|Chicken Soup publisher Amy Newmark with contributors at Buca di Beppo, Carlsbad, CA|
"Terri?" she asked, approaching me. I'd arrived a little early, since I'd been uncertain how long the trek would take me from my Westminster home. It looked as if I were the first guest there. When I'd promoted Amy's book, Simply Happy, at a San Bernardino library event several months ago, my photo had appeared in the Chicken Soup communique, "The Inner Circle." Still, I never would have expected that Amy would be able to associate my face with my name.
D'ette Cortona whirled around from where she'd been arranging identification tags, and asked how I liked being back in California. Barbara LoMonaco joined us and we chatted briefly about the Chicken Soup luncheon I'd had for my book club friends shortly before I moved south, and how I still treasured my Chicken Soup picture frame, apron and oven mitt. Talk about a warm welcome!
How could they keep us all straight, I wondered, as I watched the three women greet roughly 60 other area writers as they filed into the upstairs dining room of this cozy Italian restaurant. Since I'd stolen a seat near the front, I listened in on many of the conversations. What a family reunion, with conversations focusing not so much on writing, but on updates about children, grandchildren, marriages, divorces, graduations and career changes.
|With D'ette Corona|
As I chatted with those seated closest to me, Sallie Rodman and BJ Jensen, I realized that I, too, enjoy an insider's view into so many lives. That's the secret of the Chicken Soup magic. All of us who write for the series willingly reveal our daily triumphs and tragedies. I know more about the daily lives of many of my fellow contributors than I do about my neighbors and relatives.
Though few of the contributors had met in person before, we settled into an easy familiarity. BJ Jensen, who took the photo at the top of this page, declared she was dining with her true BFFs. (And for the curious, and the foodies, no, we didn't spoon up chicken soup. Instead, our waiters served us bruschetta, Caesar and apple and Gorgonzola salads, penne basilica, chicken
|Barbara LoMonoco and husband Frank|
"Our mission is more important than ever before," Amy began, adding that the Chicken Soup franchise ALWAYS has been about kindness. "We will continue to feature stories about people from all religions, from all gender identifications, from all walks of life."
She revealed that the Chicken Soup webmaster has been receiving angry letters, mostly from old women, complaining that as a Christian publication, the franchise should not be publishing stories about gay couples or people who adhere to other religious beliefs.
"We are not exclusively a Christian publication," Amy said. "We welcome inclusion. If we lose readers who fault us for that, then we do. We have never been political in the past. But if promoting kindness now is seen as political, then we're political."
An old woman myself, I personally congratulated Amy for taking a strong public position. Because I'm dating a rabbi, I, too, have been subjected to some mean-spirited comments. (A personal aside: my new love is the founder and past president of the Orange County Interfaith Council, dedicated to combating hate crimes. I've been writing about some of these experiences, and will continue to.) Amy reminded me that she covers the topic of ridding oneself of toxic people in Simply Happy.
Amy emphasized that the upcoming book, My Kind (of ) America, exemplifies Chicken Soup's dedication to fighting mean-spirited attitudes and open expressions of hate that have increased over the past year or two. This new book will feature stories that reflect what Amy believes is the true nature of our country.
This is how it's described on the Chicken Soup website: Our book about Random Acts of Kindness was a big hit, and we are doing another one now, with an emphasis on the USA. America has always been known as a kind country, filled with people who care about one another and about the rest of the world, too. We live in a country filled with good people who volunteer in our communities, help people who need help, and pride ourselves on doing the right thing. Our huge and varied country is known for tolerance, energy, and spirit. We are proud of our inclusive and welcoming attitude, no matter our color, our country of origin, our sexual identity, or our religion.
|Amy and Barbara introducing key personnel involved in May Chicken Soup releases|
Tips from Amy for fellow contributors to this series:1. Don't be discouraged if you don't get as many acceptances as in the past. Chicken Soup now receives nearly double the number of submissions for each title, five to six thousand, rather than the two to three thousand it used to expect. (My guess is that this is because the number of publications seeking first person creative nonfiction has diminished in the past few years. Chicken Soup remains one of the last publications that pays well for our stories.)
2. Current pet peeves include dangling participles ("Having no pulse, I dialed 911,") and contributors, sometimes even seasoned ones, who submit what obviously is a first draft, expecting the Chicken Soup editors to clean it up. (If you don't like to edit, ask yourself...do you like to get published?)
3. Don't assume that just because one of your stories isn't accepted for the title you submitted to, that it's been discarded. Sometimes it's kept in the database with a future title in mind. Resubmit stories that you think might fit current upcoming titles. (I've successfully resubmitted stories that had not been accepted the first time around.)
4. Chicken Soup appreciates the local promotions, the book signings and interviews that contributors do, since it's difficult these days for publishers to get press and television coverage. It's even getting difficult to persuade retailers to stock books. The company also lost money in the Border's bankruptcy. ( I've loved seeing Chicken Soup books with my stories in such stores as Walmart, Rite Aid and Safeway. A friend tells me that authors call this "seeing it in the wild." I hope these businesses continue to stock Chicken Soup books.)
all possible gifts for May events. Though I don't have stories in these editions, writer friends of mine do. And every Chicken Soup book contains stories that will warm your heart.
Here's the link to my blog about that Chicken Soup luncheon from a few years back.
|My 2014 Chicken Soup luncheon|