Soup creator ladles nourishment at The Liberty
Mark Victor Hansen speaks at Company of Fools fund-raiser
By HANS IBOLD
Express Staff Writer
In a recorded message at the Newport Beach, Calif., office of Mark
Victor Hansen, co-creator of the best-selling and never ending Chicken Soup for the
Soul Series, a voice announces that Hansen "will catapult you beyond your wildest
Its easy to snicker at the claim, but not when you consider what
Hansenand co-creator Jack Canfieldhave accomplished with their wildly
successful series of inspirational short stories.
Today, the series has 33 million copies in print with 21 titles.
Whenever a new title is publishedand there are more on the way, like the Chicken
Soup for the Expectant Motherit soars to the tops of most best-seller lists. The
masses, it seems, cant get enough Chicken Soup.
Company of Fools presents Hansen at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey on
Friday at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The talk, entitled "Chicken Soup for the Fool: A Family
Feast," is a benefit for Company of Fools arts in education programs.
In a telephone interview, Hansen said he will reveal to audiences
"how to get what they want."
Hansen had a tough time getting what he wanted five years ago. He and
Canfield began compiling the stories they heard while working as motivational speakers and
seminar leaders. But when they took the compilation to publishers, 33 turned it down,
calling the collection of inspirational tales from random people "sappy" and
"too nicey-nice," Hansen said.
Health Communications, Inc. finally gave the two compilers a deal for
the book, a book that promised its readers it would "stir your emotions, encourage
you to raise your consciousness and reaffirm your commitment to live life to your
Whatever the stories are doing, they have struck a nerve.
"Im in as much awe of the stories as the readers are,"
Hansen said. "They bring you back to the depth of why youre alive and why
lifes meaningful and they encourage heart-to-heart dialogue between people."
The targets of Soup books are wide-ranging. There are books for
teens souls, singles souls, cat and dog lovers souls and souls at work.
They rejected one recently, however, for NASCAR souls.
Every day Hansen said his company, Chicken Soup for the Soul
Enterprises, Inc., receives about 180 written submissions. They are sorted by carefully
selected co-authors, who are chosen for their expertise in a subject area. Then a panel of
at least 40 people is set up to read the stories. They rate the stories on a scale of 1 to
10. Only 9s and 10s make it to Hansen and Canfield.
"The stories have to hit you viscerally," Hansen said.
"They must cause positive goose bumps, cause the heart to swell up, bring about a
change of perception, and make you weak in the knees. That kind of storytelling has been
neglected by the publishing world. Were in a zone all by ourselves, except for
Hansen, a hot commodity on the lecture circuit, who is known as
"The Master Motivator," is donating his time to Company of Fools. Danielle
Kennedy, Company of Fools board president, is a friend of Hansens and had a story
published in an early Chicken Soup book.
But the companys interest in Hansen goes beyond just
"Mark is a yes-man," said Company of Fools
managing director Denise Simone. "People want to be affirmed, to hear the yes. We
hear so often why we should not or that theres no way it can be
done. Mark truly seeks the yes. And his donation of time is a pretty
remarkable affirmation for our company."
For the kind of generosity that he brings to Company of Fools, Hansen
was recently chosen as one of 10 recipients of the Horatio Alger Award. The list of
recipients includes eight other philanthropic CEOs of major companies and actor Tom
According to the Virginia-based Horatio Alger Association, the award is
given annually to "community leaders who demonstrate individual initiative and a
commitment to excellenceas exemplified by remarkable achievements accomplished
through honesty, hard work, self-reliance and perseverance."
"I dont know that Im a superstar," said Hansen,
when asked how he felt about receiving the Alger award. The award is named after the 19th
century author of more than 100 boys books, in which the heroes rise from rags to
riches through virtue and hard work. "I feel like Im only just beginning."
Indeed, Hansen and Canfield are putting together the next Soup
venture, a stage production of Soup stories that will tour the nation and, Hansen
said, be "as big as Phantom of the Opera."
Tickets for the talk, at $10 for adults and $5 for children under 18,
are available at Chapter One in Ketchum. For more information, call 788-6520.