The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION
By: Jordan Ross
Posted: 04/26/2018 9:30 AM
A Niverville couple’s humorous true story is reaching an international audience after being ladled into the latest volume of a popular and long-running book series.
Jan Kendall St. Cyr said she learned in January that her husband’s tale of hair lost and hair found would be one of 101 short stories included in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Crazy Family.
Published earlier this month, the book is the latest in a series of more than 250 titles that together have sold over 100 million copies in Canada and the United States, according to publisher Simon & Schuster.
St. Cyr said she heard more than 6,000 submissions from across North America were considered for My Crazy Family.
The publication is the latest professional success for the mother of four and grandmother of six, who has journalled nearly her entire life but only began writing for public consumption two years ago, when she seized an opportunity to pen a monthly column in the Niverville Citizen.
Around the same time, she began submitting writing samples online to writers and workshops offering advice.
The process of editing and receiving feedback proved valuable last summer, when she decided to submit three compositions to the Chicken Soup website, which was seeking lighthearted stories of family life for its upcoming volume.
"We have a wacky family, so there’s lots of fodder there for this kind of submission," St. Cyr said this week.
After waiting more than four months, she was thrilled to be notified one of her submissions made the cut.
Set eight years ago, the story revolves around her husband of 38 years, Gerry, and his new strategy to combat baldness.
While hair loss can be a sensitive topic for many men, St. Cyr said her husband had no qualms about publicizing his follicle folly.
"I definitely asked him permission," she said. "He graciously let me tell this story."
St. Cyr said working with Chicken Soup was "a great learning experience" that taught her more about storytelling, including how to write visually, frame past experiences, and consider audience concerns.
"Even if it’s about you, you can’t make it about you," she observed.
It also boosted the confidence of someone who, by her own admission, was more accustomed to supporting her family’s creative endeavours than indulging her own.
"It was actually very difficult for me to receive this (success). I’d always been the wind under everybody else’s wings," she said.
Since receiving her copy of My Crazy Family, St. Cyr said she has enjoyed reading her story to friends and family.
"I hope people take away the truth that we need to lighten up and learn to laugh at ourselves," she said.
"Humour is a great way to overcome certain things."
St. Cyr said she hopes to use her Chicken Soup experience as a stepping stone to other work for Simon & Schuster, and encouraged fledgling writers to read writers whose prose they admire.
"Reading is, I think, the most essential part of being a writer," she said.
She also stressed the importance of fine-tuning first drafts.
"This one I probably rewrote 20 times," she noted.
Part of a musically gifted family, St. Cyr also drew parallels to songwriting.
"Learning how to write a song is really learning how to write a short story," she said. "It teaches you that you have to get to the point very quickly."
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