Meet Our Contributors

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Meet Our Contributors

A graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park, Tonya Abari is a teacher turned freelance editor and writer. To supplement multipassionate endeavors, she has also worked as a web moderator, Zumba instructor, and traveling set teacher. She enjoys reading and traveling with her husband and exuberant toddler.

Kristi Adams is a travel writer who’s written about llamas in Europe, the trials of using German GPS, adventure caves, and more. She lives in Germany with her husband, who’s serving on active duty, and a grumpy rescue cat. She is a proud seven-time contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Learn more at

Lucy Alexander received her marketing degree from Villanova University. After spending ten years in Europe in the fashion industry, she now lives outside Philadelphia. In addition to raising her son, she runs a consulting business for individuals looking to reinvent themselves after life has thrown them a curveball.

Esther M. Bailey writes to inspire others through the written word. Bailey enjoys dining out and hosting guests in her Scottsdale, AZ home.

Linda Barbosa is the author of How Can I Smile at a Time Like This? She also writes under a pen name for a popular advice website. When not jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, Linda enjoys the retired life with her husband Joe in their quiet, two-horse town.

Diana Bauder has been a blogger since 2013 and recently started pursing a freelance writing career. She previously worked with special needs children and adults, and as a caregiver. Diana raised a family and now treasures her role as “Amma” to three adorable granddaughters.

Dawn Belt is a paralegal in the Midwest. She is a mother of two wonderful children and one delightful granddaughter. Dawn is enjoying learning to become a very handy woman who takes pride in her successes and her attempts at success. She plans to continue on this journey with her head held high.

Crystal Birmingham-Overmeyer grew up in California, fell in love in Sonora and lives in Central California with her two puppies and husband, Brandon. She began her love affair with poetry at thirteen and hasn’t looked back since.

Jan Bono writes a cozy mystery series set on the southwest Washington coast. She’s also published five collections of humorous personal experience, two poetry chapbooks, nine one-act plays, a dinner theater play, and has written for magazines ranging from Guideposts to Woman’s World. Learn more at

Miranda Boyer is a substitute teacher, aspiring YA author, and an active member of her local writers’ group. She reads copious amounts of books every year and blogs about them on her webpage

Ellie Braun-Haley is a regular contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series with stories translated into a number of languages. She is frequently asked to write or speak about miracles. When not writing she enjoys time with her children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. She teaches and designs greeting cards. E-mail her at [email protected].

Mason K. Brown lives between homes in Seaside and Forest Grove, OR with her rescue dog, Wicket. An author, speaker and storyteller, she writes primarily inspirational nonfiction and humor. She is widely published in anthologies and devotionals. Learn more at

Michelle Bruce is a busy wife and mother of four children. In her free time, she enjoys her children’s many sporting events, spending time with her numerous pets, antiquing with her husband, refinishing vintage furniture, and writing both fiction and nonfiction stories. E-mail her at [email protected].

Eva Carter is a freelance writer and photographer. This is her twentieth story published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She has a twenty-three-year background in the telecommunications industry. She enjoys going out to dinner and travelling with her husband, Larry.

Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, a Pushcart Prize-nominated writer, is founding general manager of WYCC-TV/PBS and distinguished professor emeritus of Wright College. Her stories have been performed throughout the U.S. and Canada and are published in anthologies and her book, My Gift of Now, which Conversations Magazine named an inspired book.

Jane McBride Choate has been writing since she was a child. Being published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series is a dream come true for her.

Dana D. Clark received her B.A. in English (1996) and M.A. in education (1999) from Austin Peay State University, both with honors. She has four children (two boys/two girls). Currently, she works as a regional monitor for the State of Tennessee. Dana enjoys thrift-shopping, home decorating, and mentoring those afflicted with addiction.

Christine Clarke-Johnsen is a retired teacher who has had several short stories published in magazines. As a storyteller, she enjoys telling stories that touch people’s hearts or make them laugh. She is currently writing and illustrating a children’s picture book. She also is in two choirs and enjoys badminton and kayaking.

Darcy Daniels is a historian and mom of two daughters, one of whom is chronically ill. She is the author of the blog Brave Fragile Warriors: Caring for Kids with Chronic Illness, and serves on the Family Advisory Council at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.

NancyLee Davis was writing before starting school. She wrote a column in a weekly newspaper, taught Special Education, raised four children, Angus cattle, and show dogs on a farm, and drove racecars before retiring to the beach. She enjoys kayaking, growing orchids, and racecars.

Aimee DuFresne is a Joy Catalyst and soul-shifting creator, writer, traveler, and latte-lover. She is the author of Keep Going: From Grief to Growth, a memoir about love, loss, living in the moment and the power of perseverance. Learn more at

Pascale Duguay is a freelance writer, translator (French/English), high school librarian, and founder of She lives in the lively bilingual community of the Quebec Eastern Townships where she enjoys baking, gardening, jogging, reading and writing in the sun. E-mail her at [email protected].

Mindi Susman Ellis is a writer, artist and adventurer who lives in the Midwest. She adores her two adult-ish children. She owns a marketing and communications business. Mindi loves yoga, hiking, water sports, and almost anything outdoors. Her next adventure will be in Europe. E-mail her at [email protected].

Michelle Emery lives in a small village in northern England. She works for the National Health Service and enjoys writing in the evening. Graduating with a first class honours degree in English and History, she has always had an interest in the written word.

Molly England perpetually attempts to simplify her life. She aspires to be a decent mother, wife, daughter, and friend. Meanwhile, she processes life’s daily chaos and beauty by jotting down her thoughts. Molly’s writing is featured in The Washington Post, HuffPost, Scary Mommy, Babble, Salon, and more.

Holly English is the author of several novels. She is the mother of three grown children who are practically perfect and the grandmother of four grandchildren who are definitely perfect. She is currently writing a western novel titled, Regret.

Malinda Dunlap Fillingim is a recent widow, trying to navigate the hard road of grief. Writing, along with prayer and good chocolate, empowers her and helps her heal. For scheduling her to speak at your church or women’s group, e-mail her at [email protected]. She lives near Wilmington, NC.

Patricia Fish is a social media writer and a frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She blogs at and Pat has written five books: Attention, Please!, Mystery & Mirth, Everything You Need to Know About Being a Woman Can Be Learned in the Garden, The Memoirs of Josephine Fish and Clarion Call.

Mother to six, Jeneva Ford earned her B.A. in English in middle age. Travel, including to Thailand, a summer in Europe, and visiting forty-nine states, has left great memories. A novel simmers and if time and energy hold out, this essay, her first published work, may lead to bigger things! Now retired, she still reads and dreams.

Erin E. Forson has been an educator, social worker and librarian. She loves to read, write, spend time exploring the world with her family, and learn! She is currently working on an MBA so she can explore more opportunities in her world.

Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons has been published in Salon, Stereo Embers, Bird’s Thumb and Hunger Mountain. She lives in Central California and Vermont and will be getting her MFA in Writing and Publishing at Vermont College of Fine Arts in May 2018. She is currently working on a memoir about her involvement in the Suzanne Bombardier cold case.

Annette Gulati is a freelance writer and children’s author living in Seattle, WA. She’s published stories, articles, essays, poems, crafts, and activities in numerous magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. She also writes books for children’s educational publishers. Learn more at

Marilyn Haight survived domestic abuse and lived long enough to be willing to talk about it, though it is always uncomfortable to remember. She is a retired businesswoman, and the author of four self-help books and one book of poetry, which you may read about on her website at

Virginia Elizabeth Hayes was born the youngest of nine girls and grew up to be a writer. Calling Missouri home, she lives with her husband and two cats. Her cartoon-memoir is called: The Princeling Papers: Or, How to Fight Cancer with Colored-Pencils and Kittens.

Christy Heitger-Ewing, an award-winning writer who pens human interest stories for national and local magazines, has contributed to twenty anthologies (ten for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series) and is the author of Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat ( She lives in Indiana with her husband and two sons.

Lorne Holden is an artist, choreographer, and writer. Her book, Make It Happen in 10 Minutes a Day: The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done, is an Amazon bestseller.

Linda Hoff Irvin is a psychotherapist in private practice who has been practicing for more years than she cares to admit. She is happily re-married and her son is doing well. E-mail her at [email protected].

Jennie Ivey lives and writes in Tennessee. She is the author of many works of fiction and nonfiction, including numerous stories in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Learn more at

Sarah James is a licensed mental health and addictions therapist. She was born and raised in Charleston, WV. She completed her solo thru-hike of the Colorado Trail in 2017 at age twenty-four. She now lives in Asheville, NC where she enjoys hiking, rafting, eating, and being a cat mom. E-mail her at [email protected].

Leigh Anne Jasheway is a humor columnist, author, stand-up comic, and humorous motivational speaker. She won the Erma Bombeck Humor Writing Award in 2003 with her true story of the time her first mammogram caught on fire. She also teaches comedy writing and improv, and wrangles wiener dogs.

Home-front mom Linda Jewell supports our troops, veterans, and their families. She’s involved in Cookie Deployments and writes about patriotism, parenting, and prayer. Linda provides practical tips, inspiration, and encouragement to strengthen moms of those in the military during tough times. E-mail her at [email protected].

Susan A. Karas has spent years perfecting her craft, graduating proudly from many writing programs. She won the national Guideposts Writing Contest, and has gone on to be published many times in the magazine, as well as in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and various other publications. She is currently working on her first novel.

Ruth Kephart is a retired RN, lives in Pennsylvania and writes poetry in her spare time. She makes jewelry and crafts to support her mission trips to Haiti and has been to Haiti six times. She has had poetry published in several journals and anthologies including the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. E-mail her at [email protected].

April Knight is a freelance writer and artist. She began writing stories when she was twelve years old and had her first story published when she was thirteen. She is happiest when she is horseback riding or beachcombing.

Nancy Julien Kopp lives in the Flint Hills of Kansas where she writes creative nonfiction, children’s fiction, poetry and articles on writing. She has been published in many ezines, magazines, newspapers and anthologies. Nancy blogs with tips for writers at

Cathi LaMarche is an essayist, novelist, poet, and writing coach. Her work has appeared in over thirty anthologies. When not immersed in the written word, she is helping to spread awareness about the devastating effects of Lyme disease.

Lynne Leite is a storyteller at heart who loves faith, family, fun, and friends. She recently published her first novel, a Christian thriller entitled All the Days Ordained. She lives in Southern California with her husband and loves spending time with her grown kids and grandbabies. Learn more at

Ilana Long is a writer, actress, stand-up comic, English teacher and mom of teen twins. She is the author of Ziggy’s Big Idea (Kar-Ben Publishing 2014) and recently completed her first science-fiction novel.

B.B. Loyd received her BFA through the University of Maryland in 1974 while living in Germany. She completed her Teaching Certificate at Sam Houston State University and taught art and English during her career to students in grades 1-12. A studio artist, poet, and writer, B.B. and her husband enjoy living in Texas.

L.M. Lush is an inspirational writer and teacher. After retiring from her career in IT, she started a spiritual business in New York and hopes to have her first book published soon. She enjoys playing the piano and cello, photography, and hiking with her dogs, Sadie and Oreo. Learn more at

Debra Mayhew is a pastor’s wife, mom to seven, teacher, editor, and writer. She loves small town living, stormy weather, good books, and family time. Learn more at

A former lay missionary, Claire McGarry now freelances for magazines, contributes to, and posts at She’s also the founder of MOSAIC of Faith, a ministry with several different programs for mothers and children. She lives with her husband and three children in New Hampshire.

Kristine McGovern is a former journalist and award-winning playwright whose short plays have been performed across the country. She has a degree in Philosophy and is a winner of the T F Evans Award presented by the Shaw Society of the United Kingdom.

Amy Mermelstein is a writer from Cabin John, MD. She has been published in The Washington Post Magazine and Bethesda Magazine. Amy is married and has two teenage boys who play a lot of baseball. When Amy is not on a baseball field cheering, she enjoys hiking, biking, yoga, and gardening. She is working on her first novel.

Marie-Therese Miller is the author of nonfiction books for children, including the Dog Tales series, Managing Responsibilities, and Rachel Carson. Her stories appear in multiple Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She holds a Ph.D. from St. John’s University, where her dissertation focus was James Thurber and humor.

esme mills loves to create change through story, because story has the power like no other to connect and transform. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Communications and a Master of Letters in Creative Writing. Read more about her at

Marya Morin is a freelance writer. Her stories 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 [email protected].

Kathy Morris is a natural creative channel who shares her gifts with the world through poetry, writing, and energy work. She is also the founder of the Inner Journeys Natural Healing Center. Her memoir, Up From the Ashes, includes her healing journey and poetry. E-mail her at [email protected] or learn more at

Nicole L.V. Mullis is the author of the novel A Teacher Named Faith. Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies, including the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Her plays have been produced in festivals across the United States. She lives in Michigan with her husband and children.

Nell Musolf is a freelance writer living in the Upper Midwest with her husband, three cats and rescue dog. Nell is the mother of two adult sons. Nell enjoys reading, drinking coffee, visiting thrift shops, and taking her dog on long walks. She writes creative nonfiction, romance and mysteries.

Giulietta Nardone lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two cats and four pinball machines. Her stories have been published in books, newspapers and broadcast on the radio. In addition to writing, Giulietta paints, sings, bikes, acts, hikes, travels, and saves the wild things. E-mail her at [email protected].

Phyllis Bird Nordstrom enjoys speaking and writing, both of which came about later in life. This is her second story published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. This summer she also became a member of The Write Team for her local newspaper. She and her husband of fifty-nine years live in the Midwest.

Judy O’Kelley’s work appears in magazines, newspapers, greeting cards, and musicals from the Midwest to Beijing. A passionate tutor, Judy finds inspiration in her insightful students. She enjoys sunrises, storm chasing, midnight board games, and any time she spends with her adult kids. E-mail her at [email protected].

Jenny Pavlovic has written several published stories and two books, including 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog. She lives in Wisconsin with dogs Chase and Cayenne and cat Junipurr. She enjoys walking her dogs, swimming, kayaking, and gardening, and has a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering.

A writer since she could hold a pen, Ronda Payne is passionate about words. She is a full-time copywriter, freelancer, and storyteller. Ronda joyfully lives in Maple Ridge, B.C. in yet another renovation project home with her husband and their pets.

Kristen Mai Pham is a screenwriter and an author. She is a refugee of the Vietnam War, but her stories are not about war. They are about inspiration, healing, hope, and ultimately, joy. She lives in California with her husband, Paul. Follow her on Instagram at kristenmaipham or e-mail her at [email protected].

Rebecca J. Platt received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology in 2012 and her Master’s of Education in 2016 from Southeastern University. She has been married for twenty-two years and has two children. Rebecca enjoys camping, woodworking, beach trips, and serving as an Academic Success Coordinator at Southeastern University.

Kathleen Whitman Plucker spends most days teaching kindergarten in Windsor, CT. She loves planning activities for her students and hopes she is inspiring them to be lifelong readers and writers. Outside of the classroom, Kathleen enjoys traveling with her husband and two teenaged children.

Marsha Porter got her writing start with the 500-word essay, the punishment du jour at her Catholic grade school. Later, she co-authored an annual movie review guide, wrote for local newspapers, and dabbled in fiction. Her cats are an inspiration for her writing and the joy of her life.

Alexandra Pruner is Partner and CFO of Perella Weinberg Partners (PWP), a leading global independent investment bank and asset management firm. She helped co-found Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co., the energy investment bank. She’s a 1983 grad of Brown University (Economics) and is lucky to have had a long career spanning many roles, a supportive husband and two grown children.

Kelly Rae spent years as an elementary and middle school teacher. She has a daughter and loads of nieces and nephews. Besides writing, Kelly enjoys traveling, knitting, stories, and good company. She plans to write books that inspire girls to find and use their voices.

Sarah Reece received her Bachelor of Science of Business from California State University, East Bay in 2015. She has her own yarn-dyeing business. Sarah loves traveling, scuba diving, hiking, and reading. She plans to write science-fiction and fantasy novels.

Wendy Ann Rich can’t decorate walls with her pedigree papers. Graduating “off the wall” is her best self. She loves to cocoon snippets of life, writing about them with a peculiar magnifying glass. Wendy’s world has rescue dogs, seniors, and toddlers who know how to live life with envious ease. Picture books are next for her.

Nicole Rook-McAlister studied Journalism in college. A wife and mother of two, her home is a beautiful three-floor log cabin in the Pine Barrens where books overflow shelves, tables, and rafters. Her time is spent pursuing dreams of urban homesteading, self-learning art, and delving into local and world folklore.

Rachel E. Ryan, editor and writer for Gospel Advocate Co., holds a bachelor’s and master’s in English. She and her daughter, Olivia, live in Mount Juliet, TN, where they worship with the Church of Christ. Rachel enjoys quiet mornings with her journal, traveling with her family, and reading books with her daughter.

Sandi Schwartz is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in parenting, wellness, environmental issues, and human behavior. She enjoys analyzing everyday life using science, humor, and a passion to improve the world. Her blog, Happy Science Mom, is a parenting toolkit for raising happy, balanced children.

Julieann Selden is a writer, speaker, mom, wife, graduate student, and nonprofit volunteer. Her husband, Ken, is recently in remission from sarcoma cancer. On her blog,, she examines the thoughts and emotions of life through the lens of an aggressive cancer diagnosis.

Lesley Jane Seymour is Founder of CoveyClub, an online/offline platform for lifelong learners. She is an award-winning journalist and former editor-in-chief of YM, Redbook, Marie Claire and MORE magazines. A mother of two, her goal is to connect women around the country and the world.

Tami Shaikh is a mom, author, activist, and a storyteller. She has written three books and numerous articles in The Huffington Post and the MindBodyNetwork. She currently lives in Orange County, CA and is a mother of three children. Tami is currently a student at Chapman University, working on her MFA in Creative Writing.

Deborah Shouse’s latest book, Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together, offers meaningful ways to stay connected from dozens of innovators worldwide. The book is filled with action-oriented ideas that increase the quality moments for people who are living with dementia and their care partners. Learn more at

Diane Stark is a wife, mother of five, and freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Her work has also been published in Guideposts, Focus on the Family, and dozens of other magazines. Diane loves to write about the important things in life: her family and her faith.

Virginia Stark is the author of many short stories and several novels. Her books are widely available internationally. Virginia’s writing spans many genres from inspirational to dystopian. Her love and passion for life is her common theme. Connect with her via Facebook or e-mail her at [email protected].

L.A. Strucke, a graduate of Rowan University, is a frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Guideposts, Highlights for Children and other publications. Her interests are songwriting, art, and visiting her four children and their families. She dedicates this story to Zoon, Jadzia, Hermione and Geneviève.

JC Sullivan continues to prove that it’s never too late to hit that reset button. Now a bicoastal actor/director, she credits surfing for making her even more fearless. She’s learned no matter who you are, everyone achieves their dreams the same way: by taking that first step… then the next!

Sheila Taylor-Clark is a CPA, author, two-time breast cancer survivor, and motivational speaker. A graduate of JSU, she lives in Lewisville, TX and is married to Nathaniel Clark, Jr. They have adult twin sons and an eight-year-old daughter (McKenzie). E-mail her at [email protected].

Happy to be part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Jodi Renee Thomas is a freelance writer who is constantly striving to better her craft and reach for the stars. She lives happily in Florida with her husband and daughter, and dogs who like to bother her while she is trying to type.

Deon Toban has been writing short stories and poems for the last twenty years, as writing is one of her passions. When she’s not writing, she’s enjoying her other passions, such as traveling, reading, and interior design. She is currently working on her first novel.

Mirna Valerio is an ultramarathoner, mom, educator, motivational speaker and adventurer. She is the author of A Beautiful Work in Progress, a running memoir, and a 2018 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.

Melissa Valks is addicted to travel and has visited almost seventy countries, many as solo adventures off the beaten path. Melissa has had numerous writings published, including a book about living and teaching in Korea, and has contributed to three Chicken Soup for the Soul books. E-mail her at [email protected].

Nancy G. Villalobos is a retired elementary school educator who lives in Southern California with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Coco. She has finished her first memoir, Peru, My Other Country, and is working on a second about the enduring power of women’s friendships. E-mail her at [email protected].

Mary T. Wagner is a former journalist and soccer mom who changed direction at forty by entering law school and becoming a prosecuting attorney. She counts wearing spike heels and learning to use a cordless drill among her “late blooming” discoveries, and authored When the Shoe Fits… Essays of Love, Life and Second Chances.

Diana L. Walters is the administrator of an assisted living facility in Chattanooga. She and her husband develop multi-sensory material to help people with dementia remember their faith, and train groups for ministry in care facilities. E-mail her at [email protected].

Ferida Wolff is the author of seventeen books for children and three essay books for children. Her essays have appeared in anthologies, newspapers, and magazines. She writes Ferida’s Backyard, a blog that looks at the nature/human connection. E-mail her at [email protected].

D.B. Zane is a teacher, writer and mother of three, and has been married for nearly thirty years. In addition to reading and writing, she enjoys knitting.

Sheri Zeck writes stories that encourage, inspire, and entertain others. Her freelance works include stories for Guideposts, Angels on Earth, Farm & Ranch Living and many Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sheri writes about her faith, family, and adventures of raising three girls. Visit her at

Luanne Tovey Zuccari lives in Western New York with her husband, Paul. Fortunate to live near her two grown children, she has plenty of opportunity to enjoy her eight grandchildren. As the mother of a child who was killed by a drunk driver, she found an outlet for her grief as well as a lifelong friend as part of MADD.

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