A Closer Look at Joyce Carol Oates’ ‘Pumpkin Head’

Photo by Ivan Serediuk on Unsplash

By Jennifer Ward

A Woman Alone

When I first read Joyce Carol Oates’ short story “Pumpkin Head,” I was so frightened that I didn’t want to be in my apartment alone afterward. Her stories have scared me before, but this experience was quite unsettling. As with most horror stories, the shock wore off with time, yet her characters continued to haunt me long after meeting them on the page. Perhaps it was her female protagonist — Hadley — whom I identified with so much that I could not forget her vulnerability as a woman living alone. As I sit here in my candle-lit apartment listening to the roll of distant thunder, I remember Oates’ story a decade later as we approach Halloween — the season of pumpkins and stories that make our skin crawl.

Oates’ story opens with Hadley, a recently widowed woman who lives alone. She is startled in front of her house by “a tall male scarecrow figure with a misshapen Halloween pumpkin for a head.” Although the initial image of this man, Anton, is frightening, the story reveals much more. Hadley and Anton have many layers the reader can peel back as the tension mounts. The further I read, the more engrossed I became with both characters, each an outsider in their own way. Although Anton eventually becomes a threat to Hadley, this story is about how she deals with her new life alone and the ghost of grief.

The History of the Jack-O-Lantern

Looking at Oates’ character Anton and the image of the pumpkin head made me think of the jack-o-lantern and its origin. According to history.com, the face of the jack-o-lantern derives from an Irish myth about a man named “Stingy Jack.” As the legend is told, Jack played a trick on the devil by inviting him to have a drink, then turned him into a coin to avoid paying. Aptly nicknamed “stingy,” Jack decided to keep the coin beside a silver cross so the devil couldn’t return. Later, he tricked the devil again into climbing up a tree and held him captive by carving the sign of the cross. His behavior upset the devil and God; therefore, he was never welcomed into heaven or hell. As a result, he roamed the earth with only a turnip to light his path. People began placing jack-o-lanterns in front of their homes to keep Stingy Jack and other evil spirits away.

There are some striking similarities between the Irish myth and the role reversal in Oates’ story that develops. In “Pumpkin Head,” Anton gives a jack-o-lantern to Hadley, later joining her for a drink. Like the devil, Hadley is deceived and finds herself in a situation that is not only hard to walk away from but quite dangerous. It is, of course, ironic that — a jack-o-lantern — believed to ward off evil is given to her by someone who represents it himself. In the midst of all of this, I also thought of Hadley as a native-born resident. As an American woman, her character may hold some power and advantages in society that Anton, a European immigrant, desires. Looking back at the origins of the jack-o-lantern story, Jack seemed to be seeking some power which can be seen in Anton’s behavior too.

Photo by Quenten Janssen on Unsplash

Final Thoughts

“Pumpkin Head” appeared in The New Yorker in 2009 and is also included in Oates’ book Sourland. If you’ve read her stories, you know they are quite dark and often violent. Take a look at “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?” and you might see some similarities here — one being a female protagonist isolated and victimized in her own home. They are two very different stories but do share some likenesses. Nevertheless, we read her work in anticipation that something very unpleasant and twisted will happen. This story delivers, and although it did leave me feeling quite uneasy, I would read it again. I have heard people say they didn’t like this story, particularly for its violence and the message they thought it communicated. It depends on how you read it, I suppose. But any piece of literature that elicits that much emotion — whether good or bad — is a powerful story.

In her story, Oates communicates universal themes of loss, death, and vulnerability, which may be more frightening than some of the images we associate with Halloween. Hadley could be any woman struggling to accept the death of her husband and the strange, new life she has found herself in. Oates’ story is incredibly haunting, weaving traditions of folklore and terror with an ending that cannot be forgotten.

Hey there! Thanks for reading! The original article was publish in Vocal Media. If you enjoyed this blog post, please let me know by sending a like or comment. You can also subscribe to read future blog posts here on the upper right side of this page. Connect with me on Twitter: @jennwardwrites. I’d love to hear your thoughts!




The History & Haunting of The Myrtles

By Bogdan Oporowski – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28600638

by Jennifer Ward

The Myrtles Home & Former Plantation

Deep in the heart of St. Francisville, Louisiana, lies one of the most haunted homes in the United States—The Myrtles. The former plantation and home were built in 1796 by General David Bradford. In the early 1800s, it was common to find plantations along the Mississippi, and The Myrtles was one of them. For some, plantations were a significant source of income. They produced a supply of cash crops at the expense of those enslaved. Tragically, plantations were also a place of death and despair for many others. It’s a dark chapter in American history, filled with brutality and inhumane conditions.

The Creole—style architecture (seen above) shows the stark contrast between the rich and poor—those with freedom and those without it. The image above also reveals a wide porch, which wraps around the entire house. Wrap-around porches, commonly seen in the south, are also known as galleries. Residents would often use them as walkways to move from one part of the house to another. The exterior of the house features intricate ironwork framing the porch and a row of large windows. But beneath that beautiful facade lies an ugly past that has continued to haunt the place for centuries.

During the early 1800s, Judge Clarke Woodruff and his wife Sarah Bradford moved to The Myrtles to help her mother take care of the place. While the couple lived there, they had three children—Cornelia, James, and Mary. At first, it seemed like the ideal place to raise a family and build a life together; however, things did not go as planned.

The Tragic Story of Chloe

Photo by Henry Be on Unsplash

Judge Woodruff, a respected man in the community, had another side that wouldn’t have been praised. He was also a womanizer. While married to his wife Sarah, he had several affairs with various women—many of whom were servants and enslaved people at The Myrtles. In those days, female servants did not have much choice if they wanted to keep their jobs. One of his mistresses, Chloe (also a house servant), was likely forced into this adulterous situation, rather than deciding of her own free will.

As time passed, the affair between Judge Woodruff and Chloe ended. Chloe felt she was not liked and feared that she would be sent to work in the fields instead. Working inside the home at The Myrtles was probably as close to freedom as she might have been able to get. Even though she was probably unhappy there, working inside the home was a better option.

Chloe continued to wonder why Judge Woodruff wasn’t happy with her. To ease her anxiety, she listened to a conversation between Judge Woodruff and his wife, Sarah. However, Chloe was caught one day with her ear firmly pressed on the closed door. And as punishment for eavesdropping, her left ear was cut off. After this, it was thought that Chloe might have been searching for a way to redeem herself.

One day while the Judge was out of town, Chloe was ordered to bake a birthday cake for the oldest daughter, Cornelia. During the preparation, Chloe put pieces from an oleander plant in the batter. If you are unfamiliar with this plant, it is very poisonous. It contains chemicals that can slow a person’s heart rate and cause seizures or even death. Believe it or not, the consumption of a single leaf might be fatal.

Rumor has it that Chloe only attempted to make the children ill to get the approval of the Judge. If they were sick, she could restore their health and be seen as a savior. But things didn’t work out like Chloe had hoped. Later, she watched as the children and Sarah ate the poisoned birthday cake and died. According to death certificates, the mother and children died of yellow fever. However, no one can be certain since written public records at that time were often unreliable.

When the other servants found out what happened, they feared they would be blamed too. They removed Chloe from the house at once, dragged her to a nearby tree, and hanged her. After she was killed, her body was thrown into the Mississippi River. Tragically, that’s where Chloe’s life ends. But her story and spirit remain alive to this day.

Visiting The Myrtles


Today, the property operates as a B&B, offering daily home tours. You can book day, evening, and private sessions, but the complimentary tours are self-guided. Their restaurant, 1796, is on the property as well. They offer patrons classic cocktails and weekly specials.

I have mixed feelings about visiting a place that holds so much suffering. It’s very sad, and I’m not sure I want to surround myself with that. But at the same time, the house and its 10 acres are stunning. Maybe I will visit The Myrtles someday on a long road trip from New York.

Over the years, sightings of Chloe have been photographed and seen in person on the property. The Myrtles is rumored to have many other ghosts roaming the grounds too. Each has a story, but none seems as sad and intriguing as Chloe’s tragic tale.




Hey there! Thanks for reading! The original article was published on Vocal Media in their Horror community. If you enjoyed this blog post, please let me know by sending a like or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can also subscribe to my blog, Sunday Morning Stories, on the upper right side of this page. Connect with me on Twitter @jennwardwrites

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Walking Inside the World of Vincent van Gogh


Photo by Redd on Unsplash

by Jennifer Ward

“I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream. ” – Vincent van Gogh

When I was a little girl, I used to look at van Gogh’s paintings for hours. My father had an enormous hardcover book that featured an impressive collection of his art throughout his career. I found it fascinating – the vivid colors, the brush strokes, the people – all of it was like nothing I had seen before. There are a few paintings I’ve never forgotten over the years–Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette, Sunflowers, Starry Night Over the Rhône, The Night Café, and his self-portraits.
Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette by Vincent van Gogh – Museum Page (the image was stitched from tiles – for assembly method used, see The Potato Eaters), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22030423

The following picture was taken in Atlanta, GA at an exhibit. I’m not sure if this was the Vincent van Gogh expo, but I thought it was an interesting display. I love the gothic cathedral arches, and red lighting against the dark walls. This is one of many self-portraits he painted throughout his career.

Photo by Janay Peters on Unsplash
Like many artists, he was appreciated far more after his tragic death. According to The Art Newspaper, his most expensive painting is Portrait of Dr. Paul Gachet. In 1990, it sold for about $85 million. Considering inflation, it would be worth almost $200 million today. Dr. Gachet cared for Vincent during his short life and later when he died of gunshot wounds to the chest. This is likely one of the reasons for its popularity. In case you aren’t familiar with the circumstances of his death, van Gogh committed suicide in 1890. It has been debated for many years if the revolver found was a suicide or murder weapon. There is a pretty strong argument for both sides. If you want to read more about the mysterious details surrounding his death, I suggest reading this blog post by Daily Art Magazine. Additionally, Architectural Digest published an interesting article revealing what researchers found about his paintings during his final hours.
Dokter Paul Gachet by Vincent van Gogh – picture was taken and uploaded by Paul Hermans, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61995980. 
As a lifelong admirer, I was very excited when I came across an ad for the Van Gogh Exhibit. If you haven’t heard of this art show, it’s happening across North America and Europe through 2022.  You can see the show in Albany, NY, Philadelphia, PA, or Washington, D.C, if you are in or near New York City like me. The tickets are very reasonably priced. Somehow after I purchased my own tickets, I had gotten the dates mixed up. I almost missed the show, but luckily, it worked out. During the exhibit, flash photography is prohibited, which is very understandable. Unfortunately, some of my pictures are blurry and dark. I posted the clearest, brightest ones here.
The Cottage by Vincent van Gogh 
The painting below is one of several portraits van Gogh painted of his friend, Père Tanguy. Tanguy’s art shop in Paris, eventually became a place where artists would gather. He was very respected and well-liked in the art community.
Portrait of Peré Tanguy by Vincent van Gogh

The picture below is one of nearly 40 self-portraits he painted throughout his career. Much of what we know about his physical appearance and personality is captured in these paintings.

Self-Portrait by Vincent van Gogh

If you are a fan of van Gogh’s work or enjoy going to art shows, I highly recommend visiting the van Gogh immersive experience. Overall, it was an emotional and surreal experience to be standing not only among Vincent van Gogh’s paintings but inside them.

Hey there! Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please let me know by sending a like or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can read future articles by subscribing to my blog here. Connect with me on Twitter: @jennwardwrites. 

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A Playlist for Writers Who Like to Run…or Walk

Photo by Youcef Chenzer on Unsplash

by Jennifer Ward

Before I became sick with COVID last May, I loved to walk and do interval jogging. Fitness has always been a big part of my life. I did it all—aerial yoga, Zumba, dance yoga, HIIT, cardio kickboxing, vinyasa yoga, cheerleading, track, aerobics, Pilates, Peloton, personal training, and of course, the treadmill. Unfortunately, I haven’t recovered enough yet to do these intense workouts. I am grateful that I seem to be improving and can go for short walks. Who knows? Full recovery might not be too far off in the distance.

One of the benefits of walking or running when you’re a writer is that it gives you time to think. Not only are you doing something great for your body, but you are giving your brain a workout too. I like to use this time—my short walks—to daydream about characters and ideas for stories. It often helps me cope with getting stuck.

Let your mind wander during your next walk or run while listening to these songs from my music library. I hope they give you some creative energy. Full disclosure: If you happen to hate pop music, you are not going to like this list.

1. Circles by Post Malone

Who doesn’t like a song with a heartbreak theme? Compared to the rest of his music, this tune from his album Hollywood’s Bleeding is much softer with its melody and words. I could argue this is his best song ever, but I prefer a much lighter sound. I will say this is the perfect pop song for many reasons.

2. We’re Good by Dua Lipa

This is another favorite song I’ve listened to a lot—during my car rides to and from work, in addition to walking. A similar heartbreak theme is found in Post Malone’s “Circles.” It’s another song that captures the failure of relationships and the unhealthy patterns that lead to pain. I guess I can’t get enough of these toxic relationship songs. I love the lyrics…what else can I say?

3. As the World Caves In by Sarah Cothran

A slower song that has made it onto this list but a good one. Cothran sings a song showing a couple spending their last night together as the world ends. The lyrics are beautiful and heart-wrenching at the same time. The world may not have survived, but at least they had each other.

4. As It Was by Harry Styles

This is a more upbeat song to switch things up. It also sits at the number three spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Although the melody is happy, the lyrics reveal a mix of emotions hinting at a sad undertone. Like so many things in life, feelings are fickle, and we struggle to make sense of them. Harry Styles’ song gets how change in life isn’t easy.

5. American by Lana Del Rey

Bringing it back to a slower rhythm, Lana Del Rey’s “American” is one of several great songs from her album Paradise. I don’t know about you, but I’ve played the hell out of this album over the years. Not only does Lana Del Rey have impeccable style, but her voice is incredible too. Released a decade ago, the song’s lyrics reference Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and Elvis, which help create its nostalgic mood.

6. Modern Love by David Bowie

Back to an up-tempo song with darker lyrics, David Bowie’s “Modern Love” is another favorite I’m adding to the list. I had to include at least one song from the 80s, which is arguably the best decade for music. I can’t listen to 80s music and not think of being a little kid. There are different ways to interpret Bowie’s words, but it seems that the man in his song is looking for something with substance and only finds shallow relationships. Therefore, he loses his faith in modern love. Hmm…something a lot of us can probably relate to. We may never be able to figure certain things out, but at least we can try.

7. Riptide by Vance Joy

Vance Joy sings about a woman he admires, but it’s much more than a simple love song. This song is a blend of words and lines that seem unrelated throughout, but somehow, they all fit together. I have found myself thinking about this song hours after I’ve listened to it. The melody is simple yet, catchy and fun. The lyrics reveal what sounds like a turbulent relationship while his lady is “taken away to the dark side.” But in the end, it seems he loves her, nonetheless.

8. Rooster by Alice in Chains

Let us wind down with a slow-building alternative rock song from the 90s– “Rooster” by Alice in Chains. This song is worth listening to, even if 90s rock isn’t your thing. Its lyrics reveal the singer’s interpretation of his father’s experience fighting in Vietnam. The struggles his father faced are something I’m sure he could sense as a child. At a little over six minutes long, it’s a good song to listen to while cooling down at the end of a workout.

There it is — eight interesting songs you can add to your workout playlist (if you haven’t already). I would have made this list ten, but eight happens to be my favorite number.

Hey there! Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this story, please let me know by sending a like or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts! The original blog post was published on Vocal Media and featured as a top story in their Beat community. This story is also available on Medium. If you wish, you can subscribe to future blog posts here if you scroll to the top of the sidebar to your right. 

The Value of an English Degree: On Making the Most of an Education


Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

by Jennifer Ward

“Education is one thing no one can take away from you.”

Elin Nordegren

Many of us who were English majors might have heard: “Well, I guess you could always teach,” or “Are you sure a degree in English is worth it?” While I was an undergraduate student in my twenties, I was questioned a lot, and it didn’t feel good. There were times I doubted how useful my degree would be post-graduate life. Would I end up working as a barista? I thought. I hoped not. As much as I love coffee, that would be a nightmare. The angst of figuring out what I wanted to do career-wise was part of it. Though I’ve wondered why we often question the valuable skill set we acquire with an English degree and all that we have to offer the world. Today, I argue that those of us with an English degree hold a remarkable advantage over everyone else—we can write.

While pursuing my bachelor’s degree, I worked as an administrative assistant for a large hospital in Midtown East. After a while, I didn’t like my job. I wasn’t valued there, and the work became tedious. It became my personal hell from 9 to 5 within the small confines of my cubicle, and I knew I wanted to do something different. But I wasn’t sure yet what that was. After earning my degree, I used my communication skills to land an administrative role in another large hospital on the West Side of Midtown. I was offered a higher position and a considerable salary leap. Because of my degree, I earned enough to support myself and pay for college with no loans.

As an assistant supporting the hospital’s chief staff, one of my responsibilities was editing the hospital’s newsletter. I reviewed written submissions and planned the newsletter’s layout. I’ve taken various English courses—journalism, literary theory, linguistics, and creative writing. They’ve helped prepare me for the multiple professional roles I’ve taken on. Although my knowledge of feminist theory or Marxist theory in literature may not have been something I needed to know in the office, the analytical and writing skills I gained were quite valuable. Around this time, I began looking at graduate schools. I had considered pursuing an MBA or MPA and thought about law school. I eventually knew my heart wasn’t in healthcare administration. So, I moved on.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Soon I started working as a substitute teacher, and before I knew it, I landed a permanent position teaching English to seventh graders. The most rewarding parts of teaching are getting to know my students each year and sharing with them what I know about literature and life. I didn’t become an educator because I had to; I became an educator because I wanted to.

Today, I’m teaching at the same public school in Brooklyn I was when I began my career. I’m also spending time with my other passion—writing. I am building a small side business as a freelance writer. In my spare time, I write fiction and creative nonfiction as I work to develop my presence as an author. Soon, I will be completing a second master’s degree—an MFA. I’ve learned over the years that an individual with a background in English or creative writing is quite marketable. Teaching has been a wonderful, stable career for me, but there is so much more out there in the world. Why stop there? A degree in English for anyone could mean working as an author, a freelance writer, an editor, a social media marketer, a literary agent, a journalist, a technical writer, a copywriter, and the list goes on. While some of these industries are challenging to break into, it is possible to be successful. While most of us with a humanities degree will never be rich, we will acquire a wealth of transferable skills we can bring anywhere. To anyone who wants to undermine the value of an English degree, I say, “Stop and take another look.” Much of it boils down to one primary skill we all need for any career—communication. And that’s an area any English major would undeniably shine.

Hey there! Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this story, please let me know by sending a like or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts! This article has been updated. The original story was published here. You can also subscribe to future blog posts at the top of the sidebar to your right. Additionally, you might enjoy the excerpt from my personal essay “The Courage to Rekindle a Dream.”

Five Books Every Writer Should Own


Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

by Jennifer Ward

Writing has always been part of my life in one way or another. As a child, my journey began with writing short stories and poems about family summer vacations. As a teenager, I kept a journal for many years, writing about crushes and teenage drama. Today, I’m grateful that I can say it is a daily part of my life. As most people would expect, I write a lot as an English Teacher and an MFA student. But I also spend substantial time working on my creative writing. Whether our passion is technical writing, copywriting, creative writing, or something else, as writers, we never stop improving our craft or looking for work.

Over the years, I have found this small stack of books to be incredibly useful in the pursuit of writing. I hope you find them helpful too.

Photo by Benjamin Raffetseder on Unsplash

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

When I finished college, I was still looking for ways to improve my writing. During an afternoon of Google searching, I came across Zinsser’s book. I immediately ordered a copy and read it on my subway commute to and from work in Midtown. In those days, I had at least two hours of reading, Monday through Friday, which I often took advantage of.

Although this book was first published in 1976, it is up-to-date, addressing changes in the writing world making it relevant today. If you want to learn more about writing nonfiction, Zinsser—a lifelong journalist—offers some very sound advice in a tone that I found to be warm and friendly. I learned a lot from him about words, usage, style, and different types of nonfiction writing. William Zinsser passed away in 2015, a few years after I read his book. He remains immortal through his words, leaving behind a strong legacy in the writing world.

His classic guide is timeless and something we can all learn from.

Writer’s Market 100th Edition: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published by Robert Lee Brewer

In 2020, a fellow MFA student in a fiction writing course suggested picking up a copy of Writer’s Market. I’m happy I took his advice. This big book of nearly 1,000 pages is a reliable source for anything and everything a writer will need. It even includes advice on how to format a query letter and a chapter explaining how much to charge as a freelance writer. The pay rate chart continues for several pages breaking jobs down by the hour, project, and industry. This valuable source contains information about where to submit your work and how. Other editions focus on fiction and literary agents for those more interested in creative writing.

This trusted guide has been around for over a century—you can’t beat that.

The Faith of a Writer by Joyce Carol Oats

Joyce Carol Oats, or as I call her, JCO, has been one of my favorite authors for decades. Her frequently anthologized short story, “Where Are you Going? Where Have You Been?” has left such an impression on me that I still think about it twenty years later. I’ve read several of her books and have found myself in awe of her writing and imagination. By the way, if you haven’t read her novel Zombie, you need to. I won’t say anything else. The less you know starting that book, the better.

Naturally, when I came across her book, The Faith of a Writer, I had to read it. Who wouldn’t want a glimpse into the private writing life of their favorite author? In a collection of essays, she elegantly writes about what makes a story striking and where she finds inspiration. Perhaps I am biased as a super fan, but I think everything she writes is brilliant.

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field Edited by Tara L. Masih

Looking further into my shelved writing books, I found another excellent source written by various experts in the field. This book offers some interesting prompts, such as one based on the Rorschach Test. There are several steps involved, but the overall goal here is to generate a list of images associated with an inkblot created by you. The writing assignment is to draft a flash fiction story using those images and words. Sounds challenging, right? It is, but it’s also fun.

What I like about this book is that it offers an example of a flash fiction story, an essay by the author, and a writing exercise for you to practice. If flash fiction isn’t your thing, Rose Metal Press has also published books on prose poetry and flash nonfiction.

The Freelancer’s Bible by Sara Horowitz with Toni Sciarra Poynter

I initially read The Freelancer’s Bible for a required business class I took while working on my master’s degree. Yet, since then, I have used this as a road map to building a new career which is growing into a small side business. This book often reads like a friend offering professional, no-nonsense advice. Who wouldn’t want that? Even if you aren’t new to the freelancing world, this book is filled with beneficial suggestions for continuing to grow your business, such as figuring out taxes, insurance, and all the other intricacies of self-employment. If you are interested in working as a freelance writer, I highly suggest picking up a copy of this informative guide.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog post, please let me know by sending a like or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Author Interview

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

By Jennifer Ward

Recently, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by author and fellow MFA graduate student Faith Harris at Southern New Hampshire University. Read on to learn more about recent projects I’ve worked on, and what inspired me to write contemporary fiction.

FH: Let’s talk about process. Starting with, where do you write? How do you find the time?   

JW: I have a habit of bringing my laptop everywhere with me just in case I have some free time. I’ve written in hotel rooms, on subways, and during breaks at work (before I became a teacher). These days, I mostly write at my desk by the window in my NYC apartment. Lately, much of my time is devoted to my teaching job and graduate school. I try to get a lot of writing done during the summer, other school vacations, and the weekends.

FH: What made you want to start writing?   

JW: I’ve been writing in some form since I was very young. I kept a diary since the age of six, and when I was in the fourth grade, I wrote a small collection of one-page stories about summer vacations my family and I went on. Writing has always been enjoyable and therapeutic for me. I wrote a bit in college and afterward, here and there. I’ve had different careers in healthcare and education, but writing has never left my life.

FH: What is your chosen genre and what led you to write in this genre?  

JW: I write contemporary fiction. The thing that draws me to this genre is how relatable the characters and scenarios can be.  I think fiction can help us make sense of the world around us, and I try to do that with my stories. I once heard someone refer to contemporary fiction as “a slice of life,” and it really is.

FH: Can you please give us a brief overview of the project you are currently working on, if any?  

JW: Currently, I’m working on a few things. I recently wrote a short story about two sisters who are reunited by their father’s death. There is a lot of conflict and tension between them since he didn’t make his last wishes known. Many of my stories deal with family relationships. I also wrote a nonfiction story for Chicken Soup for the Soul I’m going to submit for publication. My story is about my experience teaching in a densely populated school in Brooklyn during the pandemic, watching my students and colleagues get sick, and eventually getting sick myself. It sounds sad, but it’s uplifting and all about thinking positively. Finally, I’ve written some character sketches and scenes for my debut novel, which is still very much a work in progress.

FH: What advice would you give a young aspiring writer?  

JW: I’m still in the process of building my own career as an author, but to a young writer, I would say go where you are valued and appreciated. Try to let go of any doubt or negativity others might project onto you. If writing is your dream, go for it.

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