“How great is it to have a job where I get to just share wonderful storytelling with people?” Amy Newmark talks with Zibby about her love of stories, the path, 30-years in the making, that lead her to Chicken Soup for the Soul, and more upcoming anthologies.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Amy. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Amy Newmark: Hey. I’m thrilled to be here. I’ve heard about you for years. I was so excited to finally get the opportunity to meet you.

Zibby: This is so great because we have these anthologies coming out at the exact same time. Your book, which, as you know, I read a couple months ago, I read it on one of these days where I can’t remember why, but I was walking around my house the whole time reading it. All I remember is looping around and reading essay after essay and thinking I was just going to read one. Then I couldn’t stop. It was so good. Now, of course, I’ve forgotten most of them, but they were amazing.

Amy: They’re like potato chips.

Zibby: They are, right?

Amy: You can’t stop. I sometimes read our old books again. I’ll say, I’m just going to read one story. Then I’ll just sit there and read five stories because I can’t stop.

Zibby: They’re great. This whole Chicken Soup for the Soul enterprise you have going, this particular book is the latest one, called Making Me Time: 101 Stories About Self-Care and Balance. I do want to talk about this book because it has so many great essays from all sorts of different writers. I want to just start and get some background on how you got to where you are right now. How did this whole enterprise get revamped and launched? How do you keep launching books with 101 essays all the time?

Amy: I don’t know. It’s kind of like a hamster on a treadmill. It just never stops. Sometimes I say it’s like labor pains. One comes. Then you have a little break. Then there’s another one. You can’t stop. They’re always going to come. I feel that way with books. I get one to the printer, but I have to immediately turn to the next one. There’s just no downtime. I do love doing it, so that’s the good part. I complain about it all the time, about how busy I am. Then I really find that I love it anyway. It’s storytelling. How great is it to have a job where I get to just share wonderful storytelling with people? It was funny. We bought the company in 2008 from its founders, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. They were motivational speakers. They were writing a lot of other books besides Chicken Soup for the Soul books. They just decided it was time to pass Chicken Soup for the Soul on to people who could take it to the next level.

I had not had a résumé in years because I had always just gone by reputation. I was a Wall Street person and a technology person. I was an analyst covering telecom and technology stocks. Then I ran a hedge fund. I was hired by one of the companies I invested in and became part of a telecommunications startup. Then I left there because I married the CEO. That was a time when you couldn’t be one of the top executives and be married to the CEO at a public company. Maybe now you can, but you couldn’t then. That was twenty-five years ago. Then I started going on the boards of various publicly traded technology companies. My whole life was that until I turned fifty and the last kid went off the college. We were officially empty nesters. That’s when we decided to do that crazy thing and buy a publishing company right at the beginning of a huge recession with bookstores closing and Borders going bankrupt. It was a terrible time to buy anything, especially a publishing company, but we survived. Anyway, I was putting together a résumé then. The funniest thing happened. I sat down and thought about what I had done in my life and realized that I had just made a complete thirty-year circle. When I was twenty and doing research for my honors thesis for undergrad, I went off to Brazil for several months and was collecting stories from regular people in Brazil. There was a form of popular literature that anybody could just make these crudely printed pamphlets and share stories with each other. I was in Brazil for months traveling to all these poverty-stricken regions and talking to people and collecting their stories. Then I realized, oh, my gosh, I did this when I was twenty. Now I’m starting to do this again in my new career at age fifty.

Zibby: Wow. What was it about that time in your life that you decided to do that? Why not just say, now we’re going to travel or now we’re going to sit around and play chess all day or something? Why double down? Why get into a new industry? It’s so ironic. You have this whole career in tech, and yet you buy a company that’s as anti-tech as possible.

Amy: I know.

Zibby: It’s the oldest form of information transmission on the planet aside from cave walls. What appealed to you so much?

Amy: You know what? It’s funny. When I was fifty, that was the second time I retired. I had already retired once when I had my children. Then I went back to work and then retired again when I was an empty nester. Then my husband was looking for something new to do. Some of the companies he looked at I wasn’t interested in. This one, I just somehow plunged in because I was always a book person. I was looking through old photos the other day. I found this old photo in a photo album I got from my mother. It showed this crudely painted sign I had put on my door when I was a little kid, made on the easel. I am such a grammar geek. The stupid sign I had put on my door when I was probably eight years old, it said, “Good English, please.” I remember I used to write stories for fun in first grade. As soon as I discovered there were words and you could use them and you could make things with words, I started doing that. They say you should do what you loved when you were a kid, so here I am back doing words again. Even when I was in technology and on all those boards and everything, I always wrote. I was the board member who helped them with the press releases and the annual report. Even when I ran my hedge fund, I would still write these big, long research reports about my positions to influence other hedge fund managers to buy or sell the things that I was buying or selling. I’ve always been into writing and using writing as a way to persuade people. The difference is that when I used to write on Wall Street — you know how they say Wall Street has two emotions? Fear and greed. I was really dealing with people’s fear and appealing to their greed to get them to do what I wanted them to do in terms of buying the right stock or selling stocks that I thought were going to go down. Now I just get to deal with all the human emotions.

What happened was I never had read Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I was your typical elitist Ivy League graduate who honestly didn’t enjoy reading Shakespeare. I sat down and read one hundred of the old Chicken Soup for the Soul books over a three-month period in 2007 doing the due diligence for this LBO we were going to do in 2008. I just loved them. I was crying. I was laughing. I had to change my contact lens every week instead of every two weeks because I kept wrecking them with salt from my tears of laughter or my tears of heartbreak or shared happiness, all the reasons you cry when you’re reading something. Then I thought, wow, I actually know what I would do with this publishing line and how I want to bring it into more modern times, make it very relevant. I changed it a lot. Now we really just do a lot of different topics that I think are really interesting and relevant like this new book that has just come out, Making Me Time. Everybody’s talking about self-care now. Self-care is a huge topic of interest. Me time is the classic way to give yourself that self-care. In fact, I saw this survey in January that Zulily did. They were really surveying their customer base which is mostly busy women, mostly moms. They asked them, what did they want the most for Valentine’s Day, their number-one pick for a gift for Valentines’ Day. They didn’t say chocolate or wine or jewelry.

Zibby: I bet they said time alone. Is that what they said?

Amy: They did. They said they wanted me time. I thought, fabulous, they want me time on February 14th for Valentine’s Day. Guess what I have for February 16th? Actually, so do you. You also came out with a book that was really about self-care and me time for February 16th. The two of us are so on target with the most important thing that people are looking for these days.

Zibby: Awesome. I’m so glad we did that. I hope we’re helping lots of people.

Amy: We’re just so amazing, aren’t we? We’re so plugged in.

Zibby: Totally. We predicted this before it even came.

Amy: You know what it is? You and I are so busy. The two of us, the thing we probably crave the most is me time, right? That’s what we want. God, I’m so excited if I get an hour to read at night, to read something that I have not edited. It is so great to have that one hour. I just live for that all day.

Zibby: See, I’ve turned that into what I do all day, is having to read. I have to do it, so now I do it. It’s great.

Amy: That is even better, reading books that you didn’t have to edit that you have to read. Then you get to talk about them. You get to meet the authors. What is better than that? I saw your book club appearance by Elizabeth Berg talking about her latest book. Of course, I had heard of her, but I don’t think I had read any of her books. I immediately that day got, I think it was called Home Safe. I read that one. Now I’m reading another one of her books in my one hour at night. Thank you for that. Thank you for turning me on to an author who I should’ve been reading all along.

Zibby: That’s great. You’re welcome. I’m glad you came to that book club. I think that’s the thing, also, that your book is doing. You have so many authors in here, and writers, that I had not heard of that are fantastic. They’re fantastic. These essays are well-written and thoughtful and bring a whole range of perspectives and are emotional and inspiring. Where do you find all the authors? How does it work?

Amy: People love being published by Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Zibby: I bet.

Amy: We will have stories just appear in our database of submitted stories. They’ll appear from New York Times best-selling novelists. Their stories will pop up. I’ll say, oh, my gosh, I am sure I know this name. Everybody has stories that don’t fit into their normal published works. I remember years ago we published a great story by Brad Meltzer about his mom. A wonderful, moving story about his mom is not going to fit into one of his suspense novels. We get stories from everybody, but what we love is publishing stories by people who have never been published before. Amazingly, in our Making Me Time book, forty-eight of the authors we have never published before in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. There’s a pretty good chance they’ve never been published anywhere before. For so many people, their first time being published is with us. You’d be amazed how many people we publish and it starts them thinking, oh, my gosh, I really am an author. Then, even though we don’t recommend it, they quit their day jobs. A lot of them become hugely successful authors. There’s a guy named Andrew Kaufman who we published maybe ten years ago. He wrote about having cancer in our cancer book. We published that. He had been a television news producer, so writing of a different kind. Being published by us helped him to say, you know, I’ve always wanted to write instead of being a TV news producer, and so he quit. He is now such a successful novelist. He’s given us other stories also. We have so many people who went on to publish whole books after they got their start publishing one little story in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book.

Zibby: That’s amazing. How do you keep that community going? Do you introduce all those writers to each other? Do you have a big Facebook group for Chicken Soup contributors or something?

Amy: We don’t have a Facebook group because we would have to monitor it. That would be more than a full-time job for one person. We do have a lot of activities for contributors. I used to travel around the country having luncheons and dinners with contributors and introducing them to each other in their particular area. Now we’re going to start doing that on Zoom. We also do a Twitter launch party for every book. Every book, there’s a Twitter party. They all introduce each other. They show each other photos that go with their stories. So many of our contributors have become great friends. Some of them live two thousand miles apart. They’ve become best friends because technology lets them. Then they’ll actually travel to meet each other. It really is a family. We have an email list of about, I’d say seven thousand people who we communicate with regularly. We send them a newsletter. The way people find out about us is they’ll either get one of our emailed story callouts to find out what we’re doing. Although, just go to our website, which is If you go to our website, you can click on “submit your story.” Then we show you all the topics that we’re collecting for. We have story guidelines. We really walk people through the process. It’s very easy to submit. Every single submission gets read.

It’s really thrilling when we can say half the people in a new book like this Making Me Time book are new to us. We’re constantly widening our net. We’re spreading our net to get more and more contributors and huge amounts of diversity. We make a really big point of saying, we absolutely want stories from every ethnicity, every religion, every not religion, every belief system, every place that you could possibly live, every ethnicity, belief, every sexual identity, the whole LGBTQ community. We’ve always been like that, though. That’s not a new thing for Chicken Soup for the Soul since Chicken Soup for the Soul started twenty-seven years ago. Chicken Soup for the Soul has always reflected everybody in the pages of our books, which is cool because then you get to meet people in the books who you wouldn’t ordinarily meet. It makes you a more well-rounded person when you’re reading 101 stories from people spread all over the US and Canada and even some other countries as well.

Zibby: It’s so neat. It’s great. You have that new one coming out you were just telling me about, the book coming out in June. Tell me more about that one.

Amy: People have been asking us, could you make a book for the black community? I was trying to figure out how to do it. Then I finally figured out I really wanted to make the book for black women. We have this really cool book coming out. We actually just finished making it. We made it early so that we could get it out for reviews. I’m working with a wonderful black female novelist named Breena Clarke. Oh, my gosh, she was an overnight success a couple of decades ago. She was working as an assistant at a media company. On the side, she was writing this amazing great American novel, basically. It was her first novel. It was picked for the Oprah Book Club. It went wild. She sold more than seven hundred thousand copies. She’s had two really fabulous novels since then. I know she has another one coming out sometime in the next couple of years. I heard a reading of a little part of it the other day. It was so good. She’s been working with me. She and I together worked on choosing all of the stories. There were so many great stories. It really broke my heart that I couldn’t put all of them in our book. I actually already kind of cheated because we’re supposed to have 101, but I took all the ones that were poems and I said, I’m not going to count the poems. I’ll just put those in separately. I’ll sprinkle those throughout the book. I have 101 stories and then another dozen poems on top of that. Then I took so many of the stories that were great that we just didn’t have room for and I moved them to other Chicken Soup for the Soul books coming out in the second half of 2021. I’m trying to publish as many of them as possible. That’s been really, really exciting also, providing this safe space for black women to talk about what really matters to them and to share about just what happens.

One woman — you’ll get this being a mom of teenagers. Her son wanted to go and protest. He wanted to go and walk in a protest about George Floyd. He said, “Mom, I need a T-shirt.” She couldn’t get him a George Floyd T-shirt quickly enough because he needed it in like two days. He’s a teenage boy, so he needed it immediately. He didn’t ask her on time. Then she found a T-shirt that said “I can’t breathe” on it that was from an Eric Garner protest. It just broke her heart. She’s like, “Here, I have the perfect T-shirt for you,” but she was thinking, how do I have the perfect T-shirt again? Eric Garner was six years ago. Now I’m giving this to my son for George Floyd. It was so moving and something that would appeal to every mom. This is what I’m dealing with. My poor son has to now go and wear the T-shirt from Eric Garner because it applies still to George Floyd. There are stories like that in the book. I think everybody will read this book because everybody needs to understand what’s really happening and what it’s really like to be in the black community and have these things going on in society today that make you feel so unsafe at all times. Breena Clarke, though, is the one who I’ve been relying on for all of that because I wouldn’t be presumptuous enough to say that I should choose the stories. She chose the stories. I’m putting them together and publishing this book. That’s that book. That’s been my form of me time, though. That has been such an amazing experience. That work has felt more like self-care and me time. When you’re really passionate about doing something, it doesn’t feel like work anymore.

Zibby: Totally. Wow, that book sounds amazing. This book already was amazing. Now it’s just coming out and I’m sure will be a place of refuge just to lose yourself in these pages. The book itself is the me time. You don’t have to then go take a bath or anything. It accomplishes that already.

Amy: Did you notice when you were reading Making Me Time how many people talked about getting outside in nature?

Zibby: Yes.

Amy: Really?

Zibby: Yes. In fact, the day I read it I remember I made a point to go into the park. I was like, you know what, I totally don’t do this enough. I do it with my dog, but I have to make it a part of my life. All of these things seem so simple, going into nature, reading, spending time in the library. I loved the “Self-Care Found in a Library Basement” one. All these things are achievable. Yet they get put on the backburner until something happens and you just can’t avoid taking care of yourself because something bad happens or something.

Amy: You have to put self-care on your to-do list. A lot of people are like, I’m going to do the me time after I finish my to-do list. No, no, no, put your me time on your to-do list and don’t vacuum the house. Your me time is more important. It was interesting how people found that the thing they were doing often when they were procrastinating and saying, I haven’t done my me time, was actually their me time, like going and taking a walk. One woman went outside and she sat by the pool. She was saying, I know I have to come up with some me time, but I really just want to sit here and look at the birds and listen to them chirping and look at the leave rustling. She did that for half an hour. Then she said, oh, that was my me time. I’m such an idiot. The woman who was at the library sale, the book sale once a year when you can buy books for a dollar at the library, they said, “We’re not going to have the event anymore because nobody’s volunteered to do it going forward.” She said, “I would do it, but I don’t have time.” She’s thinking, I still have to get my me time organized. I know I’m supposed to engage in self-care, so I can’t possibly do this. Then her husband volunteered her anyway. Then she went and she did it. She realized, oh, my gosh, that’s my me time. I love books. Volunteering at the library and organizing the books for the sale each year, that is the best me time I could possibly have. That was one of the points of the book. You have 101 points of view about what kind of self-care worked for 101 people. It gives you ideas for what will work for yourself. I don’t think anybody was knitting, but maybe knitting is your form of self-care. Somebody else was hiking and jumping off cliffs. That might not be your form of self-care, but that was hers. You realize there’s a whole panoply of things you can do for your me time. It’s really up to you to discover what works for you. Then put it on your to-do list. Then you’re good. Now you are going to be a much less stressed, happier person going forward.

Zibby: What is on your personal me time list aside from reading at night for an hour?

Amy: Exercising, so I guess I’m not unusual. Exercising, the best. I can’t meditate. I think I tried that for one week. I just kept wanting to multitask. I can’t do that.

Zibby: I can’t either.

Amy: I was asking people, can I ride the exercise bike but not read while I’m doing it so then that will be like meditating plus exercise bike? They’re like, no, you’re not allowed to do that. You cannot multitask. Forget that. I like to go on walks and listen to audiobooks. Since I don’t have as much time to read, I read by listening to audiobooks. That’s the reading. Then that’s the exercising, which, gee, combines reading again, doesn’t it? Because the audiobooks.

Zibby: That’s okay.

Amy: I found two ways to read for my me time. Isn’t that interesting?

Zibby: What do you think it is about stories? You’re obviously a story addict the way I am. I just love it. I love hearing them. I don’t get tired, ever, of hearing stories. I even just pour over the obituaries because I’m like, wow, that’s an interesting story. I wonder about her life. Let me fill in these details. There’s stories everywhere. I just can’t get enough. You in particular have dedicated your life to getting more stories out there. What do you think it is about storytelling and hearing stories and have stories be a part of the fabric of our everyday lives?

Amy: It’s so interesting, isn’t it? Stories are so entertaining. Then for some reason, stories are always enlightening, even though we particularly pick stories for our books because they’re going to be particularly enlightening as they entertain you. They’re going to let you think. They’re going to help you improve yourself in a really painless way. You’re not writing essays or doing bullet lists or doing homework from some self-care book. You’re actually just being entertained while it painlessly gets into your head. I don’t know why I love stories so much, but I always have. I wasn’t allowed to watch television as a kid, so I read a lot. Really, television was storytelling also. Who doesn’t like stories?

Zibby: I know. I don’t know.

Amy: It is how mankind has passed on wisdom and culture and advice forever. Before we had written language, we had storytelling around the campfire. That is the most effective way. If you want your kids to pick up certain values or cautionary tales about not going out with a drunk driver or whatever you’re trying to get into your kids’ brains, stories are always more effective than just telling them. Even as an adult and somebody who’s supposed to just be tell herself stuff, I find I get so much from reading other people’s stories. You know what people tell me? I don’t know if I should take this as an insult. My friends who have known me forever — they knew me pre-Chicken Soup for the Soul when I was the Wall Street person who was trading and swearing with the other traders and doing all that stuff, that hard person. Now they say, “You’re so nice now.” I’m like, oh really? What was I like before?

Also, I find that when you read all these stories, you just become so much less judgmental because you’re so exposed to the fact that stuff happens, what can happen in anybody’s life, and how anybody can make a mistake and how everybody’s basically good underneath those mistakes. You just become more grateful also for what you have. I really feel like I’ve become way more forgiving and less judgement and more grateful and more aware every single day of what’s good in my life. Also, you learn not to take things personally. You’re at a store. Like we go into stores now. Let’s pretend you’re still going into stores and there was a crabby cashier. You’ve learned from reading all these stories, okay, something else is going on in her life. It has nothing to do with me. She doesn’t even really know who I am or what I look like. If she closed her eyes, she couldn’t tell you who she was just crabby at. That allows you to just go through life untouched by it. You become Teflon. For me, stories have dramatically improved my disposition, apparently, according to what people say.

Zibby: I love that. You’re such an inspiration to me because so much of what I would like to do, you have successfully done already on such a big scale, like the community and the stories. It’s just amazing. You’re a total role model. I just am watching what you’re doing and trying to learn. It’s great. Do you have any parting advice for aspiring authors?

Amy: I think that you should write stories that come from your heart. I know that sounds so sappy. If you’re really passionate about something, you will write better. To me, the best thing to do is to sit down and write about something that happened to you in your real life. Even people who write novels draw from their own lives and from the lives of people they know well. You’re going to be a better writer when you write about something where you really feel the emotions. Then the other thing I tell people is you have to be unselfish in your sharing and really reveal everything. That’s what you did in your book about Moms Don’t Have Time To. I noticed that in your stories. You really shared your innermost thoughts. That is so helpful to other people. That makes the best writing. That would be my advice. Just share unselfishly. If you’re writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul and you’re really oversharing about a particular family member, we will let you use a pen name.

Zibby: Good to know. I have actually used a pen name in the past because I haven’t wanted to get in trouble. It’s a useful tool, not outdated.

Amy: Yeah, it is.

Zibby: Amy, thank you. I know we’re going to have all these other opportunities. We’re doing all these Instagram Lives and Facebook Lives and all the rest. I’m so excited. I’m thrilled that we’ve connected because of these books. Thank you so much for coming on.

Amy: Thanks for having me on. I know I’ll be seeing you again soon.

Zibby: See you soon. Bye. Thank you, Amy.

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