Building a Chapbook


After participating in the Writer’s Digest November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge, I found myself with thirty poems and a deadline. The second phase of the challenge involves narrowing thirty poems down to twenty and arranging them into a chapbook. For a newbie such as myself, this is utterly terrifying as I don’t know the first thing about formatting a poetry manuscript.

Aside from the technical logistics of formatting the actual print manuscript, I have a bigger fear that stems from one central question: In what order should the poems be arranged? During the challenge, I chose not to lock myself into a particular theme or type of poetry. I simply followed my muse when responding to each prompt. Thanks to my willy nilly approach, I ended up with everything from multiple stanza poems to haikus.

While not ideal, I decided the wide range of poetry I wrote was more of positive than a negative. Seeing as they are all rooted in my voice, they already had one common thread binding them together. Somewhere in the madness of irregular pieces, my story was waiting to be found.

I printed all of my poems and cut them out. Squares of all sizes lay scattered across my dining room table, each one a small piece of a bigger tale.

I started by making three rows of randomly placed poems so I could see how they “reacted” with one another. From there, I just started moving poems until a timeline of sorts began to appear. Without even knowing it, I had written 20 poems describing a journey I had taken two years prior.

My last trip to London changed my life in so many ways. Everything inside of me shifted and nothing has been the same since. It was a trip that taught me I had more strength than I ever could have imagined. As it turns out, that strength has been an incredible ally as life has tossed a number of challenges my way since my return. Sometimes I wonder where I would be today had I not discovered that piece of myself.

Fragments of emotions and thoughts still wander through my mind, all of which reach back to my days of wandering London streets and soaking in a new environment. All that time alone in a country so far away changed my default settings and forced me to see my world in different way. While I recommend this experience to anyone, it is not for the faint of heart. It’s easy to lose yourself and your footing when attempting to change your perspective.

In honor of an experience that uproots any sense of foundation, my chapbook carries the title, “Finding Gravity.”

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FYI, the deadline for the chapbook challenge is January 7, 2014. Good luck to everyone who submits!

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c.b.w. 2013


21 thoughts on “Building a Chapbook

  1. Interesting how you’re going about selecting your poems. I’m not submitting to the online chapbook, though I did a poem a day and really enjoyed giving myself that time to write (and it was very different from wrestling with manuscript #3!), I’m making my own book. I didn’t find one that I liked at Hobby Lobby (but they have a great one, 2 sizes, made with watercolor paper). I have the paper torn into the size I think will fit my poems, as some are very long. I want to make it kind of an art journal, and Rita said she’d help with this. I plan on doing a watercolor wash/paint on the pages next Sunday, maybe some slight decoration, and then I bought a calligraphy pen set, but can’t figure out how to get the ink to come down the quill part of the pen. Not sure if Rita will be able to help with that. After I “art up” the pages and write the poems on them, then I’m going to bind them in some fashion so it’s a book of just the poems from the challenge. Mine, too, fell into a theme, and like you, I didn’t plan on it happening that way. I found the challenge to be cathartic and dreamy at the same time. I didn’t realize there were so many different forms of poetry. I wrote what came to me. I looked on Brewer’s blog but haven’t gone back to read about the different kinds, much less practiced any of them. I would like to. Some day. Yeah. Thanks for sharing how you’re doing your chapbook.


    • I’m making a book with with a Japanese side stitch for a version of my chapbook. I decided to keep it really simple, with just plain paper and card stock. I picked a typewriter font on Word and printed them out, one to a page, so I can cut them out into uniform pages. We’ll see how it turns out!

      Like you, I found the whole process cathartic and enlightening. In a way, I miss having the write a poem every day.


  2. Rita Ackerman

    So happy to see you both being so inspired by this challenge. I May share a couple of poems on my blog but that’s as far as I plan on going. I like your comments on inner growth and would like to use them in the blog. Just a couple each. Thank you for sharing. Can’t wait to see the final chapbooks . . . no matter the format.


    • I hope you share some of you poetry. 🙂

      I’m making a chapbook of my poems for a friend of mine, but I’m also submitting the manuscript, so I’ve got more than one thing going on with this project!

      p.s. You are free to use any comment you wish.


  3. I don’t want to sound like one of these superior types who says, “Huh? It’s easy!” But I have never had this kind of problem. I have put scores of chapbook-size mini-collections together (more as an exercise than with a view to touting them for publication). However, we’re not made on an assembly line, and I like the way your mind works.


    • Ever since I started writing poetry on regular basis, I’ve been fascinated by the wide range of diversity when it comes to form and process. What’s easy for some is difficult for others (and the other way around). For instance, rhyming is incredibly difficult for me, but it’s a snap for my mom and a friend of mine. 🙂


  4. How utterly amazing. Truly…I love your approach of working out the “problem,” and I adore the discovery that you made in the process! *sigh* Wow…and now I wish that I could be a fly-on-the-wall of your experiences. You give such good meaningful and from the heart advice.

    I feel like this post should be the prologue to your chapbook when you get it into a book-book form…wow. I can’t wait to see it.

    Now you have me curious as to what might happen if I were to take your approach with my poems…

    Great job and congratulations on getting your chapbook in order. 🙂


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