Meet Our Contributors

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Kind (of) America

Meet Our Contributors

Kristi Adams served as a weapons officer in the U.S. Air Force. She now lives in Germany with her husband, serving on active duty, and the world’s neediest rescue cat. Kristi is a travel writer for Europe’s Stars and Stripes. This is her third story published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Reach her on Twitter @KAdamsBooks.

Adrienne A. Aguirre is a graduate of CSU San Marcos, and has a Master of Arts in Theology Studies from Bethel Seminary San Diego. Adrienne is a hospice chaplain and bereavement counselor. She’s also a prison volunteer. Adrienne enjoys playing roller hockey and inspirational writing. E-mail her at [email protected].

Mary Anglin-Coulter is a writer, graphic designer, and paralegal from the bourbon capital of the world. This story is her sixth contribution to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of inspirational stories. She has a wife and three daughters, all of whom enjoy art, concerts, theater, and movies.

Bernice Angoh is a prolific writer and poet who has been dubbed “the Maya Angelou of our time.” She enjoys traveling, experiencing different cultures, and connecting with people. She plans to publish her first novel and children’s book series sometime this year. Bernice has two children, Nina, thirteen, and Ricky, six.

Kelly Bakshi, M.S. Ed., taught seventh grade American History for eleven years. She has authored four nonfiction school library books in the Social Studies genre. Kelly is a believer in the American dream and feels that all things are possible in this great country of ours.

Lisa M. Bartelt has been asking questions and writing stories for most of her life. She was a journalist and editor for newspapers in Illinois before moving to Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and two kids. Her days are spent blogging, writing fiction, drinking coffee, and helping refugees adjust to the U.S.

Gretchen Bassier works as a home healthcare aide. She is the proud aunt of Julia, Tommy, Landon, and Brady. Gretchen writes short stories and novels, and hopes to start a nonprofit to benefit feral cats. Visit her blog for writing resources, reviews, story links and more at

Garrett Bauman retired a few years ago as a professor of English at Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY. He and his wife divide their time between their rural home in the Finger Lakes region of New York and Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. His work has been in a dozen Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

Nicole V. Bingaman lives with her husband and two of their children in the small town of Mifflinburg, PA. Since 2014, Nicole has been a strong voice in the traumatic brain injury and caregiving communities. Nicole’s first book, Falling Away from You, was released in 2015.

Georgia A. Brackett and her husband are retired. They owned and operated an HVAC/R company and general construction company for thirty years. She has a passion for helping her community through the local police department Community Watch Program. Penny Childers suggested she write and submit her story.

Jill Burns lives in the mountains of West Virginia with her wonderful family. She’s a retired piano teacher and performer. She enjoys writing, music, gardening, nature, and spending time with her grandchildren.

This is Lorraine Cannistra’s ninth story in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. Her first book, More the Same than Different, will be out in the fall. She loves cooking, writing, wheelchair ballroom dancing, laughing out loud and her service dog, Leah. Connect with her at

Eva Carter is a freelance writer and photographer. She lives in Dallas, TX with her Canadian husband, Larry. They have three grown children and five grandchildren. E-mail her at [email protected].

Anthony Clark is a teacher and professional storyteller who has published several books and dozens of stories and articles. He’s written books about science, history, mythology, and business for adults and children. He offers writing and storytelling workshops. Anthony lives near St. Louis. Learn more at

SuzAnne C. Cole is a former college English instructor, a mother, and grandmother of eight. She enjoys traveling, hiking, volunteering and fundraising for the local library. Her essays have been published in Newsweek, the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, and many anthologies including two previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

Karen Cooper is a pantologist and short story author. Her stories have appeared in True Romance, True Love, and recently in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog. She enjoys crochet, foraging, and learning new things. You can follow her blog, Illuminate Your Path, at

Susan Rothrock Deo enjoys sharing the wonders of nature and the diversity of the human spirit as a teacher and a writer living in Southern California. She continues to learn about people and their cultures through literature, conversation, food and music, and focuses on adult essays and children’s literature in her writing.

Rhonda Dragomir is a graduate of Asbury University and lives in Wilmore, KY. She is a pastor’s wife and mother of one daughter, whom she adopted from Romania in 1990. Rhonda finds humor in most situations, especially the quirky things that happen in everyday life. E-mail her at [email protected].

Melissa Edmondson is proud to have her sixth story featured in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She is the author of a book of essays entitled Lessons Abound and a book of poetry entitled Searching for Home: The Poetic Musings of a Wanderer. Visit her blog at

Victoria Fedden received her MFA in Creative Writing in 2009. She lives in South Florida with her husband and daughter, and teaches college writing. Her memoir, This Is Not My Beautiful Life, was published in 2016. She enjoys yoga, poetry, gardening, and the beach.

Linda Feist, a Buffalo, NY native, resides in North Florida pursuing her first love — writing. Published in The Buffalo News, Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and a 2016 Royal Palm Literary Award finalist, Linda’s short fiction, “Einstein,” will appear in The Florida Writers Association Collections 2017. To write — is to share life!

Sabrina Forest received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota in 1998. She is a freelance writer who alternates living between her home in Minnesota and her second home in Canada with her husband. Sabrina is an avid baker and a keen lover of all things outdoors. She plans to write young adult novels.

Marianne Fosnow resides in South Carolina. She enjoys reading, writing, photography, and spending time with her family. She is delighted and proud to have a story included in this book.

Cynthia M. Gary is a Physician Assistant in rural North Carolina, where she is blessed to help people achieve physical and mental wellness. She balances her challenging profession with dance, writing, scrapbooking, and outdoor activities. She is forever grateful to her parents, Mary and John Gary. E-mail her at [email protected].

Heidi Gaul lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley with her husband and furry family. Her stories appear in nine Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, and her devotions are featured in several Upper Room devotionals. Heidi’s passion is travel, be it around the block or the world.

Shirley P. Gumert has had good responses from readers of her previous stories in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She has also been published in newspapers (Santa Fe Reporter, Houston Chronicle’s Texas Magazine), anthologies, and blasts e-mails to her grandchildren from her Texas Hill Country home, where she lives with her husband John.

Elizabeth Harsany, an Oklahoma native, is a high school English teacher at Canton Preparatory High School in Canton, MI. She has been teaching for nine years and has often been inspired and motivated by her students. She is lovingly supported by her husband Joshua and their one-year-old son Zachary.

Derek Hawkins is the author of several books on a wide variety of fiction subjects. He was educated in England and Canada and now resides in Florida. Learn more at

David Hull retired from teaching after twenty-six years in the field and he now spends his days reading, writing, gardening, and watching way too much cable news on television. E-mail him at [email protected].

After his Vietnam military service, Thomas R. Hurd moved to Florida and spent a thirty-year career in the dental technology field. In 1993 he sold his business and retired to the mountains of North Carolina. Not content with retirement, he became a reporter and columnist for two newspapers. He now lives and writes in Florida.

Zehra Hussain is currently a senior at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Medical Anthropology. Zehra is an aspiring physician and hopes to combine both her passion for medicine and politics in order to shape global health.

Robbie Iobst has written three books: a devotional called Joy Dance; a novel, Cecilia Jackson’s Last Chance; and Caught written by Robbie and her husband John. John and she have a marriage ministry called Caught In His Arms. Learn more at

Julie Isaac is an award-winning author and book coach. As the founder of WritingSpirit, Julie’s provided writing solutions, tools, and support to thousands of writers since 2003. She received a BA in English from San Francisco State University, has been published in several anthologies, and is a life-long journaler.

Jeffree Wyn Itrich has been writing since childhood. Trained as a journalist, she has four books in print, numerous articles and a blog, Jeffree works in health communications and lives in San Diego, CA with her husband. When not writing, she quilts by hand. E-mail her at [email protected].

Susan Maddy Jones is a former computer-science nerd rewired for creativity and spending time in nature, not cubicles. She blogs about navigating life’s ups and downs at and about her awesome camping, hiking, and DIY adventures at E-mail her at [email protected].

Megan Pincus Kajitani is a writer, editor, and educator. Her writing has appeared in publications such as The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mothering magazine, and Huffington Post, and books including Mama, PhD and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers. As Meeg Pincus, she also writes nonfiction for children.

Kathryn Kingsbury writes, weeds, and takes blurry photos of birds in Madison, WI. She blogs about these things and more at

Gwen Navarrete Klapperich is the proud and grateful daughter of U.S. citizens Eli Navarrete and Ginny Gutierrez. She thanks her mother for passing on her gift of writing and love of words, and for inspiring her to tell this story. Gwen has also contributed stories to two other Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

April Knight is a freelance author. Her most recent published romance novel is Stars in the Desert. She’s the mother of two sons and a daughter who “make life sparkle.”

Sayzie Koldys is a Maine-based writer, sailor, and chef, who sometimes manages to combine all three skills under one paycheck. She’s passionate about the ocean, tropical island cuisine, and maintaining friendships far and wide. You can read more of her work at opercula. net and

Isela Jacome Lieber, an immigrant from Ecuador, came to the U.S. at seventeen. She learned English, went to college, and is now an English teacher to many immigrant students like herself. Isela recently was awarded the recognition of LAUSD, Los Angeles and California Teacher of the Year. She lives in Southern California.

Keri Lindenmuth earned her BA in English and Writing Arts Certification from Moravian College. She currently works as a web content writer for a tech company. “Americans in Paris” is her second essay published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She resides in eastern Pennsylvania with her family.

Ilana Long is the author of Ziggy’s Big Idea (Kar-Ben Publishing). She is a columnist for The Tico Times, Costa Rica’s English language newspaper. Besides writing, Ilana travels and lives abroad, hikes, teaches, and parents her twin teens. She is seeking representation for her comic fantasy novel. E-mail her at [email protected].

Judith M. Lukin received a Master’s in Social Work, a Master’s in Adult Education, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management, all from Columbia University. She worked with community organizations, wrote grants, and was Executive Director of the Caring Community in New York City. She continues writing about listening and questioning.

Amanda Yardley Luzzader is an award-winning writer and poet. She is currently employed as a grant writer for a Utah nonprofit organization. She is a devout cat person and mom to two incredibly bright boys. Follow her Facebook page for information on where to find her stories at

Marsha Warren Mittman’s had numerous poems/prose selections published in various journals, magazines and anthologies (U.S./England), including previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. A chapbook was accepted by Finishing Line and a memoir is under consideration. She’s received eight U.S. poetry awards and four prose distinctions.

Beth A. (Waterkotte) Molinaro is a member of the Candlewood Writers Workshop in Danbury, CT. Like her writing, Beth is warmhearted and quick-witted. Her work can also been found in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You. E-mail her at [email protected].

Linda Morel publishes personal essays and is a food columnist at the Jewish Exponent. She received an MFA in creative writing from The New School. Linda teaches writing through Teachers & Writers Collaborative. She is writing a family memoir. She lives in Manhattan with her husband. E-mail her at [email protected].

Ann Morrow is a writer, humorist and frequent contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul. She and her husband live in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, where she is currently working on a middle-grade novel. Visit Ann online at

Courtney Lynn Mroch is the Ambassador of Dark and Paranormal Tourism for Haunt Jaunts, a travel site and radio show for restless spirits. When she’s not exploring haunted places or writing, it’s a safe bet you’ll find her on a tennis court or yoga mat somewhere. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband.

Megan Murphy is a Women’s Empowerment Coach, Kindness Activist and Inspirational Speaker. She is Founder of The Kindness Rocks Project, a business mentor for SCORE, freelance writer, and Vice President of Flower Angels USA. She resides on Cape Cod, MA with her husband, three daughters and two giant dogs.

Nell Musolf is a freelance writer in the Midwest. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications. She enjoys writing about family, friends, pets and life. She blogs at

Hema Nataraju is an emerging writer with a particular interest in personal essays and historical fiction. Her work has been featured on Huffington Post, The Sunlight Press, The Aerogram, and WordPress’s Discover. Hema lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and her four-year-old daughter.

Katie O’Connell is a former teacher turned writer who loves when her stories help others on their journeys. In addition to several Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Sasee, and online sites such as Scary Mommy and Patheos. Follow her work at

Linda O’Connell is an accomplished writer and teacher from St. Louis, MO. A positive thinker, she writes from the heart, bares her soul, and finds humor in everyday situations. Linda enjoys a hearty laugh, the beach, and will write for dark chocolate. Read more at

Tiffany O’Connor, Ph.D., holds a Doctorate in Philosophy and a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing. She is an accomplished freelance writer. Tiffany is married to her high school sweetheart and is the mother of two amazing boys. She chronicles her experiences raising boys at

Vincent Olson served four years in the U.S. Air Force and later received his bachelor’s in English Education from Southern Illinois University. He and his wife have one son. He teaches high school English in Illinois. In addition to short stories, Vincent also writes screenplays, poetry and novels, and is a freelance animator.

Leo Pacheco is a best-selling author, speaker, minister, and entrepreneur. He founded three faith-based nonprofit organizations and is the CEO of Lion’s Crest Group, LLC. He and his family live near Orlando, FL, where he enjoys working and relaxing at the beach.

Nancy Panko is an eight-time contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She is a member of the Cary Writing Circle, The Light of Carolina Christian Writers Group, The Military Writers Society of America, and the author of Guiding Missal.

Debra Ann Pawlak recently co-wrote a Civil War novel, Soldier, Spy, Heroine, based on the real life of Sarah Emma Edmonds. Her work has also appeared in Michigan History magazine and Pennsylvania Heritage. In addition, she has written a nonfiction book called Bringing Up Oscar: The Men and Women Who Founded the Academy.

Chaplain Sunday Pearson is in ministry and will tell you that what she does is an outward manifestation of God’s extravagant love for her. She has two daughters, three grandsons and has been married to her “swede-heart” for over forty years. She is working on her first book. E-mail her at [email protected].

Alf Pettersen is a professor at a small college in Montana. He has been published widely in many fields and also does fine letterpress printing. He lives with his wife and daughter in Helena, MT.

Julia Pfeiffer lives in beautiful rural Vermont with her wife and son. She is a construction Project Manager by day, and enjoys playing ice hockey, roller derby, and wielding power tools in her spare time.

At age forty-four, Kristen Mai Pham finally pursued her dream of becoming a writer. She lives in California with her best friend and writing partner, Paul. Together, they write inspirational screenplays. Kristen will eat anything that has chocolate on it and she has probably watched Star Wars a thousand times. But who’s counting.

Stephanie Pifer-Stone is an Interfaith Minister who has a degree in Holistic Theology and studied Religious Literacy at Harvard Divinity School. Becoming Egg-straordinary is her first book about releasing your inner butterfly. In addition to her husband and their furry kids, her passions include yoga, writing, and cooking.

Lou Zywicki Prudhomme is a teacher, writer, grief counselor, and volunteer chaplain with a Bachelor of Arts and a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. She is the mother of four and grandmother to fifteen, with homes in Minnesota and Florida. No day is ever long enough for everything she loves to do.

Natalie June Reilly is a proud American, an author, and the founder of Nothing but Love Notes, a mission to thank our nation’s heroes with handwritten love for their service to our country and our communities. Those heroes include our military, veterans, and first responders. Send Natalie a note at [email protected].

Mark Rickerby has written over a dozen stories for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He also co-authored his father’s memoir, The Other Belfast; released a CD of songs (Great Big World) for his daughters, Marli and Emma; and is Head Writer for an upcoming Western TV show, Big Sky. Visit him at

Sioux Roslawski retired from public school and is now a middle school teacher at St. James the Greater. She is a teacher consultant for the Gateway Writing Project, has a son and daughter along with a granddaughter. Currently, Sioux’s working on a historical fiction manuscript and blogs at

Lauren B. H. Rossato knits, gardens, and cooks in Silver Spring, MD. She recently realized she has over fifty books in her library that she has not read; if you need to find her, she will be lost in a book.

Natalie M. Rotunda helps small/mid-sized businesses by writing copy that attracts and keeps customers. She edits nonfiction books, and she served as editor for a regional women’s magazine. She’s written hundreds of articles for publication. She loves family time, old classic movies, hiking, and herb gardening.

Stephen Rusiniak is from Wayne, NJ and was a police detective specializing in juvenile/family matters. Today he shares his thoughts through his writing, including stories in several books in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Contact him via Facebook, on Twitter @StephenRusiniak or by visiting

Tracy Rusiniak showed her father, Stephen, a frequent Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor, her college entrance essay about a church mission trip to Appalachia. Together they crafted her submission into the story found in this book. Now a college graduate, Tracy, originally from New Jersey, is currently living in Hawaii.

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

Jane Self is a freelance writer and editor living in Durham, NC. She retired as Features Editor from a New York Times affiliate in Alabama after twenty years in the newspaper business. She has published two nonfiction books and hundreds of personal columns and feature articles. E-mail her at [email protected].

Jen P. Simmons currently lives with her husband and extended family in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountain range. Jen is an outdoor and travel enthusiast, loves the local coffee shop and fully enjoys inspiring men and women to live well mentally, spiritually and physically. Her life motto: “Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much.”

Carol Nash Smith is a retired English and journalism teacher who loves to travel. She and her husband are both writers. They are interested in many facets of our world including wildlife, petroglyphs, and the culture of our country as well as others. She has an MFA in Journalism from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Jeanne Jacoby Smith is Professor Emerita of English and Teacher Education at McPherson College in Kansas. She has a BA, MA, and Ed.D. She is the author of Refugees: A Family’s Search for Freedom and a Church That Helped Them Find It. Jeanne and her husband, Herb, travel with their college students to Ethiopia each year.

Darlene Sneden, writer and editor, currently divides her time between New Jersey and South Carolina. She knows a great adventure is around every corner. It’s all in the attitude! To follow along, check out her blog at

Katelyn Stanis is a Journalism major who grew up in Michigan. She currently lives in Jersey City and enjoys running, barre classes, and yoga. She writes personal essays and is currently working on her first novel. For inquiries, contact Katelyn at [email protected] or visit her site at

Rabbi and college professor, now retired, Dr. Stern devotes himself to interfaith causes. He is the Founder and Past-President of the Orange County Interfaith Network and the Chair of the Orange County Council of Religious Leaders. He writes mostly about life in first-century Palestine and lectures throughout California.

Noelle Sterne has a Ph.D. from Columbia University and has published over 400 essays, writing craft and spiritual articles, fiction, poems, and guest blogs. Her book, Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation, evolved from her academic editing and coaching practice. Her book, Trust Your Life, helps readers/writers reach lifelong yearnings.

L.A. Strucke is a frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series as well as Guideposts magazine. She graduated from Rowan University with a degree in Communication. Her hobbies are painting, piano, and songwriting. Strucke is the mother of four fabulous children. Follow her at

Sheila Taylor-Clark is a CPA in Lewisville, TX. Her passions are writing, public speaking, and performing community service. A two-time breast cancer survivor, Sheila is married to Nate Clark and has a daughter, McKenzie. She hopes to publish her first novel soon and can be e-mailed at [email protected].

Becky S. Tompkins enjoys working with words, both professionally — as a former teacher of English to refugees, freelance writer, and copy editor — and in her spare time. Besides reading and writing, she enjoys learning, cooking, gardening, and spending time with her family.

Award-winning author Susan Traugh’s work has appeared in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books plus local and national magazines. Her young adult novel, The Edge of Brilliance, and her special education teen series, Daily Living Skills, can be found on her website at susantraugh. com. Susan lives in San Diego with her family.

Miriam Van Scott is an author and photographer whose credits include children’s books, magazine articles, television productions, website content and reference works. Her latest titles include Song of Old: An Advent Calendar for the Spirit and the Shakespeare Goes Pop series. For more information, visit

JP Waggoner is a freelance photographer/travel writer based in Florida during winter and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia in summer. Her adventures are mostly around beaches and back country roads. She’s been published at, and Adventure and travel are her first loves.

Kelly Sullivan Walden is on a mission to awaken the world to the power of dreams. She is the author of ten books, including Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams & Premonitions, I Had the Strangest Dream, It’s All in Your Dreams, and the Dream Oracle Cards. It is whispered she is the love child of Lucille Ball and Carl Jung.

K. Michael Ware is a retired Fighter Pilot and Airline Pilot. He is a graduate of West Virginia University and Troy State University. He and his wife, Suzanne, reside in Collierville, TN and are the proud parents of three children. He is a “professional volunteer” and enjoys golf and playing with his six grandkids.

Benny Wasserman began a second career as an Einstein impersonator. He revised his book, Presidents Were Teenagers Too, in 2017. His stories have been published in the Los Angeles Times, Reminisce, Good Old Days and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He is an avid reader and ping-pong player. E-mail him at [email protected].

Dorann Weber is a freelance photographer for a New Jersey newspaper and a Getty Images contributor. She has a love for writing, especially if it inspires and makes people laugh. She has four adult children, one teenager, and three grandchildren who call her Mimi. Dorann lives with husband and family in the Pinelands of South New Jersey.

From a young age, Carla Erin Wiggins has had a love of reading. Wanting to share this passion with others, Erin became a freelance writer in 2010 after completing multiple writing courses through Mississippi State University. Since that time, she has written and published three children’s books with plans to release a fourth book in the coming year.

Known as the Silver Nightingale, Laura Sue Wilansky is a flautist whose music delights, inspires, and comforts. This arts journalist, composer, poet and artist received President Obama’s Volunteer Service Award for her over twenty years of hospice music work. Peruse her music, poetry, activism and more at

Following a career in Nuclear Medicine, Melissa Wootan is joyfully exploring her creative side. She enjoys writing and is a regular guest on San Antonio Living, an hour-long lifestyle show on San Antonio’s NBC affiliate, where she shares all of her best DIY/decorating tips. Contact her through Facebook at

Allison Yates is a freelance writer and lover of great conversations, human connection and travel. Since graduating from Indiana University in International Studies with a focus on human rights, she’s lived and worked in Spain and Australia. She enjoys hiking, goofy dancing and exploring a city by foot.

Lynn Yates is a writer, editor, and public speaker in the southeastern United States. She has been proudly married to her husband, Dan, for thirty-three years. Honoring his wishes, she is using a pseudonym for “The Least We Can Do.”

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