Friday Speak Out!: Anthology Success Recipe, Guest Post by Linda O'Connell

Friday, November 15, 2013
In everything you do, even the most mundane tasks, without even thinking about it, you have a strategy, a plan, a recipe for success.

Occasionally I grocery shop without a list, and I have to return to the store. Whether I'm shopping or writing, when I don't have a plan, I have to repeat my actions; then my work piles up and I feel overwhelmed.

While some writers can toss a few words onto the page and write a great story without effort, most of us need a formula. I have been published in 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Each of my stories has had universal appeal, a beginning, middle and end, a uniqueness. Sometimes it was my message and other times my adventure that made my story stand out from the others. With each story, I followed a recipe and then flavored it my way.

Imagine you're scoping out Facebook and come across a recipe for the perfect cake. You would like to enter it in a contest for an upcoming church bazaar. You gather necessary tools and ingredients, mix, bake and create a masterpiece. The only problem is, you and half the population in your church discover the same recipe, bake the cake in a foil 9x13 pan and frost it with chocolate icing. Lined up on a countertop, you can't distinguish yours from the others. What about your masterpiece will earn you the blue ribbon prize? Is it how you decorated it? The elegant presentation? What will be the attention grabber?

Anthology competition is tough. Chicken Soup for the Soul receives a 1,000 or more submissions for each title call out. Editors whittle selections down to 200 and then select 101 stories for publication. Following writer's guidelines is similar to following a cake recipe.

• Choose the preparation tools and technique that works for you. Do you free-write and then edit, or edit as you go? Always edit one last time.

• Every cook adds their own touch, something special which distinguishes their product from the rest. Season carefully. Adding a shot of bourbon (expletives) or a dash of cayenne pepper (wisecracks) to a Chicken Soup story won't spice it up. Your recipe will flop. However, tossing in metaphor, blending humor, sprinkling inspiration will catch an editor's attention.

• Your title must have immediate appeal. Chicken Strips or Chicken Fingers, which recipe heading is more creative and interesting?

• Sometimes like similar cakes at a bazaar, there are too many of the same type of story submissions. Therefore, not every one of them gets chosen. Rejection has little to do with you and your product, and more to do with market needs.

• Just as the last bite of your cake should be as tasty as the first morsel, your story ending should be as delectable as your opening. Leave the reader with a wonderful taste, a powerful, uplifting message, a desire to try to replicate your success. Write from your heart.

* * *
Linda O'Connell, an award-winning, multi published writer, beach lover and preschool teacher from St. Louis, MO blogs at

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Sioux Roslawski said...

Linda--Your sizzling success--OVER 20 (by this time, probably) CS book publication--is proof that your writing is succulent and satisfying.

You are one of St. Louis' Chicken Soup Queens. Thanks for sharing your "recipe."

Jennifer Brown Banks said...


Thanks for providing these tasty "morsels" of wisdom. :-)

Marcia Peterson said...

Your repeated Chicken Soup success is inspiring. Thanks for sharing your tips!

LuAnn Schindler said...

Wonderful reminders of what it takes to earn the blue ribbon prize! :)


Unknown said...


Thanks for sharing these tips-- you obviously have learned the key to successful submissions with Chicken Soup. I just had my first story accepted (still tentatively at this point) and am grateful but not sure I nailed the formula enough for a repeat performance. Your tips will help me do that, I hope.

Margo Dill said...

So glad to see the Chicken Soup Lady sharing her tips on WOW!'s blog--Linda is amazing, y'all! Listen to her advice. :)

Linda O'Connell said...

Thank you Sioux, Jennifer, MP, Lu Ann, Julie and Margo for your kind words.

I encourage all of you to write from your heart.

Pat Wahler said...

An inspiring recipe from an outstanding chef. Thanks for the tips, Linda!


Southhamsdarling said...

Gosh, now why can't I be as witty as K9friend, who left such an approprate comment! Your writing obviously speaks for itself Linda, in that you have had many, many stories published. Thank you so much for giving us such wise tips here today.

Anonymous said...

You might say Linda is a "master chef" when it comes to penning life stories. :-)

Thanks for sharing the tips, Linda! Always helpful when I can get a leg up on the competition! (Or should I say a "drumstick"?) :-)

Unknown said...

I keep trying to grab their attention. They what me...they just don't know it! :)

Dianna Graveman said...

Congrats on another informative piece, Linda!

Bookie said...

Great advice delivered in a delicious manner! Always count on Linda to spice up the ordinary...thanks, Linda.

BECKY said...

Great post, Linda. I have to try to be as witty as Ms. Cathy C. She said, "Linda is a 'master chef' when it comes to penning life stories." I'll say you're a Master Chef at Whipping Up Stories! (I's a groaner, isn't it?!) Seriously, Linda you are always very generous, sharing what you've learned over the years. You certainly gave me a jump start when we met a few years ago.

Connie said...

Thank you for sharing this sound advice, Linda. You speak from experience, and you obviously offer us a recipe for success!

Val said...

Alas, I can only bake from a boxed mix. My own special recipes are a bit too spicy. Thank goodness I have found a few intrepid souls with an appetite for what I am dishing out.

Sound advice. I will practice reining in my penchant for excess seasonings.

River said...

Great advice Linda. I'm working on a short story, I write until the flow of words stops, then edit what I have. When I pick up the story again, I repeat the process. There will be a further edit of the whole thing if/when it is ever finished.
For years I thought Chicken Soup for the Soul was just one book, now I learn it is several and growing.

Susan said...

Hi Linda! Nice that you have a post on The Muffin.

You are the best Chicken Soup "baker" that I know! Keep up the terrific work.

Enjoyed the analogy in your post! Susan

Tammy said...

Delicious tips, Linda Thank you!

Linda O'Connell said...

I sincerely thank each of you for stopping by and leaving a comment. You have touched my heart.

Anonymous said...

Now you've wetted my appetite!

Lynn said...

As always, you have a way with words and this one was delicious!

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