Taken alone, a story (or poem) is like a house. A reader can explore it, examine it,inhabit it, and care for it. But taken as a collection, the complexity of each creative work contained multiplies. A group of stories transforms the metaphorical “house”into a metaphorical “town,” complete with its own ecosystem, personality,characteristics, conflicts, and challenges.The chapbook, following this logic, is like a very small town. Usually running between 20 and 40 pages and often containing several thematically connected creative works (prose, poetry, nonfiction or a combination), the chapbook is a”village” to the full length collection’s “big city.”
Though the form is as old as publishing itself, in recent years, the chapbook has become an important tool for rethinking how creative writers (particularly writers of flash fiction and poetry)present their work to the public. The chapbook is a small, focused venue that, unlike larger collections, has the ability to present a simple theme with striking clarity.Students enrolled in this class will study both the modern and historical approaches to the form as they work to produce their own 20-40 page flash fiction chapbooks,which they will present to the class for discussion and critique.
Each week the class will read and discuss one writer’s full chapbook draft, considering both the individual pieces in the collection and the overall themes and effects of the work, taken as a whole. Meetings will occur every other week in order to give students ample time to study and reflect upon the work of their peers.While this class will place a special emphasis on flash fiction, because chapbooks can take many innovative forms, writers of all genres are welcome to produce work within their genre of choice.
Kaj Tanaka is a PhD candidate at the University of Houston. His stories have been selected for Best Small Fictions and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is the fiction editor at Gulf Cost. You can read more of his work at kajtanaka.com and tweet to him @kajtanaka.