Introducing FILL ME IN!

It’s been a while since I’ve written here—partly because of fall submissions season, partly because of work changes, and partly because my reading has felt a little uninspired lately.

But today I get to write about something I love, FILL ME IN, a journal I created with the rest of the Touchstone team. Today is its publication day!

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This book started with the germ of an idea a year and a half ago. It was May 2017, and I’d gone to a friend’s apartment with a group of people I thought I knew well. We opened one of those question chat packs and went around answering increasingly personal questions for hours. We had the best time, and I learned a lot about everyone else in the process.

May also means graduation season, and as I saw photos of newly minted graduates in their robes, I remembered my own graduation festivities. The night before we graduated college, my friends and I sat down and wrote out predictions for the rest of our lives—where we’d live, in what order we’d marry, whether we’d have children. As the unofficial group secretary, I took the notes and became the keeper of the document (and bets).

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I wondered why there were no friendship journals for adults, the kind I wanted with my friends. So, after thinking it over for a week, I walked into a coworker’s office and asked if this idea for an adult friendship journal-—part memories, part predictions—was crazy. She didn’t think so, and I brought it up at a meeting our editor-in-chief held for young editors. No one there thought it was crazy either.

So I went ahead and made the friendship journal I wanted myself. The content was written and workshopped with much of the Touchstone team (and at dinner with friends). We hired the fabulous Jo Harrison to create illustrations to accompany several of the questions. Our production and design teams outdid themselves to make our vision a reality. I am so, so grateful.

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Getting a book from idea to finished product is hard; I’ve shepherded enough of them to know. Creating the content, trusting my instincts in package and design was hard, but this book was also a lot of fun—pure joy when so much of the rest of the world has felt dark.

There’s a short introduction at the beginning of the book that I’ll quote in part here: “I’m sure all your friends are great, but mine are the best.”

I hope you’ll share it with yours.

x Kait

P.S. You can purchase a copy here on Amazon. If you love it, find us on Instagram @fillmeinjournal. All photos here by our fabulous marketer and Instagram queen Isabel DaSilva.

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On Keeping a Quote Book

Maybe it’s just my milieu, but just about everyone I know has read Joan Didion’s iconic essay “On Keeping a Notebook.” I keep many notebooks, which means they all have a different purpose, all spend much of their lives half-filled, and all fight for space in my (very heavy) purse or my (very crowded) shelves.

But of all of these, my quote book is my favorite.

It started as a Word document on my computer nearly a decade ago, a collection of lines I loved from the books I read for English class. The first entry came from The Sorrows of Young Werther. Later, full passages from Sense and Sensibility, The Virgin Suicides, and The History of Love. Movie quotes began to sneak their way onto the (figurative) page. I tucked these phrases away like a squirrel with an acorn, storing them for when I needed them most.

But as I added and reviewed and reread my Word document over and over again, it began to feel like I hadn’t taken all the care these words deserved. And so I started a quote book, painstakingly copying the lines I had collected over the years into a somewhat standard notebook I owned. I used colored pens, a different color for each source, my cursive loopy.

I am both careful and impulsive with my entries. I have added lines from movies, musicals, articles, even Tumblr I cannot get out of my head. I have included every phrase I’ve highlighted from a particular book read on my Kindle, even if I can’t remember why I called it out in the first place. There are months where I make a dozen entries; there are many months where I make none.

But I always feel better after copying those words down. Some of the quotes have begun to feel like old friends.

Sometimes, my quote book feels like an extension of my diary, an odd charting of my moods and ages, my successes and disappointments. Reading over some of my favorite passages take me right back to where I first read them; I recall my emotional response to them as much as the words themselves.

There’s a line from Almost Famous (which, conveniently I copied into my quote book):

“I always tell the girls never take it seriously, if you never take it seriously you never get hurt, if you never get hurt you always have fun, and if you ever get lonely just go to the record store and visit your friends.”

I feel that way about my quote book.

Reading is, in my ways, a radical act of empathy. For a successful reading experience, you have to step outside your self and connect with someone else. Writing, too, requires the same effort. You never know what could resonate.

On a Kindle, you can see the phrases people highlight most often, which is sometimes fascinating and sometimes annoying. In either case, the underlining draws your attention. In a few cases, I wonder why anyone would mark that portion. Other times, I’m grateful other readers have pointed out a beautiful line I might have otherwise missed. It feels like cheating, like I am just going along with public opinion.

Mostly, though, I love that my quote book feels sometimes like a scrapbook of my life, all these past version of me accumulating into a whole. The lines I loved 10 years ago aren’t necessarily the lines I love now. I can see myself change, see myself grow, within these pages. I make sense of the world in words, and sometimes the only way I can work through a problem is by repeating the words of someone else. These lines are like a magnifying mirror, something that reflects your image in a way you might not have seen it before.

There’s something beautiful about having a physical manifestation of the things you loved, the people you were, the ideas to bolster you as you move on to other things. I have lines I can recite from memory and lines I can’t remember copying. Every so often, I’ll reread a book and find new phrases that knock me out. So I’ll grab my pen and write them down in the same color as the original.

I’m a big believer in everyone having a quote book. Not just because I am a person who loves to remember, not just because I have an odd fascination with the subject of permanence, but because I believe that words provide comfort, and I like to see how that translates and transforms as the years go by. I may not be sixteen any more, but I can flip to the front of my quote book and remember exactly what that feels like.