By Joan Leotta
This summer I achieved a writer's hat trick (ice hockey talk for three successive scores by same person in one game). None of them is self-published. One is a collection of short stories, another is a romance/mystery/YA and the third is a picture book. Each is out from a different press and each is in a different genre. It was not my plan to have all three come out in one summer. Two were delayed: one due to my problems with plot, the other because of my small publisher's schedule and health. Timing is the Lord's. Working in more than one genre is a joy because it allows me to express my creativity in different ways and a trial because I have to establish a series of relationships with editors and divide my time to market the books in three different directions. My plan for each marketing line was orderly, but this summer, I have had illness and death in the family and am becoming worn out trying to market all three at once while still writing new material.
The short stories in the collection called Simply a Smile were published by Cane Hollow Press. Many of the included tales were written for contests and several were winners, including one international first prize. Two were published by a national print magazine and two or three by small, web zines. Though varied in genre—mystery, romance, women's fiction—they have one thing in common. Each was inspired by an object, another obsession of mine as a writer. The first place winner is an ekphrastic tale (inspired by a work of art). It is my goal to market these for enjoyment and by teaching others how to draw stories out of art and ordinary objects, including appearing at middle schools. But I have only written one email so far in this direction.
Secrets of the Heart is the fourth in my Legacy of Honor series, a set that focuses on Italian-American women and their struggles with the backdrop of serving our nation in time of war. The first, Giulia Goes to War, takes place in World War Two, the second, Letters from Korea during that conflict, the third, A Bowl of Rice , deals with the experiences of a nurse in Vietnam , and the fourth takes place in Rome Italy during Desert Storm (with a prequel of Civil War activity!). These are marketed as romance. I belong to a Romance writers marketing site.
WHOOSH!, my picture book, began as a simple tale of going sledding with my dad.
Writing for children is a high calling and one I only dared to attempt because for the past thirty years I have also been a performer for children (story telling in schools, museums, at fairs and festivals). I love to work with children—what is done for them, lasts. It is still that, and thanks to the marvelous illustrator my publisher chose, it should resonate with urban children. I'm a city girl and I wanted this book on sledding in a park to remain urban.
Actually my eclectic nature is even more diverse than these three examples indicate. I'm a journalist (30 years), a poet (just google me), and a playwright—my first work, Pinpoint Wisdom was produced in Boston this year. When a topic comes to mind, it "tells" me what form it should be—sometimes the form changes and I rewrite in another form. Pinpoint started out as a short story and then became a poem, and finally, a play. In one day, I might work on a poem, finish an article for the paper, work on a novel, and search for possible publishers of my next picture book. As an omnivore reader, it's great to be able to indulge my love of each genre by contributing to it.
The disadvantage of my multi-faceted approach to writing is in the time it takes to market to varied genres, the number of organizations I have to belong to in order to find advice for various genres, and the time it takes to target and arrange book signings and appearances. Add to that several family crises this summer and well, my marketing plan for each of the three and the three together has been shredded.
So, am I scattered or eclectic? Am I broadly talented, or skimming the surface of a number of genres? That is a question only my readers can answer, but I can tell you this—I'm having fun.
Three of this Calabash, NC award winning journalist and performer's books were released this summer. Moreover, each book is in a different genre! Simply a Smile, is a collection of short stories, the middle book is Joan Leotta's first picture book, and the third is romance/women's fiction.
Simply a Smile: Amazon
Secrets of the Heart (Legacy of Honor Volume Four): Amazon
For as long as I can remember I have been a writer and a performer. The joy of doing what I love as a profession came to be when in 1982 I left my job at the Department of Labor to stay home with my children. At home with them I began my own business as a writer for local papers in Washington, DC , magazines, and more.
After taking Jennie and Joe to see a storytelling show at Wolf Trap I realized I wanted to do that too, so I took a course at the Kennedy Center, read all I could about story performance, joined the local and national professional groups, watched, told tales and learned. After volunteering as a teller, my son’s preschool hired me to tell and so I began my dual career of writing and telling. Each facet is still equally important to me.
In each side of my creativity I seek to serve an audience, produce and present material respectfully, entertain and edify. It is my sincere hope that my performance, whether on stage or on paper, blesses you, my audience.
Through her blog.
If you want her to speak to your group, email her at email@example.com