Interview With Amy Newmark: Chicken Soup Still Warming the Soul

[ 0 ] January 1, 2011 |

Amy Newmark

Amy Newmark’s goal is to warm hearts. As the publisher, author and editor of the 18-year-old series Chicken Soup for the Soul, Amy is responsible for finding the stories that will touch the world. genConnect.com had the unique opportunity to ask Amy our questions and yours as well. From the book that made her cry to her secret to publishing, year after year, titles that continue to inspire, here’s what Amy has to say:

1.    Describe your typical day from morning to night? Is it what one would think: you reading numerous stories a day?

The life of a publisher and editor-in-chief varies quite a bit from day to day. My favorite days are the ones when I get to read stories all day or edit a final manuscript. That does happen a lot, but there are those other days, filled with administrative chores, such as working on inventory, ordering paper, writing contracts, and paying writers, that are not as much fun!

3.      Which story or stories from any Chicken Soup for the Soul made you laugh the hardest?

A recent story comes to mind immediately, in our book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters. One of our editors, Chicken Soup Family MattersBarbara LoMonaco, wrote it about her husband Frank, who is obsessed with keeping his cars clean and ding-free, to the point that he parks the car at the far end of parking lots and always makes her walk long distances to their destinations. One day, after he found the perfect parking spot at the far end of a parking lot, and she walked a long distance to and from a restaurant just so he could protect his precious car, they returned to the car and found it absolutely covered with bird poop. They couldn’t even see out the windows. Frank’s perfect spot, far from the other cars, was under a convergence of power lines! Since I know Frank, I laugh every time I read that story. And when we got together a few months ago to visit some vineyards in California, I brought along dozens of fake bird poop decals. While Barbara kept Frank busy inside a wine tasting room, I decorated Frank’s car with the decals. When he saw the car, the look on his face was priceless.

2.    Which story or stories from any Chicken Soup for the Soul title(s) made you cry the most?

I think the group of stories that made me cry the most was the chapter in our book for grandparents, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great, in which grandmothers describe becoming a grandmother. That is so heartwarming, and I can only imagine at this point what it will be like to see my own children become parents in a few years, but those stories always get to me!

4.      During the ’80s and ’90s you were a Wall Street executive and started your own hedge fund in 1993. The next 10 years you served on several boards for public companies in telecommunications and technology. What are the differences to what you do now to what you did then?

All of my jobs have involved writing — lots of it!

When I was on Wall Street, I wrote reports about different public companies, and then I was working for different companies, I was always the executive or the board member who was in charge of writing our press releases, annual reports, and other communications with our shareholders. I think the difference now is that I know I am helping people with every story that I publish. It is very fulfilling, and we get lots of appreciate letters and emails from people who say we have made a big difference to them.

5.     Chicken Soup for the Soul has been a part of our lives for eighteen years with more than 180 titles! How do you keep each new title fresh and engaging?

The books evolve with the times. For example, our old books for preteens and teens were written before the Internet was easily available. Now our books for preteens and teens reflect the new ways that kids communicate and how that has changed their social lives. We are also very aware of how times have changed in terms of the economy and our new books contain lots of stories that reflect the financial difficulties that many people are having. We put out a whole book on this topic in the summer of 2009, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough Peoples, that is extremely uplifting, since all the people who wrote for it described how they were managing with less during this recession and yet finding greater happiness in their newly simplified lives.

6.      What’s the most inspiring story you have ever read during your work at Chicken Soup?

There is not one particular story, but the collection of stories that has inspired me the most is our book about dieting and fitness, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You. Our whole staff was affected by that book as we edited it, and we all started eating healthier food and working out more. We all lost weight. Even though we worked on that book six months ago (it just came out December 28th) its impact has lasted. There was a story in there about the value of eating apples — that if you aren’t hungry enough to eat an apple, then you aren’t hungry enough to eat anything — that made a big impact on me. I’ve been eating a lot more apples, and I lost five pounds and kept them off, even through Thanksgiving and Christmas.

7.     Nice job! In addition to an improved figure, how else has reading other people’s stories impacted your own life?

Reading all these stories has made me aware of how strong people are and how lucky I am to have the life that I have. Our whole staff is often amazed when we receive a story from one of our regular writers and learn for the first time that she is partly paralyzed, or that he lost his wife at an early age, or that she is living in a trailer park because she lost her house. Our writers inspire us!

8.      Which title has been the best-selling of all?

The very first book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, was our best-selling book ever, selling more than eight million copies, but in recent times, our best-selling book is one of my favorites, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive, which came out in late 2010. What an inspirational book! It is a wonderful way to change your attitude and push the “reset” button on your life.

Thank you, Amy, for helping us throughout all these years “reset” by reading wonderful stories.

Giveaway coming up …Check back soon! We’ll be announcing a Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive giveaway! To be eligible, you must be a registered genConnect member. Click here to sign up.

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Category: Giving Back, Mentoring

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