Q&A With Adjunct Professor Jessie Forton

By Caitlin Fredericks
Shield Staff  

1. What brought you to RC?

As an undergrad, I was attracted by the small class sizes and the sense of community I felt here.When I finished my Master’s degree in Literature, I knew I wanted to come back and be involved here as a faculty member because the professors here are the kind of professors who I aspire to be.

2. What is your position/what do you like most about it? Tell me about Blackberry Winter and Ex Libris. How can students be involved?

I am an adjunct professor in the English department; this semester I am teaching World Lit and Creative Writing, in addition to sponsoring the campus creative writing group, Ex Libris, and serving as the faculty editor for the college’s literary journal, Blackberry Winter. I love that I get to work with student writers and help to foster creativity and collaboration on campus.

If you are interested in creative writing, stop by Ex Libris in the CHILL on Thursday nights from 5:30-7—we write together every week, and often bring in work to share. Our group is dedicated to providing support, feedback, and community for our student writers.

Blackberry Winter is seeking literary fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and photography from students, alumni, administration, and faculty starting Sept. 19. Submission guidelines are forthcoming; please send submissions to blackberrywinter@rc.edu.

3. Where did you grow up?

Sterling Heights. The best thing about the neighborhood where I grew up was that it was really close to Clinton River Park, so I could ride my bike through there for about three miles and then come right out at the public library.That was basically heaven; woods and books are two of my favorite things.

4. Where did you go to college?

I did my undergrad at RC and my Master’s at OU. Rochester College was the place where I got to discover who I was and what I wanted to do, and Oakland was the place where I began to figure out what that meant and how it was going to work.  

5. What is your most prized possession?

Either the piano that my grandmother bought me when I was in college, or my camera, although those things are both somewhat replaceable. If I had to pick something that I couldn’t live without, it would be this box of photos, letters and mementos that I keep of the most special moments in my life. 

6. What are your hobbies/interests?

I’m a writer. My main interest is in creative non-fiction, although I do write short fiction and poetry now and then. I’m also a huge Pinterest addict, and I try a new recipe or a new craft project a few times a month. I have enough chalk paint and mismatched furniture in my garage to open an antique store. 

7. What is your most embarrassing moment?

So, this one time, I used the word ‘orgasm’ horribly out of context in a conversation with my dad. Ask me about it when you see me. It’s a good story.

8. What is your favorite thing to do in Rochester?

My husband, Dan, and my daughter, Charlotte, and I love the library, the farmer’s market, and Yates Cider Mill. We don’t go more than a week without a visit to the duck pond. And we love Kruse and Muer and Rochester Mills.

9. What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

I’ve been so blessed—it’s hard to call my challenges ‘obstacles’ when I think about some of the things that others have gone through. There are always times when your work isn’t recognized or you don’t get an opportunity that you really want, but then a new project comes along or those disappointments actually work to open up space in your life for something that’s even more exciting that what you originally wanted. Often, my biggest obstacle is my own resistance to look past smaller obstacles and on to what is coming next.

10. Who is your biggest influence in life?

My grandmother lived with our family for my whole life—she passed away when I was a senior in college—and she was a huge influence on me. She taught me how to make chocolate chip cookies, how to tell a story, and how to sing. She never stopped talking about Jesus. Those are really the only important things in life.