Giving the Gift of Story

Imagine you are writing a saga, a rich and multi-layered tale that is filled with intriguing scenes and fascinating characters. Your story resonates with insights about childhood and families, about friendships and intimacy. It delves into the issues of betrayal, joy, fear, and love as well as longing and loss. The tale you are spinning details the ultimate defeat or triumph of the human spirit. Your task is an enormous one and has huge implications for your own life and as well as for the lives of the people it touches.

hopibearYou are in the middle of inventing this story right now, even as you start to read this paragraph. You career as a storyteller began when you were born. Whether you consciously claim this role as author or not, it is yours. Every day that you draw breath you remain hard at work constructing the story you tell yourself about everything you do and everything that happens to you.

From the time you awake each morning until you fall asleep each night, you construct this narrative in your mind, turning out scene after scene, adding and removing characters, and layering one subplot on top of another. You are not the only one doing this. Everyone you know is authoring his or her own story, and you are a character in those tales too. Our storymaking is part of the human condition. The reason we do it is to find meaning in the raw material of our life experience.


“Stories are equipment for living.” Kenneth Burke


hopibearSharing our stories is part of what it means to be human as well. When we speak or write our stories and listen to or read the stories of others, we become connected. Story sharing provides us with a sense of belonging, solace, and hope. We become aware that we are a part of something greater than ourselves.

“The very act of story telling, of arranging memory and invention according to the structure of the narrative, is by definition holy….We tell stories because we can’t help it. We tell stories because we love to entertain and hope to edify. We tell stories because they fill the silence death imposes. We tell stories because they save us.” James Carroll

hopibearMost young writers begin by penning tales of unrelenting angst and despair. The writers whose names we remember, the writers whose words we read over and over again, outgrow that jaded perspective. They awaken us to options we didn’t know we had. They open windows to new ways of looking at ourselves and the world. They inspire us.

“If we see our life as a trivial story, we fall easily into inertia and defeat. Seeing our life as a larger story puts us back on our feet and helps us get on with living. And seeing our life as a great story can fill us with the passion for the possible, give us access codes to a new range of possibilities, and grant us a mythic life.” Jean Houston

Six Paying Markets for Your Inspirational, True Stories:

Chicken Soup…for just about everybody’s soul. When motivational speakers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanson approached major publishers with Chicken Soup for the Soul, no one was interested. Small publisher, Health Communications, was willing to take a risk. The number of Chicken Soup books keeps growing. Projects with a January 31, 2003 deadline include the Bride’s Soul, the Heroic Soul, the African American Soul, the Fisherman’s Soul and the Horse Lover’s Soul.

Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul, edited by LeAnn Thieman, just had its deadline extended to March 31.

About 40 more Chicken Soup titles are in the planning stages. The books have different editors, but have similar requirements. Stories must be true and range from 300 to 1,200 words in length. Payment is $300.00. The guidelines posted at read like a short course in inspirational writing.

God Allows U-Turns is a Christian oriented series of personal story anthologies edited by Allison Gappa Bottke. Two to three of these books are published each year. Upcoming projects include: Medical Miracles, It’s About Worth not Weight, Golden Memories, From Grief to Glory and Especially for Single Parents. Bottke, who wants U-Turns books to continue for many years, says she is always willing to consider a good story even if it doesn’t fit into upcoming themes posted on the site.

Stories need to be true. Contributors may be from any denomination. If your story is published, you’ll receive a $50.00 honorarium and a free copy of the book in which your story appears. Guidelines are posted at

Cup of Comfort books, published by Adams Media, Corporation are edited by Colleen Sell. Upcoming titles for which she is seeking stories are: Inspiration, A Cup of Comfort for Teachers, and Courage. Some of the themes for future books will be Children of Divorce, Soul Mates, Healers and Helpers, Creative Spirits, Christians, Blended Families, Devotion and Generosity.

True stories need to be from 1,000 to 2,000 words long. Each story accepted earns the author $100. A $500 grand prize is awarded to one story in each volume. Read how to Brew a Cup of Comfort Story at

Chocolate Stories began with Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul. That was followed by Chocolate for a Teen’s Soul, both published by Simon and Schuster. Kay Allenbaugh, the editor, urges potential contributers to read stories posted in the chocolate sampler section of her website. She continues to look for teen and women stories for future volumes. Contributors earn a $100 honorarium for each story Allenbaugh publishes.

Guideposts Books seeks personal stories for their daily devotionals for Daily Guideposts. These compelling first person stories run from 200 to 250 words and must reveal the teller’s character. The stories need to focus on faith in action. Rather than looking for one-time contributors, they seek people who can write for them on an ongoing basis. Instructions about how to apply are posted on their site

Guideposts Magazine ( pays between $250 and $500 for true stories between 750 and 1500 words. Payment for shorter manuscripts ranges from $100 to $250. Fillers under 250 words earn authors between $25 and $100. When you visit this site, read about how to submit to their other publications: Angels Magazine, Guideposts for Teens and Guideposts for Children.