Daniel Nester wasn’t looking to have his story in the latest “Chicken Soup for the Soul” anthology, but it sure made him hip in the eyes of his mom and aunts.
“Immediately, I was cool in their eyes,” Nester said, “and that counts.”
A few of months ago, Nester, of Delmar, got an email with a subject line that caught his attention: “Your writing in Chicken Soup for the Soul.” The email said a piece of his writing was being considered for inclusion in a book in the series. He had not submitted anything, so it took him a little off guard at first.
He eventually realized someone from Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing must have stumbled upon the story “A flag stirs feelings of uncertainty,” which ran as commentary in an edition of The Times Union in June. The email did ask for his permission to publish the story.
“They actually gave it a new and better title,” said Nester, which is “Flag waving for beginners.” He was “pleasantly surprised” to receive the email, but also a bit nervous if he would make the cut.
“It was saying you might be included … which made me want to be included,” said Nester.
About a month after he was initially contacted, he found out his story would be included in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness,” which was released Tuesday, Dec. 16.
“I was really charmed,” he said. “I had worked really hard on the piece in the first place and I was really wowed when it appeared in the Times Union.”
Nester, who teaches writing at The College of Saint Rose, was also pleased with the process of getting published in the series. He received 10 free copies of the book and a check for $200.
“Any time you get your writing in a book and they mail it to you, you go straight to your piece,” he said.
The story surrounds his feelings after receiving a box holding a laminated nautical map of the San Diego coast, a shotgun casing and an American flag, “folded into a thick triangle.” Nester’s father, Michael, had died and arraigned to be buried at sea.
Eventually, he discovered there was a DVD underneath the flag, so he popped it into his laptop and watched it.
“It was really surreal to get a DVD with a video of your father’s ashes being spread out on a ship,” he said.
Nester’s relationship with his father “went sour” while he was a teenager, which led to a rocky relationship in future years. The flag arriving, however, made him reflect on that relationship. During his childhood, he bonded with his father through patriotism.
“I wrote it to reflect on what does it mean to get this huge American flag. I had never had a flag before and my dad was kind of a flag waving kind of guy,” he said.
Until contacted by Chicken Soup, he had not thought about his story being themed around forgiveness.
“For me, it was about figuring out what it means to lose a father you hadn’t talked to for about 20 years,” he said. “In a way, it was an after-the-fact realization it was about forgiveness.”
Nester is working on a coming-of-age memoir titled “Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Grief, Making Out in a Church, and Other Unlearnable Subjects,” which he hopes to release early next year.