Stepping into the forest of my mind

Stepping into the forest of my mind
Just as every journey begins with a first step, every story begins with the first word.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Chicken Soup for the Soul Mom Knows Best #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

My mother has been my guiding light all my life. She believed in me when I didn’t. She told me that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. These are the types of positive people writers need around them as they struggle to accomplish their writing goals. Unfortunately, I lost my mother to cancer at the end of the summer. Mom may be in Heaven now, but some of her sage advice lives on in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul Mom Knows Best issue released on March 19, 2019.

Have you ever had an essay included in a Chicken Soup issue? Which one? Was it your first attempt, or did it take a while for them to accept one of your essays?

For me, it took quite a while for Chicken Soup for the Soul to accept one of my essays. I have been trying to break into this niche on and off for years. Several friends in my South Jersey Writers Group have been published in Chicken Soup. They gave me courage to try again and again. There is no charge for submitting to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Here’s the link.  

            Like any other writing project, it’s always best to begin by studying the market. Read other Chicken Soup for the Soul books to see what they are publishing. Break down the essay to see how the writer put it together. Notice how tightly the prose is, how specific the details about place are. Notice there are no extra words or throwaway dialogue and thoughts. Then check Chicken Soup’s website to see what topics they are currently looking for and start drafting your essay.  

Although the editors at Chicken Soup give you lots of guidance on how to prepare your story, nothing beats a critique partner, especially someone who has already been published by the market you wish to enter. Ask to see their document of the essay they submitted to the market. This will be what they sent in as opposed to the one that was edited by the publisher before publication. It helps to see how they structured their essays.
I was ecstatic when I saw one of my own stories in the
Chicken Soup for the Soul Mom Knows Best issue.
And keep the essay simple. This was my biggest problem. I could study issues from Chicken Soup, strip down the essays, study the language used, and feel I have created just what they want, and receive silence for all my effort. Chicken Soup for the Soul will contact you ONLY when they want your essay. Otherwise you don’t hear from them.

And God knows, be persistent! Like I said, it doesn’t cost anything to submit to Chicken Soup, so why not follow these steps and send in your best advice on a topic they’re looking for. Good Luck!

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Mom Knows Best is on sale now. You can find it in bookstores and online here. My particular story, Evening Things Up, will be featured in a podcast from Chicken Soup on April 29, 2019. You can listen to the podcast for free by going to Chicken Soup's website and clicking the podcast tab.
My beloved mother, Elaine McDonald

Thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join our Author Toolbox blog hop, click here

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Insecure Writers Want to Know: If you could use a wish to help write one chapter in your book, which would it be?

            Now there’s a complicated question! I guess if I could only have one place in my college memoir where something magical could help me write it, it would be the first chapter. Since wishes are magical to me, that would mean someone who knows more than I or possibly could see into the future would help me be sure I was starting the story in the correct place. Beginnings are so important in story.

            Beginnings to novels or memoirs are different from what they were in past eras. No longer can writers indulgingly describe settings or characters. Today, the story must jump right into the action or problems of a story. Every scene must drive the story plot forward, even if only a tiny bit. There is too much other stuff competing for a reader’s time. A writer needs to show the possibilities of problems to come on that first page, almost, in order to keep a reader reading the novel.

            Not only do writers need to hook readers with juicy plots, but also wow them with real characters to care about. You could open with an exciting plot; aliens invading earth or two boys barreling down a raging river. But if you don’t connect the plot to a sentient being, no one will care about it. Our stories need to be about someone in particular; some vulnerable, flawed person the readers can connect to. And the story should begin in scene. We need to be someplace, even if we are just thinking. We need to ground the reader in time and place.

            Is my college memoir starting in the right place? Gosh, I hope so. This is where that magical wish could show me for sure.

            I begin my story with a scene. And through that scene, I hope to connect readers to a person, a particular person with hopes and dreams and problems.

The memoir opens with my special-needs daughter signing up for high school classes. She wants to go to college, just like I did all those years before. And just like what happened to me, someone important tells her she shouldn’t go to college. Within this guidance counselor scene, Victoria’s backstory begins to unfold, showing [I hope] why this particular situation is pivotal. With this initial scene, I want to demonstrate Victoria’s struggles as a mother, what she feels about a college education and the reasons for her feelings. This initial counselor meeting forces Victoria to revisit her own dreams of a college education in order to help her children. This initial scene also allows for Victoria to revisit her feelings about being educated toward the end of the memoir once she finishes her own college journey.

That’s a lot for one opening scene to carry. How important do you feel beginnings are to novels or memoirs? I would truly appreciate your insight into the beginning of my college memoir.

I can’t wait to see where you would use your special wish in story writing. Thanks for visiting! Please follow Adventures in Writing if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in your comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.