It has been a privilege for me to have seven of my stories published in Chicken Soup for the Soul (CSS) books. I was a fan of the books long before I even submitted my first article. Many of the stories have brought tears to my eyes, poignant accounts of personal stories that clutch at the heart strings of my mother’s heart, or made me laugh out loud at the comedic zaniness of everyday life. For those who love the books, as I do, there are well over 150 book titles that address hundreds of topics. In each book there are 101 stories written by 101 different writers who share little snippets of their life stories to give readers some sage advice, humour and inspiration. My stories, for those who are interested, are included in the following titles: Parenthood, Devotional Stories for Wives, O’ Canada: the Wonders of Winter, Miracles Happen, The Multitasking Mom’s Survival Guide, Reboot Your Life, and Christmas in Canada.
When my first story about my daughter being teased when she got glasses, “Do Angels Wear Glasses?” was published in CSS: Parenthood, I got an email from a father who lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. For a small-town, Canadian gal, I could not believe someone from so far away was reading one of my stories! His words humbled me, and brought me to tears:
What a beautiful story you have written, Lynn. I received it from the Chicken Soup’s daily newsletter to which I subscribed more than 7 years ago. My heart ached and filled with deep sadness for what had happened to Carmen and how she was crushed by the rude comment of ‘Angels don’t wear glasses,’ said by the little girl. But it eventually swelled with pride for the tenderness and kindness you treated her with. In fact, mothers are the one who should be called Angels. It is not flesh or blood, but the heart that makes them mothers. The heart of a mother is the loveliest masterpiece of God’s heart. The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which we will always find love. To the world, you are just a person. But to Carmen, you are the whole world.
My daughters were sitting on my lap as I was reading the story. With each word I read, I gave them soft kisses on their cheeks, hugged them tightly to my heart, and cherished each and every precious moment I shared with them. My eyes filled with tears of gratitude for still having them on earth.
Have a peaceful weekend,
I can honestly say, I have never in my life felt such joy as a writer, as when I read his letter, and Chicken Soup for the Soul made that experience possible! It is no wonder then that I continue to write for the franchise and I most recently jumped at the chance to review the editor-in-chief’s book, Simply Happy – A Crash Course in Chicken Soup for the Soul Advice and Wisdom by Amy Newmark.
Nine years ago, Amy and her husband, Bill took over the extremely successful Chicken Soup for the Soul franchise from founders Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Amy, a successful Wall Street analyst, decided before taking on the huge responsibility of CSS that she would read the 10,000 plus stories from the books published from 1993 on. “That was my crash course in Chicken Soup for the Soul advice and wisdom, and it was life changing,” she writes in the introduction. “I had never seen anything like this before, so much selfless sharing by people who were willing to pass on their best tips and their life experiences so that others could tweak or even completely reboot their own lives.” It encouraged her to take CSS to the next level staying true to the legacy that Canfield and Hansen had left for her.
Her book Simply Happy is different from all other CSS books because there are not 101 contributors to this book. She is the sole author, but she shares the main pieces of advice and wisdom she has gleaned from all of the stories in the CSS books that have been published. It is a “Crash Course” of meaningful, easy-to-implement advice and strategies to allow the reader to become more positive and purposeful about life in general. Using excerpts from some of her favorite stories, as well as using her own life experiences, Amy has penned a feel-good book that is uplifting and practical. It is not necessarily a “self-help” book, although it does give some sound advice to follow, but it more so embraces the life stories of those writers who have contributed to the books over these many years.
I read the book in one sitting, something I rarely do unless completely enthralled by the content of a book. I found that much of what Amy said I could relate to in a timely way. She talks about the “Impostor Syndrome” in chapter three that hit me right between the eyes! I have always been my biggest critic and as she shares about her A-type personality, dealing personally with negative self-talk and the like, I felt the tears tumble acknowledging she could easily have been talking about me. She repeats throughout the book about “counting your blessings” and indeed I try to do that, but there are times I struggle with perfectionism and she addressed that neatly as she relates the story of a woman who decided to give thanks every time she used a possession, or saw a stain on her carpet, or ding on her furniture, remembering that it was the imperfections in life that made the most memories.
Much of her principles for happy living, although not stated implicitly, have a solid basis in Biblical teaching. Whether that was intended by her or not “Treat others as you would have others treat you” is a common theme in the book. Chapter 21 – It’s Not About You speaks to the fact that as my Pastor used to say: “Hurt people, hurt people.” Sometimes when people are nasty to you, it really has nothing to do with you, it’s just you happen to be available for them to vent to. Amy says to “not take it personally”, and “don’t get angry about it”. Jesus would say, “Turn the other cheek.” I am reminded of the scripture verse: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1). Amy also talks about forgiveness and the power of gratitude, important themes in the Bible.
I highly recommend reading this life-affirming book. It is filled with inspiring stories, quotes and anecdotes, and if you love the CSS books, you will certainly love reading Amy Newmark’s insights about what she has personally learned from reading and now contributing to the many books in this franchise.