Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen them, in department stores, grocery stores, online, garage sales—you can’t escape the influence of the multi-million dollar Chicken Soup for the Soul Franchise. Each month, new books are introduced in a total of 40 languages and 200 translations-adding up to more than 112 million books worldwide, and they don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon (CSS Website). They have even begun choosing their favorite stories to make into short movies.
My big break
Since I published my 900 word short story “Dad’s Tomatoes” in Chicken Soup for the Soul, I’ve been on live television, interviewed by news networks, had book signings and been offered speaking opportunities at expensive writers’ conferences where I attended for free. I was able to meet potential publishers and agents—all because of a short story it took me half an hour to write.
I decided to give it a go when I heard someone else at a writer’s conference discuss how it changed her life to publish through them. I chose “Thanks Dad: 101 Stories of Gratitude, Love and Good Times” to submit to because I felt my story “Dad’s Tomatoes” would be perfect for this particular CSS.
I used a metaphor of gardening to describe the pain of losing my father to cancer but managed to give it an uplifting ending which is crucial to CSS standards.
I had previously written a version of this story for a creative writing assignment but it needed some tweaking to be “Chicken Soup” ready. For example, it needed to follow the circular story line, ending with the beginning. I started the story as a little girl following my father in the garden, and ended with my son following me in the garden. I always run my stories by my daughter Sarah. If she cries her eyes out I know it’s a good one!
After it was CSS ready, I copied and pasted it to their submissions page on their website. Then I promptly forgot about it.
I also submitted other stories to different books, but this was the one that stuck. After it was chosen, I wrote a poem for another of their books “Runners: 101 Stories of Energy, Endurance and Endorphins.” They also published that one.
I waited a long time for a response from CSS: almost 6 months. Then, I unexpectedly received an email from their editor, telling me that my story had made the first round of cuts (they do 2)! I was asked to sign a publishing agreement to give them permission to print the story as well as a promise that the story was true. A few weeks later I received a box of books with my story inside and a check for $200. It’s a flat rate but the association with Chicken Soup is always there. It was one of the happiest days of my life.
After I published with CSS, I had that extra bit of credibility that gave me the courage to approach agents and publishers about other writing I’ve done. I know for a fact that this experience has given agents and publishers that extra little nudge to take a chance on an unknown writer. Everyone needs something to get their foot in the door, and CSS can be that something for you as well.
And, even better, being associated with an international brand like CSS gave me the confidence and the credibility to sell my novel War Eagle Women last year. Everybody (even a prestigious New York agent) knows who Chicken Soup is—and being published through them means something. It’s that little bit of leverage a new writer needs when trying to capture the attention needed to publish.
Because they publish monthly, there’s always plenty of topics to choose from. You can send off as many stories as you wish, and you can even double-dip if a story fits more than one category.
So why are you still sitting here? Get cooking!
About the author:
Tina Bausinger, M.A. in English, lives in East Texas, the land of Old Yeller, with her husband Lee, three children, a well-fed Chihuahua, a German Shepherd with anxiety issues, and an angry angelfish, Sid, who has dreams of world (or at least tank) domination. Tina has published many articles and book reviews and currently writes for IN Magazine, The Tyler Paper, her blog about her adventures in raising a family, teaching and trying to not die from dieting at www.tinabausinger.com, as well as hundreds of quizzes and tests for her lucky composition and world literature students she teaches as a professor. Last fall she published her first novel, War Eagle Women, a Southern gothic style story in the same vein as Steel Magnolias or Fried Green Tomatoes.