Although she's lived in Iowa for 30 years, Fern Kupfer still writes for her hometown newspaper.
Growing up in Plainview, Long Island, Kupfer said she nurtured her interest in writing at an early age. She now uses her writing to maintain her ties to her hometown through her column in Newsday, which she's written since 1993. Recently the name of her column changed from "Mothering" to "A Certain Age."
In her Feb. 19, 2002, column, she writes, "The column I wrote for nine years in this space was called "Mothering"; it was about being a mother, but I have written about so much: abortion, affirmative action, teenage drinking and driving, body piercing, disability, the difficulties and rewards of blended families."
The column appears in the lifestyle section of Newsday every third week.
"My column discusses political issues within a personal narrative context," Kupfer said.
Kupfer has insight on many aspects of mothering, as she is a mother of three herself. Her experiences have lent her the ability to write extensively on blended families.
"Stepfamilies are many things, and complicated is one of them," Kupfer said in an earlier published Newsday column, titled "Stepfamilies: New Songs, Many Ghosts."
She said her own family is used as a base for many of her columns.
"My kids are used to me writing about them all the time," she said. "They don't mind."
Kupfer said a high school teacher made her promise to never stop writing.
"I always knew I was good at writing in high school," she said.
While free-lancing, Kupfer's writing was published in several magazines.
After graduating from SUNY at Cortland College, Kupfer moved to Iowa with her first husband in the 1970s. She's been a tenured professor at Iowa State for 12 years, though she said she taught "off and on" for several years before that. Kupfer said she enjoys teaching her students, whom she can affectionately refer to as "Iowa kids."
"Iowa kids are nice," Kupfer said. "They have things to say."
Two English courses, Creative Writing and Writing for Popular Magazines, are among Kupfer's favorite to teach.
"Fern's really lively and she knows her stuff," said Sarah Fischer, who is currently enrolled in Kupfer's creative writing course. "She knows what it is to be a creative writer and she's determined to teach her students that way of thinking."
Fisher said Kupfer has a good rapport with her students.
"She's very inquisitive but she's also very caring and understanding," said Fischer, senior in political science and English. "It's as if she knows what it's like to be a college student."
Kupfer's published four books of her own - three novels and one memoir. "Before and After Zachariah," Kupfer's memoir about her severely handicapped son, shares a mother's perspective of raising and losing a child.
"That was my best thing," Kupfer said. "My greatest accomplishment."
Susan Carlson, associate provost, has worked next to Kupfer for many years in the English department.
"I always feel comfortable asking her opinion," Carlson said. "I value her ability to understand the human side of any situation."
Kupfer has lived in Iowa for 30 years and she said her plans include continuing her teaching as well as her column.
Iowa State has a legacy of exceptional faculty and staff, which Carlson said Kupfer fits into.
"Her work as a teacher and writer is inspiring," Carlson said.