Fairfield University MFA graduate publishes brutally honest memoir

Fairfield University MFA graduate publishes brutally honest memoir

Image: David Fitzpatrick David Fitzpatrick, a 2011 graduate of Fairfield University's MFA in Creative Writing program, has turned a lifetime battling self-destructive psychosis into a searing memoir that is gaining acclaim for its honesty and hopefulness. Fitzpatrick will discuss "Sharp," his look back at years of institutionalization, and the healing and writing process on Wednesday, August 22 at 7 p.m. at Fairfield University Bookstore, 1499 Post Road, Fairfield. The talk is free and open to the public.

"Sharp" details Fitzpatrick's 17-year battle with self-injury, in which he was compelled to cut himself with razor blades to relieve his inner torment, leading to multiple stays in mental health facilities. While still in treatment for bipolar disorder, he reached out to award-winning novelist Wally Lamb, a Connecticut writer he admires who encouraged Fitzpatrick to tell his story.

"While reading 'Sharp,' I was at turns frightened, appalled, enlightened, and overcome with sadness," said Lamb, author of bestsellers such as "She's Come Undone" and "The Hour I First Believed." "Throughout I was fully engaged and, by book's end, reassured about the triumph of the human spirit and the healing power of a family's patient and abiding love. For those of us who seek a better understanding of mental illness, David Fitzpatrick's 'Sharp' is a must read, remarkably told."

Lamb and Fitzpatrick will read from their works together at 7 p.m. on Monday, September 24 at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore at 2289 Broadway (at 82nd Street) in New York City.

Fitzpatrick entered Fairfield's MFA program in the winter of 2008, joining other aspiring writers on Ender's Island, off Mystic, for four 10-day residencies over two years. Writers in the low-residency program work independently with an advisor for most of the year, but enjoy the residencies as times for constructive criticism and encouragement from each other.

It was on Ender's Island that he met writer Lary Bloom, who, like Lamb, has taught in the program. He found Fitzpatrick shy, but compassionate and insightful. "When it came time to go over his piece, and for us to offer suggestions for it, I was stumped," Bloom wrote in a recent story for Connecticut Magazine . "Only once before as editor or teacher had I been in such a situation: When I read David's 20-page essay about some of his worst days, I was stunned both by its power and its craft. There wasn't a single comma I wanted to change. Believe me, that is rare."

Fitzpatrick worked with an old friend who is a literary agent, but they initially received the rejections most aspiring writers know all too well. Then Lamb stepped in and asked his editors at HarperCollins to read the memoir, which they agreed to publish. It hits bookstores on August 21.

Early reviews of the book have been positive. Publishers Weekly called it "mesmeric," and author Kate Christensen ("The Great Man") said, "'Sharp' is a courageously honest book by a gentle, damaged soul who fought his way to the light with a ferocity he never thought he possessed."

Lamb and Fitzpatrick will also read from their works together at 7 p.m. on Monday, September 24 at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore at 2289 Broadway (at 82 nd Street) in New York City.

Author Michael White, director of Fairfield's MFA program, isn't surprised by the accolades. "What makes this memoir so riveting and so unforgettable isn't the myriad of horrors that its narrator inflicts upon himself," he said. "It's the razor-sharp humor and abiding wisdom and depth of humanity with which its author graces the reader. Sharp cuts deep into your heart."

Fitzpatrick, who lives in Middletown, Conn., with his wife, graphic designer Amy Holmes, has also been published in Fiction Weekly, The New Haven Review and Barely South Review. He is currently writing a novel.

He credits the MFA program with making his writing dreams come true.

"On Ender's Island, I found inspiring faculty and fellow writing students that pushed me, that made me pick my game up and bring it to the next level," he said. "My two years was a wonderful experience, and now I've got great friends in a writing community to keep me connected."

For more information on Fairfield's MFA in Creative Writing program, visit www.fairfield.edu/mfa .

Posted On: 08-01-2012 11:08 AM

Volume: 45 Number: 20