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January, 2008


Debra Weaver

Writing For Chicken Soup
Good for the author's soul?
By  Debra Weaver

Being published in a Chicken Soup volume can boost an author's career.
If you're a writer who enjoys telling anecdotes and stories with a life lesson, take a look at the Chicken Soup For The Soul publishing empire. The ever-expanding Chicken Soup family at HCI Books provides even inexperienced writers with a prestigious writing credit, if they have a story that relates to current needs.
 
Last summer, the call for submissions went out for Chicken Soup For The Dieter's Soul, inspiring me with several story ideas. The guidelines made it easy to see how my ideas would fit into their outline, with proposed sections like Eating Well, Keeping Fit, and Mind Over Matter. A Chicken Soup story not only instructs the reader, but also puts that reader into the shoes of the author. As the guidelines put it: "Chicken Soup stories inspire, uplift, and genuinely touch people. They are filled with vivid images, leaving the reader with a feeling of being there – in the story – with the people involved. A Chicken Soup story may make the reader laugh out loud – humour is healing – but all Chicken Soup stories create emotion rather than simply describing it."
 
Writing & Rewriting

The story idea that offered the most vivid images for me was my training, as a complete non-athlete, for the Country Music Marathon in Nashville. The trick: To evoke the emotions of struggle, the perseverance, and the triumph within their word limit of 500-1300 words. So, I wrote my best version of the tale, then went back and revised to eliminate all unnecessary words. Next, I cut again, this time for content, until only the most important ideas remained. I felt the way I imagined a movie director must feel after leaving some of the best work on the cutting room floor. Still, the finished product stirred emotions and inspired the reader to action. After all the rewriting, the submissions process was simple. I copied and pasted my text into the form provided, and waited.
 
Months later, I received word that my essay had made the first cut, and the editor sent me a release form to allow them to publish it. Periodic e-mails from the editor updated contributors on the status of the book. By November, I received a copy of the book, including my essay.
 
Now, you don't have to finish a marathon to have a worthwhile story for a Chicken Soup book. Other essays in this volume featured battles with binges, yo-yo dieting, and finding the right exercise program. The unifying factor was that they all inspired people desiring to lose weight that yes, they could do it too.
 
Author Perks

Co-authors of a Chicken Soup book get substantial discounts on copies. Editors send marketing tips so the authors can parlay the temporary fame into television and newspaper interviews. Chicken Soup even sends out press releases to local media to announce the writer's inclusion in the book. Pay is $200, not bad for a short essay. Poems pay $50. Rights stay with the author, so you can re-publish it elsewhere. And the prestige factor is significant.
 
The successful publication so buoyed me that I tried my skill at creating an essay for the upcoming Chicken Soup For The Coffee Lover's Soul. (It's part of a series. The Hot Chocolate Lovers and Tea Lovers get their own books, too.) Again, I made the first cut.
 
How To Submit

Go to the Chicken Soup website and click the link for Submit a Story in the left frame. A title they are actively seeking stories for may be described here. The Story Guidelines link gives more details on how to craft the story for the best chance of acceptance. Possible Books lists working titles with descriptions of the type of stories sought and deadlines for each title. Keep in mind that the publisher, HCI, gets 100 stories a day, so targeting a story to a particular title is a good strategy.
 
Currently, sports stories are the focus of a series with deadlines in July and August. Chicken Soup is also running a story contest for its upcoming Chicken Soup For The Divorced Soul. The winner not only gets published, but receives a book signing and $350 cash prize. Deadline is July 30.
 
No queries are necessary. You make all submissions online.
 
Publication in a Chicken Soup volume can boost an author's career. With so many opportunities and the ease of submission, it's a worthwhile option for novice and experienced writer alike.
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Debra Weaver
currently teaches communication arts for high school students and communication topics for adult seminar participants. Her writing appears in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. She has begun her latest project, launching a group coaching program for aspiring writers.

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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
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To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

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A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

Poetry
The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

Pegasus
It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
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On whose focus the poem depends.

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A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

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Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

Re-Verse
The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

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