Meet a Member: Jessie Fernandes

She might be one of our oldest NPFW members. At 95 years young, Jessie Irene Fernandes still has a passion for writing and she is still entering the NFPW communications contest. She is writing a book she hopes to have published in time for next year’s contest. She is still having fun and is greatful for all her experiences. Meet this unique and unbelievable NFPW member.
Jessie Fernandes in India with Taj Mahal in the background.

Jessie Fernandes in India with Taj Mahal in the background.

Name: Jessie Irene Fernandes

City and State: Bellevue, WA

Affiliate and any leadership positions: Member NFPW member since 2007. Washington Press Association is no long active, so I am an at-large member.

Tell us a little about you.

All my life I have told stories and by the third grade, a short research paper on local trees. garnered me a red ribbon. By high school, I was writing stories about cowboys and Master Fu Manchu to fit the portraits drawn by my friend.

My college years were blessed with an English teacher who mentored a group of aspiring journalists. We did a lot of writing and I won a prize for poetry in a state wide contest and edited the college literary journal. Those days, I dreamed of being another Martha Gellhorn.

My senior year began in 1941, the year of Pearl Harbor. World War II was the seminal experience for most of my generation. Instead of becoming a foreign correspondent, I worked as secretary in the Public Relations Office at Cochran Army Air Base, Macon, Ga. My journalism dreams vanished when I fell in love with a charming British Royal Air Force pilot and I joined him in an England at war. It was not until 2015 that I fictionalized our marriage in Long Time Passing, the novel that I submitted to this year’s NFPW contest. After World War II, as a young widow with a son to support, I found a career as director of the medical records department in a hospital on Long Island, New York. Not what I had planned for my life, but it fed and clothed my son and me and, once my son fled the nest, I was free to travel. Commercial airlines opened the door to world wide travel and I took advantage of that. To file drawers full of poetry, story ideas and character profiles, I added travel journals.

It was not until 1986, when I retired, that retirement allowed the time and opportunity for me to work at writing. Over the years, I had submitted poetry and articles, with moderate success at publication, but in the back of my mind, my college voice said, “Go ahead. Write the Great American Novel.” That never came to fruition, but six or several manuscripts later, I published The Wild Child, which, to my surprise, won first place in the Washington Press Association contest and honorable mention in the NFPW contest. There is no thrill to compare with holding a trade paperback book with your name on the cover.

Now, a grateful nonagenarian, I look back at my life: a tapestry of wonderful colors, characters from a variety of cultures, experiences of pure joy and total despair, music by Beethoven to Paul Simon and beyond — rich beyond gold and jewels.

Long Time Passing was supposed to be my last novel. Every morning felt empty, however, so I dug up a discarded murder mystery from File 13 and am happily revising it, exploring new writing techniques and plan to enter it in next year’s NFPW contest.

Any career advice you would give?

To young writers I say: eat your veggies like mother said, exercise and keep writing whenever you can. You can learn even from drudge work just for pay. The day will come when you can create to your heart’s content. I wish you as happy an old age as I am having.

Jessie Fernandes with llamas in Machu Pichu.

Jessie Fernandes with llamas in Machu Pichu.

Where would I live other than Bellevue?

I am comfortable living right where I am. I have traveled six continents and could not possible identify a favorite country or city.

What talent do you wish you had?

Ballet dancer? Musician? I love writing and work at that. Mostly, I am grateful for the variety of experiences I have had – successful and unsuccessful. A long life provides many dishes to taste – that’s an old Chinese saying that I just made up!

What are you reading? 

My choice of books to read is eclectic; murder mysteries, general literature.  I just finished Mr and Mrs Disraeli: a strange romance, by Daisy Hay and H. is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald, both worth reading.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

People who know me now might be surprised to learn that I spent Saturdays for several years digging with an archeological group. Good exercise and fun.

Why is NFPW important to you?

NFPW is important to me, because it acknowledges women’s place in journalism; it gives us a forum to express our views on the world today and a way to impact that world, one hopes for good. I’m sorry that I didn’t discover NFPW earlier in my life. I would have enjoyed joining you all. The members of the organization inspire me to keep working to improve what I write, to achieve the best of which I am capable.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, etc.

I do not have a website or Facebook – not even a cell phone. I can be contacted at my e-mail address: sammijif@gmail.com and My books are available on Amazon.

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One Comment on “Meet a Member: Jessie Fernandes”


  1. I look forward to reading “Mr and Mrs Disraeli: a Strange Romance” by Daisy Hay. Thanks for the recommendation.

    You give me encouragement, Jessie, as I am working on a mystery and I fear I may never finish. I will keep plugging away.


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