Chicken Soup for the Soul Book Signing Raises over $500 for A Safe Place

Chicken Soup for the Soul Book signing
Chicken Soup for the Soul Book signing

Me at the table – nervous!

We had a great turnout this week for my Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom book signing. We sold over 53 books (still counting) with $10 from each book sale* going directly to Lake County‘s domestic violence crisis center A Safe Place. We sold books from Norway to Indiana to Texas!

Chicken Soup for the Soul Book Signing

Family, friends and volunteers from the organization all pitched in and were hosted by the delicious and festive On The Border restaurant in Vernon Hills. They also graciously offered to donate 10% of food and beverage sales for those attending the event. We are waiting for the final results of their tally and then they will also be sending a check to the organization.

A special thanks to Dr. Ingrid Weimer, a long-time volunteer board member at A Safe Place for helping to organize the event. Ingrid and I have been friends for years and she was super supportive of the idea for a benefit. In addition, she brought along information on the organization and the serious issue of domestic violence. For more information, please visit their website or call their hotline 800-600-SAFE. They can do a much better job of educating you on the issues and help available.

To my friends who helped spread the word, take pictures, buy books and offer encouragement when my enthusiasm was lagging, THANK YOU!

Chicken Soup for the Soul Book Signing    Chicken Soup for the Soul Book Signing   Chicken Soup for the Soul Book Signing

Chicken Soup for the Soul Book Signing      Chicken Soup for the Soul Book Signing        Chicken Soup for the Soul Book Signing

To my brothers Mike and Joe – for either sharing my updates (with a side of sarcasm which we all appreciate) or texting support – love you both!

To my little sister, Brenda, thank you for your big heart, unique perspective, the beautiful flowers and for making me believe you’re impressed by me…even when I feel like a fraud!

Chicken Soup for the Soul Book Signing

To my big sister, Melanie, for schlepping boxes, handling money, and keeping me organized–but mostly for being a permanent life fixture, for great Mom advice, and making me be brave when I don’t want to.


To my husband Tim, daughter Emily, and son Jeremy – you three provide the material and inspiration for all of my stories (true or not). When I was 16 – I dreamed of having a family like this….thanks for making it come true.

And, of course, Thanks to My Mom, Barb Armstrong, for being extraordinary.

*The Chicken Soup for the Soul family provides books at cost (including free shipping to contributors) for fundraising efforts on behalf of non-profit organizations. If you’re interested in holding a benefit for your group/organization please contact me for more information.

One Thought on “Chicken Soup for the Soul Book Signing Raises over $500 for A Safe Place

  1. barb armstrong on April 30, 2015 at 7:01 am said:

    You make me cry which makes it very hard to read!

Soup to Nuts – How I Got My Story Published in Chicken Soup for the Soul

Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor copies arrive

A lovely writer friend said she’d love to hear step-by-step how I got my story “An Ordinary Life” published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom. I promised to do a blog post on it so here’s what happened.

Which cameChicken Soup for the Soul my name first, the chicken or the soup?

Some people write a piece then look for a place to submit others check out open calls for submissions and then write to a specific theme. I’ve done both. In this case, I really can’t remember which came first.

I think I saw the open call for their latest book and an idea popped into my head. A recent conversation with my mom had brought up an old memory and I wrote about it.

Shitty First Drafts

The first draft poured out in about 15 minutes at Panera. I read it to a good friend but she knows my mom. I wanted another opinion from someone outside my circle. I wanted to know what message an impartial reader was getting about my mom.

I had made a few connections at a writer’s retreat. I posted a request for readers on our retreat alumni Facebook page and got two responses. Kathy is a wonderful soul and she replied with general criticism and positive support which I appreciated. Ana had previously published a story in another Chicken Soup volume and has also written professionally for a long time, and gave me some great tips.

Ana went on to red-line and edit a couple of drafts for me.

Writing is Rewriting

In all, I did five or six complete drafts. I had to cut it down from about 1,600 to 1,200 words. When I first decided to commit to writing, I thought my first drafts should be good enough. If it didn’t come out perfect, I felt I lacked talent or didn’t feel like the “real deal.” I’ve since learned and come to accept that the “magic” comes in the rewriting.

If you’re just starting out, the only way to believe this is to see it work. The best wording, the right order, it all comes in revision.

Tears in the Writer

How did I know the story was working? I couldn’t read it through without crying. I’ve read it a hundred times by now and still, every time I cry. It was told from the heart.

Follow the Guidelines

The great thing about the Chicken Soup for the Soul franchise is they have explicit and easy to understand guidelines.

I followed them exactly. They tell you what is and what is not a Chicken Soup story. From making sure to include all five senses, to telling the story in first person, I just went down the list and made sure my story had all of the elements.

I cut and pasted the story to their online form a couple of weeks before the deadline. They even tell you to submit early. Your story could be great but if they’ve already decided on several that share similar attributes, you may lose out.

Keep Writing

I submitted the story in late September for an October deadline. I kept working on essays, blog posts, author interviews, book reviews, etc. I submitted the first draft of my novel to a developmental editor. In other words, I didn’t sit around and wait to hear back.

The Chicken Soup website states that you will only hear back from them if your story has been selected. They don’t do rejections. If you don’t hear back from them 60 days before the on-sale date listed on the website, you probably haven’t been chosen. My on-sale date was March 17 so I noted January 17 on my calendar.

The Good News 

On December 9, or about eight weeks after submitting, I received an email saying “Congratulations, your story has made it to the final round.” The letter indicated that out of thousands of entries, they could only select 101. It cautioned that though most in the final round would make it into the book, a few wouldn’t. The email instructed me to fill out a release, submit a bio, etc. What did “final round” mean and when would I know for sure whether or not I’d be published in a book?

Email #2

On January 2, I received a second email with a PDF of my story asking me to review it and make edits before giving my final approval. It also said “you’ve made it to the final round.” At this point, I was still confused because I’d previously “made it to the final round” so I emailed back and asked the question–am I in or not?

They quickly replied that I had made it! But, they hadn’t yet notified everyone so they asked that I not publicize it until official notice came a few days later.

Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor copies arrive

The Fun Stuff

As a contributor, I found out that I would receive exclusive monthly newsletters with information on upcoming opportunities. They also encourage contributors to keep sending in their stories for other volumes. They celebrate those contributors with multiple stories.

I received several emails from their dedicated PR firm detailing how news releases were handled and providing ideas and encouragement on how to handle book signings, charity fundraisers through book sales, etc.

About two weeks before the on-sale date, I received my 10 free contributors copy and got to autograph my first book! Contributors are paid $200 per story via check about one month following the book’s release.

That payment will end this journey but I’ve already submitted my second story.

Chicken Soup for the Soul on the shelf at Barnes and Noble

I’m in a book, on a shelf, in Barnes and Noble!


The Steps to Publication in Chicken Soup for the Soul

Hmmmm, I think I’ve read those steps before…(duh, everywhere!)

I have nothing but praise for the Chicken Soup for the Soul folks. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it is a trusted and respected market for a very specific kind of story. They know what they do best and they treat their writers well.

Did I leave anything out? Ask me a question or share your success story in the comments. I’d love to hear about your experience with Chicken Soup or other publications.





5 Thoughts on “Soup to Nuts – How I Got My Story Published in Chicken Soup for the Soul

  1. Hi Suzanne!
    What a great thing to do – write up tips. And more than that the time and energy you were willing to put into the rewrite of your story. Most people think writing is easy. Bang something out and send it off. I admire you for slogging through the process. Your story shines from all the polishing you did to and for it. Thank you for including me in your process. Congratulations on getting published. Wahoo!

    • It’s Ana…the Chicken Soup Whisperer 🙂 It isn’t easy but it is rewarding and to quote some more famous writer…it isn’t exactly coal mining either! Thanks for reading and for all the help. It’s the generosity of other writers like you that have inspired me this year.

  2. Pingback: Autographed Books to Benefit Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) | Suzanne M. Brazil

  3. ksamudio on February 29, 2016 at 5:11 pm said:

    Ok, so obviously I am commenting on this older post, but since it was referenced in your latest one I went to it. What wonderful advice & tips for those of us starting our journey (and you have already been unfailingly supportive & generous) – and I love “tears in the writer” BTW. Now I need to read the story 🙂

    • I used the Chicken Soup piece to audition for Listen to Your Mother essay reading contest and could NOT get through it even once without crying, LOL. Thanks for chiming in and feel free to share/pass on any tips with your writing group. So excited for you on your journey and so many people have been so helpful to me, it’s humbling to think anything I share might be of use to someone else.

Book Signing at On the Border to Benefit A Safe Place – UPDATE

Book Signing to benefit A Safe Place at On the Border

Book Signing to benefit A Safe Place - Chicken Soup for the SoulUPDATE: Happy to say the response to our Facebook Invite has been great! Remember, you don’t have to have a flyer. If you feel like getting out for a bite to eat, stop in and mention the book or A Safe Place and your server will make sure the charity is credited.

Even more exciting news: my mom, Barb Armstrong is now a celebrity in her new hometown. Checkout The Elk Valley Times for an article and adorable picture of my mom holding her autographed copy of the book featuring her!

I’m having a book signing to benefit local Lake County Domestic Violence charity, A Safe Place. Tuesday, April 14 from 4-7 pm at On the Border, Vernon Hills.

All profits from books sold onsite will be donated. (cash/checks) They make a great Mother’s Day gift! The restaurant has graciously offered to donate 10% of food and beverage sales all day to A Safe Place.

Tell your friends. Why not get a group together for drinks/dinner?!  Hope to see you there!





Book Signing to benefit A Safe Place at On the Border

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