Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul

By Harriet Michael

Chicken Soup for the Soul publishes around a dozen books a year, each with 101 stories in it. That’s approximately 1,200 chances to have a story you wrote published per year. Sounds pretty great, right? It is and it isn’t. It is not as easy as it may seem to have your story selected for one of their titles. But if/when that happens, then yes, it’s pretty great!

This year’s Christmas themed book titled, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, will have a story in it written by me.

Chicken Soup Christmas book

This is the fourth story I have had selected for Chicken Soup. While that’s exciting and an honor, I must share an insight that I have in their selection process. This is just my opinion and others may disagree with me, but it seems to me that it is harder to have your first story chosen by them than subsequent stories. At least that is my experience.

I am a prolific freelance writer. I have submitted many, many short pieces (articles, devotions, short stories) to many different publications since I began sending submissions in 2009. After over ten years of freelance writing, I have had a lot of acceptances but also a lot of rejections. However, my rejection percentage with Chicken Soup for the Soul was 100% for the first few years. That was definitely not the norm for me with other publications. I sent several stories a year and never received even a notice that it was being considered for one of their books. Finally, in 2014, after about four years of rejections, I got an e-mail telling me one of my stories had made it to the final round of selection. I danced with joy when I read that email!

Since then I have had four stories selected. This experience has made me conclude that it is harder to get a first story chosen but slightly easier after that. My experience may only be coincidental, but it prompts me to encourage writers to keep sending Chicken Soup stories. Keep on keeping on!

Chicken Soup publishes inspirational true stories from ordinary people. They want stories under 1200 words (with 1,000 being closer to their sweet spot) written to one of their book topics or themes. If your story is chosen, you will first get an email telling you that your story has made it to the final round. This email will include a publishing contract that will be discarded if your story is not chosen for the actual book. Most stories that reach this round make it to the book, but a few don’t. I have never had one dropped after this stage, but my sister has. Then, the fun part—you receive 10 free copies of the book about a month before its release date and a check for $200 about a month after the release date.

And because I’m a stickler about writer’s rights, I asked them when the rights would return to me. The contract states that they are buying 1st rights but does not say when the rights revert back to the author. Most of my freelance contracts contain this information. Chicken Soup replied that I owned the rights again as soon as the book releases, or one day afterward, I suppose, since 1st rights mean they have the right to be the first to publish it.

Writing for Chicken Soup is fun and rewarding. I highly recommend giving it a try and like the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

And make sure to join us in September as we tackle a fun topic: Cooking for Writers…


Writing prompt / Exercise: Go to https://www.chickensoup.com/ and click on “Submit your story” at the bottom of the page. That will take you to a site that has book titles/themes, guidelines, and the online submission form. Familiarize yourself with these and then, if inspired, write a story for one of their Book topics.

Click-to-Tweet: Chicken Soup for the Soul publishes around a dozen books a year, each with 101 stories in it. That’s approximately 1,200 chances to have a story you wrote published per year.–Harriet E. Michael via @inspiredprompt #amwriting #freelance

Kill Order by Adam Blumer

 Kill Order
When he sleeps, the forgotten terrors of the past come alive.

Grammy-winning pianist Landon Jeffers’s brain cancer has given him only a few years to live. But when he sleeps, the forgotten terrors of his past torment him. When he wakes, shameful memories come rushing back. Desperate for answers, Jeffers discovers that a brain implant intended to treat his cancer is really a device to control him, forcing him to commit terrible crimes. Now he’s being manipulated by an evil crime syndicate and a crooked cop.

What if free will isn’t? What if your every move is predestined? If you kill, are you guilty of murder?

Click to tweet: Brand new fiction from Adam Blumer. Kill Order. Thriller on the highest level. #thriller #amreading.


Adam Blumer fixes other people’s books to pay the bills. He writes his own to explore creepy lighthouses and crime scenes. He is the author of three clean Christian thrillers: Fatal IllusionsThe Tenth Plague, and Kill Order. A print journalism major in college, he works full-time from home as a book editor after serving in editorial roles for more than twenty years. He lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with his wife, Kim, and his daughters, Laura and Julia. He works with Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.

Sale Links

Paperback
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
Kindle E-book

Adam is also doing a Rafflecopter “signed paperback” giveaway. If you are interested, here is the link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8d1eaa8d7/?

3 Questions Wednesday with Karen H. Richardson

It is my honor to introduce a new member of the Inspired Prompt Crew, Karen H. Richardson. We thought it would be appropriate to introduce her via 3 Questions Wednesday to give our readers the opportunity to meet and greet.

You can read more about Karen and her writing life in her bio. She and I have served as officers of the Louisville area ACFW chapter for about three or four years. So, I am delighted to have her working with us. You’ll see her name on most of the 3 Questions Wednesday posts, other interviews, and guest posts.

But what I want to know is, how will she answer our three questions? Let’s find out—

Who is your favorite author? 

Karen: My reading list is long and varied. As a writer, I feel it’s important to read other authors and different genres. Reading different genres than I write is an education in writing styles, plot arcs, and characters. Lately, I’ve read several historical fictions; Civil War and World War II are periods I’m most drawn to.

Interesting! And you are right. We can learn so much by reading the works of other authors.

If you could write about anyone or anything fiction/nonfiction who or what would you write about?

Karen: I would write Mary Magdalene’s story. What was her experience like on the first day of the week at the tomb? What was the feeling around the tomb like? Was there an eerie feeling? Was she scared, not finding Christ’s body? What about when He appeared to her?

Intriguing questions. I’d love to hear her take on such an important story. Final question: If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Karen: Nora St. Clair. She is the protagonist in my second book. She is the one character from the first book who I know the least about. She married the love of her life but sadly, he died after battling an aggressive tumor in his brain. They had no children. After his passing, Nora completed her interior design degree and went to work. Our day would begin at Starbucks over a wonderfully fattening coffee drink. Then I would shadow her at work because I don’t know much about interior design. What is her day-to-day like? Are her evenings quiet and lonely? I don’t know what it would be like to suddenly lose the love of my life.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, and welcome to Inspired Prompt.

Click to tweet: As a writer, I feel it’s important to read other authors and different genres. Reading different genres than I write is an education in writing styles, plot arcs, and characters. 


As long as she can remember, Karen Richardson has wanted to write stories. When she was 10 years old, she wrote a play and got friends to act it out. A high school English teacher inspired Karen to begin to put her thoughts on paper. After graduation, she attended Western Kentucky University where she earned a BA in Journalism and Creative Writing.  Her education started her down the road of storytelling as a professional. While in her full-time position, she is the director of communications for a national non-profit, she has also completed her first novel and is in the process of securing an agent. Karen lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband and son.

She can be found online on Facebook and Twitter @KHRWriter, Instagram KHRichardson5, www.KHRichardson.com, or her blog KK’s Candor, www.KKSCandor.com.

Writing for Devotional Sites

by Diana C. Derringer

A roller-coaster ride, newlywed misunderstandings, fishing adventures, middle-of-the-night foster care placements, family health miracles, and talking fruit trees have all weaved their way into my online devotional submissions.

At first, I wrote devotions solely for print magazines, both freelance and assigned. I knew devotional websites existed and read a few. However, I never seriously considered submitting to them. As I learned more about online opportunities, that gradually changed.

Possibilities

Some magazines publish both online and hard copy. The Upper Room Magazine’s online version maintains a massive community of followers, who not only leave frequent comments for writers but also for one another.

In addition to the devotion, Upper Room invites writers to join a larger online conversation by writing a blog post and sharing a photo the same day their devotions appear. The post may or may not relate to the devotion. It allows readers to learn a bit more about writers’ personal or professional lives. Links to writer websites or blogs often lead to new followers and friends. Other devotional sites, such as Christian Devotions appear exclusively online. Many are non-paying markets. However, their devotions offer a word of encouragement or moment of ministry to a diverse audience. Regular appearances also add to a writer’s platform. I recall walking into The Kentucky Christian Writers Conference one year, and a woman greeted me with, “Oh, I hoped I would meet you here.” She had read my work and seen my picture on the Christian Devotions site. Well-known non-paying sites may lead to writing assignments within the paying market.

I typically offer first rights to paying markets and reprint rights to non-paying.

Preparation

In order to point people to Jesus, many devotional sites suggest writers:

  • Begin with prayer.
  • Study the Bible verse(s) to accompany the devotion.
  • Write on less well-known verses to offer readers a new perspective and increase the likelihood of an editor’s acceptance.
  • Never underestimate the power of personal stories.

What initially appears inconsequential may lead to the most significant devotions. Who would have thought tiny crocheted elephants could have much impact? Yet, they did when first crocheted and later through a devotion about them.

Neither should unpublished writers feel inconsequential. Many devotional sites welcome them along with established and multi-published writers and authors. The sites encourage new writers to follow God’s leadership and take advantage of opportunities to learn and strengthen their craft.

Guidelines

Although details such as word count or preferred Bible version vary, most print or online devotional sites have similar guidelines. Most want a:

  • Short catchy title
  • Bible verse (Some also desire a longer suggested Bible passage.)
  • Devotion related to the verse

Many conclude with a thought for the day and/or a prayer.

Regardless of the subject, editors want writers to stick to one main point. From the title to the closing prayer, everything must tie together. A devotion’s limited word count (often 100-400 words) allows no room for digression. Although it does not offer intense theological study, it does seek to increase the reader’s understanding of the Bible and relationship with God.

Other helpful reminders for online writers:

  • Write simple sentences and short paragraphs.
  • Cut the clutter and write tight.
  • Use active rather than passive verbs.
  • Lead readers to hear, feel, taste, see, or touch the devotional content.
  • Always adhere to the site’s guidelines.

Outlines

Editors expect writers to immediately capture the readers’ attention, tie their introduction to the Bible verse and devotional theme, and relate their summary and application to God’s truth for daily life.

Christian Devotions uses the following format:

  • HOOK: Catch the reader’s interest with a brief story or shocking statement.
  • BOOK: Declare your key point and your interpretation of the passage.
  • LOOK: Present the big picture and offer practical life application lessons and tips.
  • TOOK: Lead to a decision; close with an action statement and challenge the reader to change.

Submissions

Sites vary on the submission method. Some have an online submission page. Others request email submissions with the devotion included either as an attachment or in the body of the email. Those who use attachments typically favor:

  • Word documents
  • Single spacing with a double space between paragraphs and no indents
  • Times New Roman, 12-point font

Writing for devotional sights offer limited financial rewards. However, their eternal worth cannot be measured this side of heaven.

Writing Prompt: Think of a recent event in your life. Use the hook, book, look, and took method to write a brief devotion.

Click to Tweet: A roller-coaster ride, newlywed misunderstandings…middle-of-the-night foster care placements, family health #miracles, and talking fruit trees have all weaved their way into my online #devotional submissions. Story via @InspiredPrompt @DianaDerringer


Diana Derringer is an award-winning writer and author of Beyond Bethlehem and Calvary: 12 Dramas for Christmas, Easter, and More! Hundreds of her devotions, articles, dramas, planning guides, Bible studies, and poems appear in 40-plus publications, including The Upper Room, The Christian Communicator, Clubhouse, Kentucky Monthly, Seek, and Missions Mosaic, plus several anthologies. She also writes radio drama for Christ to the World Ministries. Her adventures as a social worker, adjunct professor, youth Sunday school teacher, and friendship family for international university students supply a constant flow of writing ideas. Visit her at dianaderringer.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Goodreads, Pinterest, and her Amazon page.


Beyond Bethlehem and Calvary

12 Dramas for Christmas, Easter and More!

Flexibility, ease of production, and themes that meet us where we live make this drama collection suitable for large or small groups, whether in a church setting or on the most rugged mission trip.

The Challenges of Category Cookery

By Laurel Blount

I am a sucker for cooking shows, aren’t you? My personal favorite is the Great British Baking Show, where contestants compete to create challenging dishes in a specified amount of time. It’s exciting to see the frantic bakers rushing around, trying their best to beat the clock and still produce a delicious, edible masterpiece.

It’s exciting, but it’s not all that realistic, is it? Because, honestly—those people have every ingredient they need at their fingertips, and even work in a special kitchen with lots of bells and whistles.

If you want to talk about a real challenge, ask a cook to create a nutritious, gluten-free, totally organic, easy-to-prepare meal for some very important guests—in an hour. And here’s the kicker, she can use only the specific ingredients currently available in her pantry. Oh, and one more thing: it has to taste so fabulous that everybody asks for a second helping!

I think we can all agree; the cook who pulls that off deserves all the praise and recognition we can shower upon her! And probably a nap.

This, my friends, is similar to the ninja-skills that writing high-quality Christian category romance requires. Ever since I tied on my own literary apron in this particular kitchen, let me tell you—my chef’s hat is off to all my much-more-skilled writer-sisters who offer their readers such delicious stories over and over again, all while staying within the boundaries of the genre.

My publisher, Love Inspired, is dedicated to producing a particular kind of experience for readers. They’ve developed some tried-and-true standards regarding the sort of hooks, plot tropes and characters they love to see in their books. My job as an author is to produce a story that fits within the Love Inspired brand, but which is also fresh and exciting—and which brings my readers back for more.

Just in case you’re ready to tie on your apron for this particular challenge—here are a few tips that you might find helpful:

  1. Start with the basic recipe. Study the guidelines and read the books. I know, I know, everybody tells you that! But the brand is very important in this category, and these elements aren’t usually negotiable. Think of it this way—whenever you cook for an important guest (and our wonderful readers are definitely our v.i.p.s!) you need to know what your parameters are. Gluten-free? Dairy-free? Organic? Diabetic-friendly? No matter how sumptuous a meal you prepare, if it doesn’t follow the requested guidelines it’s likely to be sent back to the kitchen. In one story proposal, I began with the hero already deeply in love with her heroine—who thought of him only as a friend. My editor explained that in Love Inspired, they preferred to see the love grow between the characters during the course of the story. He could be attracted to her, but his deeper feelings needed to develop over time. I changed that element and sold the book.
  2. Once you’ve got the basics down, take a good look into your own particular pantry. What spices can you mix in to make your story uniquely fresh and uniquely yours? For example, in my debut novel for Love Inspired A Family for the Farmer, I pulled on my country-girl experiences of milking a cow, being a midwife to a goat, and coping with a really opinionated goose to add some fun to my story. Sprinkle in your special touch to add a one-of-a-kind flavor to your book!
  3. And finally—be sure to pay close attention to any feedback or tips from the experts. The wonderful editors are the Julia Childs of category fiction. They know their biz inside and out, and they are dedicated to making each author’s story as delicious as it possibly can be! Emily Rodmell, an experienced editor at Love Inspired, frequently offers valuable writing tips via Twitter or Facebook. Look her up!

I’ll leave you with one last tidbit. You know what really draws me to The Great British Baking Show? The sweet camaraderie among the contestants! It warms my heart to see these folks cheering each other on, helping each other solve ticklish problems, and tearfully hugging when somebody gets sent home. They’re each dedicated to doing their individual best in the contest, but they’re equally dedicated to being supportive and helpful to their fellow bakers. I love that—and I’ve found the same type of warm-hearted fellowship among the Love Inspired authors.

If you’re interested in writing for this market, I’d strongly suggest you attend some conferences, attend the Love Inspired workshops and open house events, and meet some of these amazing writers and editors. And be sure to like and follow their professional accounts on social media and sign up for their newsletters, too! (I’d especially recommend joining the Love Inspired Authors and Readers Group on Facebook. That’s one of my favorites!) You won’t be sorry. Not only are these folks talented—they’re also just delightfully fun people!

Okay, enough talking, am I right? The oven timer is ticking, and it’s time to get to work. Grab your spoon—or pen—and start baking up a really fabulous story!

Click to tweet:  This, my friends, is similar to the ninja-skills that writing high-quality Christian category romance requires.


Laurel Blount lives on a small farm in middle Georgia with her husband, their four children, and an assortment of very spoiled animals. She divides her time between farm chores, homeschooling, and writing. She’s busy, but at least she’s never bored!
Laurel writes inspirational contemporary romance, and Hometown Hope is her third title for Harlequin’s Love Inspired. A fourth book is scheduled for publication on January 2020. She’s received a Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award for Excellence and has also finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards. She’s represented by Jessica Alvarez of Bookends Literary Agency.
Whenever she’s not working, you can find Laurel with a cup of tea at her elbow, a cat in her lap, and a good book in her hand. Stay in touch by signing up for Laurel’s monthly newsletter at www.laurelblountbooks.com.