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Feeding His Own Soul

'Chicken Soup' author finds refuge at rural home when he's not on the go giving motivational seminars.

May 29, 2001|ANN CONWAY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

You expect a hen motif at the home of the man who helped hatch the bestselling "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book series. And at the home of author Mark Victor Hansen and his wife, Patty, you're not disappointed: Rooster plaques with welcome signs accent the entry porch, and the living and kitchen areas are dotted with winsome images of the barnyard fowl.

But nothing prepares you for the "cluck, cluck, cluck" of the 34 live chickens that the Hansens keep on their quarter-acre property along with a peahen, four dogs, five cats and three rabbits. Or the trio of chickens that holds court on a side table in the dining room. "They're stuffed," says Patty Hansen, 56. "We started doing that when a favorite, Henrietta, choked on a piece of lettuce."

The down-to-earth refuge in an unincorporated area of Orange County is a counterpoint to a schedule that can keep Mark Hansen running seven days a week--much of that time spent delivering empowerment seminars in the business community. "Last month, I visited the Philippines, China, and went across America," he says. "Here, I can be totally private and relaxed. Patty is Miss Hospitality and that allows me to be out, effervescing."

Along with friend Jack Canfield, Hansen founded an inspirational-book empire in 1993 that he hopes will add up to "a billion books sold by 2020." So far, 75 million copies have been purchased.

"Our mission statement is to change the whole world, one story at a time," says Hansen, 53, of the series of books that are themed collections of inspirational essays. "When people get bummed out, they pull one of our books off the shelf, read it and start to feel better."

A series of photographs splashed along a hallway in the Hansens' home illustrates an important aspect of their 21-year marriage. "We get remarried every year," Hansen says as he points with pride to the portraits.

The couple, who have two teenage daughters, are featured in photos from the annual bash that they toss for friends after they've renewed their nuptials. "We had our first wedding reception in this house and, for years, we had our ceremony and party here," he says.

In recent years, the parties have become so large that the Hansens have moved the celebrations to a hotel. Last year's bash was so lively, hotel guests complained and police shut it down.

"I asked the policemen if their mothers would want them to give a citation to the man who helped develop 'Chicken Soup for the Soul,' " Hansen says.

OK, sometimes even chicken soup isn't enough.

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