In my efforts to help you know more and grow more, I
caught up with the Queen of Chicken Soup, my blogging buddy, Linda of Write From the Heart.
She's graciously agreed to share with you lucky readers, a few tips on being successfully published in this mega-popular series.
First, a little background here. So, let's rewind...
I think that anthologies are a great way for writers to get exposure for their work, network with writers across the globe, and enjoy collaborative projects that are fun and fulfilling.
As such, I've had about 10 pieces published in both poetry and short story collections.
Some I've received pay for; others I have not.
About four or five were even successfully published in Simon and Shuster's "Chocolate for a Woman's Soul" series.
But, with Chicken Soup, I have failed. Repeatedly. It remains on my "to-do" list for 2014.
So, let's see what we can learn today from Linda's winning "recipe". Shall we?
How many pieces have you had successfully published in the Chicken Soup series over the years?
I have had 20 stories published in 20 different Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
What's your approach to "cooking" a story up---do you write an essay, and then search for a "title in the series" for which it will fit, or do you find an interesting theme, and then try to write something accordingly?
I write specifically for a title in development that interests me. Although sometimes, I have an older story on file that I can tweak a bit to fit the topic. I think out-of-the-box. I saw a call out for Devotionals for (and by) Moms. I wrote from a grandmother's perspective. I knew it was a long shot, but the story was meaningful. I took a chance. It paid off.
How does this popular anthology differ from others that you've been a contributor?
Chicken Soup for the Soul is an inspirational market that pays $200 per story and ten free books.
There's a pull down menu at www.chickensoup.com with a broad range of possible titles to select from. Chicken Soup for the Soul offers more opportunities than smaller publishers who usually focus on one particular theme at a time.
I am currently developing an anthology, Not Your Mother's Book...On Family, for Publishing Syndicate. It will be available in Spring 2014. The tone is the flip side of Chicken Soup for the Soul, exactly the opposite, a bit snarky, flippant and funny. There are more than thirty titles in development for future books. This is a great place to submit. http://publishingsyndicate.com/publishing_syndicate/submissions/nymb_submit_guidelines.html
Writers need to target their markets and follow specific guidelines. Writing for inspirational markets is not the same as writing for religious publications. Writing for NYMB is nothing like writing for inspirational markets.
What's the typical response time? I've heard it can take years to be notified of
The shortest response time for me was two months, but generally it can be six months to a year, and sometimes longer. My philosophy is to write and release. In most cases writers are not notified if their story is rejected.
What advice would you give to those of us that seek to see our work in an upcoming edition?
A successful Chicken Soup for the Soul story reads like you're speaking to a friend. Imagine sitting in your best friend's living room, sipping a favorite beverage. You're at ease; there's no pretense. Just a simple, straightforward sharing of a life event. You don't need "big words" to tell your story.
Every story must be true and have a beginning, middle and end. Characters must be interesting. Using humor when appropriate is a plus. Tight writing means avoiding cliche`s and slashing unnecessary words. You should not rush through a story, but you also don't want to meander too far, either. Take the reader on a journey, but make sure you have a GPS; don't get lost along the way.
After you write the story, leave it for a day. When you return to it, you will notice places where you'll want to rewrite to make it tighter. Never send your first draft.
Revealing personal details about yourself or others can be terrifying. Letting it all hang out is not what a CS story is about, anyway. We've all had drama and sadness in our lives, but how is your life drama different than mine? What makes your story unique and uplifting? Does it have a take-away message for the reader? Is there an impact statement which readers can relate to? Does your ending reflect your opening?
What's the biggest mistake you think writers make in submitting their work for consideration?
Some writers exert too much caution, while others reveal too many details or too much information not pertinent to the story. Always follow specific writer's guidelines.
What would it surprise others to know about you?
I lived in rural Alaska in 1969-70 at the end of the Alaska Highway, and the experiences I had during that time have paid off in lots of story material. Life writing is about sharing a specific event, not telling the entire story.
Do you have a daily writing ritual?
At 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. I peruse the markets for calls for submissions. There is a free site, Giga Alerts that writers can sign up for to receive specific call outs.
I do not write every day, but I do try to blog every day at http://lindaoconnell.blogspot.com.
Anything else you'd like to add here...?
I try to find a unique slant when I write a Chicken Soup story. Because the title, (Chicken Soup, Love & Food) had a love aspect, I assumed most stories would be about relationship love. My story was not. I used terminology that led the editor to read further: "I walked into a deli and my heart skipped a beat when I recognized an old long lost love—a wedge of homemade apple walnut cake." I mentioned "flirting" with a piece of chocolate cake. I weaved humor and friendship into the story which detailed an event in the lives of my late best friend and our moms. I also included a recipe.
What is the biggest news you'd like to share?
I received an acceptance on a story I submitted to Gloria Gaynor's anthology, We Will Survive (to be released in November). The stories are based on how her 1978 hit song, I Will Survive, impacted the contributors' lives.
I received an invitation to meet with Gloria Gaynor and to be her guest at a private event concert. "First I was afraid, I was petrified..." Now, I am thrilled beyond words!
Jennifer, thank you for this opportunity to share with other writers.
Bonus: Comment on this post and your name may be selected for a special drawing where Linda is giving away free autographed copies of various Chicken Soup titles.