What is the point of this challenge?
The chapbook challenge is an opportunity to get some of your poems (or stories, or essays) organized and collected. So often we writers spend a lot of time writing pieces, but not a lot of time thinking of how we might organize them for a collection. What is the common theme? How do these pieces work with each other and play off of each other? Taking time to examine and work with questions like these helps us to figure out both what matters in individual pieces and how some of our works can function together as a whole.
Why would you do a challenge like this in the shortest month of the year?!
The simplest answer is that this is a fairly simple challenge. If the challenge was to write 30 new poems and then put them together as a chapbook, then February definitely would not be the right month for it! However, that’s not the challenge. The challenge is simply to dig through the piles and piles of poems you have already, with perhaps some (or even several) new poems mixed in, and organize them as a chapbook. The goal is to give some organizational structure to the work you’ve done over the past year, or several years, and experiment with the process of compiling a collection. This is work that, with a little effort, could probably be done over the course of a few days or a week … 28 days is actually, in a way, a gift of time!
How do I get signed up?
You can join in at any time during the challenge month. There is no official “sign up,” per say; however, you are encouraged to state your commitment to the challenge on the main challenge page, or “sign up” via the Chapbook Challenge Facebook Event Page.
How do I win? What exactly do I win? Are there prizes?
To “win” this challenge, you simply have to create a 30-poem chapbook over the course of February. The process begins in February; it ends in early March, when you will confirm your participation by submitting: 1) your table of contents, 2) a statement explaining the connective thread of your collection, and 3) a sampling of some of the pieces you included. (More details regarding this confirmation stage will be shared toward the end of the challenge.) Everyone who confirms their completion of the challenge through these materials will earn a certificate of completion. Even if you don’t get to finish your chapbook, if you participate in the challenge you can still confirm participation to receive a participant certificate. There will also be blog/website/page “badges” for participants and winners! Of course, perhaps the biggest “prize” is the fact that you’ve completed (or at least started!) creating what could be a publishable collection of your work!
What is the difference between a chapbook and a collection?
This is a question that will be answered during the challenge. However, a short answer is that a chapbook is usually considered a work of fewer than 40 pages, while a collection is usually a work of greater than 40 pages.
So what do you call a work of exactly 40 pages?
Some folks would consider it a chapbook. Others might consider it a collection. Personally I call it a chaplection.
Why 30 poems? That seems like a lot for a chapbook.
Most of the poetry chapbook contests I’ve seen provide the guideline that submissions should be between 20-40 pages. Oftentimes this can be interpreted as 20-40 individual poems (with one poem per page) or 20-40 pages, with some poems spanning more than one page. 30 poems is a nice middle-ground goal that will give most of you either 30 poems or upwards of 30 pages. It’s also a nice number in order to be prepared for those kinds of guidelines if you choose to enter a contest or submit the chapbook you compile. If, for instance, the contest says “up to 40 pages,” you’re already done, and have some wiggle room to add more work that you kept out because of the limits of this challenge. If a publisher says “no more than 20 pages,” it would still (presumably) be pretty easy for you to cut poems out without damaging the integrity of the collection you’ve created.
I write mostly fiction … Does that mean I can’t participate?
Not at all! One thing the challenges hosted by Our Lost Jungle try to do is figure out ways to make them work for anybody. This challenge specifically says it’s meant to help you create a 30-poem chapbook. However, the rules can easily be adapted for fiction or creative nonfiction. For poetry chapbooks, competitions usually specify between 20 and 40 pages in length; this might mean 20-40 poems (one per page) or 20-40 pages with some poems spanning more than one page. For fiction and nonfiction chapbooks, lengths usually don’t exceed about 45 pages, and often competitions note that entries can be a single long story/piece or several short pieces, or a combination thereof. For this challenge, if you’d like to do prose pieces, the limit is 45 pages instead of 30.
I have a contest in mind that I want to enter, but the guidelines say the chapbook has to be 35-40 poems. Can I do that for the contest?
The final step of the chapbook challenge is to submit, in addition to a selection of your poems and a poetic statement describing your chapbook, the table of contents for your chapbook. For this challenge, your table of contents may only consist of 30 poems. However, you could easily create a chapbook of, say, 40 poems and just leave 10 off of the TOC you submit! I don’t mind if you do that, since this challenge is meant for you!
Can I send you my whole chapbook? I’d really love a peer review of the collection I created!
Unfortunately I can’t accept everybody’s complete chapbook. Even if only five people participated, that would be 150 poems to read! However, if you’d like, once you’ve compiled your chapbook you can shoot me a message after the challenge ends with a request for me to read the completed project, and as I can I’ll definitely be willing to accept a few … If I get many requests like this it could mean giving individuals timelines on when I could read their work by, but if you’re amenable to this then so am I!
It’s only February 14th and I’m done with my chapbook. What do I do?
First, happy Valentine’s Day to you, early bird! Second, I’d recommend sticking around through the end of the month; there may still be things you can do to continue to tweak your chapbook. However, as with just about any challenge, there’s always the chance that you could be completely finished anywhere from shortly to extremely before the deadline. (I knew a guy, for instance, who completed the NaNoWriMo Challenge—that’s 50,000 words in 30 days—in a day … A day!) That’s nothing to be ashamed of—if you’re done, you’re done!
It’s February 28th and I have 30 poems but I’m not happy with the chapbook. What do I do?!
Fortunately you have a little more time to submit your final pieces to be a confirmed “winner” of this challenge, so take that time to get to the point of happiness with your work. Also, keep in mind that the “final work” you end up with isn’t exactly a “final work.” I remember one poet I spoke to, who had published several collections, admitting that he was never happy with the final project, which was why some of his poems appeared in several different collections. You can keep tweaking after this challenge is over. Just like finishing early, that’s nothing to be ashamed of!
Can I use previously published poems in my chapbook?
By all means, yes! One thing to keep in mind, however, is what this will mean if you want to publish your chapbook. You might need to check with the original place of publication, despite the fact that it’s your own poem; this simply gives the original publisher a chance to clarify their guidelines on republishing. In most cases, because the rights to publish your poems revert to you after it has been published, it may only mean that you include an acknowledgement of where the poem originally appeared. Be sure to check the guidelines of any of the journals or publications your work was previously published in before submitting your chapbook for publication!
Can I submit poems from this chapbook to other journals?
Usually, yes. First, keep in mind that just compiling a chapbook doesn’t make it “published,” unless you actually create a printed version to sell or share. However, in many cases, journals don’t mind you submitting “previously published” poems, as long as you tell them where it was previously published. (Note: In the case of a self-published chapbook, they might not care. In the case of another journal, you might have to wait a year or more, or a new publisher might not want it at all. Just make sure you check with the potential publisher first!) In any case, you want to make sure you check with the publisher as you prepare to submit your work to make sure there are no conflicts or potential problems.
Will “Our Lost Jungle” publish my chapbook?
Unfortunately, Our Lost Jungle isn’t a publisher. However, I would be more than happy to help you figure out some places you might submit your chapbook, or give you some resources to look at for self-publishing. Just contact me for details!
How can I talk to other Challenge participants?
All participants are welcome to gather and chat on the Facebook Event Page. There will also be a challenge-specific forum in the Our Lost Jungle Community Forums for challenge participants to talk and share resources.
I don’t see an answer to my question here. Help!
If you have any other questions, please feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by using the Contact form; I will get back to you as soon as possible, I promise!