Deirdre Fagan is a widow, wife, and mother of two. Born in New York City, she spent her early years in a hamlet in Suffolk County, Long Island, jumping waves in the Atlantic. Shortly after her parents divorced, she was uprooted to Arizona at the age of nine. She then spent her adolescence with one foot near a saguaro in the desert, and another on the sidewalks of New York City, while being shuttled between parents and stepparents and experiencing both having siblings and being an only child.
Largely emancipated at the age of fifteen and later struggling to make ends meet with minimum wage jobs and part-time college, Fagan decided the best hope for her future was to plant both feet firmly back in New York where her father, now a poet, was still living. At twenty, Fagan sold her first used car to buy a plane ticket back to the state of her birth where she completed her bachelor’s degree in English at the University at Buffalo and then her master’s in English and doctorate in Humanistic Studies (English and Philosophy) at the University at Albany.
A student for the entirety of her twenties, Fagan supported herself test-driving cars, cashiering at a hardware store, doing the books for an auto-mechanic, serving coffee and margaritas, and as a secretary at a law firm, among many other jobs. Since earning her graduate degrees more than two decades ago, she has been teaching writing and literature at various colleges and universities. Continuing in her now familiar nomadic lifestyle, she has taught in Maryland, New York, Florida, and Illinois, and currently resides with her husband and children in Michigan, where she is surrounded by pines, oaks, and maples and is an associate professor and coordinator of creative writing at Ferris State University.
Fagan studied literary analysis and criticism in graduate school and began her career writing essays on poetry, pedagogy, and memoir—a personal interest since its boom in the 1990s. Fagan’s master’s thesis on Emily Dickinson’s dash became an essay in The Emily Dickinson Journal and was later collected in Harold Bloom’s Modern Critical Views: Emily Dickinson. Fagan’s doctoral dissertation interest in Robert Frost extended into her first book, Critical Companion to Robert Frost (2007).
Fagan’s love of literature led her to begin playing with poems and stories early in life, but it was losing her eldest brother as a teen, and her mother in her early twenties, that caused her to vow to one day write a memoir. It was not until losing her father and brother, her last parent and sibling, in 2006, however, that Fagan set aside academic writing and began actively writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.
While Fagan still writes literary criticism—her most recent essay is “Kay Ryan and Poetic Play,” published in the CEA Critic (2017)—she has published dozens of creative pieces online and in print journals and collections in the last decade. Two collections of her creative work have recently been published: The Grief Eater (2020), a collection of short stories, and Have Love (2019), a chapbook of poetry. One of the poems included in Have Love, “Outside In,” was a Best of the Net finalist in 2018.
Fagan has at last written that long-imagined memoir, though on a subject entirely different from the one she once anticipated. Fagan lost the love of her life and biological father of her children, Bob, to ALS in 2012, and has since married the second love of her life, Dave. Find a Place for Me, forthcoming from Regal House, is a memoir about Fagan’s philosopher husband Bob’s terminal ALS, and how they joined hands, raised glasses, and playfully taught each other with compassion and dark humor how to simultaneously let go, and fiercely hold on, in the brief ten months Bob had left.