Gannon graduates publish prose book

“A Moment in Time” chronicles writer’s life experiences



Nicholas Fagen, 2017 Gannon graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in journalism, recently published “A Moment in Time,” a poetry and prose book that chronicles his life experiences, especially at Gannon.

Anna Malesiewski, Features Editor

Sometimes, the most trying times in life end up leading to the most fulfillment.  

This is certainly true for Nicholas Fagen, author of his self-published book “A Moment in Time” and a 2017 graduate of Gannon University with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in journalism.  

Fagen has wanted to be a writer ever since he was a young child. When he was in kindergarten, Fagen wrote a poem that ended up being widely circulated in local news outlets, and after seeing how proud his family was of him because of it, he knew he wanted to be a writer.  

“I realized that my words actually had the ability to help people, and as I grew even older, I realized that they had the power to help me as well,” Fagen said.  

As most writers do, Fagen takes inspiration from his work from his life experiences, especially at Gannon.  

“I learned how to be myself at Gannon,” Fagen said. “The personalities and the memories, I wanted to keep a lot of that consistent – the way that people made me feel and the way that I hope I made them feel. The book is such a tribute to everyone I met in Erie.” 

Fagen said that even now, he still reminisces about his time in Erie.  

“I always miss Erie — I never don’t miss it,” Fagen said. “I think about it very regularly, and the people and the connections I made – the bad experiences just as much as the good.” 

These bad experiences shaped Fagen just as much as the good ones. 

“You can’t have a good experience without knowing what a bad experience is,” Fagen said. “I think that if we can look at our bad experiences as a possibility for a way to learn for the future, there’s really not such a thing as a bad experience because it will automatically help you in some way.”  

Each individual piece in the book was based on a moment in Fagen’s life. Each piece was meant to be read and digested, and Fagen hopes acted upon.  

“I don’t want people to read it front to back because I want people to read a piece and go ‘I want to go tell that person how I feel’ or ‘I want to apply for that job’ or ‘I want to go visit this friend’ because it really is about that,” Fagen said. “This was a way to take people back in time but also take them into the future.” 

Fagen also hopes to bring more positivity to the world through “A Moment in Time.” 

“There’s been a lot of negativity in the world over the years, and I felt that if I can help one person, that makes it endlessly worth it in my eyes,” Fagen said. “I really just want people to be happy. I would like to use this art platform to help somebody through something.” 

Fagen submitted many different versions of the manuscript to different publishing outlets, and even submitted it as a television script, to no avail. 

“I was really upset because college is always portrayed on TV as nothing but partying, but that was never the best parts of college,” Fagen said. “It was the nights you spent all night studying for finals and you’re going crazy and you’re just bonding over whatever you’re bonding over at 3 a.m.” 

Fagen ultimately decided to publish the book himself because of this. 

“I felt so defeated so many times,” Fagen said. “For at least 20 years I was telling people I wanted to be a writer, and I felt like I owed it to myself and I also owed it to certain people who always wished me nothing but success. I guess I just really wanted to make them proud – but also help people. I don’t plan on writing anything in the future that’s not going to help people.” 

It was also a challenge for Fagen to be vulnerable in his writings. 

“For so many years I was always like ‘I want to write a book, but I don’t know how to do it,’ but I feel like a part of me almost didn’t want to do it,” Fagen said. “There’s a certain part about being openly vulnerable that my college self and post-college self was just not ready for, and I don’t think I could have handled it. It wasn’t my dream, but I’m proud of it.” 

Fagen was also pushed by his close friends, especially in college, to pursue writing.  

“It was the blind faith in my writing, when I would always be doubting myself, they would push me and tell me ‘You got this,’ and after college I used it to help myself and as a platform that I hoped would help other people,” Fagen said.  

“A Moment in Time” is illustrated by Maria Hays, a 2019 graduate of Gannon with a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature. While Hays would not say she has a particular artistic style, she has always had an affinity for more creative activities. She often drew pictures of her favorite musicians in high school, and in college she frequently painted. In 2019, Hays started doing digital drawings on her iPad and posted them on Instagram for fun, which led to some recognition.  

“I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but people I knew – including Nick – began reaching out and asking if they could pay me to draw some images for them,” Hays said. “It was a pretty therapeutic hobby throughout the pandemic, so I decided to start taking those commissions.”  

When Hays and Fagen eventually teamed up to produce “A Moment in Time,” Fagen gave Hays complete creative freedom over the art.  

“He would send me drafts of the book as he edited and added content, and I’d read them and come up with a corresponding image,” Hays said. “Sometimes an image would come right to me, and others required some more thought. Some of the images are also products of our combined brainstorming.”  

Throughout the project, Hays would read Fagen’s work and write down ideas for illustrations to support the piece. Sometimes she would sketch them right away, and other times she would revisit it and re-read to see if anything else came to her mind. 

“Some pieces were very descriptive, and I worried about creating a visual element that didn’t do Nick’s writing justice, but he was really great about providing feedback to get a final product that worked well,” Hays said.  

Hays was thrilled with the general artistic process for “A Moment in Time.” 

“I think an overall highlight would just be that I got to illustrate a book at all,” Hays said. “It’s been a really exciting process and Nick has shown me that there is nothing out of reach as long as you work hard and want it badly enough.” 

While Hays had creative control over the art in “A Moment in Time,” her illustrations contribute to and further Fagen’s vision and the overarching theme. 

“Each moment in life is precious and is a collection of deep-dives into the feelings and nostalgia being felt during specific moments,” Hays said. “Some art provides a snapshot of these moments to help readers visualize the stories themselves, while other illustrations serve to elicit the same emotion that the writing inspires.” 

The physical layout and margins of the writing are also important in illustrating Fagen’s vision. For example, in pieces where Fagen describes what it’s like to be in a moment of anxiety, the layout of the words is more irregular and less in template form. This is to emulate the feelings of anxiety and panic for the reader.  

“It was so hard to learn how I wanted to convey everything to everybody,” Fagen said. “I needed people to feel what I felt while I was revisiting my old feelings.” 

Douglas King, Ph.D., a professor of English at Gannon, said that it is rare to hear from former students, and he was happy to hear from Fagen when he announced that he and Hays had put out “A Moment in Time.” 

“I was so happy and impressed to hear that Nick had compiled his original writing, and what’s more, had collaborated with another former student, Maria,” King said. “I had no idea of Nick’s creative writing passion, nor of Maria’s art talents.” 

King said that this comes with the fact that neither Fagen nor Hays were “flashy” students.  

“I would say that both of them quietly blossomed in their time at Gannon,” King said. “I remember Maria having a quiet confidence in Shakespeare class — which, let’s face it, isn’t the easiest course in which to be confident. She didn’t volunteer much, but when I called on her, she was never at a loss for a clear insight.  And having recently read some of Nick’s blogs and poems, I understand even better how much he worked and grew in his time at Gannon.” 

Hays said that she never saw herself as “flashy” either.  

“While I’ve always recognized myself as ‘artistic,’ I’ve never really labeled myself an ‘artist,’” Hays said. “I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that I’m now a published illustrator. Drawing was merely a hobby for me before this project, and I never expected it to have evolved into achieving this kind of accomplishment.”  

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