Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chicken Soup for The Soul: Inspiration for Writers--a review

While traveling last week, we stopped at a grocery store in St George, UT.  Directly inside the store was a large table filled with books at 25% off retail price. It was manna for this woman. What I bought and am delighted with, is a first edition of Chicken Soup for The Soul: Inspiration for Writers 101 Motivational Stories for Writers-Budding or Bestselling-from Books to Blogs. It is edited by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Amy Newmark and Susan M. Heim, published by the 19 year old Chicken Soup for The Soup Publishing, LLC, Cos Cob, CT, 2013.

Following their tradition as in almost three hundred other Chicken Soup for The Soul books, this book contains 101 stories by published writers broken into eleven chapters. These vignettes are two to four pages about phases of writing and the authors' experiences. The chapter titled "Queries, Agents and Insomnia" starts with a quote by Charlotte Bronte; "A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow." Author, Beth Cato, told about years of writing, being terrified of querying until finally feeling she had written THE book worthy of an agent and editor's perusal. She had written it too many times to count and in the end slashed 80,000 words down to 20,000 and changed the plot completely. Her past rejections haunted her sleep and made her so anxious that she got sick. She received more rejections for this book until The Call came. Ms Cato continues telling about how surreal her life became working with an agent and getting published.

Another story deals with finding the time to write. As a busy mother with children on the go, she spends much time in the car. When home, she often has no more than 20 minutes before the next car trip. Usually she would work jigsaw puzzles on-line. After turning down a favor for a friend by lying (I have a deadline), she felt guilty. It forced her examine why she wasn't writing. Now "not enough time" did not seem a good enough excuse. When was she going to have time? In ten years? Fifteen? She decided that she had what some would called snippets of time, 20 minutes here, 35 minutes waiting for a child's lesson to be over and that those minutes were going to be her writing time.

"A work has to stand by itself,” said a college professor. This author told of her experiences of how cruel she thought her college classmates were regarding her writing. She was so upset that they did not like most parts of her writing that she forgot it was the writing they were criticizing not her. When she learned how to use their criticisms, her writing improved, as did their assessments of it. 

This book covers inspiration, how writing changes lives, persistence, writer’s block, and the power of writing. All the stories are interesting, read and digested quickly and sometimes memorably. It is the type of book, you can choose what to read knowing the story is short and then not coming back to it until you find you need some mental help. 

I am interested in reading books teaching me how to learn a new task or improve on a skill I am trying to learn. I do not care for the general "how to care for the mind" type books. I have prayer for that. Nevertheless, this book I found helpful and I think I will pull it out about as often as I iron (blue moon) just to tweak my writer's mind. The only criticism I have is that each story reads like a Reader's Digest Condensed Book rendition. They are edited so that each story sounds like the same author wrote it but under a different name; the personal identities of the writers have been edited out. For the price, it may be a good stocking stuffer or gift for friend.

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