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UNC alum and master's student comes home again in new book

Katherine Snow Smith, an adjunct professor and graduate student through the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, poses for a portrait outside Carroll Hall on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024.

Twenty minutes before moving back to North Carolina from her home in Florida, longtime journalist Katherine Snow Smith accidentally stepped on a blender blade. 

This story is how Smith, a UNC media and communication master's student and adjunct instructor, began her second book, “Stepping on the Blender & Other Times Life Gets Messy," published in November of 2023. 

Smith, a Raleigh native, earned an undergraduate degree from UNC in 1990, got married and began an over two-decade-long career at the Tampa Bay Times. She returned to North Carolina in the fall of 2021 after her final child went to college and she and her husband got divorced.

Last Wednesday marked the beginning Smith’s final semester of graduate school.

“Who knows what a year can bring. Or what a lifetime can bring," she wrote in an Instagram caption of a split-screen photo of her first day of first grade in the 1970s and her first day of her last semester of graduate school.

This caption is the main theme of her memoir, which explores unpredictability and uncertainty inherent in life. With anecdotes and humor, Smith works to demonstrate the surprises, twists and turns that can bring unexpected challenges or opportunities.

In the memoir, her accident with the blender becomes a metaphor for other events in her life. They haven't been easy, she said, but laughing through them and leaning on friends was the best way to proceed.

“I had no idea what life would hold,” Smith said. "And its held some wonderful things and some really great friendships and great places and great jobs and great family. And it's also held some things I didn't expect like some early deaths of people I love and a divorce and I've had cancer, but I got through it fine."

Hannah Larrew, Smith's publicist, said she has seen Smith connect with everyone. She was on the phone with her a few weeks ago while Smith was at the bank and heard her remember employees and tellers and laughing with them. 

"A day that you speak with her is a good day because she kind of just brings a smile to your face," Larrew said.

In the book, Smith learns that life is about the balance between embracing changes and accepting things that won’t change.

For her, that process is all about self-acceptance — learning how to embrace one’s own flaws with self-love and finding the people who will accept them with care and support.

At the end of her memoir, Smith wrote about an emotional bond with one of her students named Lexi Dixon, a UNC junior. By discussing writing over coffee, Smith realized that she could be a teacher that could connect with a student, on a personal and academic level.

Not only has this connection deepened Smith’s perception of what teaching truly means, it also brings great comfort and support to Dixon’s life. 

Dixon said Smith has been an incredible role model for her. 

“I really enjoy her friendship," she said. "And I feel like I can talk to her and tell her anything I need to.”

Smith’s connection with UNC expands beyond her own experiences at the University. Her father, a journalist, attended UNC on the G.I. Bill in 1950 and her mother, a teacher, earned a Ph.D. at the University at the age of 56.

In the memoir, Smith writes that, “as much as my father influenced my work in journalism, my mother is the inspiration I follow in my next career.” 

Reflecting on her own footsteps from Raleigh to St. Petersburg, Florida and back to North Carolina in the memoir, Smith thought of fellow Tar Heel Thomas Wolfe’s work, "You Can’t Go Home Again," and the idea that one cannot return to a past version of oneself or a former place and find it unchanged.

Home changes because people change, Smith said.

“Home is a place where it's not always going to be the same if you leave and come back," she said. "But if you can find the things that have stayed the same, and also embrace the things that have changed, you definitely can go home again." 

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On Saturday from 2-3 p.m., Smith will have a book talk and signing at McIntyre Books in Ferrington Village.


@dthlifestyle |

Editor's Note: Katherine Snow Smith is a former staffer at The Daily Tar Heel.