Kelly Corrigan is having a pretty momentous 2018 thus far. In mid-January, the author’s fourth book, Tell Me More, was released to critical acclaim and, by the end of the month, was at No. 11 on the New York Times best-seller list.
Also in January, Maria Shriver interviewed Corrigan on her Facebook live series, Architects of Change. Two months later, Corrigan returned the favor and interviewed Shriver in front of a sold-out crowd during a lecture series at Dominican University of California, after Shriver’s latest book, I’ve Been Thinking, was released. Corrigan has interviewed a slew of celebrities over the years, but that night was the first time she felt slightly intimidated. Turns out, comedian Chelsea Handler was sitting in the front row. But it all worked out, and Corrigan has a selfie with Handler on her Instagram page to prove it.
In her refreshingly honest, no-nonsense way that legions of loyal readers have come to admire, Corrigan is quick to set the record straight that her life is not all celebrities and glamour. “There is a new element to my life,” says Corrigan, who lives in San Francisco with her husband and two daughters. “But most of the time, it’s exactly as it was before. I’m just doing what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller, and that’s what I am.”
Storytelling has always been a part of Corrigan’s life, from her time at Radnor High School to her studies at the University of Richmond and San Francisco State University, where she earned her master’s in literature. During those years, her writing was all her own. Then in 2008, her first book, The Middle Place, was released. Her writing was out there for public consumption, and readers, especially women, instantly fell in love with it.
The Middle Place is a memoir where Corrigan introduces readers to her life on the Main Line, sharing stories of growing up with her parents and two brothers on Wooded Lane in Radnor. There wasn’t anything overly spectacular going on. They weren’t part of the über-elite, with lavish tales of wealth. They were a totally relatable middle-class family that could’ve been living anywhere in the country.
In The Middle Place, Corrigan weaves between funny flashbacks of her youth and poignant reflections on her battle with breast cancer in her late 30s. The cruel twist is that her father is simultaneously battling cancer. Corrigan’s circumstances lead her to start thinking about what she calls “the middle place,” defining it as “that sliver of time when parenthood and childhood overlap.”
With that initial book, Corrigan did what she managed to do in her next three memoirs—get readers to pause and allow themselves to think about the meaning of life, death, family and relationships from a different perspective. “It is my nature to try and understand what’s happening by writing,” says Corrigan, who turned 50 last year. “It is my nature to share. I knew I was going to try to figure out the world through writing and I was going to share that.”
Corrigan’s fans have devoured her work and demanded more in between releases. She’s written essays that have appeared in national publications like Glamour, Time and O, The Oprah Magazine. She’s given TED Talks. She’s put up YouTube videos of her public appearances where she’s reading excerpts from her books, along with some video essays. One of those video essays, titled Transcending: Words on Women and Strength, has gone viral, with over 4.8 million views.
Corrigan has proven that she’s as good at interviewing people as she is at writing. Last year, she hosted a podcast series where she sat down with people like author
Anne Lamott and actor B.J. Novak, asking them their thoughts on “the big questions of life.”
There’s a likable, genuine quality to Corrigan that comes through in her books. “She writes like a true Philadelphian,” says Kiersten Tomson, a 30-something Corrigan fan from Chester County who now lives in Chicago. “She’s snarky, she curses, and she makes you smile through the tears.”
Corrigan’s editor, Andy Ward of Random House, describes her as authentic and more. “She’s as funny, relatable, self-questioning and open as they come,” he says.
And her writing reveals some of the most unflattering low points in her life. “It doesn’t bother me at all sharing these stories,” she says. “This is my life. I want to share the good and the bad.”
Corrigan returned home to the Main Line earlier this year during her book tour for Tell Me More. The Saturday Club in Wayne hosted a packed house for the signing and reading, with all proceeds from the event going to the Radnor High School Scholarship Fund. “I love home. I love Radnor. I love Radnor High School. I love my high school friends. We stayed incredibly close. It’s the best place for me to visit in the world,” says Corrigan. “Except that Greenie isn’t there.”
Greenie is Corrigan’s father, George, who passed away in 2015. He was a longtime lacrosse coach at Radnor High School. Stories about his gregarious personality and Corrigan’s deep love for him have been a constant theme in all of her books. “When I’m home, I have to walk around in my dad’s Radnor lacrosse jacket and see how many people stop me and say, ‘Are you George Corrigan’s daughter?’” she says. “I love that.”
In Tell Me More, Corrigan addresses the profound loss of not only her father but also her close friend Liz. Both died within a short time of each other. She devotes the first chapter to grief, loss, and moving on after that loss. “One thing that might happen in the wake of Tell Me More is people might aspire to have deeper conversations,” says Corrigan. “That would mean a lot to me if that was the net effect of reading the book—that you wanted to go further in your friendships and you wanted them to be more real, more intimate and more substantial.”