Resilience, an iron will to live and support from a group of extraordinary people — just a few of the topics covered by newly published author, Matthew Tullis, the director of journalism here at Fairfield University, during his first-ever book signing in downtown Fairfield for his memoir, “Running With Ghosts.”
Students, family and friends of Tullis as well as fans of the book, congregated at the Fairfield University Downtown Bookstore at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24 to listen to Tullis read passages from his book and receive a personal note from the author in their copy of “Running With Ghosts.”
After a brief introduction from Carol Ann Davis, an associate professor of English and good friend of Professor Tullis, he took to the podium to debrief the audience on what went into completing his book, from the start of the writing process to the difficulties that went on during the publishing process. After a college essay Tullis wrote in 1997, which told of his battle with childhood Leukemia, received more attention than he expected, he began to ponder what would go into a book should he ever take the time to write one.
Many years later, in February of 2016, Tullis set out to start his memoir. He retrieved his medical records from decades in the past and set up interviews with some of the family members of those who helped him through his childhood illness. After months of writing and editing, Tullis sold the book to The Sager Group, a small publishing company out of California.
Before reading some passages from his book, Tullis shared with the audience the motivation behind creating such a personal and powerful memoir. “When I would go out for a run I would think of those people that helped me through my sickness that didn’t make it, I wanted to tell their stories and keep their memory alive,” Tullis said.
Many of the people who helped Tullis through his childhood Leukemia struggled with their own battle against cancer and sadly, not all of them survived. Tullis said that he saw an opportunity with his memoir — he wanted to tell their stories through his.
Those who attended the book signing sat and listened intently to Tullis’ story, with some people being enlightened to the deeper meaning inside, “Running With Ghosts.” “I was struck by how well he told his story as well as those who had passed away during his time as a cancer patient,” said Erin Price ‘19, Tullis’ former student.
The book signing ended with the reading of a powerful passage from the memoir, as Tullis explained how those who had died provided motivation for him to continue on his journey. After the reading, Tullis opened the event to any questions the audience had, offering an inside look into the creation process of his memoir.
Tullis’ students who were in the audience had only good things to say as they came out to support him during this important time in their professor’s life. “Professor Tullis has been a great mentor to me,” commented Noelle Crouchley ‘18. “I took his first class at Fairfield while he was still in the process of writing the book. He is an incredible man with an incredible story that all should hear.” As someone involved in Relay for Life, Crouchley asked Tullis to share his story at the school’s event last year.
Tullis showed no signs of stopping after his memoir and discussed the plans he has for his podcast, “Gangre,” where he speaks with fellow journalists on a variety of different topics, including how to conduct a productive interview, the ins and outs of narrative journalism and how to piece together your notes into a strong story. For his next project, he plans to take these interviews and, in an effort to help out aspiring reporters, compile them into a sort of field guide to narrative journalism. He hopes that this guide will aid young journalists into breaking into a notoriously competitive industry.