Red Fred Project

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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:

• $15K: Funds a 50 States Book
• $7.5K: 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.

Dallas GrahamComment