Young author never lived to see book's success

CHARLIE MITCHELL
Last updated 09:21 04/09/2014
Hat
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BEST SELLER: Harriet Rowland, author of The Book of Hat, died shortly after its release.

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Fuelled by insatiable demand, a popular book has been released in digital form on what would have been the author's 21st birthday.

The Book of Hat, written by 20 year-old Harriet "Hat" Rowland, became a rapid success after publication, topping bestseller charts in New Zealand.

Rowland did not witness the extent of her book's success - 48 hours after its launch, she was admitted to hospice in the final stages of terminal cancer. She died in March.

The book is a collection of her blog posts, which she began writing when she was 17, shortly after she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

On August 26 - what would have been Rowland's 21st birthday - an ebook version of the surprise hit was launched, allowing people around the world to read Rowland's story.

Mary McCallum of Wellington- based Makaro Press, which published The Book of Hat, said there had been pressure to turn Rowland's story into an ebook to meet high demand.

She turned to Dunedin publisher Rosa Mira Books to get the process under way.

"I'm very excited to be launching The Book of Hat as an ebook," said Penelope Todd, owner of Rosa Mira books.

"It's been a privilege and a poignant project."

Excerpts from her blog reveal Rowland's vivacious personality, even as she faced death.

"The amount of happiness in my life is ridiculous," she wrote.

"At precisely two seconds ago I decided I would never sleep again as I don't want to miss out on any of the happiness that could possibly occur while I am asleep.

"I realised this was ridiculous after thinking it, but I understand pain and sadness. But I also understand happiness.

"I, very fortunately, experience a lot of it."

After reading Rowland's book, a donor gifted a copy to every school library in Wellington.

Jan Kelly, Harriet's mother, said her daughter would have been thrilled about her book's popularity and its digital release.

"Hat would be tickled pink," she said.

"It's hard to express how proud we feel of Hat for always saying yes to life with humour and generosity. She had an amazing ability to find happiness and share it with those she loved.

"She leaves a wonderful legacy in The Book of Hat. We miss her dearly." The Book of Hat was last month a runner-up in the mind, body, spirit award presented by the Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust.

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- The Wellingtonian

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