Sunday, October 24, 2010

Intro to Jessica Farquhar

I'm in my second year (of three) in Purdue's MFA studying Poetry, and I'm fortunate also to hold the position of Assistant Director of the Creative Writing Program. I keep busy. I have two kids. I still manage to write a lot. I'm interested in talking about the realities of being in an MFA program and the possibilities of the post-MFA. I have an MA from the University of Louisville (hometown nod), and I really like teaching. I'm glad that I was thirty by the time I started my MFA and that I had a fantastic mentor to guide me through the application process. I don't think I would have taken full advantage of the experience if I would have done it when I was first considering it, back in...I honestly can't remember what year. I certainly wouldn't have found a program that is as perfect a fit as Purdue is for me back whenever that was, a whole lifetime ago.

19 comments:

WanderingTree (Sequoia N.) said...

Welcome, Jessica!

honeyless said...

Hi, Jessica. I'm also a mom of two and applying this year. Interested to hear anything you have to say about doing the poetry MFA with two kiddos in tow.

Jessica said...

Honeyless, Hi. I have a lot to say on the motherhood front; in fact, it's one of my obsessions, and here at Purdue we're encouraged to follow our obsessions. For now, I'm inclined to say that my kids are a big part of why I decided to get my MFA...I want to set a good example for them, I want to live as fulfilled a life as possible. Also, they're young, and I had spent a lot of time home with the older one (who's 4.5), and then starting the MFA meant they both had to go to day care, and my younger one was an infant at the time. So I've had to solicit and accept a lot of help taking care of them. Yeah, I could go on and on. I'll stop there. How old are your kids, Honeyless?

Open Spaces said...

Welcome!

I am considering applying to Purdue. The program sounds great. My only hesitation is the area. I have lived on the east and west coast and I am not familiar with Indiana. How do you like the area around Purdue? Is it family-friendly? Intellectually stimulating?

Thanks!

Jessica said...

Hi, Open Spaces.

You pose a good question about the area, one that I hear a lot and that I had myself when I was considering applying. Having been here a year, I can't say enough great things about the Lafayette-West Lafayette area. But then again, I'm from this region, originally from Louisville, about three hours south of Lafayette (yes, we measure distance in hours around these parts), so it's not completely unfamiliar. Lafayette is a small town, but there are bigger cities nearby: Louisville, Chicago (2 hours), Indianapolis (1 hour)... So, those who miss the city don't have to go far to get their fix. Most of the time, though, it's nice to not have to worry about a "scene"; I just get to focus on my writing.
If you're interested in rankings, Lafayette was ranked no. 6 on Forbes' list of America's Most Educated Small Towns: http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2009a/090107ForbesWLSmartestTowns.html

It's also family-friendly, I've found. I live a few blocks from Columbian Park, which is a complex featuring playgrounds, a water park, a zoo (where admission is free), and a baseball field. Hope this starts to answer your question. Let me know if you have more specifics...

Jonathan said...

For what it's worth, I can support Jessica's assessment of Lafayette/West Lafayette. I lived in WL for sixteen years, and still very much love the town. Admittedly, as a prospective MFA applicant I'm not applying to Purdue, but that's for reasons entirely unrelated to my feelings about West Lafayette.

I think I would describe it overall as having a small town feel while providing the benefits/opportunities of a much larger place (because of the huge university). Downtown Lafayette also has a neat music/art scene, the cost of living is ridiculously low, and as Jessica already pointed out, bigger cities (Indianapolis/Chicago) are entirely reachable for day trips.

Jonathan said...

Also, welcome Jessica! Sorry I forgot to mention that in the other post.

Jessica said...

Hi, Jonathan.

Thanks for the follow-up! I meant to comment on the low cost of living here--I recall reading a statistic on that somewhere, too. And Purdue is one of the best-funded MFAs, so those aspects work nicely together.

honeyless said...

Thx, Jessica. Mine are 4 and 2 right now and I've been home with them since the first was born. The older should be going to Kindergarten next year and the younger to preschool. So I'm currently looking at schools for all three of us. Yes, I feel totally nuts.

anotherjenny said...

Hi, Jessica!

You mentioned that you never would've found a program that fit you as well as Purdue back in X year. I've just turned 24 now and my parents want me to pursue an MFA because my work situation isn't so hot in Seattle (where I'm currently living). However, I've only really begun to take advantage of my opportunities in earnest (broke up with and moved out from a bf of 5 yrs only 3 months ago, etc etc) and while I think I could do well in an MFA program now and was strongly considering it several months back, now I'm wondering if my initial interest wasn't a bit reactionary.

My parents are having a tough time understanding this and think I'm just getting cold feet/ hampering my potential. I've already spoken to one of my creative writing professors and he thinks waiting longer to do an MFA will only benefit me as long as I still have a strong desire to do it and keep writing. Any suggestions on how I can convey this to my parents?

I know they love me and want the best for me, but I'm their only kid and yeah, they're pretty protective... :)

md said...

Hi Jessica,

I'm glad to hear that you are enjoying Purdue! I am considering applying there in poetry and just noticed that you need a critical writing sample in your application? Just wanted to check and to see if I read that correctly.

Thanks

Jessica said...

md: Yes, a critical writing sample is part of the application package.

Jessica said...

anotherjenny: I can only speak about my personal experience. Even though I'm 31 I don't feel like I'm more advanced than the other younger people in my program (they are more advanced in many ways than I was at 23, 24). I've just done more of the things we associate with grownups. I've been writing poetry longer, since I started in high school, but I'm finding that the MFA is really working magic for my poetry, so I certainly could have used that earlier. I was lucky, however, to have had a teacher in my hometown who continued to work with me after I completed my M.A. & what I thought was my last workshop, in 2004. If I would have applied to MFAs at that time or instead of doing my MA, my needs would have been different, and I don't know if I could have identified those needs as well as I did during the process I went through to find Purdue all these years later. I didn't stop writing after I got my MA, and after years of that, I felt nudged toward an MFA. So, I haven't had to wonder if this is the right path for me. There are a lot of factors at play when you make a big life decision like getting your MFA, and they are for you to weigh and consider honestly. Best to you--

Tony Cook said...

anotherjenny--I'm at Purdue with Jessica (3rd year fiction). I'm a big fan of waiting for at least a year or two after undergrad to apply to an MFA program. After undergrad, I worked in journalism for five years before applying to MFA programs. I think those five years were good for two reasons: 1) I continued to write fiction during that time, which helped me know for sure that it wasn't just a fad or a minor interest. 2) I grew up a lot and gained a lot of life experience, which I think helped my writing become more mature.

There are plenty of valid arguments to the contrary, but that's my two cents.

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