Making a Manuscript—With My Support!

A Body of Work is a ten-week, online manuscript incubator where poets learn how to assemble and edit their first poetry chapbook. I created this course during a six month artist residency at the Jean Noble Parsons Center for the Study of Art and Science in 2012. Four years prior, my first chapbook had won a competition, judged by Fleda Brown, former poet laureate of Delaware, and since then I had also served on the editorial board of the small press that had published my collection, where I was able to work closely with many other authors to develop their work toward a publishable book.

I have been interested in the form of the book, and more recently, the chapbook, since college, when I supported myself in part by submitting my creative writing (poems and essays) to the prestigious Hopwood Awards, which required that you present the submission as a manuscript. I loved sitting on the floor in my student housing, figuring out how to make a cohesive collection. I usually used my prize money to travel during my summers. Twenty years later, I love sharing this process with other adults who have, in many cases, been writing since college and are finally ready to make their best poems into a first chapbook.

In this course, which begins at the end of January—I have 2-4 spots remaining—we look closely at how other chapbooks and books that we admire are constructed, and learn how to arrange our own poems into a shapely collection. We prepare two full drafts of a 10-30 page poetry manuscript; give and receive feedback from a peer; meet in live video classes; discuss key readings in online forums; and work one on one with the instructor, Holly Wren Spaulding, the author of two chapbooks, one full-length book, and numerous essays, articles, reviews and collaborative publications, to complete a project by the end of the course. Some participants go on to submit their work to poetry presses and contests, while others prefer to self-publish, usually enlisting independent publishing professionals in that process.

This course is appropriate for highly motivated writers who have been gathering poems for a while, and have at least 15-20 pieces that they believe might belong in a collection. More poems is always better as we start out with a draft of up to 50 poems. You can find out more information, and read testimonials on the course page.

During the 2019 session, I will be working on a personal project  in which I will create a new manuscript from fragments written during 2018, and using the Cento form as a guide. It it possible that this is a viable form for you, too?

If you are interested in this offering, please reach out via my contact page.

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poetry matters. join the conversation.

join my community

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