In 2000, just a few days before I married my late husband, Ken Wilson, I'd picked up a copy of Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul at an international conference on self-esteem in San Francisco. I'd presented on my work with adolescents in Arkansas, Belize, and Seychelles. Maybe twenty people dropped by, mostly to ask whether I knew of any cheap hotels for backpack travelers in the tropical paradises where I'd worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer. A few wanted to know what the folks in Arkansas really thought of Bill Clinton, who seemed to be fending off endless scandals related to his way with women.
Thousands crowded into the room next door to hear Jack Canfield, one of the founders of the popular Chicken Soup anthology series. My soon-to-be spouse kept tilting his head towards the partition dividing our group from the revelers next door. After I concluded my remarks, Ken and I joined the throngs waiting for Canfield to sign one of his books. I selected the pet book because Ken loved Akitas.
Ken read the book, and commented on how heartwarming the stories were. I'd never read any of these books. They'd become popular during '90s, the decade I'd lived overseas.
Not long after we retired to Northeast Washington, one winter afternoon I decided not to risk the icy roads to drive to the Colville library to pick up something to cheer me up. I'd been sneezing and sniffling, and sought a little sunshine. My eye fell on the Chicken Soup book.
Coincidentally, I'd made homemade chicken soup that afternoon, and while Ken and I spooned some up at supper I observed that I'd been reading this book.
"You know what? I think I can write something for that series," I announced, full of bluster.
"Go for it," my amiable hubby responded. "I double dog dare you."
Ken Wilson was no bluffer. He meant business. So I located the Chicken Soup for the Soul website, and saw a call for stories about brothers and sisters. That week I wrote "Easter Bloomers," about my little brother when we were kids over half a century earlier. Months later I got a letter from the editors that my story had survived the selection process, accompanied by a contract. The book came out in September, 2007, Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating Brothers and Sisters: Funnies and Favorites About Growing Up and Being Grown Up. Dahlynn and Ken McKowen were the co-editors of this particular title.
Later I learned about the WOW Principles newsletter that their company, Publishing Syndicate, issued monthly for free, and I subscribed. It was always full of tips about how to write for anthologies. It's archived on the Publishing Syndicate website, dozens of copies of back issues.
Subsequently I became an in-house editor for Ken and Dahlynn, and now a co-creator for some of the titles in their new series, Not Your Mother's Book. A couple of years ago I became their first featured guest editor. Yesterday I drafted my fourth contribution to WOW Principles, "So What About Once Upon a Time," which will be published in the September issue.
It's been only five years since that first story of mine appeared in an anthology. I now have 57 anthologies between and A and Z bookends atop my entertainment center. There's another dozen or more to be published in the next several months, and an additional eight or ten pending "maybes."
When people ask me where I get my ideas or how I find time to write, I think of Henry Miller who had 11 commandments for writing. I just have one. Mine is "Don't wait for the muse. Sit down at the keyboard and start poking keys. The muse has been wondering where you were."
Don't wait. Start writing your true story now for Not Your Mother's Book: My First Time.
And if you're in need of more prompting, here's Mr. Miller on how he structures his writing day: