'Chicken Soup' for writers

What writer hasn't faced rejection? How do you stay motivated enough to put pen to paper? When does one find the time to write?

The folks behind the popular "Chicken Soup for the Soup'' series believe it has 101 answers for the above.

The self-help series has released a new collection, "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers" (Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, $14.95), featuring stories about the triumphs and struggles of everyday writers. Three are from South Florida.

Fort Lauderdale-based New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer opens the anthology with his tale of rejection woe.

"I got twenty-four rejection letters on my first novel … That book is still sitting on my shelf, published by Kinko's," he writes.

Meltzer offers this advice to people have been rejected repeatedly by editors: "No matter what kind of book you're writing, don't let anyone tell you no."

In "Inspiration for Writers,'' Delray Beach resident Josie Willis, has a story called "My Muse," which chronicles how her late husband Ty Willis was her biggest supporter,

"I feel very proud of it because it's honoring my husband and paying tribute to my husband,'' said Willis, a retired ad copy writer. "We were married for 40 years and we went through so much. I honored him."

Willis describes how he encouraged her to pursue her love of writing in love letters that he gave her during their courtship in 1972. Both worked at the same radio station.

"Your writing is as beautiful as you are,'' she recalls him writing to her before they got married. "Your words flow effortlessly on the page and from your heart."

Willis said that although her parents didn't support her love of words, Ty Willis was her biggest fan.

"I shouldered on, believing in my talent, as he believed in me,'' she writes in the story. "My dream was his because he knew writing was what made me happy."

Her husband was also the first to hear her read the obituary she wrote for him before he died of brain cancer in January 2012.

"Now I write the words he still inspires. I write for all who grieve. I write for all who aspire to be writers and who are inspired by angels like mine."

Victoria Fedden, of Fort Lauderdale, recalls her own literary angel in the new "Chicken Soup" book.

When she was a self-described cocky 16-year-old writer, she was rejected and inspired by a big-time publishing editor in New York City. In her story, "Fire and Spirit," Fedden talks about the time she sent a package of poetry to "one of the most famous editors who has ever lived at one of the most prestigious presses in the world … As an adult, I cringe to think that I did this at 16."

For several months, there was no reply. Until one day, she received a box with novels, books of poetry and a personalized letter.

"He'd written that my poems had 'fire and spirit,' and that my writing was filled with passion and exciting imagery … To be a writer, he explained, one must live thoroughly. Have adventures, seek out extraordinary people, never fear heartbreak … and never, ever stop writing."

Fedden still remains in awe of the editor's gesture.

"It was such an unusual thing for someone to do. I thought it was so kind for that editor to go out of his way to do something like that,'' said Fedden, a stay-at-home mom. "I took those words to heart and read the books."

Fedden eventually studied creative writing at Florida Atlantic University and taught writing classes there and at Palm Beach State College and Barry University.

This month, she's publishing her memoir, "Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat," which recounts her year working as a "nerdy hostess" at a Fort Lauderdale strip club before she seriously pursued writing.

She added that the editor's "words of encouragement have really stayed with me all these years later." or 954-356-4939

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