Since I first started seriously writing poetry (and by seriously, I mean that I stopped rhyming “rain” with “pain” every other line), I wanted to publish a chapbook.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a chapbook is a shorter version of a full length book (for example, my chapbook is only 32 pages, compared to 100+ pages). Chapbooks can be cheaper than full length books and, according to the Writer’s Digest article I linked to above, inexpensive for publishers to produce (as most are sewn or stapled together rather than hard bound).
Before I began the submission process, I had hundreds of poems stashed away on my computer. Why didn’t I just throw all those together into a manuscript, send it to a press, and call it a day? Simply put, when putting together a chapbook manuscript, story still matters. How are the poems working together as a whole? Do they form some kind of story? Speak to a specific theme? All of these questions matter when putting together a good manuscript.
When I was confident that I had a strong manuscript, I turned to one of my favorite resources: Entropy Magazine’s “Where to Submit” bimonthly blog post. I absolutely love this website and it has helped me find small presses and journals for my poetry.
It was through Entropy Magazine that I found the 2017 Hard to Swallow Chapbook Contest from Birds Piled Loosely Press (BPL). And the rest, as they say, was history. My chapbook manuscript, Ghost in Girl Costume, was one of three winners and is now available for purchase.
I found working with BPL to be very rewarding. The editors were responsive and wanted me to be 100% happy with the final product. They worked closely with me on cover and interior design and were patient with all my “newbie” questions (hey, this is my first chapbook, cut me some slack).
One of the most rewarding aspects of the process was the “final workshop” of my manuscript. Through Google Hangouts, I met with BPL’s editors, who went through my manuscript page-by-page and suggested ways in which the manuscript could be further improved. That being said, they never forced me into any changes (creative freedom, woohoo!).
Finally, as I am a firm believer in giving back, I decided to donate any royalties I make through this chapbook to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a cause that I am extremely passionate about.
This certainly isn’t the end for me, though, and I hope to have some new material out in the world soon. Keep an eye out!
— Manuela Williams