Chapbooks - How to put one together

* Checklist for a chapbook. * Chapbook comparisons. * Permafrost Chapbooks. * Portlandia Chapbooks.
* 2006 winner of Portlandia Chapbook contest: When, by the Titanic (John Pursley III). Blog entry for When, by the Titanic.
* 2004 winner of Permafrost Chapbook contest: The Nightmare Parable (Do Gentry).
* 2004 winner of Portlandia Chapbook contest: Why I Kick At Night (Ron Drummond).
* 2002 winner of Portlandia Chapbook contest: Five-hundred Widowers in a Field of Chamomile (John Surowiecki).
* 2009 winner of In Celebration of the Muse Chapbook Award: Trainsong (Bernice Rendrick).

Checklist for a chapbook

  1. Decide why are you compiling a chapbook. For a contest? To self publish? Simply to organize your material?

  2. If for a contest, get its guidelines. Plan to follow its requirements for number of pages and their contents. Beside the poems, you are often asked to include:

  3. Get guidelines for some other contests. They may clarify something or generate ideas. Even if you don't target a contest, get and use some guidelines anyway.

  4. For a contest, consider who are the judges. Then decide which of your poems might be so appealing to them that you need to include them in your M.S.

  5. Buy winning chapbooks, particularly previous winners of any contest you target. Review them.

  6. When picking your candidate poems, they could:

  7. When arranging your candidate poems:

  8. Re-arrange your candidate poems to improve the flow. Drop the weak ones, add stronger ones. Write new ones if essential to complete the M.S.

  9. Set a personal deadline (perhaps a couple of weeks away) for when the M.S. will be ready for someone else to review.

  10. Contact one or more friends with skills in constructing manuscripts. Ask if they will review your draft manuscript on the deadline you just decided.

  11. Reread the resulting M.S. a dozen times, until the sequence feels 'right.' Make notes on ideas for revising poems where needed, but for the moment focus on sequence.

  12. Reread the poems in small groups of two, three, or five. Check that they fit in their sequence. Again, make notes on ideas for revisions.

  13. Reread the M.S. several times, then make the needed revisions.

  14. Write up the additional material needed by the competition, so you can give your reviewers a complete M.S. Also write up some directions for them, so they can focus on what you want. Often this will be:
    1. can the sequence be improved?
    2. what must be cut?

  15. Circulate the M.S. to your reviewers, with a request for comments in 1 or 2 weeks. Give yourself a reward of chocolate or whatever floats your boat.

  16. Get reviewers' comments and apply where needed.

  17. Submit to contest or print up copies.

  18. Pray to your appropriate gods and reward your reviewers, perhaps by doing something similar for them.

Chapbook comparisons

Permafrost Chapbooks

The Nightmare Parable (2004) by Do Gentry.
This manuscript is the 2004 Permafrost Chapbook Contest Winner. Favorites include: "Helen At the New Moon" (p. 11), "Helen Improvises God" (p. 12-13), "The Postumous Helen" (p. 22), "Helen Lost in the Crowd" (p. 26), and "Helen and the Blue Door" (p. 29).

Portlandia Chapbooks

When, by the Titanic (2006) by John Pursley III.
This manuscript is the 2006 Portlandia Chapbook Contest Winner, under the leadership of Portlandia's Chief Editor, Karen Braucher.

Why I Kick At Night (2004) by Ron Drummond.
This manuscript is the 2004 Portlandia Chapbook Contest Winner, under the leadership of Portlandia's Chief Editor, Karen Braucher.

Five-hundred Widowers in a Field of Chamomile (2002) by John Surowiecki.
This manuscript is the 2002 Portlandia Chapbook Contest Winner, under the leadership of Portlandia's Chief Editor, Karen Braucher.

Comparison of some chapbooks:

Chapbook title: The Nightmare Parable When, by the Titanic Why I Kick At Night Five-hundred Widowers in a Field of Chamomile
Pages of poems: 26 27 27 20
Number of poems: 20 20 20 17
Book title: Not a poem title Title of 8th poem Title of first poem Title of last poem
Themes: Helen of the Gnostics; the soul in exile; personification of Sophia (wisdom); inspiration; transcendence. Father, disaster, siblings, death. Life, death, HIV, the body, food. Loss. Smells and tastes.
Vocabulary and tropes: Mostly direct. Some radiant metaphors and similes. Mostly direct. Direct. Lots of metaphor and similes. Many obscurities, acknowledged by 2 pages of notes.
Tone: Natural, ardent. Natural, conversational. Natural, conversational, includes humor. Jittery and jumpy.
Forms: Free verse; short lines and short stanzas. Free verse.
One sonnet.
Free verse.

Links and Books.


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