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Writer finds ‘Chicken Soup’ joy in his tales

January 11, 2007

The Oregonian
01/11/2007

Writer finds ‘Chicken Soup’ joy in his tales

Talking to Perry P. Perkins is a little like reading one of those “Chicken Soup” books: He tells good stories, true stories, without using bad words. He’s sincere and funny, he’s overcome all kinds of obstacles, and he’s determined to achieve his dreams.

Perry probably won’t mind the comparison because for several years Perry, who lives in Wilsonville, has been a regular contributor to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” publishing franchise. He submitted his first story about five years ago.

“I worked with the Special Olympics when I was in high school as a volunteer trainer,” Perry says. “I had a story I’d written about one of the guys I’d worked with.” It was an easy story to write, Perry says. “There’s little in the world more inspiring than being involved in Special Olympics. These kids give 110 percent. Here’s this kid giving it his whole heart. You look at yourself and realize, there’s a lot more I could be doing with my life.”

Perry has wanted to be a professional writer since he was a kid, he says. “I had a poem published in The Oregonian in fourth grade. It was just a terrible poem.” But he didn’t realize it back then. Getting published felt great.

Perry kept writing through high school and college, then spent a year as a missionary in Nigeria. During that year, Perry wrote his first novel. “I typed it out (on a computer) and saved it to floppy discs, which I then lost.” Perry had given his only hard copy to a friend who lost it. “Six hundred fifty pages of manuscript, gone forever.” Are they still friends? “They were just words on paper,” Perry says. “I figured I have plenty more stories in my head. This is not going to ruin a friendship.” Which bolsters the case for Perry being a good guy.

He returned to Oregon, got a day job and started writing articles in his off-hours about sports and the outdoors. Pretty soon they were being published in specialty magazines. Perry had been trying to finish his second novel when he took time out to polish and send off his Special Olympics essay to the “Chicken Soup” editors. Not only was it accepted, it was the lead story in the book, “Chicken Soup to Inspire the Body & Soul.”

“It was very exciting,” Perry says. “It really motivated me to finish my novel.” Today Perry has two novels in print, “Just Past Oysterville,” and “Shoalwater Voices.”  He calls them “inspirational mysteries,” and they’re set in Oysterville, Wash.

He’s at work on another novel. But he’s still a dedicated “Chicken Soup” writer. He watches the “Chicken Soup” Web site for requests for true stories; the company publishes several a month, Perry says.

Then there are times when Perry will be out and about, and he’ll see something that moves him to think, “This would make a great ‘Chicken Soup’ story.” Like the time he was standing on a riverbank, watching a father and son fish. “The son hooked into a big . . . salmon that pretty much pulled him into the river.” The boy, about 13, looked like he needed help. Perry and others started to go in after him. “And his father held us back, saying, ‘If the boy wants help he’ll ask for it.’ He kept within arms’ reach of his son the whole time. His son landed the fish and brought it to shore on his own. “That father wasn’t going to let anyone take away this moment from his son,” Perry wrote in the story, and it ended up in a “Chicken Soup” book.

An upcoming “Chicken Soup” story is about his dramatic weight loss after gastric bypass surgery, which will appear in “Chicken Soup for the Dieters’ Soul.”

Another will be in a book for mothers and daughters. “I think I’m the only man who has a story in that book,” Perry says. It’s a story his mother recounted from her own childhood.

Even if Perry realizes his dream and becomes a full-time novelist, he’ll continue writing for the “Chicken Soup” books. Perry grew up poor in Portland’s Rockwood neighborhood. As a kid he did without a lot of things other kids had, including a television.

“We’d read books,” Perry says. “Those books changed my life.” He likes the idea that countless people could read his stories in the “Chicken Soup” books, “and that something I write could change the outlook or the life of somebody I’ll never meet,” he says. “It’s like giving back something I got from the books I read as a child. It’s very humbling, just to have that opportunity.”

Margie Boule: 503-221-8450; marboule@aol.com

© 2007 The Oregonian.

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