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My dad and mom lately moved throughout Canada to Vancouver, which is the place I’ve been residing for the previous six years. With them got here a field filled with my childhood report playing cards, letters, playing cards, commencement certificates, and swimming badges. Reading these was like attending a reunion with my childhood self, and amongst these momentos I got here throughout the acceptance letter and contract from once I was printed in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul 2. I used to be 13 once I submitted my story to them and 15 by the point it was printed, and the acceptance letter was undoubtedly probably the most thrilling mail I’d ever obtained. I’d mainly be well-known, my title listed alongside celebs like Jennifer Love Hewitt and Andrew Keegan — it was 1998, clearly.
I’d found the unique Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul in a Boca Raton Target, and studying the plethora of teen-penned tales felt like the primary time folks have been writing about relatable experiences. Not solely that, however once I found they have been in search of tales for a second e-book, it felt attainable. I’d been writing quick tales and poems for years and this e-book was crammed with tales that mine may mix in with.
And so I wrote a semi-autobiographical, banter-filled tackle a teen’s unrequited crush, Buffy references and self-deprecation abounded. I didn’t notice that the tales have been meant to be completely true and, frankly, mine was not. It was an imaginary dialog between imaginary folks however primarily based on actual folks and ideas. And but, as I obtained emails from teenagers who had learn and associated to my story, I spotted with shock that teenagers have been studying this e-book in droves. Teens from everywhere in the world, of various ages and experiences, all craving to see themselves within the pages of a e-book.
And that was the gimmick of the Chicken Soup sequence. Creators Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen had a knack for locating a distinct segment and digging into it. You a fan of golf? Well, seize a duplicate of Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul. Teachers, Coffee Aficionados, Cat and Dog Lovers? All get their very own collections.
Part of the draw is how every title is predicated on a distinct segment facet of your id — be it curiosity, faith, or race — and that turns the books into straightforward presents. As lengthy as you knew an individual on a semi-basic stage, yow will discover a compilation that’ll match.
Unless, in fact, you have been in search of an LGBTQ+ story targeted Chicken Soup, which nonetheless doesn’t exist 29 years on. The model web site’s About Us copy makes certain to present LGBTQ+ readers some hope, writing “[t]he members of our team are diverse, representing many ethnicities, religions, nationalities, and the LGBTQ community. We continue to seek even more diversity in our team members and our storytelling as we further our mission of ‘changing the world one story at a time®.’”
Their latest publications seemingly have a non secular bent; 2022 gave us Miracles and the Unexplainable, Believe in Angels, The Magic of Christmas, and Devotional Stories for Mothers and Grandmothers. It’s a complete temper, though present Editor-in-Chief Amy Newmark has denied that Chicken Soup has any such non secular agenda. Newmark addressed this in a Vice article by Diana Tourjée, saying “We don’t know how we ever got the reputation for being a Christian publishing company, as we have never been that.”
In 2014, Katy Waldman wrote an excellent critical analysis, summing up Chicken Soup’s Newmark-era content material shift with a wry however apt description: “Originally an all-purpose mix of entertainment and inspiration, the franchise has reinvented itself in part as a source of celestially-bathed lifehacks.”
The model doesn’t simply put out books anymore. The firm has produced a podcast, a socio-emotional studying curriculum, kids’s books, a video-on-demand community known as Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, pasta sauces, puzzles, and, final however most actually not least, a line of pet meals merchandise. So how did this multi-product empire first come to be?
Canfield and Hansen have been profitable motivational audio system earlier than they started engaged on their first Chicken Soup for the Soul. According to Cynthia Gorney’s historical past of the franchise, written for The New Yorker in 2003, Canfield was the unique creator. His early profession included instructing highschool, co-founding a humanistic-psychology middle in Massachusetts, co-writing a kids’s shallowness workbook, and founding Self-Esteem Seminars, the place he instructed quick, inspirational tales aimed toward bolstering folks’s confidence.
In 1992, he enlisted Hansen as co-editor, with the plan to compile a e-book made up of the types of motivational tales Canfield had turn out to be well-known for telling. They put collectively a chapter and located an agent, Jeffrey Herman, however Herman struggled to get a inexperienced gentle. Publisher Ron Fry associated to Gorney that he discovered the primary chapter to be “[k]ind of treacly.” On prime of its unproven potential, Hansen and Canfield wished a $1500 advance for it.
Canfield and Hansen wouldn’t be deterred. Gorney explains that the co-authors wished to achieve individuals who didn’t establish as e-book readers and who won’t purposefully stroll into bookshops to browse. Their small crew, additionally consisting of Patty Aubery, whose job was as kind of a jack-of-all-trades-meets-office-admin. Gas stations, nail salons, flea markets, PTA conferences, self-help seminars…the co-authors and Aubery hustled to get the books into the arms of the general public. And it labored.
At the again of the e-book, the co-authors invited their readers to contribute to the subsequent quantity by suggesting they “[s]hare your heart with the rest of the world.” As Gorney factors out, the truth that the books took tales from readers was one other draw for the general public at massive. Gorney writes, “As it happens, very few places exist these days in which an ordinary person without a literary agent might hope to share her heart with the rest of the world. There are a few magazines that publish first-person accounts, and there is of course the internet, which was still on training wheels when the first Chicken book came out.”
That was a part of what drove me to submit, although it was much less sharing my coronary heart and extra sharing my phrases. I’d fancied myself a author since I used to be 8 or 9, and once I noticed the invitation to submit in the back of the e-book, it felt like this was my second. Some of the tales have been extra emotional than skillful of their narratives; in the event that they might be printed, then I had an opportunity. I’d think about many burgeoning writers felt the identical.
In 2008, Canfield and Hansen offered Chicken Soup to a brand new possession group, one managed by Bill Rouhana and Bob Jacobs. That is when Newmark, Rouhana’s spouse, first got here into the image. Between 2008-2014, Newmark, Canfield, and Hansen started co-editing the books collectively; finally, Newmark would edit on her personal or with visitor co-editors. Rouhana and Jacobs wished to bolster the recognition of the books whereas additionally branching out into licensing merchandise in adjoining fields — pet meals for all of the animal lovers studying their books, as an illustration. In an interview with Forbes in 2011, Rouhana and Jacobs extolled that the Chicken Soup model stood for “hope, faith. and trust.” You can see that branding within the books’ present iteration as overseen by Newmark; religion, hope, and belief may actually be the subtitle of a lot of their newer collections.
SHARING IS CARING
By the time Chicken Soup for Teenage Soul 2 was printed, I used to be 15. Raised on the self-deprecation and skepticism of sitcom humour and Buffy, studying saccharine tales about youngsters issues had turn out to be far much less interesting.
I obtained my free copy and, delighted to be printed and paid, cracked open its hardcover backbone and commenced to learn my story, titled “Unrequired Love.” With rising annoyance, I famous the editor’s alternative of starting my story with a Charlie Brown quote and altering its ultimate line. I didn’t actually acknowledge the characters within the e-book anymore both; lots had modified for me between 13 and 15. Then, when finished, I closed the e-book and laughed, oh how I laughed, earlier than getting up and sliding the copy onto my bookshelf. Nestled amongst e-book faves like Please Kill Me: An Oral History of Punk Rock and The Picture of Dorian Gray, I didn’t open Teenage Soul 2’s pages once more for a few years.
While I haven’t learn every other books within the franchise since and don’t ever plan to, it doesn’t imply I feel they’re with out benefit. Yes, Chicken Soup may be preachy and tacky, however it did normalize the apply of publishing tales by on a regular basis folks — even giving a voice to many who felt their tales won’t in any other case appear price listening to.
Teenage Soul 2’s tales didn’t bolster my shallowness, however being printed made a distinction. That’s one factor I’d genuinely praise in regards to the franchise: its willingness to hearken to its readers’ desires. As Waldman explains of the books’ enchantment, their can-do angle and uplifting platitudes will fill some readers with a way of therapeutic and hope that is ready to battle even the wryest cynicism. Towards the tip of her article, Waldman writes, “‘Chicken Soup is the worst,’ I told my roommate, flinging down the book. What I didn’t say was that I’d been reading for an hour and I’d already cried three times.”
Maybe that’s what Canfield and Hensen actually discovered with the system — there are lots of people on the market who simply need to have a cathartic cry whereas studying a e-book that appears to virtually actively care about their pursuits, happiness, and self-improvement.
Weird angel fixation or not, have at it, I assume.