Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul
by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Bud Gardner
Book Review by Amy Coffin
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In case you live in a cave (and there's nothing wrong with that), you probably have heard of the Chicken Soup series of books. There have been over 20 so far and 38 million people have purchased them.

The recipe for the Chicken Soup books includes inspiration, self-help, humor, love, pain, teaching, learning and a big dose of reality. These elements can be found in the stories between the covers. What makes the series successful is that the stories are very moving, and they are told by people from all walks of life.

There are several different kinds of Chicken Soup books geared toward different interests. The very first book is called Chicken Soup for the Soul. Since its first printing, there have been many offshoots including Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul, and Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul.

This review focuses on Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul, co-authored by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Bud Gardner. Between the covers are eighty essays on writing and life. In true Chicken Soup fashion, these snippets are divided into ten categories:

How I Became a Writer
Living Your Dream
Defining Moments
Finding Your Voice
Making a Difference
Overcoming Obstacles
A Writer's Life
The Power of Perseverance
Insights and Lessons

Many of the contributors are familiar names including Ray Bradbury, Clive Cussler, Sue Grafton, Art Linkletter and Garry Marshall. There are some names with which I am not familiar, but their stories are poignant nonetheless.

One of the most memorable essays is from Nora Profit. As an unknown writer, she lied her way into an interview with the singer. Salome Bey. She wrote the article and sent it to Essence magazine. Three weeks later, the manuscript was returned in the self-addressed envelope Ms. Profit had included. Not wanting to read the rejection slip, she hid the envelope in a closet.

Five years later, as she was packing for a move, she found the envelope and didn't recognize it. Curious as to why her own  handwriting was on the front, she opened the package. On the top was an acceptance letter and a request for more information. The people at Essence had wanted her article, but she never knew. She was too afraid of rejection.

Says, Profit: "Looking back on this experience, I learned a very important lesson: You can't afford to doubt yourself."

The basic message of this book tells you that if you want to be a writer, then pursue that dream and make it a reality. If you are faced with rejection, then don't give up. Keep trying and you'll reach your goal.

The content of Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul is 100% inspirational. This book offers no lessons on writing technique or execution. Rather, it is a quick pick-me-up for anyone feeling intimidated by the gigantic feat that is a writing task.

This version of Chicken Soup would make a great gift for an aspiring writer or student. I don't see established writer's benefiting from these essays, as they have already traveled the rocky path that is published writing.

However, one does not have to be a writer to enjoy this book. I picked up this copy at the library simply to review it.  I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed reading the essays by some of my favorite writers.

According to the authors, the mission of this book is to "turn you, America and the world on to the value of writing." Ok, I'll give them that. However, the back cover also states that you will learn how to "write your way through college" and "remake a world." Here's where I beg to differ. This is merely a book of little inspirational essays geared toward the writer. If you don't have talent, this book won't provide it for you. It's a fine essay collection, I just wish it wasn't marketed as one big Oprah-esque miracle cure for crappy writing.

That being said, I still recommend this book to beginning writers, students and avid readers who enjoy the work of many authors. Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul won't show you how to write the next great American novel, but it may just help those who have fallen to get right back on the writing path.

Keep these observations in perspective and Enjoy!