Author Matt Tullis Speaks About Writing With Reed Students

Published: October 05, 2018 at 07:00 am


With sixth grade students in Michelle Vaccaro and Courtney Martin’s cluster seated before him, district parent and local author Matt Tullis discussed writing and his recently published memoir, Running With Ghosts: A Memoir of Surviving Childhood Cancer, on September 25.

“We’re so happy that you are here to talk about writing,” said Ms Vaccaro, adding that the students were lucky Mr Tullis’s daughter Lily was in the cluster to arrange the first guest speaker visit of the school year.

The assistant professor of English and Director of Digital Journalism program at Fairfield University’s book was published by The Sager Group in August of 2017.

Mr Tullis asked the students to consider what they would write if they wrote their own memoir, including the details they would include and what “focused idea” they would feature in their story.

For his book, which he held in his hands while speaking, Mr Tullis said he spent 20 years figuring out how to write his story of surviving cancer. When he was 15, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and as he told the students, in 1997, while in college, he began writing about his experience and the people he remembers.

Mr Tullis told the students he met other children while he was sick, and some of them died.

“I still think about them, so that’s what this book became about,” he said.

It took him time to find that focus. Mr Tullis described how he worked on his book for years before he realized what it was about. A narrow focus, he recommended, helps define a book.

Since memories can be “fuzzy,” Mr Tullis told the students how he used his skills from being a former journalist to conduct interviews. He researched weather archives and he read dialogue logged by his nurses.

“It’s all about the idea... and you have to be able to write about it in a way that no one else can,” he said.

As Mr Tullis spoke, the sixth graders seemed to lean toward him, intently listening. They asked him a range of questions about writing and about his treatments.

Mr Tullis also told the students he is already working on another book.

Running With Ghosts: A Memoir of Surviving Childhood Cancer is available for purchase online at and Mr Tullis also has a podcast called Gangrey — which is described on its website,, as “narrative journalism and the reporters who write it.”

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