

Do you know how I know that? 

I can see your heart in them.

I’m not talking about your beat-beat heart (you probably knew that). I’m talking about your invisible heart that breathes and grows and aches and loves and sometimes sends $100 to help kids with illnesses write books. I’m talking about the heart I saw when I read your letter yesterday.

The Jolly Troop read your letter, too, and guess what? They all cried! But they weren’t sad tears—they were MIGHTY tears; they were INSPIRED tears; they were tears that could glimpse the future and see many, powerful things brought to light by children like you. Have you ever had tears and cries like that? 

I hope you keep your eyes as close to how they are now, as you grow up. When we grow up, sometimes things change in us. Sometimes, as grown ups, our eyes change and we want to see our names on things. “Growing up, changing eyes” isn’t a bad thing—in fact, it’s very good and exciting—but only if we are able to keep some of our childhood, heart-filled eyes hidden inside our grown up eyes. 

I also want you to know how significant your $100 donation is. I know it is a lot of money for you because I was 11 once, too. Your donation is MIGHTY. It is PERFECT. Do you know why? Because right now, we can’t make another book because we don’t have enough money. So when your letter came in the mail, I cried because how did you know how much we needed it? Will you please thank the little fairie that whispered in your golden ears for us? You’re $100 is going to help us with the next book!

I hope I get to meet you someday, Alyssa. I want to look into your wonderful eyes and see what you see. Why? Because your eyes have changed my heart and now, today, my heart wants to see differently.

Your friend. Always. 

The Fenimore Art Museum

Great news that I have to share: I was just contacted by The Fenimore Art Museum , part of the New York Historical Association. They've been watching Red Fred Project an wanna sell our books on their selves! I talked with them this morning and they want to start by selling Emma's book (Friends Fight Fear) because it takes place in a museum. Haha! They ordered 2 dozen! When I asked our new friend, Sue, what the shelf life is (sometimes book-sellers need to set those parameters to make room for other books, and we totally understand that), she said, "Always. We're buying them. They'll live here until we sell them. We'll start with Emma's and then work towards getting the others in time." Yes!!! Why is this significant? Because it shows me that these kids' stories touch all sorts of places, like museums, and lakes, and basketball courts, and farms, and city-centers, and shopping districts, and river-walks, and front-yard trees and thereby have relevance in a rainbow of ways. Can you imagine our books filling museums across the country? I can! This was a WIN today, folks! Stick with us: only open sky ahead!

Book Signing at The Leonardo

October was a magical month here at the Red Fred Project. On the 18th we had a Book Signing hosted by The Leonardo. Our lovely guests heard about why the project was created, who inspires us, and even got to take a sneak peek behind the creation of a Trooper!

We loved seeing so many friends, new and old. We were so pleased to be joined by Nathan Glad, author of Climbing With Tigers, and his wonderful family! He wowed us all with a speech he wrote himself and his great, big heart. 

Special thanks to the talented photographer, Anna Pocaro, who was working behind the scenes to create these wonderful images. You can see more of her powerful work here.

Artist-in-Residence, Part 3: Play-Shops

Perhaps the most significant portion of our time as artist-in-residence at The Leonardo was "exploring the JOLLY art of theatre" with some new friends. We asked our collaborators (who happen to be creative geniuses), Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory, to conduct one-hour "Play-Shops" with a number of guests that have showed up on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

These new friends are from a couple of pretty great organizations: Angel's Hands Foundation and Ronald McDonald House. Both organizations have been very supportive of our efforts and are very much interested in similar things we are, namely: awesome kids that are problem-solving some tough stuff, with a lot of creativity and wisdom. 

Each hour, the play-shops were divided into a portion focused on mask-making and a portion focused on character development and story imagining. Scott and Andra, the geniuses from Flying Bobcat, have done a terrific job with our new friends and helped us think more about making stories and then acting them out!

Artist-in-Residence, Part 2: Volunteers

We've met some GREAT new friends during our time at The Leonardo as the artist-in-residence. As a focus, we've been exploring "the JOLLY art of theatre" by making 3D masks for an upcoming production our RFP's first book, "Climbing with Tigers"! Each of the noses you see below showed up and donated some serious time to helping us create some costuming (we'll show you that in another post).

We printed our Creative's Troopers (from our first 6 books) on cardboard and then asked our Volunteer friends to pick up the Trooper that "spoke to them" and pose for a picture. Isn't it interesting which Trooper each person picked up. Was it picked for its color? Was it picked for their story? Which Trooper would you pick and why?

We sure appreciate EVERY SINGLE EFFORT made to help us get further along in our project. Thx to all you Volunteers! It was wonderful spending time with you!

Artist-in-Residence, Part 1: Stories to Tell

We're on our last week as the artist-in-residence at The Leonardo, a wonderful museum which encourages its patrons (and it's artists-in-residence) to explore, explore, explore! This is our second residency with them and during our time here, we've seen and learned some fascinating things. 

When we were thinking about getting the public's opinion and thoughts regarding something touching our project, we decided to ask them what we ask each of our Red Fred Project Creatives at the beginning of every story-making process:

"If you could write a story for the whole world to read, what would it be about?" 

We had Jane, our new RFP graphic design intern, chalk up the wall pretty-like and then let the rest of the doing happen on its own accord. What you see below are images we've captured of the public's response. Read them. Chuckle at them. Think about them. And then, think about YOUR response if you were asked the same question. 

Utah Humanities Book Festival, 2014

This past Saturday we participated in our first book festival! Being still fairly "new kids on the block" we were very excited to receive the invite from the Utah Center for the Book to join the book-loving audience in Utah, celebrating all things BOOK through the end of October. This past Saturday's event took place in the Urban Room of Salt Lake's City Library Branch—a fantastic and remarkable space for our community. We set up a table, draped it with red and then began stacking our current five titles. We were so impressed by our volunteers that came out and supported us on that drizzly, fall afternoon and we found the time racing by as we made new friends. We had a wonderful reception from those that hadn't heard of the project and we were able to raise more funds for our Creative's and their families. There were kind and happy tears from many of our guests as we shared WHAT it is we are discovering through these great kids and their families. 

We hope this is the first of many and we want to thank the Utah Humanities Council for including us in their wonderful event! 

Slam Dunk Book Signing!

A couple weeks ago, Red Fred Project visited our favorite people in North Carolina: Zachyus Bowers and his incredi-community of family and friends! We all met up at Bonfire Bar & Grill Restaurant and celebrated the dunk-slamming Trooper, Zach, and learned a little more what it meant to be INCREDIBLE. When we walked into the signing room, our jaws dropped a mile when we saw what Tyesia (Zachyus' mom) had been prepping for the book signing: thank you bags, t-shirts with the book's cover art, wristbands, water-bottles branded with the book title and the most INCREDI-CAKE we've seen: a cake that was designed and made to celebrate the book! We met lots of new friends and were able to meet Dream On 3, the organization that introduced Zachyus to us months ago. One of my favorite parts was when we all sat down while Zachyus read the book aloud and talked about the themes and lessons from the book. What an incredi-kid! We won't forget our new family in NC and want to thank them for what they're sharing with the rest of us through this project! If you'd like a chance to purchase Zachyus' book, click here.  

A New King in Memphis: The Green Flyer King

Last weekend, Red Fred Project packed up and headed to the City of Kings to enjoy a few hours with our Green Flyer King, Colin! The event was held at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital among new and old friends. Colin's book signing table was tucked away in a cheery room, surrounded in books! The Jolly Troop stuck to the walls while the friends and family hugged and got acquainted in the middle of the room. Colin roared up in his new power-chair, along with his amazing side-kick brother, Jesse. He used a very cool stamp, with his signature, since he gets tired pretty easily from long physical activity. We thought the stamp was an awesome idea! We had a reading with the audience, but maybe the best part was when Colin gave a book to a gal in the audience—without her knowing it was going to happen! We've had such a great time getting to know Colin and his family and hope the book sales from his book continue to help out with his medical expenses. If you'd like to help out the family, even more, please visit their GoFundMe page, as they are trying to get as much assistance as possible to pay some hefty medical bills! Click here to be directed to their page and click here is you'd like to purchase a copy of his book! We love you Colin! Way to go, buddy!

A Fashion Nest for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation

Well, it doesn't get much better than this. This past wkend, we hopped over to Los Angeles to meet up with RFP CA Creative, Jordan Vincent, for her book signing. Jordan has decided to give the profits from her book sales to an extraordinary organization, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. As we pulled up to the sidewalk, oodles of wonderful people showed up to set up, assist, tell about Jordan's decision and to simply celebrate this great gal and the good she is doing. We'd like to thank the Vincent family and ALSF for allowing us to hold hands with them, and we'd especially like to thank Jordan for the great time it's been creating her story with her! You can still support her efforts to end childhood cancer by purchasing her book: The Fashion Nest (click here) . There are still some autographed copies available! Thanks to all of you!