Chicken Soup Celebrates American Kindness

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One of my favorite publishers, Chicken Soup for the Soul, is collecting stories for a new book focusing on kindness in America. They want to hear about the time you helped someone whose car was broken down on the side of the road, or the time a stranger paid for your groceries when you forgot your wallet. They want to know what American kindness means to you, how you’ve embraced it in your life, or seen others do so. They want stories about immigrants, stories about soldiers, stories about everyday people learning to overcome prejudice and fear in order to extend a helping hand.

There’s never been a better time to show the world – and remind ourselves – what truly makes this country great: our kindness.

If you’re interested in submitting, don’t dawdle – this is a last-minute addition to their publication schedule, and the deadline is March 31. Click on the link below for more information about what they’re looking for and how to submit.

http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/possible-book-topics

Best of luck!

-Gretchen

 

National Adoption Weekend

Me snuggling Madeline, a Furget Us Not Rescue cat, at our December 2014 event.

Me snuggling Madeline, a Furget Us Not Rescue cat, at our December 2014 event.

By some miracle, you remembered the date. You bought the sparkly necklace, you got the overpriced card, and you think you’re all set…but you’re still forgetting something:

This weekend is not only a time to buy candy and flowers for your significant other, but also a time to open up your heart and see if you can make a real difference in a special cat or dog’s life. This weekend is National Adoption Weekend.

If you think about it, you and your family could make this the BEST Valentine’s Day ever, not by shelling out cash for roses that will shrivel up or cards that will be thrown out after a few weeks, but by having an honest discussion about whether you have room in your home and your life for an animal that truly needs you.

Many animals fitting that description will be at PetSmarts all over the USA this weekend. At the PetSmart in Chesterfield, MI (51347 Gratiot Ave.), the cats and dogs batting their gorgeous eyes at you will be from Furget Us Not Rescue, a non-profit, foster-based group devoted to finding them “furever” homes. They will be there, waiting to meet you, from 12pm-3pm on Saturday, February 13th, and Sunday February 14th. Please don’t disappoint them!

I will also be visiting the store from 1pm-3pm on both days, signing all three of my Chicken Soup for the Soul books to benefit Furget Us Not Rescue.

We will have free candy and gift-wrapping available for the book signing, as well as a video of a cat doing something VERY silly. And I am always eager to meet fellow writers, readers, and fans. (Knowing me, we’ll probably wind up chatting endlessly about Forever with cute dogs curled up on our laps.)

Sound cool? Of course it does! But it won’t be the same if you don’t join us. Please come out to the event this weekend, support a great cause, and maybe, just maybe, meet a loving friend who will be with you for years to come.

 

Book Signing to Benefit Furget Us Not Rescue

I am very excited to announce that I’ll be doing a book signing to benefit Furget Us Not Rescue, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit animal rescue here in Michigan. I will be signing copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What? from 12pm to 4pm on Sunday, December 21st at the Petsmart in Chesterfield, MI (Address: 51347 Gratiot Ave). All proceeds from the book sale will benefit the rescue group.

This is also a pet adoption event, so Furget Us Not Rescue will have their beautiful cats and dogs there for people to meet and fall in love with. Furget Us Not Rescue is always in need of both foster families and adoptive families for their many deserving animals (visit their Facebook page for lots of cute pictures!).

This will be a fun event for animal lovers of all ages, with candy, bookmarks, free gift-wrapping services, and lots of cute and cuddly pets to adore. We’ll also have photos of the pets featured in my two stories, plus an exclusive video of my cat Panic, who was the world’s one and only stick-hunting cat. This video has never been posted anywhere online, so this is the only chance you’ll have to see him doing his amazing and hilarious trick!

So, if you happen to live in Michigan, or even if you’re just in town for the holidays, stop by the Chesterfield Petsmart on Sunday, December 21st from 12-4pm. I would love to chat with you in person about writer stuff, fan stuff, and everything in between! While you’re there, you can support a great cause and maybe, just maybe, find the greatest holiday gift of all – a new, furry family member to love!

Hope to see you there!

-Gretchen

 

 

A Dream Come True…Times Three

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It all started with a simple dream: to complete my first novel. It took about three years – plus another two to type up the handwritten manuscript – but I did it. By the time I was finished transcribing, my heart was crowded with more dreams: write some short stories, get published digitally, get published in print, learn to write a screenplay, pen a piece of fanfiction (and have the guts to actually post it). One by one, all of these dreams came true…save #3.

I love getting published in e-zines for many reasons: your story is free for anyone to read, you can link to it on your website, and it’s just a great thing to have a sample of your work in such an easily accessible format – not to mention the awesomeness of instant reader feedback! But I must admit there’s something magical about being published in print. Just seeing your story in the pages of a book, being able to hold it in your hands and run your fingertips over the words…I wanted that. I think a lot of writers do.

And, for one reason or another, the dream just kept drifting out of reach. My very first acceptance was for a print newspaper in the city where I attended college. I was thrilled. Then it didn’t happen. No explanation, never heard from the editor again. I spent long months feeling baffled and hurt, then eventually moved on.

My next acceptance – or, as I like to call it, my first real acceptance – came from Every Day Fiction. One of the many things that drew me to them was that they were a digital market, but they also put out an annual print anthology of their best stories. Sadly, they stopped doing this shortly after I started submitting to them. As far as I know, they’ve never restarted. I think it was just too expensive. Completely understandable, but once again, I had to put the dream on hold.

Then, just last year, I got the acceptance I’d been waiting for: one of my stories had been selected for a print children’s collection. Cloud Nine, here I come…right? Wrong. In December, I received an email from the publisher that they were no longer doing multi-author children’s collections and there was no guarantee they would ever publish my story.

I started to think I might be cursed. I started to think this particular dream would have to stay just that: a dream. I started to think maybe it was time to let it go.

Thankfully, I didn’t listen to those little whispering cockroaches of doubt. I kept submitting to print markets, and finally, it paid off. A few months ago, as I shared right here on ATHF, I received notification that my story “The Greatest Gift” would be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

But the awesomeness didn’t stop there. A few weeks after that, I got another email from Chicken Soup for the Soul: my dog story, “Legacy,” had been selected to appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

A few weeks after that, the unimaginable happened: my werewolf story, “Burn,” was accepted to appear in the August 2014 issue of Trysts of Fate, a dark paranormal romance magazine presented by Alban Lake Publishing. A print magazine.

After all those times the dream had slipped away, it seemed just too good to be true. When the hyper excitement wore off, I began to worry that maybe it was too good to be true. Both of these publishers were very reputable, but still, I’d been burned in the past – multiple times. I couldn’t truly let myself believe – not until I could hold the books in my hands. Like, for real.

In mid-July, I got my wish: the first batch of contributor’s copies arrived, and I ran my fingers over the glossy cover of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? for the very first time. I touched my name on the page, saw my words in print at long last. Less than a week later, I was holding a contributor’s copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?, caressing the pages, smelling the crispness of fresh ink on paper. Then, about a month after that, my third baby arrived. Trysts of Fate was just as glossy as the other two, the striking cover art looking even better in person than it had on the publisher’s website. There was even something special about just knowing that they were advance copies – something most people weren’t able to read or touch just yet.

Nowadays, of course, anyone can hold my babies. Anyone can read them. The Chicken Soup books officially came out on August 19th, and can be purchased in bookstores and online. The August 2014 issue of Trysts of Fate is available in Alban Lake Publishing’s online store.

The dream has finally, officially come true. And in the process, two other dreams got fulfilled, as well: 1.) I got a non-fiction story published for the first time, and 2.) I got published in a book with one of my absolute favorite authors: Beth Cato. (Her wonderful stories “Welcome to the Navy” and “All About the Balloon” also appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?)

So, now that I’ve had a month or so to bask in the glory, what’s next?

More dreams, of course! I have so many waiting in the wings: do a non-profit book signing, run a workshop with my writing group, finish my nano novel (yeah, still working on that…I think it’s become a trilogy at this point), have one of my stories illustrated, write a TV pilot, write a spec script for Castle, write a movie script, attend the Austin Film Festival, and of course the biggie – become a published novelist!

But that’s just me – what about you? What are your writing dreams, and how are you pursuing them? Maybe the only difference between a dream and a goal is doing something to make it happen…or simply not giving up the hope that it actually could.

Whatever your dream is, don’t give up on it. Even when Fate seems to be telling you, in a firm and convincing voice, that things are simply not going to work out for you. Sometimes there’s a nice surprise – or three – waiting just around the corner. 🙂

Keep writing!

-Gretchen

New Story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

So, it finally happened. That thing I’ve been dreaming about, striving for, and working my behind off to accomplish for the last several years. A few days ago, my story, “The Greatest Gift,” was officially selected for publication in the upcoming book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

Thus, on August 19th, 2014 (that’s THIS year!), my writing will appear in print for the very first time.

Believe it or not, it’s actually hard for me to write those words. As a shy person with Asperger’s Syndrome, self-promotion is probably the most difficult aspect of writing I’ve faced so far. The way I was raised, you don’t brag about yourself and your accomplishments – you just plain don’t.

And yet, when you’re a writer, you almost kinda have to.

It’s just the way of the business. I know this. I accept it. But still I’ve continued to cling to my shyness like it’s my old, faded-blue security binky. Hardly any of my friends know that I am serious about writing. I think only two of them are aware that I’ve been published before. If you’re wondering how many of them know about this website, that number drops to one. For some reason, telling strangers about my writing life is actually easier than telling the people closest to me.

It’s not that I don’t WANT to tell my friends. I do! I fantasize about it, imagine their reactions, and feel my pulse-rate go up a few notches. But when I finally see them face-to-face, my courage always seems to scurry away like a spider trying not to get stepped on. I keep my head down, and when my friends ask what’s new in my life, I just smile and say, “Same old, same old. Nothing interesting here.”

But now, this book is coming out, and it’s a BIG deal. It’s my chance to show this really awesome publisher – and potential future ones – that I can successfully promote a book and generate some sales. With dreams of getting my novels published some day, I can’t afford to stay in my shell. I plan on attacking this challenge with the aggression of a hungry Grizzly Bear – seeking out opportunities for book signings and media coverage, using every connection I have, and yes, telling my friends and family about my story’s publication.

(Even if it means blushing furiously and ducking my head while I do it.)

Whatever results I get – positive or otherwise – you guys will be the first to know. 🙂

A Year of Firsts

 

I’m back!

And more powerful than ever before!

(Okay, not really – it just sounded good 🙂 )

First things first: a huge, teary-eyed “thank you” goes out to anyone and everyone who’s still around after a year of infrequent updates and long periods of static silence. For those who don’t know, my family’s home was struck by lightning during a violent storm on May 31st, 2013. The house subsequently caught fire, sustaining major damage from the flames and the water used to put them out.

In the 365-plus days since then, my family has experienced a long list of “firsts.” First time landing on a family member’s doorstep with literally nothing but the smoke-scented clothing on our backs. First time living in a trailer. First time not having home internet access in over a decade. First time having people slow down as they drove past our house, just so they could take in the destruction.

It wasn’t the easiest year in the history of us. But in many ways, it was one of the best. Sometimes, it takes losing a few possessions to show you that the real treasures, the things that could never be replaced, are the people – and pets – you love. And sometimes, it takes a hard fall to show you just how many folks you have standing around you, willing and eager to help you right back up.

Thanks to the unending support of friends and family, the bravery of firefighters, and the resilience of the human spirit, we survived this challenge and emerged on the other side, stronger, better, and ready to embrace a whole new list of “firsts”:

First night spent in our brand-new house. First time enjoying high-speed internet at home. First time having people slow down as they drive past, just so they can admire the beauty of a skillfully rebuilt home.

Thank you again for riding along with me on this bumpy journey. I hope you’ll stick around for some of the awesome stuff I have planned, including:

FAN STUFF

Great Reads: Fiction and Fanfiction Recommendations

The Race: Results will be in as soon as I catch up on my tape viewing (though, I must say, having seen the Supernatural finale, I have a hard time believing anything can top that!)

Movie Reviews: Going to see X-Men: Days of Future Past tomorrow, so you’ll definitely be hearing about that! Also will be doing mini-reviews of the superhero movies I planned to write about last year, including Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, and Wolverine.

Fangirl Nostalgia: I’ll be taking a look back at some of my earliest fangirly obsessions, including some classic Mary Higgins Clark books and my favorite couple on General Hospital: Kevin and Lucy!

WRITER STUFF

Fiction Versus Faction: Examining the difference, and knowing when one crosses the line into the other.

New Market Research Tools and Calls for Submissions: Just because I didn’t have home internet access doesn’t mean I didn’t find a few nifty things in the last year 🙂

And finally, Book Promotion: My Journey. Just days ago, one of my non-fiction stories was selected to appear in the upcoming book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What? (release date: August 19th,  2014). It will be my first time in print, and also my first time facing the challenge of promoting a book. My successes, my failures, and anything else I learn along the way will be shared with my readers here on ATHF.

Chicken Soup for My Soul

Time to bust out the champagne! A member of my writing group has just been accepted for publication in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Chicken Soup: Inspiration for the Writer’s Soul, as a matter of fact. Our whole group is full-to-bursting with pride, and as we clinked our plastic cups full of sparkling grape juice (hey, we were in a public library), I realized this would be a good time to say a few words about the Chicken Soup franchise, and the opportunities it provides for writers.

For those of you who don’t know, Chicken Soup for the Soul is a series of inspirational books. Each book features roughly a hundred true stories that center on a specific theme. The theme might be cats, dogs, mother-daughter relationships, parents of autistic children, brides-to-be, or, in the case of my friend’s recent acceptance, inspiration for writers.

The reason this is such a cool opportunity: Chicken Soup is constantly coming out with new books. Meaning, they’re constantly calling for new material. Meaning, there are lots of chances to get published! Right now, they’re looking for true, inspirational stories on the following topics:

-Devotional Stories for Wives

-Holiday Stories

-Lemons to Lemonade

-Miracles

-Miraculous Messages from Heaven

-Multitasking Mom’s Survival Guide

-The Dating Game!

Now, maybe you’re a semi-pro golfer who hates holidays and has never seen a miracle in his life. If so, don’t fret – next month, they might very well be calling for entries to a brand-new book that’s right up your alley, like Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul: Touching Tales from on the Green, or something similar. This would be the perfect chance for you to write about those baby ducks you rescued from the sand trap. Or that time you took Grandpa putting and he really started to open up about his war days. No matter what your passions are, no matter where your life’s journey has taken you, you probably have at least one sweet, heartwarming story inside of you, just waiting for the right opportunity to come out.

Check Chicken Soup’s “Call For Entries” page often, and your chance just might come:

http://www.chickensoup.com/form.asp?cid=possible_books

Best of luck, and keep writing!

-Gretchen