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!
    Ana

    • 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.

Have Courage and Be Kind

cinderella

cinderella

I’m busy trying to “think big” and organize a book signing for my first book. It takes some guts to call coffee shops and bars and tell them you’re a “writer” and you have a “book” and you’d like to take up their valuable space to sign some books and donate some money to charity. My inner critic is a bully and I’m ignoring her while telling myself “someone will come.” More on that later…

A writer friend from cyberspace suggested I do a soup-to-nuts breakdown of how I got my story published in Chicken Soup. I was going to post that today but got busy finalizing another interview with a New York Times best-selling author! Stay tuned for that too!

Lastly, I spent a lovely Sunday with a family birthday breakfast for my daughter, dinner with friends and managed to see Cinderella at the movies. Highly recommend the latest live action version. And in the words of Cinderella and her mother,

“Have courage and be kind.”

2 Thoughts on “Have Courage and Be Kind

  1. Well done Suzanne for staying strong against that internal critic, what a bully it is. I empathise heartily. Good luck with everything and celebrate all that you have achieved.

World Book Day Announcement – Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

indie book store

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom: Thanks to My Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s World Book Day! To celebrate, I’m officially announcing my first published story in a book! Even more than books, my mom, Barb Armstrong, has been the biggest influence in my life. I miss seeing her every day but I’m grateful for the visits and our daily chats. Our story, “An Ordinary Life” is included in this anthology co-authored by Amy Newmark and Jo Dee Messina of country music fame.

Books go on sale March 17 and are available through pre-order on Amazon and many local bookstores.

The Chicken Soup for the Soul family continues to provide positive, uplifting stories.  I think we can use more of those! More details to come!

Press Release Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Mom and 5 kids

“An Ordinary Life” My mom, Barb, and her 5 kids

Side note: Beautiful cover–Purple is my favorite color and daisies just happen to be my mom’s favorite flower!

indie book store amazon logo

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Two Great Places to Submit Your Personal Essays

Listen to Your Mother - an Ann Imig Production

My Mom is the Awesomest! So, I wrote a story about her…

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

The wonderful folks at Chicken Soup for the Soul chose my story “An Ordinary Life” for publication in an upcoming anthology. I’ll have a press release and everything! Stay tuned for more but here’s a sneak peak at the cover.

Have you considered submitting to Chicken Soup? They always have projects in the works. I’ll do an update on the submission and selection process as the release date approaches. Sign up here for updates!

Listen to Your Mother - an Ann Imig Production

And in other news… I submitted an essay for consideration to Listen to Your Mother – Chicago 2015. I received an email saying that my essay had been selected for the audition process. Yikes! I’m nervous but excited to give it a shot. Live Lit is intriguing for so many reasons. You can read about one of Chicago’s best performers/ producers here.  Auditions are in the next two weeks. Fingers crossed!

Whatever your inspiration, you can use what you’re writing to pay tribute, have fun or even to ham it up on stage. How has your mom (or dad, sister, uncle) inspired you?

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