Chicken Soup Article Touches Hearts

Wow! Such response from the essay chicken soup published. Real stories seem to link well to the hearts of readers/listeners.
Here is the link to the story that the Beacon did on it

Remembering Grandma: Brunswick writer’s story in new Chicken Soup book

By Laura Lewis, Reporter

Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 10:22

Forty years ago, Joan Leotta experienced one of the greatest losses of her life: the death of her beloved grandmother, Angelina Cuda.

“Grandma was the center of my childhood world,” begins one of the Brunswick County writer’s latest stories.

This one, titled “She Stopped to Say Goodbye,” is included in the newly released “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven.”

It recalls Leotta’s memories of her maternal grandma and the close relationship they had while Leotta was growing up in Pittsburgh.

“She was Italian, too,” Leotta recalled. “But her parents must have conceived on the boat, because she was born soon after they arrived (in America).”

Leotta’s recollection and tribute is one of 101 stories chosen for the new Chicken Soup book.

In addition to detailing the close relationship she had with Cuda, the story tells about a memorable visit Leotta experienced as her Grandma was dying in 1973 more than 200 miles away from her.

At the time, Leotta was out of college and graduate school. She was living and working as an analyst for the U.S. Labor Department in Washington, D.C.

“I don’t usually write nonfiction,” said Leotta, a longtime freelance writer and author who came across a call for Chicken Soup stories last spring.

The new book was to focus on miracles, sparking the Brunswick Plantation resident’s attention.

“I thought about when my grandmother died,” she recalled. “I always felt like she came and said goodbye to me. It was such a strong feeling.”

Calling her mom that indelible November morning back in 1973, Leotta learned her Grandma had gone into a coma. She died in a Pittsburgh hospital three days later.

When Leotta experienced the “goodbye” inside her Washington apartment that morning, “I felt like she had really gone on,” she said of Cuda. “I felt like she had come to say goodbye to me. I know I did feel her come and say goodbye to me. It was a very strong feeling. We were very close.”

‘Worthwhile just to get in’

Leotta has authored several books of historic fiction, freelances articles for assorted publications, and poems for children and adults. She also performs storytelling and history shows, complete with costumes.

She said it was exciting when her story was chosen for publication in the new Chicken Soup book. And she got paid for it, too, for an undisclosed sum.

“It’s worthwhile just to get in there,” she said, adding she can’t believe the reaction she has received from people who have read her story.

“I think I’ve gotten more response to that than anything else,” she said.

It’s gotten her to thinking maybe she should write more personal stories.

According to a press release from publicist Shelby Janner with Shelton Interactive/Chicken Soup for the Soul, contributors to “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven” each experienced painful losses “but were inspired and comforted by a connection from beyond.”

The stories “demonstrate that powerful and miraculous signs from beyond can happen to anyone.”

The accounts of “answered prayers, love that doesn’t die and heavenly messages will renew your faith. They are truly hopeful and inspiring — and wonderful for anyone who has lost a loved one.”

More about Grandma

For Leotta’s next project, she has a storytelling gig coming up at Art Museum of Myrtle Beach, where she’ll be telling Chinese stories in celebration of the Chinese New Year.

She’s also finishing up book No. 3, “Bowl of Rice,” in her historic-fiction eBook series and has sent a couple of other things for consideration by Chicken Soup publishers.

In addition to her current published Chicken Soup story, Leotta has paid tribute to her grandma in other writings.

“She appears in ‘Letters from Korea’ as the Gray Lady at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, the one who was the favorite of all the children,” said Leotta, citing one of her eBooks. “She volunteered there for many years.”

A fiction piece based on her grandma, titled “Voices from the Porch,” was also coming out this past December in an anthology from Main Street Rag.

Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or

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