Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She is a poet, essayist, journalist, playwright, and author of several books, both fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. She is also a performer and gives one-woman shows on historic figures and spoken word folklore shows and teaches writing and storytelling. Today she stops by to tell us about her short story collection. Her latest work is a collection of poems. Learn more about Joan and her books at her website.
Simply a Smile is the title story of my short story collection. I'm proud of this romantic tale inspired by an Atlanta, GA exhibition of the Chinese Terra Cotta soldiers. I stayed up all night to try to resolve in my own mind why one of the soldiers was smiling. The High Museum's careful explanations told us that real men ready to die for their Emperor had posed for these life-sized creations. Most were grim-faced, ready for battle. Even the horses looked fierce. Yet, one of the men was smiling. I could not let go of why and that night I crafted (then revised and revised) a tale of star-crossed lovers who are re-united at the place where the images of the soldiers were made.
The story won first prize in an Australian short story contest. I was thrilled. Over several years of writing, submitting, and being rejected I managed to put together a collection of tales that had resonated with others, either by being published in a national magazine or winning a contest. What brings together my tales, however, is not genre. My stories are a motley crew of women's fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, and even a western. The unifying feature is that each tale was inspired by an object. In one case the object was a recipe, in another, a thunderbolt, in the case of Simply a Smile, a statue.
Why don’t I stick to one genre? I think I am incapable of sticking to just one genre. I read widely and so I write widely as well. Objects have continued to inspire me, including art objects. I continue to enjoy writing all types of tales. At present, I am working on a mystery, and my backlog of "things to revise" includes several mystery/romances. Will I ever put all one genre in a collection? Maybe.
Finding a publisher for such an eclectic book was not easy. Many people advised me to self-publish. However, I finally convinced one of my publishers that the collection was worth bringing to life. Unfortunately, they subsequently went out of business! In an act of faith in my work, they sent my files to another publisher who loved the collection and added photos between the sections. I signed another contract. The book was published a second time. Then that publisher also went out of business. Eventually, I will self-publish the collection. However, I do have some copies available, and if you’d like one, contact me through my website.
Languid Lusciousness with Lemon
“Everyone hears / when called to the table,” Joan Leotta writes in her latest collection, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon. The title itself is a call to the table of lush language and insight that melds family and food. In this chapbook, Leotta serves up a feast of poems that explore our deep connections—to each other, to the food we carefully choose and prepare, to what nourishes and sustains us. Life’s sweetness stands out, / oft best preserved / when accented with tart, she writes in the title poem. You’ll find both the sweet and the tart along with a myriad of other more subtle flavors, so, come to the table, have a poem; have another, and fill yourself. These poems will leave you sated.