The “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books have practically become a household name, not only in the United States, but throughout much of the world. The series consistently shocks the publishing industry year after year with record sales. In fact, the books are listed in the Guinness Book of World Records with the most books on the New York Times bestsellers list at one time – seven books on May 24, 1998.
Started by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, and published by Health Communications Inc., the Chicken Soup books have 101 inspirational stories submitted by regular people with interesting, uplifting tales to tell. The first book, “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” was an experiment to see if people would like a book filled with true stories. Shortly after publication it created a “Chicken Soup” craze. Customers would buy one and come back several days later and buy five more to give as gifts.
Thousands of people flooded the authors and publishers with their own stories, and Canfield and Hansen realized they had discovered a need far greater than they had anticipated. People were crying out for more heartwarming stories. They began to divide topics for specific titles in a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series: “Chicken Soup for the Sister’s Soul” – filled with true stories about sisters; “Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor’s Soul”; “Chicken Soup for the Military Wife’s Soul”; “Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Lover’s Soul”; and Jewish souls, preteen souls, bedtime stories, single parent’s souls, and more than 120 others. With at five to six new “Chicken Soup” books per year, the books have added up over the past 14 years.
Sagle’s Norma Favor submitted a story. “My daughter encouraged me to write a story and submit it online, because I’m always telling stories about when I was little or when my mother was little,” said Favor. “My first one was about my grandmother. It was published and I enjoyed it so much I wrote another one which just came out in ‘Chicken Soup for the Shopper’s Soul.’ “
Favor’s true story titled, “Rummage Sale Fortune,” tells of leaner days when Favor wasn’t sure how she and her husband would afford to clothe their family until she spotted a sign for a giant rummage sale on Saturdays. She decided to check it out, and came home with her arms loaded with clothes and what-nots for her family. Her husband was shocked and worried that someone may have seen their car at the rummage sale and realized his wife had been buying secondhand goods. It develops into a cute story where he eventually becomes the rummage sale king.
“I have a rich storytelling background, and I’ve kind of been the keeper of the stories in my family. My kids write and they also have stories published in some of the ‘Chicken Soup’ books,” Favor said.
The “Chicken Soup” books have different guidelines than most books. You don’t have to be a great writer to be published, but you do have to have a great story. The editors will work with you to make the writing great.
“The ‘Chicken Soup’ editors helped me a lot, talking on the phone and e-mailing back and forth,” Favor said. “If they really like your story they’ll help you develop it. That’s how I learned how to start a story to get the reader’s attention, and end up with something that will actually strike a chord with people. They pay about $200 for 500 words, and anybody can come up with 500 words. The main thing is to get your story down. Get out all the flimflam and get down to the bare knuckles.”
Favor has had several other stories published in anthologies since her first publication in “Chicken Soup for the Grandma’s Soul.”
“There’s a lot of editing to do, and if you write about somebody you have to get their permission, so I try to write about dead people,” she laughed. “I have so many stories to tell I think the thing to do is to write a book, or maybe a novel. My mother had such an unusual life I think I could write a novel about that.”
Favor and her grown children have shown that ordinary people without college degrees in creative writing can get published if they have worthwhile tales to tell; stories that are uplifting, encouraging or bring a chuckle into the reader’s life.
“I hope this encourages other people to get in there and write because out of thousands and thousands of people who send stories into Chicken Soup, maybe 200 get picked,” said Favor.
In actuality, most “Chicken Soup” books have 101 stories, a number the creators of the series deemed as golden. And apparently, they were right.
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