Joan Leotta is a professional story performer and an author of several books including her Legacy of Honor Series: "Giulia Goes to War" and "Letters from Korea." Her books are available at amazon.com.
Q: Tell us when you first wanted to become a writer?
Jo Ann: I was 12 growing up in Joliet, IL. I read all the Nancy Drew mysteries and any other novel available. That's when I told myself I would write a book.
Q: What career path did you follow.?
Jo Ann: I wanted to go to college but didn't want journalism, so I gravitated to teaching. I majored in English and minored in Spanish and education at University of St. Francis because I could live at home and work to pay tuition. I went on for my master's at Notre Dame immediately after graduating college, which proved to be one of the best career moves I ever made. I taught English and reading in high school and didn’t think of writing to publish. I took a leave to have children and never went back full time. When my youngest son started kindergarten, I started my writing career in earnest.
Q: Did you do any writing on the job or your spare time then?
Jo Ann: I wrote every single day--a journal, short stories, essays, opinion pieces, anything that came to mind--for two years and spent a ton of money on paper, envelopes and stamps before I got a humorous piece published in the Chicago Tribune in a guest column. A few months later I had another humorous piece in "Grit," then articles in "Liguorian" and other religious magazines. At the same time, I wrote a novel and started querying agents. I got one, but nothing came of that novel. I sent him another that he said had great promise. He was circulating it when he died suddenly.
Members of my writers’ group told me I’d have more success writing articles, so I wrote a feature story on local pro football wives and sent it to the area's biweekly newspaper. They accepted it and asked me to be a freelancer. Word went out that the school district where I lived needed a writer for its newsletter. I stepped forward and got the job. The town where I lived asked me to do its newsletter. The local community college needed someone part time to do its newsletter, so I applied and again got the job. I quit the college job and took one at an area hospital. Again, writing newsletter pieces. I was doing this all at the same time then got a job teaching part time. I gave up the newsletter jobs but kept the newspaper one and continued writing novels.
Our move to North Carolina in 2000 didn’t change my determination to write for publication. I was hired as a freelancer at The Sun News. My niche continues to be feature stories. I have written three novels since we moved, none of which has been published. I’m working on another.
Q: When did you start really writing? What types of writing do you do? Tell about nonfiction and fiction.
Jo Ann: I knew I couldn’t teach full time, take care of the kids and the house—not with my husband’s job taking him across the U.S., so I took a job teaching night classes once or twice a week. That left most of the day free to fulfill my dream of writing.
Q: Is your writing a business or a hobby?
Jo Ann: A business. I play bridge and do needlepoint, digital scrapbooking and photography for hobbies.
Q: What else would you like to tell about getting started in writing?
Jo Ann: Writing is a tough business. Determination and study bring successes.
Q: What awards have you won?
Jo Ann: I have won several awards from Illinois Women’s Press Association, North Carolina Press Club and National Federation of Women. They are all for feature stories and photojournalism. My most recent award was for “Old Friends/New Friends: A Veteran Reunites with a Vietnamese Friend” that appeared in South Brunswick Magazine in Spring 2012.