5 Bloggers Share Their Stories Of Being Published In Chicken Soup For The Soul

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Once you listen to our podcast interview with Amy Newmark, Editor-In-Chief and Publisher at Chicken Soup For The Soul, I hope you are as excited about submitting your stories for consideration as I am!  This article shares experience from bloggers/writers who have had one or more stories published in Chicken Soup For The Soul books.  We asked them about their published stories, what made them want to submit, the submission and acceptance process and the benefits of being a Chicken Soup For the Soul (CSFTS) contributor.  Each author also shared some tips for other writers looking to get published in CSFTS books.

5 Bloggers Share Their Stories Of Being Published In Chicken Soup For The Soule Books - This article shares experience from bloggers/writers who have had one or more stories published in Chicken Soup For The Soul books.  We asked them about their published stories, what made them want to submit, the submission and acceptance process and the benefits of being a Chicken Soup For the Soul (CSFTS) contributor.  Each author also shared some tips for other writers looking to get published in CSFTS books.

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Melissa Halsey Caudill

Missy’s Public Junk

MEblog1

Photo By: KELLY HALSEY

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Tell us about your stories and which Chicken Soup For The Soul (CSFTS) books you’re published in.

I have been published in two Chicken Soup for the Soul books so far.  The first was Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game, which was released in December 2013. The second was Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?, which was released in August 2014. I also have a story scheduled to appear in a third book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength, to be released in October 2014.

My first story was “Uncomfortable.” This was about love and how it isn’t always the butterflies and rainbows that fairy tales lead us to believe it may be. This story is about the many forms of love – romantic, parental, etc. – and how sometimes, love just isn’t all that comfortable. But it’s so worth it. My second story was “Tattle Tail.” It is a humorous story about my soon-to-be husband and I combining our two cats when we moved in together, and how well (or not so well) they handled that! The third story is about my toes. Yep, that’s right. My toes. Okay, it goes a bit deeper than that, but it’s about how we tend to hide the things we perceive as “flaws” in ourselves and how silly that is.

Can you share with us what made you want to submit to Chicken Soup for the Soul?

Since starting my blog in early 2013, I noticed that the essays I wrote had a common theme to them: life lessons learned from every day happenings. When I started toying with the idea of submitting my work for publication, I came across the page for Chicken Soup for the Soul and realized that my stories were very similar to the true, life stories that were printed in their series. I decided this might be the platform for me to get my work out there, so I took the chance. And it paid off!

Can you take us through your process of crafting your first submission through acceptance? 

As far as Chicken Soup for the Soul was concerned, I already had the stories written before I decided to submit them. On their website, they list the possible upcoming books and ask you to submit stories that may fit those subjects. When I saw the topics for upcoming books, I realized that many of my stories fit perfectly into their criteria. I went on the website, entered my story, and clicked submit. I honestly never expected to hear back, so I was shocked the day I received that first email from Chicken Soup for the Soul. The subject line read, “Your story, Uncomfortable, has made it to the final selection round for Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game.” The first thing I did? Cried.  I’m not ashamed to admit it. I burst into tears and thought, “Someone noticed my work!” I knew it was still a long shot that I would actually make it into the book, but just the idea that I had made it past a first selection round gave me such a burst of confidence in my work. From that point on, there were a few months of emails stating that I had made it through more selection rounds, until the final email came telling me that I was in. I was elated! I never thought something like this would happen. Not only was I being published, but I was being published on a national level. I couldn’t have been happier. I knew this was a start to a new level of confidence in my ability as a writer.

Did you benefit from being published in CSFTS in any specific ways you’d like to share? 

I had quite a few local book signings and local newspaper interviews after my first story was published. I suddenly became “known” in the area, and it was a very humbling experience. I was so honored that my writings had caused this. Once my name started getting out there, I was approached by members of a local writing group who invited me to read some of my works at their meetings every other month. This eventually led to my being a part of a few local arts council projects and has now lead to another story being published in a local anthology next year.

What other ways have you taken your writing beyond your blog, besides Chicken Soup For The Soul? 

As I mentioned, I will have a story entitled “Keep Moving,” which will appear in a local anthology about the New River, to be published by McFarland and Company publishers in April 2015. I am also very slowly working on my first novel, Wings of a Feather, which I hope to have finished next year.

Do you have any tips or insights you can share with other bloggers looking to submit to CSFTS?

First and foremost, my advice to you is this: Believe in yourself. That has to come first. It really does. Until you believe that you are capable, no one else will. You have to take the first step. Once you know your work is worthy, and are armed with that knowledge, you are ready to face whatever comes your way. Whether it be rejections (trust me, I’ve received many of those too!) or those elusive acceptances…either way, you will know that your work is worthy of being noticed. Your day will come if you want it to, and if you believe that it is possible. You can’t decide when it happens, but you are the only one who decides that it will happen. Write, write, write. Believe that what you have to say needs to be heard, and it will be.

Follow Melissa on Facebook

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Janie Dempsey Watts

JanieWatts.com

Photo of Janie by pro photog smaller size

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Tell us about your stories and which Chicken Soup For The Soul (CSFTS) books you’re published in.

I was published in: Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul IIChicken Soup for the Tea Lover’s SoulChicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family. and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven.

In the “Horse Lover’s books” I write about two special horses and their human friends.  In the tea book, a chance meeting over a cup of tea at an internet cafe in Provence leads to a new friendship.  In the “All in the Family” story my Sicilian mother-in-law asks me to participate in her annual exercise to rid the house of the devil.  And in “Messages from Heaven” I talk about my artist mother and a hopeful sign in the sky I saw after her death.

Can you share with us what made you want to submit to Chicken Soup for the Soul?

While looking for places to submit one day, I visited a writers’ website and saw a call-out online for the “Horse Lover’s” book.  A story from my childhood about a newborn colt was a perfect fit.

Can you take us through your process of crafting your first submission through acceptance? 

I pulled out my tattered diary from the time I was 12, lifted a few lines from there, then started reliving the frosty Georgia morning when my dad and I went to check on my new colt. I submitted the story online.  Within two months, I heard back and I had to sign a permission agreement for everyone mentioned in the story. Since everyone except me was dead, I simply signed and sent it back in.  A few months later, I received an e-mail that my story had been accepted.  I was thrilled!

Did you benefit from being published in CSFTS in any specific ways you’d like to share? 

As soon as each of my stories were released in the Chicken Soup books, I sent out press releases to the newspapers where the story took place, and also to the media in my local town where I lived at the time.  Most of the newspapers wrote up stories about my Chicken Soup experience, and I was asked to be on TV talk shows to discuss the stories.   Ultimately I was asked to speak at a nearby public library about all my CSFTS stories, and other anthologies where my work had appeared. Although I was terrified of speaking, I was told I did well.  Best of all I didn’t die of a heart attack on the spot. I wrote about this at my blog.

What I found out is that folks love the Chicken Soup stories.  Being published there gives a writer credibility. After all, these books are published internationally. Having the Chicken Soup stories published gave me that boost of confidence I needed to move forward with my publication efforts.  I am most grateful for the opportunity the editors of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books gave me.

What other ways have you taken your writing beyond your blog, besides Chicken Soup For The Soul? 

My success with the CSFTS books inspired me to seek publication of my first novel, Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge (2012, Little Creek Books), which is part romance, mystery and Cherokee history.  I have also had short stories published in anthologies and  magazines, and I write a magazine column for Catoosa Life.  I have just completed a book of short stories, “Mothers, Sons, Lovers and Other Strangers,” now out to potential publishers. My second novel, Tarnished Moon, is almost done.   I also enjoy speaking about my writing to library groups, book clubs, and to students.  In July, I was honored to be the featured author of the Appalachian Writers Series.  Oddly enough, I now enjoy public speaking, something I never could have imagined a decade ago.

Do you have any tips or insights you can share with other bloggers looking to submit to CSFTS?

If you are going to submit, the main thing to remember is to tell the story in first person.  What worked for me is to paint the setting in the first few paragraphs, to expand upon the story, and then to complete it with either a humorous or nostalgic ending.  The story should either make your reader laugh, or feel a tingle of emotion as they finish reading it.

The best stories to write are the ones that just pour out without much effort in your first draft.  Of course, writing is re-writing.  I have spent several hours on that last sentence or two in my final draft, and sometimes thought about the last sentence for several days. The first sentence should hook your reader and the last sentence should leave them feeling an emotion.

Follow Janie on Facebook

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Christy Johnson

ChristyJohnson.org

Christy Johnson headshot 3.14

 

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Tell us about your stories and which Chicken Soup For The Soul (CSFTS) books you’re published in.

My first story published in CSFTS was in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People in 2009. I love writing stories about the beauty that comes out of difficulties. “Hope is a Choice” centered around my conversation with a Hurricane Katrina victim while I worked for HUD’s National Servicing Center, an agency assisting victims with housing after the hurricane. I marveled at the attitude my caller, Brenda, displayed towards her loss after the hurricane. She lost everything, but her main concern was for the others.

My next story was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness in 2011. Due to the sensitive material about drug addiction, the editors asked me to use a pen name for my story. “Miracle Grow” revealed my struggle with my daughter’s drug use and the shame I felt because I compared issues in my family with the perceived perfection of other families.

“Male Order Delivery” is the first humorous piece I ever wrote. It was inspired by a story I read in Today’s Christian Woman by Liz Curtis Higgs that had me in stitches. I dissected the pattern of her story and was determined to write my own. It was a thrill when it was selected because writing humor is very difficult. Timing is crucial.”Male Order Delivery” appeared in 2013 in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game. It’s the story of how I met my husband. Before the days of Match.com and E-Harmony, I met John on The Twister Love Line, a telephone dating service on a country radio station.

My all-time favorite story was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven in 2012. When my son, Garrett, was five, he and Jake, his two-year-old brother, were in a car accident. Garrett survived, but Jake did not.  An Escort to Heaven tells the story of Garrett’s trip to heaven to escort Jake in. It is a super powerful story, and one that I never tire of sharing. In fact, Jacob’s death is the reason I started writing.

I remember the day my 10 complimentary copies arrived in the mail. I tore open the book and glanced at the Table of Contents to see what page my story was on. Garrett was outside grilling steaks and I screamed so loud he thought I had some kind of accident. He burst into the house.

“What’s wrong, Mom?”

“Look!” I exclaimed as I held up the book. “Your story is the first story in the book!”

Can you share with us what made you want to submit to Chicken Soup for the Soul?

As a non-fiction writer who had only written technical bank exam reports, my early voice was extremely teachy and preachy. I thought I knew how to write, but in retrospect, I was clueless. They say ignorance is bliss. I worked relentlessly on my first book, sure to be a best-seller.

When a friend hooked me up with an editor at Thomas Nelson, I thought surely my time had arrived. Instead of just mailing in my manuscript, the editor, Larry agreed to meet me. I couldn’t wait to blast him with my talent.  As I slid my three-ring binder across the table, time stood still. From Tragedy to Triumph was the total package, complete with graphic art I created to embellish the cover.

Larry took a casual glance at my masterpiece. He flipped through the tabbed chapters in my three-ring binder.

“Have you ever been to a writers conference?” Larry asked.

A writers conference? Do I need that? “No, I haven’t.” I replied.

Larry glanced at my table of contents.  “You’ve probably got about three books in here.”

I nodded.

“If you are serious about writing, a writers conference would help you tremendously.”

That’s it? A writers conference? No offer on my masterpiece?

A few months later, my same friend, who was very connected, hooked me up with another contact of hers, who just so happened to be the Zondervan writer of the Year. As a favor to her, he agreed to critique my manuscript. I mailed it to him, (this was in the early days of email and he wanted a hard copy). A month later he sent it back. I ripped open the package, eager to read his glowing comments.

In red letters across the title page were the words, “If you feel that God gave you a gift why are you writing a ‘how to’ book about it?”

The following pages were smeared with more red ink and comments. I wanted a critique. I thought I had thick skin, but I cried for a month. Then I enrolled in a writers conference. I needed some help.

I learned so much at my first writers conference. I learned about a thing called a proposal. I also learned that there was a protocol and a universal format involved in submitting a manuscript. That’s when I realized that my embellished manuscript in the three-ring binder gave me away as a screaming novice. I also learned that there was a secret sauce successful non-fiction writers used to keep their readers attention—creative non-fiction skills. I walked away from the conference feeling like a dump truck unloaded two tons of knowledge on my already overloaded brain, but I couldn’t wait to apply what I learned and I wanted to learn more.

When I found out that a local writer, Melanie Hemry, a successful ghost writer and Guideposts contest winner, was teaching a class on how to craft those types of stories, I signed up. I knew that if I could learn how to capture my readers attention through story telling that my work would engage them.

Melanie taught us how to hook the reader and how to weave a series of “ups” and “downs” throughout our story to the final tingle moment at the end. I wanted to get published in Chicken Soup because I thought it would boost my confidence, help me gain creative non-fiction skills to engage my reader and give me some clips to establish me as a writer.

Did you benefit from being published in CSFTS in any specific ways you’d like to share? 

Absolutely. Being published in one of the most recognized anthologies in the world gives instant credibility. It’s also given me connection with my readers and confidence when I pitched publishers for my book. Love Junkies: 7 Steps for Breaking the Toxic Relationship Cycle was published earlier this year with Authentic Publishers.

Do you have any tips or insights you can share with other bloggers looking to submit to CSFTS?

Here are my top 5 tips for getting published in Chicken Soup for the Soul along with links to show you an examples of each:

  • Show don’t tell. The best way to craft a story is through showing, not telling. The reader needs to see your story. Use dialogue. Describe. Instead of saying, “Garrett couldn’t drink by himself,” in An Escort to Heaven I paint a picture by saying, “I dropped little squirts of juice into Garrett’s mouth with a baby eye dropper.” You can see more of what I mean. An Escort to Heaven is full of dialogue and description.
  • Craft scene descriptions that utilize the five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. I was once told that editors look for at least one example of each of the senses in all stories. In Miracle Grow I create strong visual with the statement, “The aroma of black-eyed peas and cornbread offered a warm holiday welcome.”
  • Take your reader on an emotional journey. Start the story on a low note, but then take the reader up and down emotionally through a series of highs and lows. End on an upswing. In Male Order Delivery, the story opens with the frustration I experience entering the dating world after my divorce and ends with finding my man.
  • All stories need a take-away point. The take-away point is the change the character in the story makes as a result of their experience. In Hope is a Choice, my take away point is that I resolved to shift my focus from my problems to maintain hope.
  • Deliver the take-away point through a vehicle of change. A vehicle of change is something you use to allow the reader to feel the character’s aha moment. Sometimes you have to create one. If you want to see how a vehicle of change works in a story, in Hope is a Choice, the vehicle of change I used the illustration of hitting the backspace key to help the reader connect with my take-away. In Miracle Grow, the vehicle of change is the family photo.

Keep pressing on! Don’t worry about rejections and don’t give up. Each rejection brings you closer to an acceptance. May God bless you on your own writing journey.

Follow Christy on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

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Lisa Braxton

LisaBraxton.com

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Tell us about your stories and which Chicken Soup For The Soul (CSFTS) books you’re published in.

My story is about how I met, in the place I least expected, the man I would marry.  It was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game.

Can you share with us what made you want to submit to Chicken Soup for the Soul?

I thought my story was heartwarming. I thought my story could give other mature adults who had dated for a long time and were still looking for the right match, hope and encouragement that it’s never too late to find someone you love, and who will love you.

Can you take us through your process of crafting your first submission through acceptance? 

The first draft was about 1700 words. Chicken Soup for the Soul editors require 1200 words. I whittled it down to the requirement. I had friends, co-workers, another writer, and my sister read early drafts, and then I revised it. I sent it in, and a few months later the CSFTS editors emailed to let me know that my story was a finalist for publication. They wanted to know if I was still interested in them publishing it. I signed a contract, and they emailed me later confirming that my story would be in the volume.

Did you benefit from being published in CSFTS in any specific ways you’d like to share? 

I did a book signing and gave a speech at my church in my hometown. I also gave a presentation and did a signing at a work “lunch and learn” event.  I had a feature story written about me in the town newspaper where I live, and I have a talk and book signing scheduled at a bookstore in the Boston area on October 5th.

What other ways have you taken your writing beyond your blog, besides Chicken Soup For The Soul? 

I’ve been published in the following literary magazines: Snake Nation Review, Vermont Literary Review, Literary Brushstrokes, and Clockhouse Review. I’m also finishing up work on a novel.

Do you have any tips or insights you can share with other bloggers looking to submit to CSFTS?

Speak from the heart in your writing. Make yourself vulnerable, and don’t be afraid to show your flaws and foibles in your story. Readers will be more willing to connect with your story if you open yourself up to them. Also, don’t make the story too complicated.  Start with action, pull the reader into the story, give resolution, and then wrap it up.

Follow Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+

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Peggy Frezon

The Writer’s Dog

peggy and kelly - cropped

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Tell us about your stories and which Chicken Soup For The Soul (CSFTS) books you’re published in.

I have been published in many Chicken Soup for the Soul books including: Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Dog’s Life, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New YouChicken Soup for the Dieter’s SoulChicken Soup for the Working Mom’s SoulChicken Soup for the Sister’s Soul 2Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul 2Chicken Soup for the Mother & Daughter SoulChicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers and more.

The most recent story I shared in Chicken Soup, “Puppy Love”, is about a time our pet-sitter backed out of caring for our Dalmatian puppy, and my husband and I ended up taking the pup on our honeymoon. Despite the havoc and inconvenience, we found enough love to go around.  Some other stories I’ve contributed have been about the empty nest, struggles and strategies for losing weight, and how pets have made my life richer.

Can you share with us what made you want to submit to Chicken Soup for the Soul?

I love Chicken Soup for the Soul because there is a topic for just about every interest. The stories are uplifting and easy to read, like talking to a friend.

Can you take us through your process of crafting your first submission through acceptance? 

I visit the website periodically, and look at the list of potential titles, and then think if I have a personal story that might fit an upcoming topic. I always consider the potential book topics first, rather than writing a story and then struggling to find a place for the story to fit.  After writing the first draft, I let it rest for a few days before tweaking/editing. Then I submit–the website submission page makes the process simple. When an acceptance arrives, it’s always a very welcome email!

Did you benefit from being published in CSFTS in any specific ways you’d like to share? 

Most people recognize and enjoy Chicken Soup books, so it’s a good pub cred to have. There is a bio section in the back where you can promote your books and websites. I’ve had some local television interviews and book signings as a result, that have been great.

What other ways have you taken your writing beyond your blog, besides Chicken Soup For The Soul? 

I’m a regular contributor to Guideposts magazine and also write the blog  “Pawprints on my Heart” premiering October 6th on the Guideposts website.  My books include Dieting With My Dog, The Dieting with my Dog Guide to Weight Loss and Maintenance and Heart to Heart, Hand in Paw.

My book about the human-animal bond is forthcoming in fall 2015 (Paraclete Press).

Tips and Insights for other writers and bloggers hoping to be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul:

My article “How to Write Deliciously for Chicken Soup for the Soul” is published on The Write Life and includes my tips for writers hoping to be published in the CSFTS books.

Follow Peggy on Facebook and through her newsletter

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6 Comments on “5 Bloggers Share Their Stories Of Being Published In Chicken Soup For The Soul”

  1. Pingback: Beyond Your Blog Podcast 011: Amy Newmark – Publisher/Editor-in-Chief & Co-Author, Chicken Soup For The Soul | Beyond Your Blog

  2. Pingback: Anthology Alert **Chicken Soup For The Soul** | Beyond Your Blog

  3. Hello Susan,
    Again, you never cease to amaze me. Thank you so much for this additional information.
    Did you say you could be paid in chocolate?

    1. Michelle – you are funny! Glad this piece was helpful! I loved reading all the different stories!

  4. I loved reading the thought process behind these Chicken Soup authors! One of my stories is in The Dating Game (as Christa Grabske) and now I’m going to go back to my copy and read Melissa and Lisa’s stories again!

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