A bar, tattoo parlor and curiosity is what led BuzzFeed Book Editor, Isaac Fitzgerald to success. Fitzgerald worked at a bar located across from a tattoo parlor and would often find himself questioning coworkers and friends about the stories behind their tattoos. What began as a passion eventually led to his latest book, entitled “Knives and Ink: Chefs and the Stories Behind Their Tattoos.”
Carrying a positive energy while reading excerpts from his book, Fitzgerald’s passion was evident. Fitzgerald explained that his idea to tell stories behind people’s tattoos began when he conversed with a friend, Wendy MacNaughton. MacNaughton echoed the same enthusiasm as Fitzgerald and wanted to illustrate the tattoos to accompany the writing.
“This book could have been something just focused on the photographs of the tattoos,” said Fitzgerald, “but the involvement of Wendy’s art, her drawings and her artwork that represents tattoo artists’ work add a second layer that I’m really proud of.”
Fitzgerald mentioned that his and MacNaughton’s first book, “Pen and Ink” includes profiles of writers, prisoners, chefs and many others. He explained that it began as a self-published project on Tumblr and once the idea took off, Bloomsbury Publishing made a book deal with Fitzgerald. Tumblr is a small-scale blogging and social networking website that allows people to post multimedia and other work onto a blog. When the first book achieved success, they decided to narrow their focus to chefs.
“Often when you go out to eat, it’s very easy to disassociate yourself from where your food is coming from,” said Fitzgerald. “I really hope these personal stories come across to us as consumers and that we think a little more about who is making our food and what kind of lives they’ve led.”
Sophomore Danielle Daya enjoyed listening to Fitzgerald talk about the stories behind these chefs’ tattoos. The concept of diving into the lives of the chefs proved to be interesting for her.
“It was just a generally refreshing spin on the idea of tattoos and their stories, especially with the artistic design aspect, which I thought was super cool,” said Daya.
Faculty member of Regis University’s MFA and the Fairfield County Writer’s Studio and creative writing professor at Fairfield University, Sophfronia Scott, elaborated on her decision to invite Fitzgerald to Fairfield; a major part of her reasoning was the originality and relatability he provided to students, according to Scott.
“I know that students tend to read a lot of dead authors and even though I’m a big fan of Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen, we can’t have them here with us,” said Scott. “I think it’s important to meet writers who are working today in the industry.”
Including a variety of big name to everyday chefs allows the reader to build a connection to Fitzgerald’s 65 featured chefs. Ranging from stories like Danny Bowien’s, who has a tattoo of angel wings on his forearm in honor of his mother’s memory, to Dawn Fitzpatrick, who has a small cupcake tattoo above his thumb on one hand and a slice of cake on the other, Fitzgerald combined both heartfelt stories with entertaining, light-hearted ones.
Junior Ashley Cambisaca also commented on the originality of Fitzgerald’s perspective. She elaborated on how detailed Fitzgerald’s work is, which makes for an intriguing read.
“Isaac has a beautiful way of explaining new and interesting topics, especially through the stories behind these tattoos,” said Cambisaca. “He really captures each voice in ‘Knives and Ink’ and stays true to each story of the chefs.”
In addition to discussing his new book, Fitzgerald also offered key advice to young and aspiring writers. Fitzgerald encouraged students to write, even if it’s just about their day. He also noted that finding a community of friends who are interested in books and reading might lead one to discover new ways of connecting with literature. Fitzgerald explained that building these networks is important to the writing lifestyle. He added that beginning as a self-published writer on outlets such as Tumblr and Twitter are great places to start.
Fitzgerald explained that while working at the bar, he sometimes would have to stay until 5 a.m. doing stock inventory, but if it wasn’t for the job across the street from a tattoo parlor, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to write his book.
“If you told me when I was a kid that I was going to get paid to read, I wouldn’t have believed you. As far as where luck is concerned, I believe that it has to do with making your own luck. It’s taking these small steps that maybe you don’t realize at the time are leading to larger opportunities,” said Fitzgerald.
Other key reasons why Scott wanted to introduce Fitzgerald to Fairfield is because of the passion that he has for his work and the insight he offered to students.
“Isaac is someone who believes in the craft and the joy of reading and connecting with audiences, and I wanted my students to experience that energy,” said Scott.
“Knives and Ink: Chefs and the Stories Behind Their Tattoos” will be available for purchase at Fairfield’s downtown bookstore; if Fitzgerald’s work piques your interest be sure to keep an eye out for his forthcoming young adult novel and picture book.
If people want to view Fitzgerald’s blog, they can find it at this address http://penandink.tumblr.com/.