If winning one national award is a feat, then winning two is near miraculous. Jacqueline Farley, a recent graduate of Arizona Western College, has accomplished just that. And, for the 21-year-old future Wildcat, it sets a standard that she continues to push herself toward.
Farley won both 2nd and 3rd place prizes for Sigma Kappa Delta’s National Essay Writing Contest. The respective winning pieces were titled “I Asked for Extra Mayo and Got a Mermaid” and “On Almonds.”
“This is an outstanding achievement that should be celebrated,” says Dr. Sheila H. Byrd, Executive Director of Sigma Kappa Delta’s National Office. “Our national writing contests are highly competitive, yet Ms. Farley not only received one, but two winning entries.”
Sigma Kappa Delta is the National 2-Year College English Honor Society, and Farley was the president of AWC’s chapter last year. The society seeks to promote literacy and love for the English language. For example, in the spring of 2017, they hosted a poetry reading featuring the Arizona State Poet Laureate, Alberto Rios.
“We raised roughly $300 for the Yuma Food Bank,” Farley recalls with a smile.
Writing and literature has always been a passion for Farley, and like anyone with a passion, she knows that writing is not something she merely loves, but something she needs.
The very hungry caterpillar
Farley’s love for writing and literature stems from her childhood. She and her mother would read 30-40 children’s books per night. As she grew older, her grandfather would read classics to her, such as Frankenstein and Dracula.
“I love listening to stories,” Farley says. “Storytelling is my number one love.”
In addition, Farley says that she has always been fascinated by dialogue in real life, and would scribble snippets of stories on napkins, paper – anything she could get her pencil on. Her first story was called “The Adventures of Gem Girl and Jellybean the Unicorn.”
Farley recalls how difficult it was in the beginning for her to accept her passion for writing. In high school, she was surrounded by teachers who would often remind her how grim the job field looked for those interested in the arts.
“‘It doesn’t matter how good you are, people in the arts are gonna be poor,’” Farley says, quoting a phrase she would hear time and time again.
She admits to feeling discouraged in being told that, unless her interests were in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), they weren’t valid. As a result, she tried her hand at welding, hoping to gain experience in a craft outside of the arts.
When she got to college, however, all that began to change.
“I was taking Freshman Composition and got recommended as a tutor,” Farley says. “It’s a really strange feeling when someone with a doctorate is telling you, ‘When you go to graduate school as an English major…’”
Farley later took a nonfiction writing course, falling in love almost immediately. The class is where she ended up drafting her prize-winning pieces.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity,” Farley says with a smile.
So long and thanks for all the fish
Farley works at the AWC Writing Center as both a tutor and a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader. As a tutor, Farley says she especially enjoys seeing the “lightbulb” go off when a student understands a concept.
“There’s more of this ‘ohhh’ moment,” she says with a smile.
As an SI Leader, she doesn’t get to see as many “aha” moments, but she does get to see a student’s work come to fruition.
“You definitely get to know the student more,” Farley says.
Farley graduated with her Associate of Arts in English and Discretional Honors in the spring of 2017. She plans on majoring in English at the University of Arizona this fall. From there, she hopes to pursue a career in creative writing.
“I’d like to explore creative writing. I feel like that’s where my heart is pulling me,” Farley says, already thinking ahead to her graduate degree and PhD.
During her time at AWC, Farley has been involved in numerous theatrical productions, including The Great Gatsby (2014), Leaving Iowa (2015), and The Cagebirds (2015), to name a few. Does she think that she’ll ever bring her writing skills to the stage?
“I think that would be the coolest thing, if I could learn to screen write,” Farley says. She is very open to the idea, and is always looking to learn new skills.
Currently, Farley’s favorite – and least favorite – part of the writing process is finishing a piece.
“It’s like saying goodbye to a friend,” Farley says wistfully.
Farley’s advice to those who want to pursue writing as a career is to own their passion, to be genuine in their work and to avoid going into the field for money. She elaborates that the only competition she’s concerned about in the world of writing is within her own words.
Like the works of art that she writes, Farley is destined to be shared with the world.
Photo courtesy of AWC Photo Services