Friday, September 12, 2014

Joan Leotta: No Myth, Hard Work Does Get You Places

Everyone's Story welcomes author Joan Leotta. Joan is a multi-talented woman, an author of fiction, a journalist, and a performer of original shows portraying historic figures. This week Joan shares with us her thoughts of where the real writing magic occurs, as well as an excerpt from her newest release, Book 3 of her Legacy of Honor Series. Check out her Giveaway! Both Joan and I look forward to hearing from you.

Joan is offering Book 1 of the Legacy of Honor Series, GIULIA GOES TO WAR, to one randomly chosen winner who leaves a comment for Joan. The winner will be announced here on Friday, September 19th, between 5-6 PM EST. To be entered in the Giveaway, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!

Excerpt from Book 3, A BOWL OF RICE:

A BOWL OF RICE by Joan Leotta

Pittsburgh, May 7, 1970

"Hell no, we won't go! Hell no, we won't go!" They kept chanting the phrase, repeating it with more ferocity and fist pumping at each shout. Anna Maria snaked her way through the crowd of angry college students, some of whom were standing on the sidewalk. Most were standing and sitting in the middle of Fifth Avenue, blocking traffic. She ducked into the Pitt bookstore just as two mounted policemen rode down to the edge of the crowd and maneuvered their horses to try to move the students out of the street. Even though she had seen a student swipe at a patrolman who was monitoring the crowd on foot, no one seemed willing to possibly hurt a horse and so the crowd began to roll back onto the sidewalk like an ebbing tide.
Anna Maria watched it all for a few minutes through the plate glass windows of the bookstore. Then she sighed and ran down the stairs to the lower level where the nursing books were kept. She had heard that a paperback copy of her favorite nursing reference was now available and wanted to take that lighter version with her to Vietnam, thereby shaving a few ounces of weight from her already overstuffed and heavy suitcase.
When she had descended the steps she looked around for someone to help her find the book. Signs for various disciplines and studies were absent from their usual places at the end of each stack of shelves. "Probably took them for the demonstration," Anna Maria mumbled to herself. She sat down on a stepstool by the first set of shelves.
She decided to rest there for a few moments while she collected herself. Reflecting on the previous week, Anna Maria sank deeper into her thoughts. What a strange and busy week it had been, she mused. Michael had decided to avoid Vietnam by defecting to Canada. Meanwhile, she was studying for finals in the program that would take her to Vietnam as a nurse. The program that, that WILL take me to Vietnam as a nurse, she corrected herself.  I can't let Michael's decision affect me that way.
A salesgirl walked by. She didn't speak to Anna Maria although she frowned at her as she glanced her way. So, she noticed me, Anna Maria thought, as the girl walked around the corner of another stack of books, but did not call out to her. She probably thinks I'm crazy or maybe she thinks I'm just resting here to get away from the demonstrations outside. Maybe I am. After all, I could've bought that book at any time.
Anna Maria looked at her watch. It was only an hour until she was supposed to meet Michael to discuss his plans. She wondered if he would be on time or not. She imagined that he was in the thick of the demonstration and had either burned his draft card already or was running to meet the mounted policemen. Michael was always in the midst of the trouble. Anna Maria smiled ruefully to herself. No, she corrected herself. Michael is always the one instigating the trouble. She had to admit that it was nearly impossible to correct Michael. Even his professors had a hard time denying him. His sparkling blue eyes, coal black curly hair, and lop-sided grin were hard to refuse. That grin of straight, even teeth illuminated the room around him and acted as a magnet, pulling everyone deep into his soul and definitely into his orbit.

Where the Magic Happens by Joan Leotta

A childhood friend came to visit and wanted to see my office—which at the present time I am not even using for my writing but instead, as a sort of a storage area. A messy one. Projects for story performance (my other and complementary career) ring the floor. Books spill out from bookcases. My file cabinets are full and there are stacks of papers on my desk.

I now work in the living room. Although papers surround the little area around my fave place to sit and work on the laptop, the mess is deceptive. However, the important information for each project is carefully tucked into computer folders and or actual folders at my work area. Books that I have to review and books for pleasure reading are also out here. Books I have read and have not yet given away are in the "office."

The printer is in the office. Right now, my WIP is the fourth novel of my series with Desert Breeze Publishing and I am late, thanks to being sick for a lot of days, research difficulties, plot rewrite, and bouts of eye strain as I try to hit a goal of 3k per day just on that project.

But the magic does not occur in either place because the writer's mojo needs to come from within. There is no right (pun intended) style or place to write. Rather, the power that infuses the pen or keyboard runs in a direct line from the mind and heart.

Don’t get hung up on where and how and when you write. Just write!

Be Timely and Write Daily. Being late for a project is anathema to me. Very embarrassing. I'm a journalist and I put out a lot of words on projects that help pay for my other writing—associations, meetings, conferences, etc. If I did not meet those deadlines I would not be a writer.

Fiction can be put on a deadline basis too—as can poetry. It's not as easy for me to block out those, but let me tell you, the "magic" is also something that comes when you exercise it daily. Don’t wait for a muse to ask you to dance. Get out there and boogie along your keyboard daily. Trust lazy little me. It’s the only way. Often I use words with friends to rev up my brain or I edit a piece of short fiction or poetry to jump-start the process.

On days when I am traveling or have houseguests and cannot sit down for a long spell of writing, I try to compose in my head. Or maybe I jot down the first draft of a short poem. Or maybe I simply rewrite something. Or I hunt for future assignments and write query letters. Or look for contests (deadline!) to enter.

Reading for pleasure is not the same as writing. Reading books on writing is not the same as writing, but I do allow that to sometime eat into my writing time.

Marketing my writing also takes time. Sales of books do not happen by themselves. Again, the only "magic" on my part is hard work.

So, does that sound dreary to you? I hope not? Because I find it exhilarating! Yes, I truly enjoy the process of applying word to paper. I like to see my work in print and online. I like to see others do well in their writing.

Why Publish? When I write, I want to share what I've created, hoping it will entertain, educate and encourage someone else. That's why I publish. And when someone reads what I've written or enjoys a performance I offer of my original tales, the positive audience reaction, the interaction of their hearts and minds with my work—that IS magic.

Joan's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Everyone has a story: Author Joan Leotta shares secret of writing mojo. (Tweet This)

#BookGiveaway of GIULIA GOES TO WAR by Joan Leotta, Legacy of Honor Series. (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
Joan Leotta has been playing with words with writing and performing since childhood. Her "motto" is "encouraging words through pen and performance." Her award-winning poetry, short stories, books and articles have appeared in many journals, magazines and newspapers. She performs folklore and one-woman shows on historic figures in schools libraries, museums and at festivals. Joan lives in Calabash, NC with husband Joe. 

Places to connect with Joan:


  1. I so agree writing is hard work--the hardest I've ever done. But, like you, I love it! Not so much marketing. Yuck!

    How well I remember the setting of A Bowl of Rice! Great excerpt.

    1. I was still in elementary school during those times but must say that the fight for civil rights and peace greatly shaped me and my writing.

      Thanks for your visit, Pat.

    2. Dear Pat, thanks so much for taking the time to comment and for your compliments on the excerpt! Are you from Pittsburgh too? Or were you referring to remembering the general upset of the times. I completely agree with you about marketing. It is the Achilles heel of my writing career.

  2. I would love to read more about the historical performances. I once did a performance as Fanny Crosby- it was so fun . I scared myself when I looked in the mirror and saw my powdered hair and "older" look. I always enjoy reading your interviews Elaine.

    1. And I enjoy having you visit, Barbara. I wasn't aware that you've also done performances (what a talented woman you are!). Couldn't help but to offer a half smile when I read the part about looking in the mirror.

      Joan--would you like to add in a comment some insights to your performances?

    2. Barbara, I'vbe been performing folklore and women from history for the past 30 years in a variety of venues. Please take a look at my blog site for more information on performing and writing. Sounds like you had a good time doing Fanny Crosby.

      Writing the script for an historical performance can be daunting. Sometimes I play the role of a person, real or imagined, in the historic person's life. For Belle Boyd, I portray her Aunt, so I can give perspective on Belle, the confederate spy who danced her way int Civil War history.

    3. Fascinating insights to performing folklore, Joan. Sounds as if you really enjoy it, and I'm sure your audience must appreciate it as well as learn so much.

  3. I really enjoyed this interview and thank you for introducing me to another author I am not familiar with. I always look forward to reading your blog and meeting the authors. I would love to win a copy of her book.

    Ann Ellison

    1. Hi Ann--waving from the NE where it's a taste of fall today.You're in the drawing…we're definitely moving into the good-books-to-curl-up-with season.

    2. Thank you for taking the time to learn about a new author (me)! Good luck on the drawing.

  4. Love the title of your post, Joan (and Elaine). It seems the idea that 'hard work pays off' has almost become outdated (and that perseverance is often underrated). Thanks for holding the banner high!

    1. Kathy, you've brought up an excellent point, which I see all the time working with teens and "young adults": the encouragement that hard work pays off doesn't seem to be fostered in society today, at least not much the American society. And connecting it to faith, perhaps that's why He gave us Free Will. We need to make efforts, decisions in all we do and believe.

      Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I love when you visit.

    2. Kathy, Elaine is such a hard worker, I am learning a lot from her. I appreciate the fact that those of you who follow her blog are taking the time to comment on my excerpt and interview. You are so right, Kathy--hard work is needed. Faith sustains us when we don't see the results we want from our hard work--and I rely always on the knowledge that wordly success is not what is important. I try to keep in mind always that I must work as hard and well as I can to honor God and that He will select readers for me.

    3. Thanks, Joan. You've helped to bolster my hard work attempts.

  5. Tweeted this and will be linking to this post on Friday, 10/3.

    The excerpt drew me in and completely hooked me. We don't see much fiction set in this time period - one I lived through. I'd love to win one of this author's books.

    susanjreinhardt AT gmail DOT com

    1. Susan, as always, thanks for visiting. I'm thinking that now that there has been some distance between the hectic and complex 60s and 70s that we'll begin to see more fiction stories based in this time. Looks like Joan has a jump on this… good for us!

      You're in the drawing. And thanks for the Tweet & link.

    2. Dear Susan, It was hard to write about this period. I think for many of us it is still raw. Also, I wanted to show nurses in a good light and although of course, war is brutal, rise above that to discuss the very human emotions that can rise above the wartime environment and friendships that develop.

      You and Elaine are both so good about tweeting! Thank you. I need to up my learning in the tweet area. Do you really find those 140 characters helpful to put out? Maybe I need to learn to be more concise!! Thanks for your comments.

    3. I love Tweeting, Joan. It's short & undemanding of my time. And yes, those 140 characters help in editing skills! Tweeter is a great way to make connections, as well as draw people to your blog/website. And no, I'm not getting paid to say this--LOL.

  6. I do have a twitter "handle"

    1. Yes! Now you'll have to Tweet, Tweet, and Tweet up a storm.

  7. Interesting books about interesting times in history. Thanks for the giveaway!

    dianemestrella at gmail dot com

    1. Welcome to Everyone's Story, Diana. I'm glad you enjoyed learning about Joan's novels.

      Hope to see you again.

    2. Diane, thanks for stopping by and congrats on winning

  8. Thanks, Joan, for your contribution to Everyone's Story this past week. It's been exciting to host you. Thanks to for the lovely Book Giveaway of GIULIA GOES TO WAR.

    The winner of Joan's novel is…

    Diane. Congratulations, Diane. Both Joan and I will contact you in direct emails. Happy reading.

    Blessings to all.

  9. Thank you to everyone who read the post and a special thanks to all who commented.


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