OK Kids, Let’s Make a Chapbook

Chapbook_Jack_the_Giant_KillerChapbooks—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.

chapbooks jr shelf

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?)

TW-cover-194x300Chapbooks 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.

A Poem a Day

National Poetry Month starts today and many writers are joining NaPoWriMo and writing a poem a day. While I do write poetry on occasion, (more like sometimes I am graced by a poem), I won’t attempt to write a new poem every day. Instead, my commitment is to read a new poem every day for the month of April. Each day a different poet.

I think I’ll just close my eyes and let the Muse choose a book from my bookshelves each morning. I’ll post the titles of both the book and the poem and maybe a line or two on my Facebook page.


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The Muse Works a Crowd

Starting this week, every Tuesday at Noon you’ll find me at The Ink Spot writing with the Brown Bag Writing Group. I’m glad to be back; I’ve missed the time and the place and writing with my co-facilitator, Rob Williams and the writers who gather around the Fish Tables with their notebooks and pens, their laptops and enthusiasm.

Celebrating a Brown Bag Birthday at The Ink Spot

I’m a fool for writing practice groups. I’ve been leading them for nearly two decades. Brown Bag, the original, started in 1993 at The Writing Center in San Diego and Thursday Writers, which I now co-facilitate with Steve Montgomery, a couple of years later. For those of us who are regular practitioners, there’s something in addition to the writing that makes these groups special: A collective energy occurs when we come together with writing as our purpose—a creative force to be reckoned with. Some call it magic. I say the Muse likes to work crowds.

Here’s how my writing practice groups work:

Writers gather, the “rules” are read, a prompt is given and a time limit set. For the next 12 or 15 or 18 minutes, the only sound that’s heard is the scratching of pen on page, the faint tap tap tap of fingers on keyboard. Then, after each writing session, writers are invited to read their work aloud, without preamble and not for feedback, (no critique is given), but to hear their voice and to honor their words.

Somehow, astonishingly, from the few words of the prompt and in those scant minutes, stories and poems and essays and scenes from novels get written right then and there—at least rough drafts. Memories appear that might take the form of a memoir or may be just a meander through time. Characters appear, disappear and reappear, sometimes migrating from one story to another, sometimes bringing a pal or a new lover.

Writing in a writing practice group is different than doing exercises in a workshop or classroom where the writer is given instruction to accomplish a specific task, and writing in group is different than a solitary writing practice where we set our own pace and work in our own circle of energy. The palpable energy of the group and the focus of timed writings ignites spontaneity and with it, the possibility that anything can happen. And it does! Surprises are a regular occurrence at these sessions where language and imagination meet on the page. “I don’t know where that came from,” is the frequently heard comment by one amazed writer or another.

Tammy Delatorre reads at a writing session

8 reasons to be a part of a writing practice group:

  1. To have a regular time and place to show up with a commitment to get words on the page
  2. To experience the creative energy of the group and allow it to influence your writing
  3. To have a safe place to write what you want and to take risks
  4. To start something new or to continue a work-in-progress
  5. To read your work aloud with no concern for judgment or criticism
  6. To learn from other writers and spark one another’s creativity
  7. To bear witness to each other’s work
  8. To share camaraderie and create community

What’s your experience of writing in group?