Freckles: On Finding the Beauty of My Natural Skin


Photo by Karly Jones on Unsplash

by Jennifer Ward

“Freckles: On Finding the Beauty of My Natural Skin” is a personal essay about finding confidence and self-acceptance. I decided to write about my freckles since they were an insecurity of mine for many years. Even if you don’t have freckles, you might have something else you feel unsure of. Most of us do. This excerpt starts at the beginning of my essay, going all the way back to my childhood. I hope you find my story interesting and maybe even a little funny. At the very least, I hope you find it relatable.               

– Jennifer Ward


The first time I really noticed my freckles, I was standing in the schoolyard of my Brooklyn public school in 1986. My elementary school was small but diverse. Still, there weren’t many students who looked like me. Until that lunch period, it hadn’t mattered much.

My kindergarten classmates were picking teams for relay races. I waited, my hands and feet fidgeting. Beneath the cloudy sky, I stared at the opposite side of the painted white line along the concrete. It is what divided me from the rest of the crowd. Two groups of six-year-olds stared as I stood there—the only one who hadn’t been chosen for a team. Suddenly, one of my classmates glared at me and yelled, “Don’t pick her; she has freckles all over her face!” As silence fell upon the schoolyard, shame fell upon me. After being singled out for having freckly skin, I walked away. This was when I realized that to some people, one’s appearance matters much more than who we are inside.

One summer afternoon, when I was eight years old, I visited the Brooklyn Public Library. Unlike the schoolyard, the library was a non-threatening place. It became a safe haven filled with what seemed like miles of paperbacks. I wandered the book-filed aisles, relishing the cool, crisp air. Judy Blume’s Freckle Juice sat on display atop a bookshelf. The cover featured a young boy with glasses and freckles drawn onto his face with a purple marker. To have freckles was his only wish, and he believed they would appear using a special recipe. Why would anyone want to put freckles on their face? My only wish was not to have them. I didn’t think putting more spots on my already freckle-covered face was possible, so maybe somehow, the recipe would have the opposite effect on me. I borrowed the book and headed straight home to the kitchen. Out of curiosity, I followed the instructions. I mixed mayonnaise, onion, grape juice, and vinegar, among other condiments, but all I found was the worst-tasting concoction I had ever had. I only made myself sick.

Other protagonists, both literary and on-screen, offered me more helpful models for life with freckles. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables, known for her long red hair and freckles, was also recognized for her wisdom and temper. She loathed her red hair, and to her, it was a curse. Finally, someone I could relate to. Then, there was Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little House on the Prairie, who was freckled too. A girl who was feisty, fearless, and intelligent. In those moments of entertainment, I felt I wasn’t alone. I found comfort in these lead characters, who were strong and beautiful and didn’t necessarily fit the narrow conventions of idealized Hollywood beauty. I began to recognize that we all have insecurities. While they exist, they don’t have to define who we are. I thought I might not be considered very beautiful, but at least I could be intelligent and creative like those literary heroines and actresses I adored so much.

Hey there! Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog post, please send me a like or comment below or email me! I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can subscribe to future blog posts at the top of the sidebar to your right or connect with me on Twitter: @jennwardwrites.

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The Dollhouse (Excerpt from a Short Story)

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THE DOLLHOUSE (with an introduction)

by Jennifer Ward

“The Dollhouse” begins with a single universal moment—a woman coming to terms with her mother’s death. The story unfolds with the task of her sorting through her mother’s things which we know is a difficult thing to do. The feeling of nostalgia finds her when she discovers her mother saved something that meant a lot to both of them during a difficult time. This is a story about remembering, feeling, and acceptance. The sudden confluence of the past and present builds a sad yet, meaningful moment. This excerpt was taken from a short story in which the details of her life and her mother’s life develop even more. 

 – Jennifer Ward


I stood in the center of my mother’s attic for the first time in years. She’d passed away three weeks before, and I had the task of sorting through her belongings. Items she once cherished were now buried in a maze of dusty boxes. My head felt heavy as I wondered what I’d leave behind someday after I died.

The attic ceiling was low, but I managed to reach a small space by the window. While slumped on a wooden stool, I thought about getting the house ready to sell by the summer. My sisters and their families weren’t due to arrive from Pennsylvania until the following month. I was alone. This would take a while, and there was no easy way around it. At the very least, I needed to forge a path.

As the morning light filtered through the front windows, my eyes fell upon a dollhouse nestled in the corner.

My face lifted as I recognized it—a white colonial-style house with jet-black trimming. I ran my fingertips across the roof, raising a coat of dust. The dollhouse wobbled a bit from past years of use. As I looked inside, I noticed that most of the rooms needed repairs. To my surprise, the living room and kitchen were restored to their original beauty with a bit of sanding, paint, and love.

Hey there! Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog post, please send me a like or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can subscribe to future blog posts at the top of the sidebar to your right or connect with me on Twitter: @jennwardwrites.

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Three Educational Platforms Where You Can Learn From the Best

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By Jennifer Ward

I love learning. Anyone who knows me will tell you, “Jenn will always be a student.” But I also juggle a lot. I teach two subjects full-time. I’m a part-time graduate student. I write. I volunteer. I am always looking for freelance writing and editing gigs. Believe it or not, I can still carve out time to learn.

As an Aquarius, I am creative and quirky. I have a lot of interests. My hobbies are varied. I’m curious about a lot of things – even strange things. So for me, I never tire of learning. I’m always looking for something new to absorb or take on.

Considering my lifestyle, the most logical approach to learning is using my laptop. I can learn from any location and receive information asynchronously. It’s digestible and approachable. Over the years, I’ve used a few different platforms. They may not all be for you, but I suggest you read on and see what they are about.

MasterClass – This educational platform offers quite a variety of interests. If you are a writer like me, there are a ton of brilliant authors teaching the craft. I’ve taken courses taught by Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, and David Sedaris, to name a few. Each course is delivered through a series of lectures via videos and suggested activities. Most classes come with a workbook you can download too. The individual annual subscription costs $180. Is it worth it? That all depends on how much time you want to invest.

FivverA lot of us know Fivver as a seller’s platform, but did you know it is a learning platform too? If you are looking for ways to polish your writing skills or learn more about SEO, Photoshop, Google Analytics, or other business and graphic design courses, this is a great place to start. A badge is added to your profile each time a course is completed. The price of most classes is listed under $50.

TEDed – As an educator, I use this platform to show videos and ask questions about various topics. But it is also great for anyone who wants to learn independently. Most of the videos are under 5 minutes, accompanied by questions and prompts that encourage deeper thinking. Are you curious about the Sahara Desert and energy problems? Ever wonder how social media influences our brains? These topics and so much more are on TEDed, waiting to be discovered.

I hope you will try one of these platforms (if you haven’t already). I would love to know what your favorite subject is. Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.

Happy Learning!

My Five Favorite TED Talks of All Time

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By Jennifer Ward

1. Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are

In this TED Talk, Amy Cuddy gives insight into our body language and communication. She discusses her own path and how she arrived at where she is today. This is my most-watched TED Talk of all time.

“Fake it ’til you become it.” – Amy Cuddy

2. What Reality Are You Creating For Yourself?

I recently watched Issac Lidsky’s TED Talk, and I found his story to be very moving. He doesn’t just speak about struggles he has faced but how they have actually been a blessing.

“Hold yourself accountable for every moment, every thought, every detail. See beyond your fears.”- Issac Lidsky

3. The Art of Being Yourself 

In this TED Talk, Caroline McHugh gives some powerful advice on confidence and being yourself. As someone who has struggled with public speaking, I could really relate to this. She is truly an intelligent woman and a brilliant speaker. I could listen to her all day.

“Since that day, I have never been the center of attention. You’re the center of mine. And that is a very different feeling.” – Caroline McHugh

4. The Power of Mentoring

I love hearing success stories. Lori Hunt’s story is emotional and inspiring, reminding us about the power of mentoring. Her TED Talk made me think of my own struggles early on in college and how I overcame them. It also made me think of mentors I’ve had along the way and how fortunate I was to have met them.

“One day of mentoring, can change one life forever.” – Lori Hunt

5. The Power of Introverts 

We often value and praise extroverts for being outgoing and expressive, but what about the rest of us? Susan Cain asserts that a third to half of the world’s population is made up of introverts. Basically, that breaks down to one out of every few people you know. That’s a lot. She also discusses how we should reconsider undervaluing and underestimating introverts in the workplace. As someone with introverted qualities, I wholeheartedly agree.

“Go into the wilderness. Be like Buddha, have your own revelations.” – Susan Cain

Do you have any favorite TED Talks we can add to the list? Are there any videos here that resonated with you? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.

Hey there! Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog post, please send me a like or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can subscribe to future blog posts at the top of the sidebar to your right or connect with me on Twitter: @jennwardwrites.

Thank you again for your support!

Three Books Every Educator Should Read

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By Jennifer Ward

For the past decade, teaching has been my life. My Brooklyn public school classroom is like a second home to me. I’m sure most teachers feel the same. I spend a lot of time there because my students are an important part of my life, and I love teaching. Over the years, there are a few books that I have found to be very insightful about education in the United States. They may not offer a step-by-step guide on what to do as a new teacher, but they shed light on systemic flaws and how so many politicians and those in higher positions get education wrong. Being an educator goes beyond knowing what to do in the classroom. It also means understanding the issues we are confronted with and where they stem from outside the classroom. These are three books I have found helpful along my way.

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The Life and the Death of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch

In the midst of Bloomberg’s mayoral term in New York City, I read Ravitch’s book for a class I took in college. Bloomberg’s business model approach is part of what Ravitch discusses, which shows how there is a lack of understanding of what students, parents, and teachers need. Although this was many years ago, a lot hasn’t changed. Ravitch goes into depth about NCLB, No Child Left Behind, and how standardized tests and accountability causes major damage. My favorite chapter in this book is “The Billionaire Boys’ Club,” which talks about The Gates Foundation and The Walton Family Foundation, both of which vastly influence education in America. It is eye-opening and disconcerting, yet necessary to think about the survival of public schools.

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Lives on the Boundary by Mike Rose

Mike Rose, author of Lives on the Boundary, is another book every educator should read. It discusses the educational challenges students from impoverished and immigrant homes face. Rose grew up in California and was a child of Italian immigrants during the 1940s and 1950s. Although he became a successful educator and author, he had many struggles early on. He never forgot those hardships and has written about them in many of his books. Lives on the Boundary draws from Rose’s personal experiences, as well as those around him, leaving us with a book that is poignant and informative.

Photo By Elke Wetzig (Elya) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt

Teacher Man is a candid memoir authored by Frank McCourt that chronicles his professional growth as a teacher in New York City. His career spanned decades while he taught at high schools and universities. This book was published a few years before his death in 2009. I love a beautiful memoir, but even better when it is about an author and teacher I truly admire.

Have you read these books? Are there any you would add to this list? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.

Hey there! Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog post, please send me a like or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can subscribe to future blog posts at the top of the sidebar to your right or connect with me on Twitter: @jennwardwrites.

Thank you again for your support!

Changing Careers: To Leave or Not to Leave

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By Jennifer Ward

“One day, or day one. You decide.” – Paulo Coelho

Life is full of exciting moments, and changing careers is definitely one of them. But somewhere between that decisive moment and the first day of a new job, awareness starts to settle in – this major shift is also scary. Eventually, there’s this realization that everything we know, and everyone we know, will leave us. However, we are also aware that if we don’t push ourselves, nothing will ever be different.

Change is Difficult

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We are naturally comfortable with routine. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if these routines become rigid, they can build fear, holding us back. Change pushes us in ways we can’t imagine. Change is also necessary to be successful. If we aren’t willing to step away from what is comfortable, then everything will remain the same. For some, that is okay as long as you are happy. In my situation, I wasn’t, and I decided to move in a different direction.

I am not a swimmer. Believe it or not, I never learned how. For me, changing careers was like diving headfirst into the deep end of a dark pool. It was terrifying, and I didn’t know if I was going to sink or swim. But when we are willing to take risks and venture into the unknown, it can leave us feeling more empowered than we ever imagined.

Know Your Worth and Go Where You Are Valued

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In my twenties, I didn’t know my worth. I think a lot of us don’t realize our value, especially when we’re young. Returning to college was, for me, a huge turning point. I began to realize that I was capable of far more than I had ever imagined and far more than some of my supervisors gave me credit for.

One defining moment in college that helped me see my potential was speaking in front of an audience. At the time, I was enrolled in a creative nonfiction writing class and tasked with drafting the beginning of my memoir. Throughout most of my life (and this includes college), I have struggled with public speaking. Although I never read my writing in front of my classmates that semester, my professor was intrigued by what I wrote and continued to encourage me to share it with others. She invited me to read an excerpt from my story at a Women’s History Event in a room full of professors and students. It was nerve-wracking but, at the same time, liberating. I had conquered one of my biggest fears.

Later, I found myself sitting in my midtown office one afternoon, sharing this same story with a former boss of mine. After I finished, she told me through a low chuckle, “I could never picture you speaking in front of an audience.” It was at that moment that I realized she didn’t see my potential and she didn’t believe in me. I knew then it was time to make a move.

Opportunity Versus Money

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Opportunity for growth holds far more value than any amount of money. Money alone cannot compensate for the opportunity for advancement and recognition. Many people have asked me over the years why I would leave a job working in healthcare administration (making far more money) for a job teaching public school. The answer is simple: The opportunity wasn’t there.

Each job has its rewarding moments and its challenges. There’s a lot to consider when deciding to leave one career for another. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that money cannot buy you happiness in the working world. Even if a higher salary is a motivating factor, that alone isn’t enough to sustain our satisfaction. I didn’t see an opportunity for growth in my former career, and at a certain point, it wasn’t enough for me. One of the questions I asked myself before I became a career changer is: Why do I want to leave and start over? I knew the answer right away. And if you know the why, then you don’t really need to know anything else.

Interested in my story? Check out my personal essay here, published last December in The Penman Review.

Have you changed careers? Have you thought about making the move? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.

Hey there! Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog post, please send me a like or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can subscribe to future blog posts at the top of the sidebar to your right or connect with me on Twitter: @jennwardwrites.

Thank you again for your support!

Three Incredible Grants & Opportunities for Women Writers

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By Jennifer Ward

March 1st marked the beginning of Women’s History Month in the United States. In recognition of women’s contributions to our society, I thought this would be the perfect time to share a list of alternative funds for women writers. If you are an unknown writer and just starting out, money doesn’t come as easily as it might for established authors like Margaret Atwood, Gillian Flynn, or J.K  Rowling. Considering this, how will you fund your next book? You could look into applying for a grant. Let’s look at a few foundations that offer exciting opportunities for women.

  1. The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund

The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund is a foundation that offers grants between $500-$1500 to women writers and artists. Barbara Deming was a feminist, writer, teacher, and advocate for social change in the twentieth century. The foundation accepts applications from January 1-31 on an annual basis. They award fiction, mixed genre, and visual art annually, and nonfiction and poetry in odd years.

2. The National League of American Pen Women

By AgnosticPreachersKid – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Did you know that The National League of American Pen Women is an organization that dates back to 1897? Their headquarters, pictured here, can be found in Washington, D.C., and is one of many branches across the United States. In the late 19th century, women were still prohibited from joining male-only professional organizations. This league became a source of hope and a place where women and their talents could be seen and heard.

Today NLAPW has a literary publication called The Pen Woman Magazine which features art, writing, and music. They also award grants and scholarships to women on an annual basis. If you are interested, you can apply to become a member. Check out their website for requirements and details.

Grants and Scholarships


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Located in Wyoming, UCROSS offers writers a rent-free, uninterrupted space to work. This organization, founded in 1981 by Raymond Plank, has continued to provide a welcoming, respectful, calm, and inviting place for writers to work beneath the big, beautiful sky. UCROSS has a culinary chef who makes lunch and dinner for writers at the ranch. If you live in the area, you can apply to be a volunteer to greet visitors and attend public events. They also run an art gallery that features work created by former guests, open to the public, free of charge.

Which one interests you most? I suppose it depends on what you are looking for. I wouldn’t mind leaving New York City to explore the west. I think the pictures of the UCROSS landscape are absolutely breathtaking. Let’s start a conversation in the comments below!

Hey there! Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog post, please like or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can subscribe to future blog posts at the top of the sidebar to your right or connect with me on Twitter: @jennwardwrites.

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The Pros and Cons of the Hemingway Editor App

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by Jennifer Ward

“The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway

In a recent discussion in my Editing and Coaching class, my classmates and I talked about editing approaches. I mentioned the Hemingway app, and I was surprised to find that most of my classmates had yet to hear of it. About a year ago, I gave the app a trial run. Since then, I have continued to use it regularly. In comparison with other writing apps like Grammarly, Hemingway is built differently. It won’t pick up tiny errors like misplaced commas, but it will help you strengthen your writing piece in other ways. In life, we need different friends for different reasons, which is how writing apps work. We can’t have only one. What one friend brings, another one offers something completely different. The Hemingway app is like a friend who has a certain je ne sais quoi we’re all drawn to. We don’t always know how to express how great something or someone is, but we know we love it.

Ernest Hemingway was unique in his style of writing and as an individual. His real strength as a writer was in his short, succinct sentences and straightforwardness. He was a master at dialogue, creating conversations that would read in a realistic way. This type of writing leads the reader closer to the heart of the story without having to find their way through loads of adverbs, adjectives, and metaphors. Some of us prefer a more direct approach when it comes to fiction, and on the other hand, some of us love lengthy, flowery prose. Neither is wrong. This app is beneficial if your fiction writing style tends to be more descriptive, like me. But, even if you are drafting a piece of nonfiction, like a blog post or article, this app works well in improving overall clarity. Let’s get into the pros and cons of this handy app.

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  • There is a free version you can try first.
  • It comes with a built-in counter that shows how many words, characters, sentences, paragraphs, and letters your writing piece contains.
  • Great for blog posts, articles, and other short pieces of writing.
  • It tracks your reading time.
  • It provides a readability scale by using a grade-level system.
  • Based on the length of the piece, it will set a limit of adverbs.
  • It highlights the use of passive voice.
  • The app also notes sentence structure and how many sentences are difficult to read, pushing you to write clear and punchy prose.
  • You can easily copy and paste your writing into the app and toggle back and forth from your manuscript if needed.
  • If you like it and decide to purchase it, it costs $19.99 for Windows or Mac (I opted for the paid version after testing it out).


  • This app isn’t designed to pick up spelling or punctuation errors.
  • This app doesn’t integrate into Microsoft Word or Outlook like Grammarly.
  • Not great for longer pieces of writing.
  • It doesn’t offer formatting or organization suggestions like other apps.

Below is a screenshot of what your text might look like inside the app.

Which writing apps do you prefer? Have you used the Hemingway app? Have you found it helpful? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.

Hey there! Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog post, please send me a like or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can subscribe to future blog posts at the top of the sidebar to your right or connect with me on Twitter: @jennwardwrites.

Thank you again for your support!

The Next Book On My List: Women Talking


Someone recently recommended the novel Women Talking by Canadian author Miriam Toews. The film adaptation is out now in theaters but I think I’ll wait until I finish the book. It sounded so interesting I ordered a copy on Amazon. Of course, I wanted to share it with you as well. This one seems like a mix of a feminist tale and psychological fiction based on real occurrences of sexual violence that took place between 2005 and 2009. While this is a sensitive topic, a book like this begs for discussion about these strong women who survived of a great deal of pain and trauma.

Is this a book you would read? Have you already read it? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.

Hey there! 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! You can also subscribe to future blog posts at the top of the sidebar to your right or connect with me on Twitter: @jennwardwrites.

Thank you again for your support!

In the Style of William Faulkner

by Jennifer Ward

Back when I was in high school and college, I read a few of William Faulkner’s books and short stories. Most of us have at some point read or heard of “A Rose for Emily” or come across some of his other frequently anthologized stories. I still remember his novel, As I Lay Dying (the first one I read). My first impressions were: I’ve never read a book like this. What an incredible story, and what a unique way to tell it.

By Published in New York by Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith. Designer uncredited. – Scan via Heritage Auctions. Cropped from the original image., Public Domain,

The southern gothic narrative unfolds through the eyes of 15 different characters, some of whom are related to Addie, the mother of the Bundren family. Early on, she passes away, and much of the story is about the journey to bury her in Jefferson, Mississippi. Selfish motives or not, the characters continue on their trip as we learn about the current situation through many perspectives.

Photo by Mark McGregor on Unsplash

Last week I was challenged in a fiction writing class to mimic an author I admire, and I chose Faulkner. Although he is a difficult author to imitate, I admire him for his experimental side and originality. Faulkner is known for his slow, lengthy descriptions of characters and objects. His sentences are often complex and quite different from Hemingway’s sparse style (a near complete opposite). Faulkner’s writing is a slow burn, and I tried to emulate that with the description below. The characters and situation were drawn from my novel in progress.

It was a Friday evening in mid-June when Hayley walked down the old Brooklyn Street. It was perhaps a strange time of day to be heading to a job interview, but she agreed last week to meet Mrs. Ryan to discuss the proposed tutoring position. She had assumed, at first, the house belonged to her but learned toward the end of their last conversation that it was owned by her parents. Since the death of Mr. Ryan, Mrs. Ryan and her daughter Julia have been living here, and it was explained that if hired, this is where Hayley would tutor Julia over the summer.

1720 Ridge Road was a large, fairy-tale-like cottage made of uncut stones of different colors and sizes; somewhat pieced together haphazardly like a jigsaw puzzle, situated on what was considered by locals as one of the quietest streets by the Narrows Bay. Although the house was similar in style to a cottage, it was anything but small. Across the front of the house, there was a long row of double-hung windows with brown shutters facing the vast lawn.

A grand, wrought-iron gate surrounded the sloped property; the top of it was adorned with an intricate leafy design. Over the years, she had read about houses like this one, but she had never visited such an unusual place with this much character. It was as if she had stepped out of Brooklyn and into another world.

From the corner of her eye, she noticed Mrs. Ryan standing in the garage doorway beside a row of hedges. Hayley waved and walked over, slowly pushing the heavy gated door aside.

As of 2022, some of Faulkner’s first stories entered the public domain. If you’re interested in his life and legacy, you can learn more at

Do you have a favorite Faulkner story or a most-loved author you admire? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.

Hey there! 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! You can also subscribe to future blog posts at the top of the sidebar to your right or connect with me on Twitter: @jennwardwrites.

Thank you again for your support!

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