From the heart to 'Chicken Soup'
By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Catherine E. Toth
Little did 16-year-old Matthew Chee realize that his heartache would be felt by hundreds of teenagers worldwide.
A poem he wrote about having a crush on a friend who, unfortunately, only wanted to remain just that was selected for the latest teen-targeted "Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul: The Real Deal Friends" (HCI, $12.95).
Chee's "Just Friends" is the only contribution from a Hawai'i writer in the latest installment, a collection of stories and poems that give the "real deal" on the ups and downs of friendships geared toward teens.
The recently released book explores all facets of friendship: making them, keeping them, fighting with them, helping them, competing with them.
It's not a lecture, just straight-talk from teens for teens.
And Chee's poem is about crushes and rejection — topics teens can relate to.
"It happens to everybody," said Chee, a junior at Maryknoll School. "It's not something that only happens rarely."
He writes about a guy who develops more-than-just-friend feelings for a girl he knows. But when he professes his affection, she delivers the much-dreaded blow: "Can't we just be friends?"
It really did happen to Chee, who said he based the poem on his experience only. (His friend has no idea it's about her.) Soon after, he sat down and wrote the poem. That was in 2004.
Early last year, Chee searched for a publication to submit it to. He stumbled across the Web site for the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series. On a whim, he sent it in.
That summer he got a letter from the publishing company saying his poem was selected for the book. He couldn't believe it.
"I really wasn't expecting it," said Chee, who lives in Waipahu. "I just forgot about it."
Despite his publishing success, Chee isn't interested in pursuing a career in forlorn poetry. He's looking at engineering or economics instead.
But he's not ruling out writing for publication again.
"Not anytime in the near future," said Chee. "But I wouldn't rule it out."
Reach Catherine E. Toth at firstname.lastname@example.org.