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Chicken Soup on a winter’s day

Canada’s been ladled out with the Chicken Soup before, but the latest in the series goes to the heart of all things Canuckian – and one of our favourite complaints, winter – which is very timely for an Elmira writer who contributed to the volume.

Elmira’s Lori Zenker brings local tales to the Chicken Soup mix in another Canadian edition of the popular series. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Elmira’s Lori Zenker brings local tales to the Chicken Soup mix in another Canadian edition of the popular series. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
“I think it’s funny how from one end of Canada to the other, we have such a huge range of weather and how people adapt to it. Even this year, some people just can’t wait to get out of town, other people are loving it; if you’re going to have winter you might as well have tons of snow,” said Lori Zenker.

In line with past books and just in time for the coldest winter in many seasons, Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada, The Wonders of Winter brings stories from small communities to readers. In this particular edition – Zenker’s been published in three other Chicken Soup books – 101 Stories about Bad Weather, Good Times, and Great Sports, she contributed a couple of tales that might be familiar to area residents.

Who remembers Woolwich’s infamous arena noise bylaw of 2012? Zenker’s husband Michael Zenker was the hockey dad who brought us cheering bells at the Dan Snyder Arena. As some will recall, he didn’t care too much for the new policy and decided to encourage respectful cheering by handing out custom bells to the crowds at the Woolwich Memorial Centre. They were quite the hit for a while, said his wife.

“The one story is about some hockey bells that my husband made. That was kind of because I hated those stupid hockey bells and it was just so embarrassing that he had these hockey bells and he promoted it. And of course everybody gets in on it!”

Thus, Hockey Bells was born, drawing on her sometimes-reluctant status as a hockey mom: when her kids were first introduced to the game, Zenker had to learn the intricacies of the sport.

“It started out that I couldn’t stand these bells and then, ‘Alright, I’ll get into it.’

I still don’t like them really,” she said jokingly. “But it worked for the story.”

Hockey features in several of her works, are usually tied in with personal experiences.

Zenker’s second Chicken Soup story is A Sweet End to Winter. As maple syrup lovers can probably guess (and Zenker is a self admitted syrup junkie) it’s about the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.

Part of the reason Zenker returns again and again to the books of short stories, is their ability to bring small towns and their stories to life. Many a heartwarming tale would be overlooked by a world of readers if they weren’t shared by local writers, she notes.

“I think that there are funny stories everywhere you look. I find this town is very funny; I’ve lived here about 10 years.

“There’s a story in [Chicken Soup for the Soul] about a guy who was selling cookies when he was a kid and when he went home he realized that the guy he sold them to was Mr. Tim Horton. You just don’t know, you wouldn’t have heard this story otherwise.”

An English major in university, Zenker has been writing on the side for many years, contributing to four Chicken Soup books including Just Us Girls (2013), and two more distinctly Canadian editions: Hooked on Hockey (2012) and O Canada (2011). She’s also an occasional contributor to magazines like Cottage Life. Writing that New York Times Bestseller isn’t always the goal for all writers, she said. Sometimes it’s just about giving the story life.

“Why people write? I think it’s to get the stuff out of your head. Some people say ‘I have a story to share with the world’ but maybe the world won’t even hear it. I think sometimes it’s just to get that story out of your head and down on paper. I think if you do write you have to write for yourself first.”

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