Meet Our Contributors

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

Meet Our Contributors

Brianna Abbott is a normal teenager who likes to laugh and run in the rain. She loves her family and her friends with all her heart and plans to continue writing for the rest of her life.

Toby Abraham-Rhine is a performing artist, high school counselor, wife and mother of three. She has traveled the world on a shoestring budget with her husband and children. That adventure is chronicled in their book, A Brilliant Teacher.

Julia K. Agresto is a Communications and Marketing Specialist for a renowned medical center in Massachusetts, as well as a freelance writer/journalist. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2009 with a degree in English/Journalism and Sociology.

Mallory Albeck is a senior at the University of Florida. She plans to pursue teaching after graduation. Mallory has been a member of the University of Florida marching band, and loves music, traveling, and working with preteens and teens. E-mail her at [email protected].

Julia Alexander attended enough college to get her BFA but alas, an unfortunate Algebra requirement kept her from acquiring her Bachelor’s. She is a wife and mother and “closet” writer. Literally. Her office is in her closet. She writes young adult fiction. E-mail her at [email protected].

Cynthia Baker has a B.S. in Education from Millersville University in Pennsylvania. She sells real estate in San Diego, CA. Her interests include literature, psychology, and philosophy. She is currently working on short stories and a collection of poetry. E-mail her at cynthia. [email protected].

Jennifer Baljko specializes in business, technology, and travel writing. She is an avid traveler, and is currently based in Barcelona. To find out more about what Jennifer is working on, visit, or e-mail her at [email protected].

Garrett Bauman has published several pieces in Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well as in Yankee, Sierra, The New York Times and many other publications. A retired professor of English from Monroe Community College, he is the author of a popular college writing textbook. He and his wife, Carol, live one mile from the nearest road in rural New York State.

Jan Beaver received her B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Central Arkansas. She has autism/Asperger syndrome and is author of Why Don’t They Come With Instructions? — a book about raising special needs children. She lives with her husband, children and dog aboard a boat in Washington. Learn more at

Lisa Bell received her B.S. in Business Management, with honors, from the University of Phoenix in 2005. She is a freelance writer and lives in Texas. Lisa enjoys anything outdoors, volunteers with local organizations and writes both fiction and nonfiction. Learn more at or e-mail her at [email protected].

Valerie D. Benko is a freelance writer from western Pennsylvania. Her stories have appeared in four Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies as well as Patchwork Path editions including Christmas Stocking, Treasure Box and the soon to be released Mother’s Life. Learn more at

Alexandra Berends is a high school student. She enjoys her writing classes and plans to further her writing experience in college.

Lil Blosfield is the Chief Financial Officer for Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health in Canton, OH. She has been writing poems and stories pretty much since she learned to write many, many years ago. She loves being with her family and friends, and always makes time for a good laugh! E-mail her at [email protected].

Caitlin Brown, a sixteen-year-old homeschooled student, enjoys reading, playing paintball, baking, producing movies featuring her three younger siblings and writing children’s stories and novels. She works yearlong with filling shoeboxes with gifts for needy children overseas. E-mail Caitlin at [email protected].

Leigh Ann Bryant is a wife and mother of three sons. She received her BSN from the University of Texas at Arlington. She loves the Lord and is very active with the youth at her church. She loves to write, travel, and watch her sons do gymnastics. E-mail her at [email protected].

John P. Buentello has published fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for both adults and children. He is currently at work on a short story collection. E-mail him at [email protected].

Sandy Bull’s dream of being a writer was put on hold for many years. In 2006, she relocated to central Florida and earned a diploma in Freelance Writing. She loves to swim and enjoys the beaches of Florida, which give her the inspiration to write. E-mail her at [email protected].

Barbara Canale is a freelance writer and columnist for The Catholic Sun in Syracuse, NY. She has been published in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She is the author of Our Labor of Love; A Romanian Adoption Chronicle. She enjoys biking, skiing and gardening.

Beth Cato’s true life stories have been featured in The Ultimate Cat Lover and four previous Chicken Soup for the Soul titles. She’s also an associate member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Learn more at

Jennifer Lynn Clay, 21, has been published over eighty times in national and international magazines and in several worldwide-distributed books including House Blessings and Forever in Love. Her work has appeared in five other Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She has written several young adult novels, two of which are under consideration by publishers.

Courtney Conover is a freelance writer and yoga practitioner who resides in Michigan with her husband, Scott. The couple eagerly awaits the birth of their first child this fall. This is Courtney’s fourth contribution to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Learn more at

Harriet Cooper is a freelance humorist, essayist and instructor living in Toronto, Canada. Her humor, essays, articles, short stories and poetry have appeared in newspapers, magazines, websites, newsletters, anthologies and radio. She specializes in writing about family, relationships, cats, psychology, and health. E-mail her at [email protected]

Mandilyn T. Criline holds a B.A. in professional writing. She enjoys reading, art, music, and being outdoors. E-mail her at [email protected].

James Crowley is a singer and an author of children’s literature. To date, he has written three novels. He lives in Phoenix, AZ with his Border Collie, who happily herds him to and from his computer every day. E-mail him at [email protected].

Dani d’Spirit lives with her moms, brother and two sisters in rural southern Delaware. She loves reading, outdoors, cultures, history, science and world peace. Right now she is looking at a career as a cultural liaison for the U.S. State Department. E-mail her at [email protected].

Rachel Davison has enjoyed writing ever since she was in first grade. Since then, it’s been one of her favorite pastimes, along with drama, watching movies, and hanging out with her friends. She hopes to one day have a novel published.

Alena Dillon received her B.A. with honors from the University of Connecticut. She will receive her Master’s in Fine Arts from Fairfield University. Alena enjoys traveling, cooking, reading and writing. She is currently completing her memoir and two screenplays. E-mail her at [email protected].

Stephanie Downing is a teenager who enjoys dancing, shopping, playing tennis, and going to the beach. She hopes that her story will inspire kids to help those in need.

Sara Drimmie loves to hang out at the mall with her friends, go swimming, play her guitar and cello, and love her pets. Sara is a member of the local Air Cadets squadron. She hopes one day to become a fashion designer and share her love of designs and clothes with as many people as she can. Unita is still greatly missed, and her other cats are doing fine.

Mariah Eastman goes to a public integrated arts high school. She loves to dance and aims to become a professional dancer. In her spare time, Mariah likes to write and do photography.

Although blind, Janet Perez Eckles thrives as a Spanish interpreter, international speaker, writer and author of Trials of Today, Treasures for Tomorrow — Overcoming Adversities in Life. From her home in Florida, she enjoys working on church ministries and taking Caribbean cruises with her husband Gene. She imparts inspiration at

Shawnelle Eliasen and her husband Lonny reside in Illinois. They raise their family in an old Victorian on the Mississippi River. Shawnelle home teaches her youngest boys. Her blog, My Five Sons, can be found at

Harold Fanning holds B.A, M.A., and D.M. degrees. Dr. Fanning has served several churches as senior pastor and currently is a hospice chaplain. He is also the author of three books available on and is a regular conference speaker. E-mail him at [email protected].

H.M. Filippelli loves to play soccer, play the trumpet and write. She hopes to someday be an actor or author. H.M. is currently a seventh grader. She likes to sing and loves other singers like Justin Bieber and Usher and hopes to meet them.

Malinda Fillingim loves writing and has journals marking the highs and lows of her fifty-two years. She enjoys going to churches and sharing stories of faith. Her daughters still roll their eyes when she writes about them and her husband still hopes she includes stories about his cowboy music. Her dog, however, only wants her to rub his belly. E-mail her at [email protected].

Jill Fisher received a Master of Arts in education from the University of Iowa in 2004. She taught elementary school for seven years in Lone Tree, IA, before returning home to raise her two children. She pursues a lifelong love of writing during naptime. E-mail her at [email protected].

Jackie Fleming, a native Californian, raised three boys on a little island in the California Delta. Her hobbies are traveling the world by freighter, Yoga, reading and writing. For six years she wrote for two weekly newspapers. She now lives in Reno, NV. E-mail her at [email protected].

Marcela Dario Fuentes was adopted from Honduras. She is a professional musician and performance resident in bassoon at Carnegie Mellon University, and her stories have appeared in several previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She enjoys hearing from her readers at [email protected].

Cassie Goldberg earned her B.A. in Public Relations from Hofstra University in 2007. She now works as Field Communications Manager at the National Kidney Foundation. Her interests include reading, writing and spending time with her friends, family and boyfriend. E-mail her at [email protected].

Sharon Grumbein received her Associate of Arts summa cum laude from Craven Community College in New Bern, NC, in 1986. She homeschooled her six children, and now has two grandsons. She writes inspirational nonfiction stories, and has been published in several magazines. She’s currently working on her first novel. E-mail her at [email protected].

Kara Hackett is a twenty-year-old professional writing major at Taylor University. Her freelance articles have appeared in Christian Communicator, Grief Digest, The Aboite Independent, Christian Book Previews, Church Libraries and her campus newspaper The Echo. She lives in Fort Wayne, IN. E-mail her at [email protected].

Julie Havener lives in Lincoln, NE, where she works as a counselor in an agency serving battered women and their children. She loves writing and was previously published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive. E-mail her at [email protected].

Kat Heckenbach graduated with honors from The University of Tampa and now homeschools her two children. She has more than forty short fiction and nonfiction stories published, and is the author of the someday-will-be-published middle grade fantasy, Finding Angel. Learn more at

Sara Hedberg is in the eighth grade. She enjoys reading, writing, fencing, music and video games. She plays the flute and piano, and absolutely loves The Beatles, Queen and the Decemberists. She encourages you to always work hard, and never give up!

Hilary Heskett holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business from San José State University. She is currently a Marketing Director for a software provider as well as CFO to a small production company. In her downtime, she also writes paranormal romance, science fiction and young adult fiction. Learn more at

Amelia Hollingsworth discovered she liked to write when she was a preteen living in Brazil. Now she has a family of her own and still likes to write. Amelia is an aspiring scientist, novelist, violinist, and domestic goddess. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and daughter.

Claire Illies is currently a senior in high school. She wrote this piece as a junior for a composition class. She is unaware of where her life will take her next year, but is very excited about the future. She loves all bodies of water, hockey, soccer, her family and friends, traveling and writing stories. E-mail her at [email protected].

Carley Jackson was born in Florida. Writing was never a passion of hers as a kid. But when she began going through a hard time in her life, writing seemed like the only thing that kept her sane. Carley likes writing short stories because they are your own stories and also interesting. Her goal is for other kids to start writing and find a passion for telling their own stories.

Ruth Jones lives in Cookeville, TN, with her husband Terry and a very bad cat named Annabel.

Stacie Joslin grew up in Wasco, CA, with a love for reading and writing. She is an administrative assistant in her hometown. Stacie is married with four children and she enjoys traveling, writing and spending time with her family. Stacie is currently working on writing novels. E-mail her at [email protected].

In the 90s Marilyn Kentz and her next door neighbor surprisingly landed an NBC sitcom called The Mommies, followed by a Showtime Special, and the ABC talk show, Caryl & Marilyn. Since then, Kentz has co-written three books: The Motherload, Not Your Mother’s Midlife, and Fearless Women. E-mail her at [email protected].

Kimberly Kimmel, a journalist, writing instructor and former editor for a music/fashion magazine, has sold numerous articles and short stories. She has interviewed dozens of celebrities, mostly for the teen market. Kimberly has two grown children and is from Los Angeles. E-mail her at [email protected].

Sarah L.M. Klauda lives in Baltimore with her husband. She aspires to be a successful author and open an educational rescue center for animals. In her spare time, Sarah studies linguistics and astronomy, and volunteers for animal rescues. She loves swimming, cooking, hiking, and reading. E-mail her at [email protected].

Angie Klink authored Divided Paths, Common Ground about two dynamic women of Purdue University, the children’s books Purdue Pete Finds His Hammer and I Found U. She is published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Gift of Christmas, Chicken Soup for the Sister’s Soul 2 and Republican’s Soul.

Tom Krause is one of the most quoted author/poets today. His work has appeared in many books in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Tom grew up in Boonville, MO. He is also a very popular motivational speaker. Contact him at

Sydney Kravetz has a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri. A former political reporter and freelance magazine writer, Sydney collects and sells rare books and vintage clothing. She authors two blogs — one about mystical experiences and one about the history of food. E-mail her at [email protected]

Marc Kruza is an aspiring novelist. He is currently writing a young adult piece, Out of My Head, about a boy who escapes the everyday through graphic novels and comic books he creates. It documents his adventures and misadventures navigating the bizarre parallel universe of freshman year in high school.

Margaret Lang is a published nonfiction short-story author and a grandma of three little girls. She leads Good News Clubs in elementary schools and Aglow Lighthouse meetings in homes. She loves to get away in a Rocky Mountain cabin by a lake in a fragrant piney woods.

Ali Lauro is a fifteen-year-old high school student. She has enjoyed writing and reading from an early age and aspires to work someday in this field. She lives with her parents, twin sister, brother, and two dogs.

Pearl Lee received her B.A. in Literature from the University of California, San Diego. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves to cook, bake and spend time with family and friends. E-mail her at [email protected].

Kathy Linker received her B.A. in Psychology from The University of Western Ontario, a graduate degree in Clinical Art Therapy and her Master in Education from the University of Victoria. She has traveled the globe extensively and is writing inspirational stories about her adventures. E-mail her at [email protected].

Amanda Yardley Luzzader left the financial industry to devote her time and attention to her two delightful sons. They enjoy jumping in puddles, homemade root beer, and cloud watching. She also enjoys photography, writing stories, reading, and spending time with her charming husband.

Elizabeth M. is twelve years old. She currently attends middle school in the 7th grade. Elizabeth loves reading Chicken Soup for the Soul books and is very athletic and has played soccer since she was five but recently found a new interest in basketball.

Steven Manchester is the published author of Pressed Pennies, The Unexpected Storm: The Gulf War Legacy and Jacob Evans. His first full-length feature film, Gooseberry Island, was released in 2011. When not writing, Steven is spending time with his children and beautiful wife, Paula. Learn more at

Shawn Marie Mann is a geographer and freelance writer living with her husband and three children in Central Pennsylvania. She enjoys writing, reading, gardening, quilting and visiting amusement parks. Please contact her through her website

Nancy Manther received her B.A. in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1978. She enjoys writing, reading, cooking, traveling and spending time with family and friends. Nancy is currently writing her first novel.

Melanie Marks has had over fifty stories published in magazines such as Highlights, Woman’s World and Teen Magazine. She’s had four children’s books published, and numerous teen novels including: Stranger Inside; The Dating Deal; A Demon’s Kiss; and Paranormal Punch. Visit her at or e-mail her at [email protected]

Kelley Stimpel Martinez has a college degree and gradutate degree in law. But none of that matters because what gives her the greatest pleasure has nothing to do with work or money. It has to do with finding the humor in life’s adventures, one quirky step at a time.

Chris Mikalson is a retired bookkeeper, who is now enjoying camping with her husband, as well as pursuing the creative “loves of her life” — writing and painting. Chris is a Reiki Master and finds great joy in helping others heal with the aid of this beautiful energy. E-mail her at [email protected].

Mary Neil keeps busy in retirement teaching six Jazzercise fitness classes a week in Gastonia, NC, were she lives. Hobbies include writing a weekly Health and Fitness column for the Gaston Gazette, reading and working her champion Paso Fino horse, Flamenco. E-mail her at [email protected].

Sylvia Ney received her B.S. in Mass Communication from Lamar University in 2000. She lives in Texas with her husband and two children. She enjoys reading, writing, traveling and spending time with family and friends. She writes in a variety of genres. You can visit her blog at

Cynthia Patton has worked as an environmental attorney, scientific editor, nonprofit advocate, and consultant. The California native writes poetry and nonfiction and lives with a rowdy dog, even rowdier cat, and her seven-year-old daughter. Cynthia’s work has appeared in magazines, anthologies, and books. She’s revising a memoir. E-mail her at [email protected].

Kyra Payne is a hopeless romantic and falls in love at least twice a day. She loves reading and writing. She plans one day to become an author.

Sharon Pearson received a diary for Christmas at the age of eleven and soon discovered the joys of writing her personal experiences. She has been published in several periodicals and is now a Special Education instructor. She lives in California with her husband, two boys and a friendly Pit Bull.

Sneha Pillai is studying for her Bachelors in Mass Media from Wilson College, University of Mumbai. She enjoys blogging, reading, traveling and music. She aspires to be a journalist and a writer. E-mail her at [email protected].

Marsha Porter, co-author of a movie review guide, has written numerous short stories and articles. She credits her writing skills development to her grade school nuns who frequently punished her with five hundred-word essays. Currently, she teaches high school English.

Denise Reich is an amateur trapeze artist, compulsive traveler and rock music fan. She’d like to learn to surf this year. Denise has written for many publications in the USA and elsewhere, including several Chicken Soup for the Soul titles, the anthology She’s Shameless, Bunker Hill, and Pology.

Rachael Robitaille is a high school student who enjoys reading, writing, soccer, hockey, curling and dramatic arts. She hopes to someday publish a novel. E-mail her at [email protected].

Colette Sasina is celebrating her fiftieth wedding anniversary with John, five children and ten grandchildren. She’s a past contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Her poems are published in The Villages Daily Sun, and Essays: On Living with Alzheimer’s Disease, The First Twelve Months, by Lois Wilmoth-Bennett, Ph.D.

Sarah Sawicki is a freelance author and a student at Taylor University. She has been published by Guidepost Books, Church Libraries, and the Christian Communicator. When she is not writing, Sarah enjoys horseback riding, theatre, playing guitar, and singing. She plans on pursuing memoir writing. E-mail her at [email protected].

John Scanlan is a 1983 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, and retired from the Marine Corps as a Lieutenant Colonel aviator. He currently resides on Hilton Head Island, SC, and is pursuing a second career as a writer. E-mail John at [email protected].

Lindy Schneider loves throwing big parties with extensive invitation lists! She is an award-winning freelance writer and illustrator with her work appearing in books and magazines and even on Red Vines candy packages! E-mail her at [email protected] or learn more at

Award-winning author Jacqueline Seewald has taught writing at the university as well as high school English. She also worked as an academic librarian and educational media specialist. Ten of her books of fiction have been published. Her short stories, poems, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in hundreds of publications. Her latest teen novel is Stacy’s Song.

Tracie Skarbo was motivated to write as a young girl by her father. Tracie’s book, Harmonious Flight, is available at and she is working on her next two books. She was raised on Vancouver Island, Canada, and lives there with her family.

Alaina Smith’s true tales appear in anthologies including Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings, The Mystery of Fate: Common Coincidence or Divine Intervention?, six Chocolate for Women books, and five A Cup of Comfort books. She enjoys writing, working for a musical theater company, and moviegoing with her husband.

Mary Z. Smith is a regular contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, as well as to the inspirational magazines Angels on Earth and Guideposts. She has just published a book entitled Life’s A Symphony. Mary and her husband Barry reside in Richmond, VA, enjoying frequent visits from their children and grandchildren.

Erin Solej graduated as the valedictorian from Felician College in 1997. She is a middle school Language Arts teacher in New Jersey. This is her second Chicken Soup for the Soul story, and she is currently writing her first book. E-mail her at [email protected].

Tanya Sousa has written for newspapers and magazines for over twenty years and has begun writing children’s books. One of her first published children’s picture books, Life is a Bowl of Cherry Pits, won a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. Find out more about Tanya at

Christine Stapp is the retired Operations Manager for a professional training organization. She has written a number of feature stories and focus articles for various newspapers and company newsletters. Among her duties as wife, mother and grandmother, she is currently working on her first novel, a senior sleuth spoof.

Rae Starr loves Jesus, animals, kids, the outdoors, writing and working/making things with her hands. She enjoys horseback riding, swimming, biking, hiking and camping. She plans to work with children in need, rescue animals and continue inspirational writing.

Marla H. Thurman lives in Signal Mountain, TN, with her baby dogs Sophie and Jasper. Marla has been published in many venues and is now working on a book of short stories to publish on Kindle by the end of 2011. E-mail her at [email protected].

Andrea Q. Verde received her B.A. in Graphic Communication at San Diego State University. She is married and currently at home raising her three children. Andrea is involved in community and church activities and enjoys writing, art, and dance. She’s writing short stories and screenplays.

Stephanie Warner, a Professional Writing major at Taylor University, was born and raised in the Midwest. She excels at finding the epic in the ordinary. She loves Tae Kwon Do, exploring new cultures, and writing adventure stories that touch the heart.

Kimberly Winget is a student working on her Bachelors of Fine Arts degree. She loves to write poetry and compose music. Kim believes strongly in the impact the written or musical word has on a person. Kim enjoys singing, arts and crafts, teaching, swimming, and working with children. She hopes to become a professional musician someday and help others express themselves in a creative way.

Sandy Wright lives in Texas where the West began. She teaches gifted and talented children, and hikes and snowshoes with her Lab, Jake. She is a member of Royalty Writers and Joy Writers, both with NTCW. Recently, she completed her first novel and is working on another. E-mail her at [email protected].

D. B. Zane went to camp without a friend a few summers later and had a fabulous time. She’s never been homesick since. E-mail her at [email protected].

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