Have you ever seen a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book? Of course you have! There are 11 million of them in circulation, so they’re kind of hard to miss. Have you ever wondered how the editors choose stories to publish? What if I told you it’s really easy to submit your story?
My very first break into paid publication was with a book called “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad: 101 Stories of Gratitude, Love, and Good Times.” I still remember the thrill I felt when I opened the box of books with my story “Thanks Dad” inside. As you might imagine, I was estatic.
A few months later, I submitted and published a poem in their anthology “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners: 101 Inspiration Stories of Energy, Endurance and Endorphins.” Was it because of my vast expertise in the field of running and fitness?
Did you read my last post about chicken fried steak? Then you know THAT’S not it.
Since my publication with CSS, I have been published many times over, and most recently my first novel, War Eagle Women.I really feel that it was Chicken Soup that got my foot into the door of the publishing world and I want to share this with you.
Everybody has a story to tell. I know the gears are clicking! Keep in mind that Chicken Soup publishes a couple of books a month.
YOU CAN DO THIS. You have a really great shot at finding a book that’s perfect for your story.
Here are 5 reasons why you should submit a story to them today!
1. You don’t need an agent. Many large publishers will not even speak to you without one. Chicken Soup accepts unsolicited submissions from anyone who sends them. 2. You don’t have to write a query letter or proposal. It’s as simple as clicking and submitting. 3. Chicken Soup publishes poetry as well as short stories. Few big name publishers will print a poem from an unknown writer. And, CSS pays the same whether it’s a poem or story.
4. Chicken Soup is an internationally known francise. Their books are translated into at least 40 languages worldwide. That’s a lot of publicity for someone who wants to publish a novel.Their website states that at last count they have published 11 million books. 5. Once published with CSS, you gain credibility, not only as a published writer but with an internationally known brand. Did you know that CSS is not just books? They also sell calendars, clothing, audiobooks, dog food and get this…they are making movies from their favorite short stories! You also gain opportunities. I have spoken several times on this very topic, gaining entrance to expensive writers’ conferences FOR FREE. I said it!
In addition, because I was a speaker at these conferences, I was able to chat with agents and other writers about my book in a casual way. Agents like to hear that you have published something in such a substantial, well-known brand. It makes them want to take a chance on reading bigger things…like your novel.
I know the gears are clicking. And because Chicken Soup publishes so frequently, you have a really great shot of finding the right place for your special piece.
CSS is always looking for material, but it must be clean, uplifting and 1200 words or less. Here’s a link for specific guidelines.
My family and I were watching Jim Gaffigan last night. He is really hysterical. Seriously, if you haven’t heard of him I BEG YOU to look him up on Netflix or YouTube. You won’t be sorry.
One of his funniest bits is when he dissects Southern culture. He explains with great amazement the unashamed Southern diet. (Hey, at least we’re honest about it). He says that the reason why Southerners move so slow is, “I’ve figured it out. It’s the biscuits and gravy. Everyone in the South moves around like they’ve just had two helpings.”
At least he’s not mean; it’s all in good fun. And you have to give the guy props for his self-depreciating humor (especially about his own flourescent whiteness).
As you know, I’m from Arkansas, and though I love living in Texas, I left some of my favorite people back there. All this talk about the South reminds me a LOT about the endless Arkansas jokes I’ve endured over the years. People think they are SO funny. Yeah, you’re hilarious and no I haven’t really heard that joke six million times.
At least Jim doesn’t try to talk about places he’s never visited. That is the epitome of ignorance in my book.
Sure, there is a lot of beautiful country in Arkansas. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. CNN listed Rogers, Arkansas as the number 10 “Best Places to Live in 2010”. Here’s an excerpt from their article:
“If you’re inclined to dismiss a small city in Arkansas as a backwater, you’re making a big mistake. Rogers is right next door to Bentonville, where Wal-Mart is headquartered.”
NW Arkansas also hosts the following big-money businesses: J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble, Motorola, Nestle, General Mills, Dell, PepsiCo, either as a primary business or a vendor of Wal-Mart. That’s some big money.
Also, the University of Arkansas trains some of the best engineers, nurses, and writers in the world. I know a few of them. There is also talk of Fayetteville bidding to host the Olympics:
Here are some of the stupid (real life) questions I’ve been asked about my life in Arkansas.
1. Q. Did you marry your cousin?
A. No, I don’t really check out my immediate family for dating material. That’s Victorian England you’re thinking of.
2. Q. Did you have indoor plumbing growing up?
A. Yes, and thanks for your concern. I was wondering if you currently have indoor plumbing because your body odor begs to differ.
3. Q. Is there anything to do in Arkansas? I mean, besides checking out your cousins? I mean, isn’t it pretty backwoods?
A. Actually, Northwest Arkansas is quite a lot more metropolitan than most people realize. Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale, and Fayetteville have pretty much grown together and support a population somewhere close to half a million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
4. Q. Ever see “Deliverance?” Wasn’t that filmed in Arkansas?
A. Yes, I have seen it. Wasn’t that much to write home about, so I didn’t. Did you get your facts from the internets?
5. Q. Did you live in a trailer?
A. No, but I don’t judge people who do, and I’ve lived in some real craphole apartments. I think you were my neighbor once.
This isn’t really a question so I won’t label it as such. My favorite line from Jim: “The South won’t rise again because they don’t have the energy.”
This is where I beg to differ. If Arkansas is any indication of the laziness of the South, everybody better get ready. In my view, it’s really the Sleeping Giant of the nation. Don’t mistake the slow talking for slow thinking or Southern hospitality for ignorance.After we have some more biscuits and gravy, we’re really gonna kick your butts.
Now, have a glass of sweet tea. Y’all want lemon with that?
If you haven’t visited Arkansas, I highly recommend it. Here’s some links to get you started.
I don’t know why, but I have an unhealthy attraction to survival shows. My favorite so far is “Out of the Wild: the Alaska Experiment.” Those people were freaking insane! Just normal working stiffs, they took a three-day survival class and then volunteered to be DUMPED INTO THE ALASKAN WILDERNESS until which time they were able to find their way out. The show took great pains to tell us that nobody on the show was paid a penny.
I was breathlessly watching this show on Netflix…from the comfort of my couch. I don’t mind seeing other people voluntarily share a mouse for dinner or shivering under a tarp all night…as long as I can keep my own environment at a comfortable 70 degrees.
Some people dropped out after the first day. There was a tough old bird from Kentucky who was good with a shotgun that I would have bet money on was gonna win the thing. Two days later (after finding out everyone else had a bite of mouse and didn’t share) she said, “Later, gators!” and pressed her little GPS locator to call the helicopter to pick her up.
I was dumbfounded. I thought she was gonna make it for sure. For real, I didn’t think the tiny Asian medical student would make it–first of all, she didn’t have a lot of fat to work off in the first place, and secondly it seemed evident that her life of privilege was sure to work against her. But it turned out in a shocking twist, that the super tough country boy went down like a bouncy house in a paintball fight.
The tiny Asian chick really rocked, and nearly made it to the last episode.
Anyway, it struck me that this show is a lot like raising teens. Just so you know, they canceled it because people figured out it sucked to be dropped into the Alaska with only a compass and a stick of beef jerky.
1. You’re in unfamiliar territory with very little training. Where are the teen parenting courses? If they’re out there, I hope experts are teaching. And by experts, I mean people who have raised at least one teenager with their bare hands. All the degrees in the world don’t impress me unless you can tell me you’ve been there in the trenches.
2. The map sucks and looks like it was drawn by drunken preschoolers.You can read every book ever written, and until you’re dropped in and left in the situation to figure it out…it pretty much seems unreal.
3. There are wild things … everywhere. Sometimes the wild things belong to and resemble…us.
4. It’s hard to know who to trust. To be good at survival parenting you must have a network, but sometimes when it gets tough, friends we thought we trusted turn out to be not so trustworthy. Trust your gut on this one.Most time it’s just because they are busy too and that people tend to be selfish and self-centered. If you are going through something (with your kid or otherwise) you will undoubtedly find out who your real friends are. They are the ones who come sit with you in the waiting room while your kid is having surgery, without being asked. Keep that friend.
5. It’s really cold some nights and the fire just doesn’t seem hot enough. Again, when raising teens (and kids in general) can sometimes be socially isolating. Take time to reconnect with your teen and your family, especially your spouse. It’s a lot warmer in the frontier when you have someone to snuggle with.
7. Sometimes you just have to call the helicopter. Don’t be afraid to ask for backup. This parenting thing–it’s a beautiful mystery sometimes, and not one to be handled alone. That’s why on the Alaska show they didn’t just send in one person, because they knew it was too dangerous and chances are nobody would sign on for that. So don’t you try to do it alone either.
7. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, and you will never forget the experience. Raising kids is totally worth it, and though at times you feel extremely frustrated and nauseated, there are moments of silent beauty that you wouldn’t trade for the world.
Do you watch reality shows? Which is your favorite?
My son Nathan is momentarily experiencing bliss–all from a chicken. “Mom…this is soooo good,” he says with his mouth full. I giggle. It’s the week of Thanksgiving, and I’m home from class, so I thought I should cook something. It’s kind of my thing. So many times I am not here to do the “mom” things for him (I work 30 hours a week and am a graduate English student, a writing tutor and a writer) so when I’m able, I try to make something he likes.
I sometimes wish I had something else to share with this man-child who has grown six inches in as many months, but I tried playing “Call of Duty” and (it’s just sad) ended up blowing myself up. So, I go with my strengths: cooking. That’s how I get him to turn off the video games and chat with me for a while–or as long as the food lasts. It sometimes bothers me that I have such a connection with cooking. It’s so cliché, right? I guess 50 years of feminist rhetoric have done little to change that part of me that equates feeding with love. Did the works of Gloria Anzaldúa and Julia Kristeva (whom I adore) fall on deaf ears? When I read these women, I learn from them, but I find little of me, my soul, changes. They have done little to alter that part of me, inherited from my grandmother, that takes pride in creating something from nothing. It seems confusing, but it’s not.
I am a liberated, educated, American woman who does not need to lean on archaic ideas of womanhood. Except, maybe it’s the misconception of those ideas that distracts us. Maybe the feminists of past and present wrote and spoke not to take away from my freedom to roast the perfect chicken, but rather to keep that freedom to do what keeps us happy. And writing does make me happy–just like cooking. I don’t have to choose. Good writing is cooking, when you think about it. Taking letters, forming them into words, and stringing those words together in a meaningful way, it’s not for everyone. Plato wrote, “[Rhetoric] seems to me then . . . to be a pursuit that is not a matter of art, but showing a shrewd, gallant spirit which has a natural bent for clever dealing with mankind, and I sum up its substance in the name flattery…Well now, you have heard what I state rhetoric to be–the counterpart of cookery in the soul, acting here as that does on the body.” I guess I see the connection: To take an ugly chicken carcass and to baste it in olive oil and garlic and roast it to perfection (that makes my teenage son ecstatic) or writing a short blog, are not so different. Either way, it sure feels good to see my son, who I don’t always understand, get a second plate.
Mama’s Roasted Chicken
1 whole chicken
1 12-oz bottle of Italian dressing
4 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350. Remove chicken from wrap, as well as inside package. Rinse thoroughly and place in a roasting pan. Pour dressing over the chicken, coating thoroughly (I use about half a bottle). Top with salt and pepper, as well as garlic. Cover with foil and bake for two hours,then take the foil off. Bake another half hour then check with a meat thermometer to ensure it’s done. It needs to be at least 160 degrees.
I was a weird kid and an even weirder teen. I often stayed up after lights out reading–it almost didn’t matter what. I would check out library books by the dozen. Back then, my favorites were Judy Blume, V.C.Andrews, Stephen King and (don’t tell my mom) illicit romances.
Even more liberating, I discovered that the librarian would not even BLINK AN EYE at the titles I’d pick. The first time I tried to check out an inappropriate book, my heart raced and my palms dripped…I just knew that Old Man Clardy (who, now that I think about it, was probably in his 40s–DANG IT!) was going to call the cops on me–or the very least, my Sunday school teacher. When I saw that he was barely even awake and gazed at my selections with all the vigilance of a late night convince store clerk, I had an eureka moment.
This, I told myself, was a taste of freedom. Nobody cared what I read. The sky was the limit! I burned through books like Chelsea Handler and vodka. Nothing was too steamy–nothing too scary.
I still remember my first time reading Stephen King’s The Shining. Entranced by Jack Torrence’s steady descent into madness, I lost track of time. The next thing I knew, it was 2:00 a.m. and I was exhausted. I turned off the lights and prepared for a long rest–which never came. Thanks to my vivid (and a tiny bit obsessive) mental reenactments of Danny Torrence’s visions and Jack Torrence’s violent escapades, I couldn’t even close my eyes.
That jacket hanging over the chair? Not a jacket at all–it’s Jack, holding a croquet mallet, waiting for me to doze. The longest night in the world gave way to morning, and I showed up to 8th grade biology looking a bit hung over and a lot nervous. When I went back to the library, I silently gave Mr. Clardy the stink-eye for not protecting me from my own reading choices. What the heck? Wake up and do your job, man!
Anyway, Here’s a list of my top 6
picks for teens. I’ve made an effort to pick challenging, but not too horrifying/graphic books for your Mancub or Watergirl. Some of them are a bit darker, so if your kid shies away from that, I’d definitely avoid Speak. However, I found it a compelling and heartbreaking read that has stuck with me ever since I opened the covers. Mancub has listened to The Shining on audiobook as we were traveling home from Arkansas, and he really liked it. At least I think he did. But he is MY kid…so keep that in mind before introducing The Kingster to yours.
1. Divergent by Veronica Roth
2. Among the Hidden (Shadow Children, #1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix
4. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
5. Speak by Laurie Hulse Anderson
6. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: What is your top pick for your favorite teen book?
Sometimes when Watergirl comes to visit Mancub can’t help becoming all starry-eyed. He can actually be motivated to…wait for it…clean his room if that’s the condition set. They are really adorable, just sitting on the couch next to one another, holding hands, staring into one another’s eyes, basking in the heady feeling of young love.
I remember the days of my early courtship with my hubby.
The primping, eyelash curling, hair crimping, sliding into my best pair of stonewashed jeans (it was the 80s so back off). My hubby wouldn’t dare come pick me up without slicking back his impressive mullet,wearing his Izod polo, and zipping up his custom-made leather jacket. Oh the days of young love! We both looked like a million bucks…by 1988’s standards.
Fast forward a few decades. Most days, I don’t look like a million bucks…I’d be lucky if it was five bucks. Sometimes I get super lazy, and I feel like wearing my “lucky” yoga pants (read: the ones without holes) and my “Blue Man Group” t-shirt is dressing up enough. It’s soft and doesn’t have any stains. Makeup and hair? Are you kidding? For what? So I can look like Lady Gaga while I fry chicken and scrub the toilet? It’s hard to feel romantic when the sink is backed up and I’m not sure where that smell is coming from.
If you’ve been married long enough to have kids, then you know what I’m talking about. We get so busy with school functions, football games, band concerts, teacher’s meetings…it’s hard to carve out that time to spend together. To dress up and be somebody pretty for a while, and to reconnect with the most important person in our lives. BUT WE HAVE TO.
It’s not that the fire has gone out, really…it’s just that whenever there is a romantic moment, one of the kids shows up with a fire extinguisher. As we in the South are fond of saying, “Bless their little hearts.” It’s difficult to give romance priority when the sink is full of dishes, we’re out of milk, the hamster escaped and the dog just pooped in the kitchen. Sometimes we don’t even realize we need to spend some grownup time together.
Here are 7 signs mom and dad need a date night pronto, yesterday, STAT!
1. The last time you sat next to one another that didn’t involve a TV was at the principal’s office at your kid’s school.
2. You’re unsure if you could pick your husband out of a lineup.
3. The last time you went to a movie together, Mel Gibson was the star.
4. There are dents in the sofa where your butts have been, even when vacant.
5. It’s been months since you’ve eaten anywhere that doesn’t require yelling into a glow-in-the-dark speaker.
6. The last time your husband gave you “the look” was when you grilled him a steak.
7. The last time you felt the old stirring was when your hubby took out the trash without being asked.
Take heart, dear parent. All will be well again. Get a sitter, and visit a restaurant that doesn’t serve french fries or fake food in yellow wrappers. See a movie that doesn’t star puppets, princesses or talking Legos. Want to get really wild? Have a glass of wine (or the adult beverage of your choice) and reconnect to this man who stole your heart and knew you pre-stretch marks. You both deserve it.
Oh, and talk about something other than runaway hamsters.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: What’s your favorite date night destination?
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