Professor’s book wins national award

Along the walls of the English, Literature and World Languages office, Professor Deirdre Fagan holds recent national awards for her memoir.

Fagan is an English and literature professor, but she is also known as a published author. Her inspiring memoir “Find a Place for Me” was published on Nov 1., 2022 and in June of this year, has won the 17th annual National Indie Excellence Awards’ top prize in the Death and Dying category.

Over time, her memoir has won the 2023 Readers’ Favorite Grief & Hardship Gold Medal and the 2022 Living Now Awards Bronze       Medal. She has been nominated for the Shelf Unbound 2022 Indie Notable 100, was a finalist for the American Writing Award Memoir and American Bookfest “Best Book,” and was invited to a ceremony this Nov. to celebrate the success of her book and was a finalist for two other awards.

Fagan’s memoir describes her marriage with her late husband Bob Fagan, who at the young age of 43 was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. With only a few months left with her husband, she talks about how they make the most out of every moment together. Fagan takes a “loving and humorous” approach as she tells her love story of how she said goodbye.

Fagan started writing the memoir six years after her husband had passed away. She made this decision after receiving many comments from friends and family about needing to write about her family’s story.

Ferris State University English and literature professor Deirdre Fagan. Photo provided by: Deirdre Fagan

“I wrote the book to preserve what I remember,” Fagan said. “It’s a way for my children to know their father more. I also wanted to raise awareness for ALS and open up conversations about death and terminal illnesses but also to have conversations about love and survival.”

English professor David Robinson is Fagan’s current husband. Because Fagan is a mother, full-time faculty member, spouse and an author, Robinson believes that she “is very busy” and yet can still “accomplish so much.”

“I’m so proud of Deidre, writing a memoir has been a dream of hers for years now,” Robinson said. “I’m happy that she was able to accomplish this and that the memoir has been such a success.”

According to Fagan, being a professor and author makes the process of publishing a book a little difficult. She focuses most of her summer on writing her books and spends the school year writing poetry or short stories. Fagan says it is harder for her to “concentrate” when writing during the school year due to all the “interruptions.”

Though her book writing is saved for summer break, Fagan feels that Ferris has done well in supporting her throughout the process. She is excited about the success of her book and believes it helped Ferris’ creative writing department by helping expand creative writing offerings.

“This has truly been a fun ride and it’s always a surprise when one of my books gets an award,” Fagan said. “You receive this email about your book and you could be anywhere. I was at Lake Michigan when I found out about the award for this book. And then you’re like okay which book won the award and which award was it? It’s always interesting.”

Writing this book was a way for Fagan to help other people with their grief and loss. She hopes that when she visits people for book readings, people will have deep conversations with her and won’t be afraid to have them. She believes that these are topics we as a society don’t talk about enough.

“In a tragedy, you can still find joy, and it’s really about living a full life,” Fagan said. “When you’re aware that life can be fragile, it can help you embrace it more. If you dwell on these moments too much, it can be hard to find joy but if you hold it, and balance it, along with recognizing you’re still here now, you can get so much more out of the life you’re living.”

Fagan continues to write and publish books. Her most recent publication is a poetry book called “Phantom Limbs” that covers similar themes as her memoir does. Fagan hopes these books will help people get through difficult times.