The Chicken Soup for the Soul series has branched out into various sub series and genres over the years. Do you have a favorite one?
You are so right — we have branched out into various new areas over the years, and not just in the publishing field. We have been making a line of super premium dog and cat food for more than 10 years, and we also have a fairly new line of food for people—soups, pasta sauces, meal builder sauces, and other delicious things. We’re also making a major motion picture with Alcon Entertainment (the studio that made The Blind Side) and we are developing a daily talk show and a children’s TV shows.
In the book series, we have added some great new areas to cover, and this has resulted in many national bestsellers. We have had a great response to our new books on awesome spiritual events — books about miracles, angels, divine intervention, and messages from beyond. And we have also been regularly publishing hit books about dogs and cats. We also have moved more into books that support specific non-profits. In the last few months, we put our a bestselling book on Alzheimer’s, with all royalties going to the Alzheimer’s Association, two pet books with royalties going to the American Humane Association, and a book about traumatic brain injuries, with royalties going to the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
Does your office do anything special for National Chicken Soup for the Soul Day?
Actually we do not do anything special that day! We did not create National Chicken Soup for the Soul Day, and we don’t know where it came from. It was already on those holiday calendars when we bought the company in 2008, and when we asked know how it came about, no one seemed to know. I guess we have a big fan somewhere who started it, and we are certainly grateful for that.
What do you like most about working on the series?
I know this is going to sound hopelessly sentimental, but I really do love hearing about how our books have changed people’s lives. We get so much snail mail and email from people who tell us how a certain book or even a specific story turned everything around for them. And it’s not just the readers. We hear from all our story contributors as well, that writing their stories was cathartic for them, or helped them get their thoughts straight about a problem, or that getting published by us was a life changing event for them.
What kind of stories do you look for when you're sifting through submissions and working with authors?
We get thousands of submissions for every book, and we can only print 101 of them, so we do have a pretty good idea what we are looking for. We want true, personal stories that make you want to pick up the phone and share them, stories that you want to retell to someone else. We look for stories that start in the action, that share a revealing interesting story, and that impart a lesson or a belly laugh. Stories can be heartfelt or they can be just plain entertaining. But we want to feel something.
What are some interesting stories/life lessons that come to your mind that we can expect in the latest edition?
Our latest book is called Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength. It is one of the most powerful collections I have ever made. The book contains stories from 101 different people who are truly role models for all of us. They show us that ordinary people can become extraordinary people when life demands it, and they give us all hope that we can summon up our own inner strength when we need it.
One of the stories that comes to mind for me is about a woman who I met in my office a few months ago named Ginger Katz. After I met her I asked her to write her story for the book because I was so impressed. This woman lost her teenage son to drug addiction. She was a middle class mother and this wasn’t supposed to happen to her family. The doctor told her not to say what happened at the funeral. But Ginger couldn’t sleep the night before the funeral. She knew she had to tell the truth. So she stood up at the funeral and told everyone how her son died and she started the Courage to Speak Foundation. She now travels all over speaking to kids and parents about drug addiction. I’m sure she has saved a lot of kids.
To kick off National Chicken Soup for the Soul Day, here's one of the inspiring stories from the latest edition:
Life is short, so live it. Love is rare, so grab it. Fear controls you, so face it. Memories are precious, so cherish them. We only get one life, so live it! ~Author Unknown
When I woke from anesthesia after surgery to remove a seemingly benign ovarian cyst, I received some unexpected and unpleasant news. My doctor told me that I had cancer. The dreaded “C word!” And worse yet, ovarian cancer, also known as “the silent killer.”
Questions and emotions overwhelmed me. Was I going to live? What was going to happen next? How would I tell my loved ones? Would I lose my hair?
From thereon out, it was a whirlwind. Everything happened so quickly. Chemotherapy began two weeks after my diagnosis. I learned that on days fourteen through seventeen of my chemotherapy treatments, my hair would start falling out in clumps. I was a newlywed of only six months. How would my husband feel about a pale, puffy-faced bald wife with scars, nausea and all the other dreaded potential side effects of my upcoming journey? How would I retain the strength, confidence and charisma that attracted him to me? Should I offer him a pass? After all, he certainly did not sign up for this.
I was terrified and felt powerless and alone. How could I regain my balance? Rather than watching my hair fall out day after day, I decided to take control. On the fourteenth day, I checked into a fabulous oceanfront hotel, outfitted with an assortment of wigs and champagne. My beautiful daughter and my closest girlfriends met me there with scissors and Wahl Shaver in hand to have a Head Shaving Party. I always love a party and this certainly was an original theme.
Truthfully, I could not bear to see the shocked, fearful looks on their faces one by one when seeing me bald for the first time. Instead, I wanted to have them be a part of creating my “new look.” We laughed and cried as each of them took turns cutting and shaving my head. We shared an intimacy that most people never share. It was one of the most profound, memorable days of my life. I stood before them more vulnerable and exposed than I had ever felt before. I stood on the balcony feeling the wind on my naked scalp while stealing a glance at my reflection in the window. To my surprise, it was liberating! Instead of feeling weak and insecure, I felt an inner beauty and unstoppable strength and courage! We all knew that this could happen to any of us.
I changed that day. I bared my head and my soul to them. I realized that none of us really knows what our future holds. All that is certain is now. So I mustn’t spend my time fretting or wallowing in my circumstances. I must spend it celebrating the love, friendship, beauty and joy that surround me. I chose to live fully each day, with or without hair.
From the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength by Amy Newmark. Copyright 2014 by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Published by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Chicken Soup for the Soul is a registered trademark of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.