"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Chicken Soup, Anyone? Tips to Getting Published by Contributor Linda O'Connell







In my efforts to help you know more and grow more, I stalked
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
acceptance.
 
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.
 


38 comments:

  1. Great post, Jen, and Linda--thanks for sharing your "recipe." However, even if we're cooking with words and follow your recipe, I don't think our "dish" is going to be as good as what YOU serve up...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sioux,

      Thanks so much for the positive feedback.:-) Linda is indeed a super-chef here!

      Delete
  2. Sioux,
    You have many of the ingredients and have proven yourself to be a CS writer. Thanks for your comments.

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    Replies
    1. And thanks to you, Linda, for serving up this flavorful piece. :-)

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  3. Great tips, Linda! I would love to see that whole story you wrote for the C/S Food and Love book!

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  4. Great information from an accomplished writer! Thank you Jennifer & Linda! I too am a want-a-be CS writer. They've courted me, wined & dined me, and walked me to the door, only to leave me standing there with an unrequited pucker. :( But I'm determined, and many of these tips may very well give me the extra allure needed.

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    Replies
    1. You're very welcome, Bobby Barbara; we hope to see you here again.

      Delete
  5. What an enjoyable read ... er, recipe!
    Tho' I'm too chicken (no pun intended) to set myself up for failure and actually submit a story, there's lots to be learned for us "casual" bloggers. In my case, tighten up ... then tighten some more!

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  6. Thanks, Jennifer, for a great interview of one of my favorite people. I love to hear Linda read her stories at the St. Louis Writers' Guild Open Mic. She is a special person, and a wonderful writer. Good advice in this interview, which I will take to heart, at I just submitted my first story to Chicken Soup books, the one about dogs. I was surprised to read in their guidelines that they also take poetry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Faye,

      Yes they do take poetry. I actually had one poem that made the initial "cut" many years ago.

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    2. By the way...good luck with your story! Keep us posted.

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  7. Hi Linda....If anyone can tell us about Chicken Soup stories being accepted, it is you. You truly are the "queen" of the C.S. books! I think that is pretty impressive and amazing.

    Thanks, Jennifer, for inviting Linda to post on your blog. She's a great lady. Susan

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Susan. You'll get no argument here. :-)

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  8. Thanks for sharing your recipe for a Chicken Soup story! Great tips.

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  9. Jennifer and I have CS non-acceptance in common! I have never even gotten a nibble from them, although I have been printed elsewhere. I love the line "write and release" like the catch and release at the river. I often feel like I am "fishing" in dark water when I send out a submission!

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    Replies
    1. Bookie,

      Wishing you much luck in the future; don't give up. :-)

      Delete
  10. Hi Linda -

    Congrats on your many acceptances. You've certainly perfected your "recipe."

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  11. Thanks, Jennifer, for serving up Linda's Chicken Soup recipe. I have submitted to that anthology a couple of times, but Chicken Soup is really not my cup of tea. With these tips, I may give it another try.

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    Replies
    1. Val,

      It has been a pleasure. Thanks for your thoughts today.

      Delete
  12. Thanks, Linda, for sharing your winning recipe and your secrets to success with Chicken Soup. You are inspiration to writers!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Linda, great tips for Chicken Soup and writing in general. I've found no matter what the subject, humor helps. To Bobby and Mevely above, the answer to getting published is submit, submit, submit. First you are afraid, (Gloria on the brain) but all they can do is say no. I'm not going to admit how many essays I sent to Chicken Soup or how many got soooo close to being published. Ok, so I kept the rejection notices which I refer to as, "You may already be a loser." But now I have 9 stories under my belt. Just keep repeating, "Submit, submit, submit."


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great interview Jennifer of a local hero in STL writing circles. The thing about Linda is, she shares, and what she's got to share is valuable, helpful and generous. And to chip in, I heard an author on NPR on day refer to his secret to finally breaking through to getting published, and of course now I'm blanking on his name....but he said it takes, "knuckle headed persistence." So there you go, you knuckle heads.

      Jean Ellen Whatley, author of Off the Leash

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    2. Thanks, Jean Ellen. This "knuckle head" appreciates your time and your comment. :-)

      Delete
  14. Jennifer Thank you for inviting Linda to share with us. I appreciate any help I can receive.

    Linda: Thank you for your suggestions.

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    Replies
    1. quietspirit,

      Thanks so much for adding to the mix here. :-)

      Delete
  15. Linda, I have a theory that the editors at CS don't even read your stories anymore. They see your name and just send a contract. :)

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  16. Quiet Spirit, your blog name has a calming effect. Thank you for your visit.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great interview. I think I will copy and paste part of it for future reference. Linda is a winner when it comes to writing!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for
    this post Jennifer and Linda,

    I like all the practical tips, and the whole idea of Anthologies in General. Also I actually already had some little successes with getting short simple straightforward - conversationally written - funny true life stories
    published in the past.

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    Replies
    1. Glad you liked, H.P., always a pleasure to hear from you. :-)

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  19. I am so pleased that my advice may lead to a published story for all of you. Thank you for your comments.

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  20. Jennifer and Linda,

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Linda, thanks for your very useful tips, and congratulations on acceptance of your story in the Gloria Gaynor anthology, as well as the opportunity to be her guest. I loved how you weaved some of the lyrics of her song in your response to the invitation:).

    I have submitted two stories to Chicken Soup, and am waiting to hear if they were accepted.

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    Replies
    1. Yasmin,

      Wonderful to hear. Hope you have a winning recipe! Keep us posted.

      Delete
  21. And the winners are Janet, and H P Van Duuren.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Lovely,

    Thanks, Linda. Excited for the winners here. Especially H.P., who is a loyal follower and commenter. :-)

    Should they Email you their addresses?

    ReplyDelete
  23. H.P and Janet, please email Linda O'Connell at billin7@yahoo.com with your mailing address and also the title of the book you would like. Jennifer, you win too, please send your address and title request. Hop on over and read about GiGi and me http://lindaoconnell.blogspot.com

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    Replies
    1. Wow! Will do. :-) Thanks much! And I hope to be able to submit a story to your anthology soon. Things have been a little crazy lately...

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