Meet Our Contributors

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Meet Our Contributors

Barbara Alpert is a wife, mother and grandmother living on the west coast of Florida. She has written books for children and adults as well as her memoir, Arise My Daughter: A Journey from Darkness to Light. She is active in her church, serves as a women’s small group leader, and is a Blog Mentor, coaching aspiring authors.

Katie Bangert lives with her husband, three children and many family pets. She is a voracious reader and enjoys nothing more than a good book. Katie partners with a foundation to raise awareness for those suffering from facial paralysis. Her passion is to help others find their smile again. E-mail her at

Valerie D. Benko writes creative nonfiction from her home in western Pennsylvania. She is a frequent contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul and has had more than two dozen essays and short stories published in the U.S. and Canada. Visit her online at

Alicia Bertine is a frequent contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul, a three-time pancreatic cancer survivor, and a model, businesswoman and motivational speaker. She has served as the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s “Champion of Hope,” and inspired viewers on Lovetown, USA. Contact Alicia via

Ginger Boda has had stories published in Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms. Ginger lives in Southern California with her husband of thirty-seven years, and they are blessed with three children and nine grandchildren.

Barbara Bondy-Pare has four children from her first loving husband, Ronald M. Bondy. Since he passed away from lung cancer, she has married a high school classmate, Eddie Pare. Their twelve adorable grandchildren keep them young, active and entertained. Barbara is all about love, family and hugs.

Debra Ayers Brown is a writer of inspiration and humor with stories in multiple Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She is also co-creator of Your Write Platform, a marketing boutique for authors and business owners. Connect via www.About.Me/DebraAyersBrown or @coastaldeb on Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest. Learn more at

Lorraine Cannistra has a Bachelor of Science in English and Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling from Emporia State University. She enjoys advocating, cooking, writing and motivational speaking. Her passions are wheelchair ballroom dance and her new service dog, Leah. Enjoy her blog at E-mail her at

Louis R. Cardona lives in Chicago, IL. He is currently taking classes in graphic design. He enjoys shooting pool, writing, reading, and baseball. He is artistic and creative. He wrote this story when he was still in high school, and hopes to do more writing in the future.

Liane Kupferberg Carter is a journalist and award-winning essayist whose articles have appeared in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Babble, Brevity and Literary Mama. She has just completed a memoir.

Melissa Halsey Caudill is a paralegal, writer, runner, actress, and cancer survivor. She is the proud mother of two great teenagers and is soon to be the proud stepmother to more wonderful kids when she marries their handsome daddy in November 2014. This is her third story in Chicken Soup for the Soul and she is working on her first novel.

Rose Couse is a Registered Early Childhood Educator in Cambridge, ON, Canada and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of Waterloo. The proud mother of two grown sons, Rose is passionate about validating and inspiring others through her writing. E-mail her at

Jill Davis lives in Port Orange, FL with her husband, Gary. In her spare time, she enjoys scrapbooking and walking the beach.

Jo Davis has articles and short stories published in national magazines. She has written a series of children’s books, which she credits to raising five children as a single mother, and is an accomplished poet. She enjoys photography, horseback riding, camping and travel.

Nellie Day is a professional freelance writer who resides on the Las Vegas Strip with a surly Bull Terrier. She received her M.A. degree in broadcast journalism from USC, and her BAS degree in English and sociology from UC Irvine. When she’s not writing for national magazines, Day spends her time finishing up her first novel.

Joan Dayton has two adult children, two granddaughters and one adorable great-granddaughter, and is becoming established in a new career as a freelance writer.

Francis DiClemente lives in Syracuse, NY, where he works as a video producer. He is the author of three poetry chapbooks, and his blog can be found at

Joanne Stephenson Duffin is a 2006 graduate of New York Institute of Photography and is an award-winning photographer, as well as a poet, writer, and singer-songwriter, with a background in interior design. She is the mother of four adult children and grandmother of six. She lives with her husband of thirty-eight years in Wilsonville, OR.

Jo Eager is a freelance writer and broadcaster in San Diego, CA. She currently flies in a television news helicopter, reporting breaking news and traffic. Jo also enjoys teaching several fitness classes. She has two kids — both the inspiration of Chicken Soup for the Soul stories.

Nick Fager received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Middlebury College in 2009. He spent his college summers working for Survivor and continued after graduating. Now living in New York City, he is pursuing a master’s degree in psychology at Columbia University with aims to become a psychotherapist. E-mail him at

Lynn Fitzsimmons, DTM, has developed a courageous spirit. She has achieved things others told her she could not. Lynn is an advocate for the disabled and helps individuals find their true purpose in life. A professional speaker/author, Lynn reaches all audiences to inspire and motivate. E-mail her at

Carol Fleischman is a freelance writer. Her essays have appeared in The Buffalo News, Chicken Soup for the Soul books, a Guideposts book series and The Simon & Schuster Short Prose Reader editions 3, 4 and 5. Her first children’s book is scheduled for publication by Pelican Publishing in 2015.

Debra Forman is a magazine writer, radio reporter, and motivational speaker. She and her eight-year-old son enjoy movies, music and traveling to family-friendly destinations. Her goal is to use her writing abilities to improve the world, and her current focus is helping the non-profit Autism Cares Foundation in Richboro, PA.

Shannon Francklin lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Michael and Kira. She is a full-time mother and enjoys her soccer mom life. Shannon and Michael are grateful to God and Dr. Andrew Toledo, her IVF doctor, for giving them Kira. Shannon would like to thank her wonderful friend Caroline Updyke for writing this story.

Karen Frazier is a freelance writer and author who has written two of her own books and ghostwritten numerous others. She also designs jewelry, writes cookbooks, and enjoys spending time with her family. She is married and has a college-aged son and a teenaged stepson.

Patricia Ann Gallegos is a freelance writer, encouraging others through her life experiences while inspiring students at Evergreen School District. She is pursuing a journalism degree, and is published in other Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Visit her at, or contact her at

Kathy Glow is a freelance writer, blogger, and mother of five boys, including one lost to cancer. When not driving all over town in her minivan, wiping “boy stuff” off the walls, or trying to find the bottom of the laundry pile, she writes for various websites and anthologies. She is working on a memoir about her son.

Genevieve Gosselin has a passion for language and words, which led her to work as an English teacher, translator, proofreader, editor and writer. Gen also loves advocating for the acceptance of people with mental illnesses, a group she is part of. She is single but has a wonderful, supportive family.

Haylee Graham is a twenty-one-year-old four-time novelist and owner of a charitable snapback hat company, Snap Gives Back. She now lives in Las Vegas, NV, and is also co-founder of a music-based charity. Haylee wishes to inspire and encourage others one story, snapback, or charity at a time. E-mail her at

Kasey Hanson married her childhood sweetheart and has two boys and one little girl. She loved supporting her husband’s NFL football career for eleven years and now can be found on the sidelines cheering for her kids while her husband coaches. Kasey loves working with children and pointing people to Jesus Christ.

Rachelle Harp is a speculative fiction author, blogger, and avid coffee drinker. Her YA novel, The Breakout, won the 2012 Novel Rocket Launch Pad Contest, and her short stories have appeared in Havok magazine. When she’s not writing, Rachelle loves spending time with her family, friends, and two cats.

Born and raised in the South, Cheryl Hart is the fourth of five siblings and proud mother of two grown children. As a military daughter and wife, she lived all across the South, worked a variety of jobs, and met dozens of interesting people. She now calls Georgia home, travels overseas and writes Southern women’s fiction.

Carol Goodman Heizer, M.E.d., resides in Louisville, KY. She is an eight-time published author whose books have sold in the U.S. and overseas. Her work has appeared in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her previous works may be purchased through, CreateSpace, and in bookstores. E-mail her at

Wendy Hoard received her Bachelor of Psychology degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2001. For the last ten years, her focus has been caring for her two sons on the autism spectrum. Wendy’s love of writing gave birth to her blog Bugaboos Treasures, where she shares her personal journey with autism and addiction.

Bridget Huckabee is a freelance writer, a native of England and now an American citizen. She has three sons and five grandchildren. She enjoys writing, gardening, needlepoint, watercolor painting and volunteering at her local art gallery.

Mandy Iahn graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2005 before becoming a minister in the United Methodist Church. She enjoys the beach and boating, tennis and golf and spending time with her family. She writes inspirational nonfiction and children’s books.

Marsha Jordan created the Hugs and Hope Club for Sick Children. She’s no stranger to illness herself; but through it all, she’s kept her sense of humor. She shares that—along with hard-earned wisdom—in her new book, Hugs, Hope and Peanut Butter. E-mail or visit

Ginger Katz is the author of Sunny’s Story and CEO/Founder of The Courage to Speak Foundation, a nonprofit founded after her son died of a drug overdose. She presents nationwide to break the silence about drug use and she spearheaded the development of drug education programs for students and parents. Learn more at

Zoe Knightly graduated from the University of Richmond and is currently pursuing her Master of Public Health degree at Emory University. Zoe’s mission in life is to inspire people. She is a world record holder in an athletic event despite having an autoimmune disease. E-mail her at

Suzanne Koven, MD, a primary care internist at Massachusetts General Hospital, writes the monthly column “In Practice” for The Boston Globe and contributes the interview series “The Big Idea” at The Rumpus. She also authored Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Hello to a Better Body! Learn more at

Cathi LaMarche is a novelist, essayist, and poet. Her work has appeared in over two dozen anthologies. In addition to owning Top College Essays, a college essay coaching service, she teaches composition and literature. She resides in Missouri with her husband, two children, and three dogs.

Jacqueline Lauri is a perpetual traveler who feels at ease everywhere but at home. She received her bachelor of science degree from the University of the Philippines and is now taking MBA-level executive programs from eCornell. At the moment, Jacqueline resides in Norway with her husband, son and cat.

Chelsey-Ann Lawrence grew up in Canada, where she completed her B.A. degree in social sciences and human services with high honors. She currently lives in Seattle, WA with her husband and works as a behavior therapist. She loves travelling, cooking, baking, time with family and friends, and writing to inspire others with hope.

Sue LeBreton is a health and wellness writer whose articles appear regularly in regional parenting magazines in Canada and the U.S. The unexpected challenges of her parenting journey have included cancer, autism, life-threatening allergies and diabetes. She uses self-care and humor to help her on her parenting journey.

Foxglove Lee specializes in LGBTQ fiction for teens and young adults. Her books include Tiffany and Tiger’s Eye and Truth and Other Lies. Find out more at and follow her on Twitter @FoxgloveLee.

Betsy Alderman Lewis is a freelance writer with many interests, especially history. Lewis has a B.A. degree in Cultural Studies with concentrations in writing and literature. She enjoys designing quilt and embroidery patterns. You can visit her website at or e-mail her at

Jaye Lewis is an award-winning writer who lives in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Jaye has PTSD and is blessed to have a service dog, a ten-pound Dachshund named Dixie Mae. Visit them both at

Linda Lochridge is a psychotherapist. She is also a speaker and writer. She lives with her husband Tom and her Goldendoodle Emma in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. She is a mother to five, grandmother to ten and great-grandmother to two. Linda loves to paint, quilt and knit. She is currently working on a memoir.

Sydney Logan is the bestselling author of three novels, Lessons Learned, Mountain Charm, and Soldier On. She received her master’s degree from Tennessee Tech University and has been teaching for nearly twenty years. Sydney lives in the hills of East Tennessee with her wonderful husband and their very spoiled cat.

Carol Luttjohann earned her Master of Social Work degree at Washington University in St. Louis. She is in the process of starting a nonprofit organization to support caregivers and keep elderly in their own homes. She has written two books about caring for her mother. E-mail her at

Diane Lowe MacLachlan is a graduate of Hope College and a student of life. The grateful mother of three amazing, adult children, a lovely daughter-in-law, and grandmother to her first grandchild, she loves to enter into the stories of family, friends, and strangers and to find joy in everyday things.

Meg Masterson is a journalism student based in Sacramento, CA. She has a deep love of theater and hopes to launch a career as an arts writer. Many thanks to Jan, family, friends, and — most of all — John. E-mail her at

Sara Matson lives in Minnesota, where she is currently enjoying her new mouthful of shiny, white crowns. (However, she continues to avoid eating taffy.) In addition to smiling widely, she spends her time homeschooling her teenaged daughters and writing magazine stories for children. Visit her website at

Megan McCann is a mom to three children and lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from SUNY College at Purchase. She dedicates this story to her mother who inspired a great love of writing and the desire to help others to know their greatness. Writing is her heart.

Debbie McNaughton is a writer of short stories drawn from everyday life. She is a member of the National League of American Pen Women and Cape Cod Writers Center. Debbie and her daughter moved from Wyoming to Cape Cod in 2002. They collect mermaid memorabilia, listen to loud rock music and dream of owning a red Corvette.

Like most people who tell their story about singing from the day they were born, Samantha Molinaro’s passion for writing was seeded at birth. The bottom line remains that for Samantha, writing is an escape and mode of expression in which she hopes others can be inspired to laugh, cry, or even write themselves.

Tom Montgomery is a Michigan native who earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism at Central Michigan University in 1985. He has been editor of the Cass City Chronicle in Cass City, MI for the past twenty-eight years. He and his wife, Deb, have four grown children and nine grandchildren.

Marya Morin is a freelance writer. Her stories and poems have appeared in publications such as Woman’s World and Hallmark. Marya also penned a weekly humorous column for an online newsletter, and writes custom poetry on request. She lives in the country with her husband. E-mail her at

When Gail Molsbee Morris isn’t chasing after God’s heart, she chases rare birds across America. She can be reached through her nature blog at or tweet @godgirlgail.

Alice Muschany writes about everyday life with a touch of humor. She went so far as to write her own obituary, mostly so she could get in the last word. Her family, especially her grandchildren, make wonderful subjects. Her essays have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. E-mail her at

Andrew Nalian is the author of 50 Deeds for Those in Need. He believes that if you focus on doing one good deed a day, the world will be rich with something money can’t buy — happiness. If you were influenced by Andrew’s story, he would love to hear from you at

Diane C. Nicholson is a writer and professional photographer/photo-artist, specializing in companion animals and special needs children. A long-time vegan, her affinity and respect for animals and patient understanding of children with special needs is reflected in her art. Diane has nine stories published by Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Nick Nixon is a retired advertising executive who now writes humour columns and creates cartoons for various publications. He also does caricatures for cancer patients, family and friends. Plus, Nick writes and illustrates children’s books. He records these stories and does voiceovers for commercials and videos.

Kathleen O’Grady is a writer and political strategist living in Ottawa, Canada. She is a Research Associate at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University and the author and editor of numerous books and articles on health policy, women’s and cultural issues. She is a mother of two young boys, one with autism.

Nancy Emmick Panko is a retired registered nurse. She belongs to The Light of Carolina Christian Writers group and the Cary senior writing group. She has written several children’s stories and a novella, Guided Missal. Nancy and her husband live in North Carolina.

Lisa Pawlak is a freelance writer, mother of two boys, and lung carcinoid cancer survivor. Her diverse work can be found in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Coping with Cancer magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, San Diego Family magazine and Carlsbad magazine.

A journalist in rural Minnesota, Ellarry Prentice studied travel and tourism. In addition to her work as a reporter for her hometown newspaper, she is a freelance writer and photographer, and an advocate for mental health and alcoholism awareness. She enjoys reading, volunteering, and traveling with her husband, Greg.

Susan Randall is a hospice nurse in Montgomery County, Maryland and the proud mother of two grown children. Her heartwarming nonfiction stories have been published in a previous Chicken Soup for the Soul book and a magazine called Spotlight On Recovery. E-mail her at

Sadia Rodriguez is a working single mother of identical twin daughters. She coordinates and writes for the mothers of multiples blog How Do You Do It? at After a childhood in the UK and Bangladesh, she has settled in Texas. She advocates for healthy and wholesome parenting, meeting each child where he is.

Sioux Roslawski is a third grade teacher by day, and a freelance writer by night. On the weekends, she rescues Golden Retrievers. She’s a friend to Darice, a wife to Michael, a mother to Virginia and Ian and a grammy to Riley. You can read more from Sioux at

Tammy Ruggles is a legally blind freelance writer, artist, and retired social worker who lives in Kentucky. She enjoys photography, film, and spending time with family and friends, especially her two grandchildren, who sometimes help her create cover art for her children’s stories.

Ceil Ryan is a wife, nurse, mom and nana of three living in the Midwest. After working more than twenty years, she hung up her nurse’s cap to start writing and blogging full-time. Ceil enjoys nature walks, campfires and leading small groups. Her passion is sharing personal stories with an emphasis on faith and encouragement.

Theresa Sanders is honored to be a frequent Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor. An award-winning technical writer, she lives with her husband near St. Louis, where she is completing her third novel. Theresa would love to connect with you on Facebook at

Gwyn Schneck is retired from thirty-three years of teaching and counseling high school students. She continues to live healthy and happy as a writer, speaker, wife, mom, and grandmother. She loves to bring life lessons and humor to audiences of parents, students, and women. She can be reached at

Kim Seeley lives with her husband Wayne in Wakefield, VA. She is retired from a career in teaching and library work. When she is not traveling, she is busy entertaining and being entertained by her three-year-old grandson, Evan, and her six-month-old granddaughter, Delaney, who bring her incredible joy.

Debbi Singer is a restaurateur, artist and five-year cancer survivor from Venice Beach, CA.

Since the mid-1980s, Sandra Sladkey has directed Milk ‘n’ Honey Ministries, presenting Bible-based programs to children through puppetry, Gospel illusion, skits, and storytelling. With her daughter leaving for college, Sandra plans to finish writing a children’s book she started before the fire. Read more at

Alaina Smith’s true tales appear in anthologies, including four Chicken Soup for the Soul books, six Chocolate for Women books, five Cup of Comfort books, and more. When not working part-time, she pursues her love of great stories by writing, reading, and watching movies with her husband, Frank.

Anthony Smith is a licensed mental health professional in Massachusetts. He currently performs psychological evaluations in the juvenile justice system, maintains a private psychotherapy practice, and is an adjunct psychology professor at Bay Path University. He continues to tie flies with a passion when he is not hiking and backpacking.

Gail Sobotkin is a retired nurse who likes to write inspirational stories, medical and travel articles. Her work has been published in Delaware Beach Life, American Journal of Nursing, Delmarva Quarterly and Mysterious & Miraculous Books I and II. Her blog can be viewed at

Diane Stark is a wife, mother of five, and freelance writer. She loves to write about the important things in life: her family and her faith. E-mail Diane at

Leigh Steinberg is renowned as one the greatest sports agents in history and the first prominent one to impress upon his clients the need to give back to their communities. Currently CEO of Steinberg Sports and Entertainment and an advocate for player safety, Leigh continues to use sports as a platform to invoke positive changes in the world.

Anita Stone is a retired science education teacher, a reading specialist, an author, naturalist and certified Master Gardener. She teaches adult education classes at a homeless shelter, including landscaping, culinary, hospitality, home healthcare, and CPR. Anita is a member of the Triangle Area Freelancers.

Jamie Tadrzynski received her master’s degree in May of 2015 as part of the Alliance for Catholic Education at Saint Joseph’s University. Prior to grad school, she served as a yearlong volunteer teacher at Saint Michael Indian School on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. Read more at

Lizbeth Tarpy is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in The Writer’s Journal, Reader’s Digest and The Armchair Detective.

Rajkumar Thangavelu graduated from Bucknell University with a B.A. degree in Economics and Political Science in 1998. He currently works for the federal government in Washington, D.C. He loves to travel and enjoys volunteering with children. E-mail him at

S.A. Thibodeaux has a B.A. degree in English and minors in Communication and Psychology from the University of Dayton. She does volunteer work and enjoys running, spinning and is drafting her first novel. She recently moved to San Antonio, TX, where she now resides with her new husband and their four children.

Marla H. Thurman lives in Signal Mountain, TN with her dogs Sophie and Jasper. They love reading great books and they love writing even better. E-mail Marla at

McKenzie Vaught is currently enrolled at Somerset Community College and plans to go to Eastern Kentucky University to complete her degree in psychology. Her mother gets out of prison in September of 2014.

Ann Vitale lives in the Endless Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania where she teaches writing at adult schools, lectures on canine behavior so people can have a better understanding of their human/dog interactions, and enjoys the wildlife on her acres of fields and woods, even when said wildlife munches on her flowers.

Elizabeth Waters has kept a journal for over forty years. She was initially inspired by reading The Diary of Anne Frank at the age of twelve. Recently she and her family moved from a big city to a rural area, where she lives with her husband and two young adult sons. She desires to encourage others with her writing.

Rissa Watkins is writer, mother, and leukemia survivor. When not busy keeping her family alive (which is a lot harder than it should be), she can be found hunched over a keyboard working furiously on her next novel. You can see what else she is up to on her website

Genevieve West is a wine-drinking, coffee-chugging writer and relationship consultant. She lives in Portland, OR with her loving husband and their three children.

Josie Willis is committed to healing other people through her writing. Her nonfiction and poetry have been published in many venues. Her current project is a book of grief poetry. She lives in South Florida with her four parrot muses: Taco, Paco, Nacho and Coqui. E-mail her at

Sherri Woodbridge hopes to encourage others through her writing and photography with what she has learned on her life’s journey. She loves spending time in her garden and with her greatest treasures—her family.

Dallas Woodburn has written fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including the Nashville Review, the Los Angeles Times, and Louisiana Literature. Her short story collection was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Connect with her at and

Following a fifteen-year career in nuclear medicine, Melissa Wootan is finding her joy by exploring her creative side. She enjoys refurbishing old furniture but is most passionate about writing. Her stories have appeared in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and Guideposts. You may contact her at

Bill Young lives in Sherwood, OR, with his dog Jake, where he continues to build his roofing business.

Mary Ellen Ziliak, RN, is coauthor of MS: Beyond the Red Door and serves as an MS Ambassador. She offers hope and encouragement to her audience as she shares her amazing life journey with multiple sclerosis. When not on the lecture circuit, she enjoys Scrabble and walking the riverfront in her hometown of Newburgh, IN. Learn more at

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