01 February 2013

the cb challenge: “what is a chapbook?”

The Our Lost Jungle Chapbook Challenge: Join In!
Today is the first day of February … and the first day of the Our Lost Jungle Chapbook (“CB”) Challenge! This month is all about taking the time to get our work—be it poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, art, etc.—organized and developed into workable collections. But we’re not dealing with full length collections (don’t panic). The goal is to start small, and to do that we’re working with chapbook-length manuscripts of our work.

But there’s one question we have to answer before we even think of getting started: What exactly is a chapbook?

chapbook: defined

A chapbook is, very basically, defined as a short collection of work that is generally focused on one “central theme.” The way we differentiate between a “collection” and a “chapbook” varies from publisher to publisher and writer to writer, but here are some generalized points:

40 Pages: Just because it’s a short collection doesn’t mean it’s … well, short! Chapbooks are usually considered collections of less than or up to 40 pages. Generally, contests or publishers looking for chapbooks will set a page limit of between 20-40 pages. For poetry, this might mean up to 40 poems, with one per page. For fiction or creative nonfiction, it could be a short “portfolio” of work totaling no more than 40 pages.

Themed: While just about any publication could be said to have a “central theme,” chapbooks tend to be a bit more narrowly focused. In a full-length poetry collection, for example, a poet may cover several different themes or topics in the different sections of the book. In a chapbook, a poet may select just one theme that all the poems must relate to in order for inclusion.

“Self-Published”?: This can be a nitpicky generalization of chapbook “features,” but chapbooks tend to involve more self-published traffic. For one thing, they tend to be cheaper to produce than full-length collections or works. Chapbooks make for a great, inexpensive way to get your work out there without waiting for someone else to snatch it up. Where claiming this as a typical feature of chapbooks gets tricky, though, is in the fact that more and more publishers are looking for chapbooks, or offering chapbook contests.

“pu pu chapbook”?

Some writers consider a chapbook a “sampling” of their work. While this is sometimes true, it’s a use of terminology that we may want to be wary off. Viewing a chapbook as a “sampling” leaves some readers thinking of it as the Pu-Pu platter of the publishing world. Really, a chapbook is more like a model bedroom in a model house: just because it’s a smaller sample of a larger body of work doesn’t mean it should be out of order!

a word on formatting

The formatting of a chapbook is not unlike the formatting of a full-length collection. During this challenge we’ll look at a chapbook’s structure using an “emperor’s clothes” model. No, our chapbooks won’t be strutting around au natural. We will, however, look at three essential parts of a chapbook’s structure: the “crown” (beginning), the “robes” (middle), and the “slippers” (end).

When it comes to publishing a chapbook, there are many ways writers choose to go about it. To go back to the self-publishing point, some writers take self-publishing to the max by literally putting their books together themselves! A chapbook can be a saddle-stitched book or a DIY project bound with ribbon.

We’ll take a look at formatting chapbooks for publication through more traditional outlets (contests, publishers, etc.) during the last week of February, including formatting a table of contents, the importance of proofreading, and more.

your task

Folks who read Our Lost Jungle regularly know that most posts end with a “Your Turn” section asking you a question. Today, before we get to that, I’m giving you a small task … Rummage.

This weekend is the time to start finding all your work. Scour your desktop. Search through your drawers. Head to the attic and find that box of writing you never unpacked! Flip through notebooks for pieces you started but never finished, and start finishing them! You don’t have to organize them … just get them gathered and consolidated either in a writing file on your computer, a stack (or box) on or near your desk, or some combination thereof!

your turn

To get us all tuning our brains for the coming month, here’s a question for you: What are you most, and/or least, looking forward to in this challenge? Getting organized? Developing a collection? Revising some work? Finalizing a current book project? Whatever it is, feel free to share it in the comments below!


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Join in the Our Lost Jungle Chapbook ("CB") Challenge!

43 comments:

  1. I seriously need to organize my poems. I have them saved in different computer files (but when I need one never know which file it is in), on slips of paper stuck here and there. Hopefully this well help me pull them all together in a more manageable way. Also, I do have many I'd like to revise.

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    1. Organization often seems to be the hard part, Linda-- I'm in the same boat with work all over! Good luck as you gather this weekend!

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  2. Getting organized should be easy, at least for the poetry, as the subjects are easy to define.

    Same with developing a collection idea.

    Revision? Time to run the little darlings through spell and grammar check, and kick out unneeeded capitalization.

    Do more than this so as to make a chapbook? That's the scary part.

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    1. Fortunately for this challenge the big thing will be to get organized and create the structure for a chapbook ... and beyond what you said, Kiril, there's not a whole lot more you'll have to do (not really), at least not to complete this challenge! Good luck!

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    2. I spent the last 4 hours going through the creative writing/poetry categoies on all 4 of my blogs, the 2 retired one and the 2 active ones.

      I made folders for 12 seperate categories of poetry/song parody, then hunted down everything, in order, starting with the oldest blog, and made MS Word Docs for each piece found.

      I'll worry about spell & grammar check another day.

      A lot of poetry and song parody. :-D

      I have not even gotten to my 2 collections of 100 word stories, a huge collection of writing prompts exercise posts I made over the years, and other subjects, yet.

      Think I'll just stick with organizing the poetry, and the 100 word stories for now.

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  3. In my case, it is about thoroughly learning the process from someone who has been down that road before. The predominant writerly intention I made this year is to produce three chapbook. I believe I have enough material for a first. I am definitely hoping to boost my confidence through this process.

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    1. Hopefully this will help, Meena! My general rule is to try to keep things as simple as possible (both for the ease of completion and my own sanity!), so hopefully sharing my process will also be a relatively simple/stress-free journey for you!

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  4. Least looking forward to rummaging. The last place I want to be right now is rolling in the poetic dust balls and moldy closets because I know what will happen--days will pass me by and I may not even remember to change my clothes because I'll be sweeping words and vacuuming phrases. And sneezing.
    And yet, it sounds so enticing.

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    1. You have no idea how badly I want to have a dust-balled and moldy closet to roll through with poems now! Good luck to you as you rummage, Jlynn!

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  5. I put together my first chapbook for Robert's November challenge, and I rather surprised myself at how much I liked it. I've done several years of his chapbook challenges (Poem a Day challenges, too), but this is the first time that I've submitted a chapbook. It will be interesting to see how it fairs against the competition.

    There's a lot of good info in your first post, so I'm looking forward to reading more. I'm not sure if I'll have the time to make another chapbook in February (regrettably) - I have builders coming in mid-month, and I'll often be without power while they work on wiring etc. Life will be interesting here for about 6-weeks.

    I will follow along though whenever possible.

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    1. It sounds like you have a lot of the work done already, Misky, which is great! If you wanted to revise one you've already compiled, that would also be fine. This is a challenge where you can really "pick and choose" the tasks you need! Best of luck to you!

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    2. Now that's an idea. I might add to the existing one.

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  6. Least:

    Deciding. That’s the first freaky bit. I don’t think I have enough fresh poems for a poetry chapbook but I do have enough photographs for a mock-up of the ten mile project. Deciding on the photos is the first step. I thought I might break it up into seasons...10 photos per. Deciding on the text...some... none? ... free verse? ... thoughts?

    Formatting. That’s the second freaky bit. I haven’t used InDesign for a while. Will I still remember how?

    Most:

    Actually getting something done! :) That's the best bit.

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    1. Fortunately we kind of ease into the decision process for this challenge, Veronica! We'll begin with gathering, then sorting, then ... I like to think of it as playing more than deciding, as we'll play with the organization of a single chapbook for a little bit! Good luck as you start sorting and figuring things out!

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  7. For me... it's the organizational part. Getting it all collected and put together!

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    1. Dana, organization can be such a pain in the buns! Hopefully some of the sorting techniques we go over in the coming weeks will help make it a little less bun-paining :)

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  8. I've been writing Momaiku for years, and I have hundreds of them. Unconventional poetry, for sure, but I think they'd make for a fun collection and a possible book. I have no idea how to even start, but I'm hoping to learn, through this challenge, how to build a story from my little haikus. A focused selection seems like a great starting point, so I'm pleased to be your grasshopper.

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  9. Most of my poetry or essays I did as a teenager. Might be a bit of an angsty theme. Though, maybe I could refine them. It would be fun to look through at least, though I really don't have much time this month to do it. Sad. But I'll probably book mark every single post. You should do a summary post of your I <3 my blog and this one at the end!

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    1. That's a great idea, Heather! A summary/post round-up for the I ♥ My Blog challenge was on my mind this week ... I like the idea of having both summaries go up in early March as we ease temporarily out of OLJ's "Winter challenge season" (and take a breather before the Spring challenges)!

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  10. I've got the poems. No. Been digging through the mess: I've got things I've been calling poems, but--boy! do they ever need revision. I'll that an advantage and revise them toward some similarity you could call a theme.

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    1. It's fun to find old work we haven't seen in years ... less fun to realize it needs a lot of work, but still! Hopefully you have fun in the revision process!

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  11. I'm looking forward to finalizing a collection. It's always the best part for me! I'm not excited about revising, but that's ok. Revision has to be done.

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    1. Best of luck to you, Sopphey! I know you've got experience with all this, so hopefully this will still be beneficial! I'm glad to have your experience as part of this challenge, as well.

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  12. Organization. I think I'll look at both poems and photos. I hope I get a surprise!

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    1. That's great, Michelle! I look forward to seeing what you wind up with!

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  13. I think I mentioned elsewhere I have at least 3 chapbooks on the go - I am most dreading narrowing my choice - there's a contest I'd like to enter that I think deadlines mid-Feb (I'll check that and post when I know for sure) and actually, all of mine will probably be directed at contests just because I like to work to a deadline and a prescribed idea ... at least I think I do. This challenge has already helped me in that I've taken out some of the poems and really looked at them and now I have to decide - are they good enough to be in a chapbook - do they make the cut - and on and on. In addition to this challenge, I found notes from a manuscript conference I went to in 2011 - those 48 poems are some of the ones I want to pull apart for one of these chapbooks so there's some massive revision needed here but I got some really valuable advice from a publisher there, have just never done anything with it...lots of options but that maybe is what's intimidating me - I need to settle down - pick one do-able thing and go with that...

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    1. The good thing with this challenge is that, with three chapbooks underway, you're already ahead of the game! Hopefully this challenge will help you make choices among them, and get them ready to go for the contests you're looking at! Good luck, Sharon!

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  14. Thank you for this challenge Khara. God knows I need a kick in the butt. Organization isn't my strong suit. The room my desk is in looks like an old used book depository. I've been known to sit all day unwashed at my desk working a poem to pieces. I hope I can quell my tendency to over edit. I'm like a parent that can't leave the kid go to the prom without endlessly fidgeting with their hair, their collar, their tie, their boutonniere. I've got enough poems it's just letting them go to have a life of their own. Scary stuff.

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    1. Thanks for joining in, Kris! And don't worry--organization is a somewhat relative term. (e.g., The methods I'll share for organizing poems and choosing the order of a chapbook usually involves me spreading them all over the floor ... not exactly the epitome of neatness!) As for editing the pieces ... when our poems, or stories, or whatever, are our babies, it's hard not to helicopter! I have a feeling we'll both be seeing how that goes over the course of this challenge!

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  15. Finding -- or making -- the time will be the hardest part for me. Seems I'm always running behind, no matter what the task. Just not enough hours in a day and too many options. :-|

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    1. Time is definitely one of those things that seems to never be on the side of a writer. Actually, with that in mind, I've tried to structure the tasks for this challenge in away that they should/could only take up to a few hours (hopefully less than that) to complete, and with some of them overlapping, plenty of days to get they done in! Good luck to you, Pamela!

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  16. OH boy, Khara!!! You've opened up a can o' worms here. This is something I've been meaning to do for quite sometime. Daunted? Yes. Why? I don't know exactly. I feel like I have a lot to go through and I don't even know where to begin looking...too many filed that I haven't even looked at in a LONG time! I'm glad you're doing this...I apologize for my half-hearted attempt last month to participate in the I ♥ My Blog challenge. :)

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    1. Thanks, Hannah! I'm trying to structure more challenges that allow participants to "pick-and-choose" a level of involvement without feeling like they're cheating or missing out. (The "I ♥ My Blog" challenge was one; I didn't see your participation as half-hearted at all, and you can always go back to it, any time!) Good luck as we get started with this new challenge!

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  17. Revising my work is the most daunting task involved in a chapbook. I usually submit flash stories, one at a time, to my critique group. There really won't be time this month to submit all of my stories so many won't be as revised as I would like. Being a perfectionist, that is very hard for me. :)

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    1. Yvonne, fortunately we won't be touching revision until around the 25th! I know my tendency is to make small revisions as I go along. What I hope is a nice thing with this challenge is the fact that it's really all about getting it together ... by the end of the challenge, folks should have a manuscript organized and developed; the acts of revising and "perfecting" the chapbook can come after it ends! Good luck to you, with this and your fiction submissions!

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  18. Khara, I'm with Kris on this one. I've been putting this day off for a long time and must get in gear now. That was already on my mind when this challenge came up. So here it goes. The hardest part--finding poems I believe will work together and be worthy of use. I don't mind organizing. I just have to carve out time for it. I enjoy learning new formatting techniques, so that will be a major bonus for me.

    I'm looking forward to this so much. Contests--you betcha. I'm all for that, but a self-publish or two. I have lots to choose from and if I separate into like piles as I go through, I could effectively end up with several chapbooks worth of poems and at least be closer to getting the full length book to a publisher along the way. Thanks so much for setting up this working challenge.

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    1. Claudette, from the sounds of it I'm hoping you'll enjoy Monday's task, which should have you well on your way toward some of your goals! Best of luck to you!

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  19. I'm thankful that you are here to guide us through the murky waters of building a chapbook. I've worked on handmade ones in the past and a digital one for Robert in December, but I have a lot to learn. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks so much, Linda! Hopefully this will be helpful in some way(s) or another. I for one am thankful to have several folks like you participating, as well; folks with experience both in building a chapbook/collection (for personal reasons or otherwise) or in publishing in "general"!

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  20. i've just found your site, but it seems we think alike because this is the month I decided to take action and started to seriously look into publishing, organize my poems and get ready tu publish.

    I already have more than 600 haiku and thought about publishing some of these. I've put my poems in one file, I've selected the ones I want to publish and sorted them by theme and decided at 40 haiku chapbooks. I hope that by the end of the month I'll have them ready.

    Good luck to everybody with this challenge and I'll definitely read the other posts, too. it's great to see others' efforts and progress when you're on the same page.

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    1. Thank you, Adriana, for your comments; I'm glad you came to the Lost Jungle when you did! I love the sound of a haiku chapbook--best of luck as you work to get them organized and formatted!

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Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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