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Chicken Soup Series Warms Falls Church Writers’ Souls

Since 1993, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books has been publishing collections of heart-warming tales for various souls. From books for brides, to books for veterans, the series has published more than 200 collections. In its recent books, Christmas Magic and Family Matters, two Falls Church residents share their story.

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Moira Donohue

Since 1993, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books has been publishing collections of heart-warming tales for various souls. From books for brides, to books for veterans, the series has published more than 200 collections. In its recent books, Christmas Magic and Family Matters, two Falls Church residents share their story.

Moira Rose Donohue’s story, “Scars and Legacies,” which discusses the origin and resolution of her fear of playing Scrabble, can be found in Family Matters. In Christmas Magic, Marian Gormley offers her take on the popular holiday poem “The Night Before Christmas” with her poem “A Writer’s Christmas.”

Both Donohue and Gormley are mothers of college-age children – Donohue has a son and daughter and Gormley has twin 21-year-olds – and both writers take inspiration from their families.

For Donohue, a recurring character in her works is her father.

“My father was a very small man with an extremely big personality,” Donohue said. “He just affected the lives of everyone around him.”

Her father figures into her most recent story.

“The Scrabble story happened because my friend asked me to play this online game on Facebook, and when I saw it was Scrabble I just kind of freaked out, because he refused to play down to us,” Donohue said, reflecting on the challenges of playing the word-based board game as a child and trying to match wits with her father and his advanced vocabulary.

Gormley turns to her children for inspiration for her stories, who appear as characters that call the narrator away from her workspace with their antics in her recent poem.

“My twins, they are mostly who I’ve written about over the years,” Gormley said. “Most of what I’ve written was about them and family life when they were growing up.”

Gormley said her twins are excited to have a writing mother who features them in her works.

“The children sometimes read the articles and say ‘I don’t remember that,'” Gormley said. “Other times they remember them fondly.” She added that she always consults with her children before publishing works that mention them, as she sometimes writes about difficult situations in their lives.

“I always had them read what I wrote to make sure they were fine with it being in the public arena,” Gormley said.

Donohue’s father, now deceased, never had the opportunity to read his daughter’s works that featured him as a main character, but those stories have become treasured keepsakes for the members of her family.

“My family all have copies,” Donohue said. “It’s nice for all of us to have something, a couple of written stories to remember him by, because he was a character.”

Both authors submitted their works to the Chicken Soup series because they appreciated the types of short, personal narratives the series publishes.

“I guess I am kind of sentimental, and I like the kind of like heartfelt stories that are true,” Donohue said. “I think it’s the true part that really gets you because I don’t like things that are just intended to be sentimental, as they can be sappy. When they are true, it reaches me, and I think it reaches a lot of people.”

“I just enjoyed reading the books and the snippets of people’s lives, and reading that and having people inspire me,” Gormley said. “In today’s busy world, these little moments that we spend with family members are so critical, and I just wanted to share those with other people.”

For both authors, this isn’t their first experience publishing with the Chicken Soup series. In fact, Gormley estimated it would be her seventh. The topics of her stories have ranged from sharing feelings at the dinner table to enlisting her children as sous chefs to teach them the important lesson that cooking for a family is hard work. In one of her personal favorites to be published in the series, “An Impromptu Dance at Dusk,” which appeared in Chicken Soup for Every Mom’s Soul, Gormley tells the story of a time when her son pulled her away from her writing to share a dance with her and let her know that he cared for her.

“That is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Gormley said.

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Marian Gormley

Donohue submitted her first story to be included in Chicken Soup for the Kids Soul. In the story, she tells the tale of how her father helped rescue a woman who had fallen off of a subway platform onto the rails below, discussing her surprise that her father was not recognized for the courageous act.

“My sister and I kept waiting for something to happen, thinking it would be on the news or something,” Donohue said, “and it never was. It struck me that nothing more ever came of it.”

Though her piece wasn’t used in the original edition, a later Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul 2 would feature the story “My Dad, My Hero.”

Writing came into these writers’ lives in very different ways. For Gormley, it was a next step in a career in public relations. She was the public relations director for a non-profit called Mothers at Home, now Family at Home Network, that published a magazine that she wrote for, often on children’s issues.

“From there, I started submitting to other places as well,” Gormley said. She now publishes primarily personal narrative pieces on topics such as family life, health, and education issues.

For Donohue, a career in writing came as a departure from a 20-year career as an attorney.

“I used to be a banking attorney and practiced for about 20 years as a banking lawyer, but about 10 years ago I started writing,” Donohue said. “It’s very satisfying. Banking law can be very interesting as well, but the creative side of me is a bit more satisfied.”

Donohue has published plays, short stories, and poems, as well as two picture books in a series for children on punctuation – “Alfie the Apostrophie” and “Penny and the Punctuation Bee” with Albert Whitman & Company.

For now, Donohue is enjoying a career as a full-to-part-time writer, and is working on a mid-grade novel inspired by her daughter about a middle school band. She also manages a website, moirarosedonohue.net, and a blog, punctuationplayground.blogspot.com.

Gormley, after completing a master’s degree program and a teaching internship, is in her first year as a kindergarten teacher at Graham Road Elementary.

“I have considered writing children’s books,” Gormley said. “I have had that in the back of my mind, and I thought of that when I went into teaching. I guess my main issue is finding time at this point with a career in teaching. One of the reasons I did decide on teaching was so that I would have summers to write, so that was very appealing to me.”

She plans to continue writing and submitting articles about education.

“Now that I’m teaching, I think I’ll have more insight into that,” Gormley said.

And while the Chicken Soup for the Soul books are circulated across the globe, both women enjoy a little bit of fame in Falls Church.

“When I taught fifth grade last year, I talked to them abut my writing,” Gormley said. “At the kindergarten level, I have not yet. I think most of it would be above their head.”

“[My children] are pretty proud of me, because it’s pretty nice to see your mom’s name on the front of a book,” Donohue said.

(Photos by Victoria Coe)