79: A Lucky Break

79: A Lucky Break

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

A Lucky Break

Those who have succeeded at anything and don’t mention luck are kidding themselves.

~Larry King

I was late, and I was yelling expletives at my dashboard.

I couldn’t believe I was running late for the interview. I’d gotten all dressed up — a tweed skirt, purple shirt, and conservative black heels — trying to look my best, and now I’d gone and blown my chance by driving the wrong way and getting totally lost. I passed a sign that said I was entering New York, a surefire way to tell that I was heading in the wrong direction since my interview was in Connecticut.

Finally, I found it. I pulled up in front of the red brick building and walked in, looking around, trying to get my bearings. I’ve been to what feels like one million auditions, and yet I’m still surprised when an interview makes my stomach churn. The elevator opened and I stepped in.

I stood outside the door, glancing at the sign. “Chicken Soup for the Soul” it read. I swallowed hard and turned the brass knob.... “Hello?”

• • •

My summer internship at Chicken Soup for the Soul was a total coincidence — something I now think of as a very lucky break. My friend’s sister, Valerie, was looking for a temporary replacement for a few months and she knew that I was a writer, liked kids, and — most importantly — needed a job. I passed a writing sample along to the publisher, and before I knew it I was doing daily coffee runs for everyone in the office. I was a twenty-year-old intern doing intern things and receiving a weekly stipend. I spent the first few weeks doing my job — which was anything anyone needed done around the office.

And then things changed. Valerie left for her few months. With an insane twenty-eight books in the works for the next six months, eight of them for teens and preteens, my responsibilities multiplied. I was looking through stories sent in by contributors. I was choosing the ones I thought were really heartfelt and incredible. And when it turned out that I had an innate sense of how to rework a story without losing its original flavor, I was given the ultimate gift — the go-ahead to edit some of the teen stories.

I loved it. One day, I came home from work and changed my outfit — I was going out on a date. My date picked me up and we went to dinner, where I spent at least fifteen minutes recounting my favorite stories from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School. I was over-the-top excited to tell him about one girl’s crush, one boy’s embarrassment, and another girl’s triumph. I felt like I knew each of the contributors personally. I realized while I read and edited those stories that I was completely enthralled by what I was doing.

Somehow, it only got better. Bill, who is the CEO, Bob, who is the President, and Amy, who is the Publisher, took me under their wings and taught me everything they knew about publishing. I learned how to create a book from start to finish — from conceiving of the title, to soliciting the stories, to designing the cover and the interior, to reading two thousand stories to pick the very best 101 to create an initial manuscript. Our California staff taught me how to work with the contributors to sign their permission forms and edit their stories. I learned how to create and proofread a layout, and how a book gets sent to the printer. It was amazing to hold a finished book in our hands that had only been an idea a few months before.

We finished Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School and moved on to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk High School, and my name went on both of them as a co-author. I almost had a heart attack as I ascended the escalators at Barnes & Noble months later, eventually stepping off to find the books sitting on shelves, with my name on them. I think I’m still in shock.

I have continued working part-time for Chicken Soup for the Soul while I finish college, and when I came back during my winter break to work full-time for a month, it was more like a homecoming than anything else. I was overjoyed to see new books — books I had spent my summer immersed in — lining the shelves of the office.

Before Christmas, Amy made her way over to my desk. “Here,” she said, “Merry Christmas!” In it was a little Christmas present, but most importantly, a card. It read, “Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah” and written underneath it in blue pen, “We love you! Amy, Bob, and Bill.”

• • •

I went into that interview thinking I was getting myself into a summer internship just like any other summer internship. Instead, it turned into one of the most fulfilling summers of my life, and has continued to be my own personal Chicken Soup for the Soul success story.

~Madeline Clapps

More stories from our partners