Chapbooks—those small booklets of twenty-five or so pages—have been around since the 16th century. Folk tales, children’s stories, poetry, and religious tracts, all manner of material became available once printed books were affordable by us common folk. These days chapbooks most often contain poetry, though collections of flash fiction or nonfiction are produced, too, or even a book containing a single story. Some chapbooks can be quite elegant, hand-sewn, hand-made paper, embellished with original art. But generally, chapbooks are inexpensively produced and inexpensively priced or even given away.
I love chapbooks. I love them for their informality and friendliness. A twenty-page collection of poetry is much less intimidating that a one-hundred-and-twenty-five page book. Plus I can afford them—often they’re priced around five or seven dollars. So I can support a writer or a poet without much damage to my budget. They don’t take up much space on the bookshelves either.
My collection of chapbooks is minuscule compared to some poets I know. Just the other day, my friend, poet Chris Vannoy asked if anyone knew of an archive where he might donate his collection that numbers near 150. (Anyone have any suggestions to pass along to Chris? Let me know.)
Another thing I love about chapbooks is they’re DIY; I can make them myself. In fact, I’ve made several of them. I produce one at the end of each of my Wild Women writing workshops. I’ve made them for other workshops, too: A Woman’s Place—Tall Tales, Stories, and Poems from Women on the Road, and Hot Nights, Wild Women, the precursor to my Wild Women workshops. Many years ago, I created a chapbook of my own poetry, The Kind of Woman She Is. My friend Ellen Yaffa and I are thinking of doing chapbook collections of our flash pieces. And a feature I wrote many years ago has been asking to be revived as a little giveaway chapbook. (Holiday stocking stuffers?)
Chapbooks are a great way to collect and acknowledge the creations of a group of writers. Steve Montgomery and I are currently producing a second anthology chapbook comprised of work from our Thursday Writers group. This time in celebration of our 10th anniversary of meetings at Letstat’s West. It’s still under wraps, but right is the cover of the chapbook from our 5th anniversary at Lestat’s.
I’m also producing another Wild Women, Wild Voices chapbook featuring the stories and poems of the 2016 iteration of that writing workshop. It’s still under wraps, too. I like the surprise of unveiling them at the publication parties.
And, speaking of pub parties, we’ll hold readings for both these latest publications: Wild Women, Wild Voices, Friday, July 8, at San Diego Writers, Ink and Thursday Writers, Thursday, July 14, at Lestat’s West. Each event begins at 6:30 pm, and both are open to the public. If you’re around San Diego either of those evenings, we’d love to see you.
As I said, these small booklets are DIY. Creating one is fairly easy with a little knowledge of desktop publishing programs such as Adobe InDesign, which is what I use. You can also use Word. Here’s a link to a Poets & Writers page that shows you a few different approaches to making your own chapbook.
So make your own (be sure to proof read and proof read again), print it out and voila! a hold-in-your-hand collection of your work. You’re a genius!
Both the Thursday Writers Anthology and Wild Women, Wild Voices chapbooks will be available soon on my website. Meantime, if you decide to make one of your own, I’d love to see it when you’re done. Already got one (or several)? Show me.