"Fame isn't the source of true happiness. . . "

Women Co-authors Share in Success of Chicken Soup

Hard Work and Inspiration Meet Opportunity

A Special "Insights" Feature by Doris Booth

Any writer who has thought about dumping his or her dream can take heart in the story of Marci Shimoff and Jennifer Read Hawthorne, two lecturers and writers who made it to the top as co-authors in the phenomenal Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

Together with Jack Canfield, and Mark Victor Hansen, Marci and Jennifer wrote Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul and Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul. The two titles are among 17 in what has become the best selling book series in America. Collectively, the books have sold more than 30 million copies since the first title appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list in 1984. Woman’s Soul, and Mother’s Soul are two of the top sellers in the series.

A miracle? Not really. Marci and Jennifer say their luck was a case of “preparedness meeting opportunity.”

The series is based on stories of inspiration, hope, love and courage, the very elements for which our society is “obviously starved”, says Marci.

“Most people don’t realize the obstacles Jack and Mark went through to make their books a success,” she points out. The original authors had been motivational speakers for 20 years, and students encouraged them to write down the stories they often related in their classes. But what would they call it? 101 Great Stories? Such an ordinary title wouldn’t do. The right title suddenly came to Jack on the fourth day of a long period of meditation: chicken soup, not for the body, but for the soul.

The first book by Canfield and Hanson was rejected by 33 publishers as “ stupid” and “too nice.” Then, Peter Vegso, president of the tiny, little known publishing house, Health Communications, met the authors at an American Booksellers Association convention. The manuscript brought him to tears, and he decided to tak a risk on the project.

When Marci met Jack Canfield in 1989, she worked as a corporate trainer, and already knew she wanted to spend her life teaching self esteem programs for women. But she needed a mentor.

“When I attended Jack Canfield’s summer training program for educators, trainers and speakers, I instantly knew he would be my mentor. So, I continued taking advanced courses and became a training assistant.”

A few years later, Marci and Jennifer formed a partnership called The Esteem Group. “We wanted to teach courses based on Chicken Soup for the Soul, specifically for women.” Jack agreed. They could take what they had learned and use it as they liked. When they began teaching the women’s class, Chicken Soup had not yet caught on as a total concept, but within a year both Marci’s and Jennifer’s talks and the Canfield/Hanson book were prospering.

The two women had been writing and teaching for years– Marci with an MBA in training and development, and Jennifer with a BA in journalism. “We were bored, ready to move on. And everything we had done in our working life prepared us for what we were about to do,” says Marci.

One day, on a much-needed break from a grueling teaching schedule, Marci began meditating. The idea flashed before her: Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul. In that silent moment, the concept of Chicken Soup niche markets had been born. “I knew it was good,” says Marci. “So Jennifer and I met with Jack and proposed the idea.

“Sounds great, “said Jack, “But why do I need you to do it?”

“Well, Jack, “ said Jennifer, shifting in her chair, “You don’t need us, but we do specialize in talking to women’s audiences, we have a passion for the subject, and we know what makes a great story.”


“And, we are women,” Marci filled the gap.

Jack picked up the phone and called Peter Vegso at Health Communications . He loved it.

A sequel to Woman’s Soul will be released by Health Communications in October, 1998. And now, Marci and Jennifer are working on their next title, Chicken Soup for the Single Soul, due for release in October, 1999 .

Marci and Jennifer, are also seeking inspirational stories from the public for the Single Soul book, for which they’re well prepared to write. The book will focus on all singles, including those never married, as well as divorcees, windows and widowers. Jennifer is divorced, remarried, and now lives in Idaho with her husband and step-children. Marci has never been married and now lives in Florida, but keeps in touch with Jennifer by phone, fax and email.

In the beginning, writing was the last thing Marci had ever wanted to do. Fate, however, had ideas of her own, and consistently steered Marci in that direction. Her first job was as a writing teacher, though she had told her boss in the job interview that she’d do anything but teach writing. Her prospective boss invited her to attend one of her writing classes, and Marci decided, “ I can do this!” Marci thinks the fact that she wound up as a writing teacher shows there’s a natural order in the universe, an order that it is best not to oppose.

Today, she possesses both fame and success. So how does it feel? Marci has two answers. “Incredible, it’s a dream come true. I’m grateful and happy. .. ”

“. . . but, the second answer is: fame isn’t the source of true happiness. There’s a deeper well of fulfillment.”

As Marci says in some of her Chicken Soup classes, “Living with esteem is living with fullness of mind, body and spirit.” Perhaps when one follows one’s true nature, preparedness does meet opportunity, and luck happens.


Copyright 1998 Authorlink!