I’m excited to announce that my first chapbook, Hearts, is now available from my publisher, Kelsay Books, here or from Amazon here.
For local folks, I will also be selling copies myself after my shipment arrives in 2-3 weeks.
For those who might be wondering, a chapbook is a short book, usually centered on a single topic. Hearts is a chapbook of poems that revolve around my mother, including her last years living with heart disease. Long-time readers of Top of JC’s Mind may remember reading posts about my mother, known here as Nana.
I completed the first draft of Hearts in December, 2017, in response to a chapbook contest prompt from QuillsEdge Press. The prompt was “In Transition” and my mother interpretation of that prompt to write about my mother, who was under hospice care. (We didn’t know at the time that her decline would be more prolonged than expected, as she was with us until May, 2019.) Although I didn’t win the contest, I was among the finalists and my poem, “Sixteen Hours,” was included in an anthology of the finalists’ work along with the winning chapbook, Skin Gin, by Rose Maria Woodson.
Given how busy and emotional those next two years were, I didn’t have the wherewithal to send out a new version of the chapbook until spring of 2020. I had continued to write poems during Nana’s continuing struggles and expanded the manuscript with those poems in the months after her death. I benefited from a manuscript review with some of the Grapevine Poets, local poets who meet every other week to workshop individual poems and as needed for manuscript reviews. They were able to offer guidance on ordering the poems and they identified a couple of places where new poems would be helpful to flesh out my mother’s story.
I continued to send Hearts to publishers and contests over the next two years. During that time, I did more revisions, incorporating comments from poet-friends as I went along. In August of 2022, encouraged by Grapevine Poets Jessica Dubey and Burt Myers who had had books accepted by Kelsay Books, I submitted there and received a publication offer from them on September 2nd.
Karen Kelsay and the whole team at Kelsay Books have been amazing! They made the publication process, which was a mystery to me, straightforward. They also were able to move up the publication date, which I had originally thought would be in late summer/early fall.
When I went to the first Tupelo Press/MASS MoCA workshop-in-residence in November of 2015, I had thought that I might be able to put together a chapbook of poem about the North Adams area and my family’s connections there. I set a goal of age 60 to have that book published.
Of course, life events intervened.
That original chapbook idea is now a full-length collection that is being submitted to publishers, unsuccessfully so far.
Now, at age 62, I’m grateful that Hearts is my first published book because it is about my mother, who made my life possible and loving. She was always a strong support for me, whatever the endeavor. It feels right that my first book has her as its heart.