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Series ladles up a magazine

Baltimore Sun

It began 15 years ago as a quirky concept: Two motivational speakers thought they could uplift downtrodden spirits with a book of selected feel-good stories that they likened to a bowl of chicken soup.

Today, who hasn’t heard of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, the international phenomenon created by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, who have sold more than 100 million copies, spawned a radio program and merchandise line and proved wrong the 140 publishers who initially dismissed their concept?

That’s the selling point J. Mignonne Wright offers each time she seeks to generate interest in the books’ latest spinoff: Chicken Soup for the Soul magazine.

“I say, ‘You know those Chicken Soup books that sold so well? We’re going to do a magazine version,’ and there’s no explanation needed,” said the publisher and editor in chief of the bimonthly periodical that recently debuted on newsstands nationwide.

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She’s also president of the publishing company, Memphis-based Modern Media, which has partnered with Chicken Soup Inc. to enter the burgeoning market of magazines devoted to simple, wholesome living.

The book series has hammered home that message big time. There are now 101 Chicken Soup titles, reaching out to every soul imaginable, including military wives, Canadians, horse lovers and NASCAR enthusiasts.

The book’s founders have depended heavily on fan input, and the same approach was taken with the magazine.

But don’t expect a glossy-covered, ad-filled version of the books.

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“We definitely do not want just a magazine of stories,” Wright said. “It’s funny and very clever.”

Wright has been down this road before. In December 2002, she launched American Magazine, describing it as a sort of Chicken Soup for the Soul that came out every other month.

Canfield and Hansen became intrigued about American Magazine after hearing that Wright endured some of the same struggles getting her vision off the ground as they did.

“When we saw American Magazine, we knew we wanted to work with Mignonne to launch Chicken Soup for the Soul magazine,” Canfield said.

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Wright has since discontinued American Magazine. Meanwhile, Chicken Soup for the Soul magazine has a circulation of 150,000 and an advertising demographic for women ages 25 to 54.

“There will be no ads for alcohol, no tobacco and no controversy,” she said. “But it’s a lot more than just rainbows and butterflies.”

The first issue features rare black-and-white photos of Elvis Presley by 76-year-old photographer Al Wertheimer, whose accompanying story shares tales of photographing the king of rock ‘n’ roll 50 years ago.

There’s also a story about a woman who created a diet that can help reduce symptoms of 10 diseases, and a feature on favorite recipes from grandmothers.

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Wright said much of the content is in line with what readers say they want. “They wanted it to be fun. They’re looking for information they can use,” she said.


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