A compelling true story has the power to bring hope and encouragement in a way that facts and figures never can. The proof of that, as someone once said, is in the pudding. Or should that be “in the soup,” as in chicken soup?
Since 1993, books in the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series have sold more than 112 million copies, with titles translated in more than 40 languages. Shawnelle Eliasen of Port Byron has contributed 11 personal stories that have been published in eight different “Chicken Soup” titles — with three more due out this year.
“I love writing for ‘Chicken Soup,’ ” she says. “It’s an honor and a blessing to have the opportunity to share stories meant to inspire and encourage. Times are tough. Messages that touch the soul in a positive way are needed.”
Stories of Eliasen’s have been featured in “Chicken Soup for the Soul” under titles such as “Thanks, Mom,” “Thanks, Dad,” “Think Positive,” “New Moms,” “Devotional Stories for Mothers,” “Find Your Happiness,” “Food and Love” and “Just for Preteens.”
She also has been published in the magazines Guidepost, Angels on Earth and MomSense, as well as the books “Christmas Miracles” and “The Spirit of Christmas.” To date, she has had 30 short stories published, with several more slated to come out this year. And all of these stories have been inspired by her everyday life.
As a busy stay-at-home and home-schooling mom, the inspiration for her stories isn’t hard to come by. The cast of characters in her everyday life includes her husband of 22 years, Lonny, an electrical engineer for the 3M Co., and their five sons; Logan, a student at Wheaton College; Grant, a freshman at Riverdale High School; and Samuel, Gabriel and Isaiah, ages 10, 6, and 4 years, respectively. The family has made their home in Port Byron for the past seven years.
“I’m interested in encouraging others by sharing life experiences that many can relate to. I’m relational and I want to connect. If I can’t connect, I don’t want to write,” she said.
Eliasen says she has always loved to write, but up until a few years ago, getting lost in words was a once-a-year indulgence reserved for writing the family Christmas letter. The step from writing a single holiday letter to writing for anthologies and magazines happened after she attended the Quad-Cities Christian Writers’ Conference in 2008 and participated in writing workshops led by best-selling author and teacher Cecil Murphey, a Davenport native.
“He (Cecil) read my Christmas letters and then spoke personal, encouraging words that fueled my passion for writing,” Eliasen says.
“When Shawnelle showed me something that she wrote, I knew right away that obvious talent was there,” Murphey said. “She proved to be a willing worker, and that’s what it takes.”
Murphey has authored more than 100 books, including “90 Minutes in Heaven” (with Don Piper), which was on the New York Times best-seller list for years, and “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story” (with Dr. Ben Carson).
After attending the conference, Eliasen entered her first formally written piece in an essay contest through Guidepost. Her essay was one of 15 chosen, and winners of the contest were flown to Rye, N.Y., to attend a training workshop taught by Guidepost editors.
“My path to publication isn’t traditional. I believe it’s been uniquely paved,” she said.
While Eliasen does not claim to “have it all together,” she believes the best gifts in life are wrapped up in everyday living, even the messy parts. Through her stories and her blog (shawnellewrites.blogspot.com), she hopes to convey messages of hope and encouragement.
“Writing with deep-gut honesty is not hard for me. I hope that when people read, they’ll not feel alone or unique in their struggles. I want to be transparent in hopes that someone else will benefit.”