Alum finishes and publishes late friend’s book


Courtesy of Carolyn Freyer-Jones

A photo of Carolyn Freyer-Jones ’88.

By Sophia Pargas, Editor-in-Chief

An Emerson alum released her debut book, What If This Is The Fun Part? for purchase on Amazon Wednesday. The book, originally started by the author’s best friend about life coaching, is now a story about their friendship through life, sickness, and death. 

Carolyn Freyer-Jones ‘88 and Michelle Bauman quit their day jobs to begin coaching groups of women together, and soon added the title of business partners to their existing relationship. Their friendship only seemed to grow stronger until Bauman died of breast cancer in 2015. Ever since, Freyer-Jones has made it her mission to continue Bauman’s personal and professional legacy—and she started by completing the book she left behind. 

At its core, the book is a story about how coaching changed both Bauman and Freyer-Jones’ lives for the better. 

“It’s a book about two strong women starting the greatest journey of their professional lives as coaches and as friends, and all the things that come from that, and the surprises of Michelle losingher health, but also some incredible surprises,” Freyer-Jones said. “It’s the story of two friends coming together and amazing things happening both personally and professionally. It’s also the story of the profession of coaching, which is a great one.” 

While the book centers largely around the profession of life coaching, it is ultimately rooted in the story of Freyer-Jones and Bauman’s friendship through the ups and downs of their lives. 

“The book is really about the story of Michelle and I and her death,” Freyer-Jones said. “It combines the story of our friendship, and coaching, and what happened as we started our businesses together. There’s a lot of different things woven into the book about growing a business, about being a friend and what that means, and how one uses something like death and doesn’t become a victim from it.” 

Bauman and Freyer-Jones’ relationship was multi-faceted, to say the least. They began as close friends and quickly became business partners whose lives were intertwined in every way imaginable, Freyer-Jones said. 

“I did not have plans to be a business partner,” she said in a phone interview. “That was not part of the journey. That happened just because we met at the gym and became close friends. When we decided to work together, Michelle knew what it meant to be a good business partner. She really modeled generosity.”

When Bauman became sick, Freyer-Jones helped her through her illness and stayed by her side until the end. She reminisces on the strength Bauman exuded even when her sickness was at its worst. 

“Michelle did not act like a victim when she was sick,” Freyer-Jones said. “She never once said, ‘Why me? Why is this happening to me?’ She had lots of feelings about being sick, but she never said it wasn’t fair. She said, ‘Look, if I’m not going to be here much longer, I’m not going to act like this was a terrible thing. When you talk after I’m gone, do not say I fought a battle, because that’s not what this is like. I had joy every single day.’”

When Bauman passed, her husband gave Freyer-Jones all of the notes, materials, and chapters of the book that she left behind. He urged Freyer-Jones to finish Bauman’s work, which is exactly what she did. 

“We had talked, at some point, about writing a book together,” Freyer-Jones said. “We ended up writing one together faster than she’d imagined.” 

Steve Chandler, Freyer-Jones’ life coach and an acclaimed author, emphasized how daunting and impossible it may seem to write a book with someone who has passed. Chandler was also close to Bauman, and bore witness to the pair’s vivacious friendship and partnership. 

“[Freyer-Jones] would take some of Michelle’s pages and then she would respond and put in her own oversight or feelings about it, so it feels like it’s co-written even though one person doing the writing has already passed away,” he said. “It was a really hard book to pull off as a writer—to write with someone else’s writing and still make it feel really present and powerful. You still end up getting to know both women really well from a professional viewpoint and how passionate they were about their work which was changing so many lives.”

While the logistics of writing the book were a challenge, the most difficult part for Freyer-Jones was balancing her need to grieve her friend with her desire to continue Bauman’s legacy. 

“I honestly thought that walking her to the end of her life would be the hardest thing I would ever do,” Freyer-Jones said. “It was much harder after she left. Everything in our lives was shared. We talked about our husbands, we talked about our businesses, we talked about our groups that we ran.”

For Freyer-Jones, it took some time to be able to channel her grief into a project as ambitious as completing Bauman’s unfinished book. 

“Having this experience of profound grief I’d never had before was huge,” she said. “I really had to take a pause and go, ‘What do I have to do now?’ We had all of these plans for future work. I took a year of just doing my individual work before I decided to get back out there and do anything larger.” 

Now that the book is finished and ready to be released to the public, the final product reflects two beautiful women and the wonderful friendship they shared. After reading the book, readers are hoped to feel the same love and passion for life that Freyer-Jones found not only in coaching, but also in her friendship with Bauman, Chandler said. 

“I was in tears reading the manuscript, because it really brought Michelle back to life for me,” he said. “All of her words are so full of life and hope for everyone else. You really get to see inside the heart of a professional woman who was really powerful and maintained a love of other people in life, all the way through. It’s a great book about transformation. People change, and other people help that to happen.” 

Freyer-Jones is excited for her and Bauman’s creation to be out in the world, and hopes all who read it will get to know her late friend’s legacy, as well as learn something about the possibility of overcoming even the most painful hardship. 

“I’m excited for people to get to hear Michelle again,” Freyer-Jones said. “People will get to hear her voice, and read the things that she wrote. I’m excited that they get to be excited to share a story that talks about grief in a way that doesn’t mean the world is over. Grief is hard, and it’s not an easy thing to walk through for anybody. I’m excited to share a story that talks about grief in a real way that’s not like ‘my world ended,’ because mine didn’t.”