19 April 2009

Big time small books

PRINCE GEORGE ­­– Chapbooks are small bursts of literary energy designed to be easily traded, but they’ll receive big treatment at the annual Prince George Chapbook Fair on April 24.

Now in its fourth year, the fair brings together the self-publishing endeavors of northern B.C. writers, displaying the chapbooks for sale and trade. A panel of judges also chooses the top chapbook of the year for the Barry McKinnon Chapbook Award.

Organizer Graham Pearce said interest in chapbooks and the event has grown since the first year, when it took place at Art Space.

“The number of submissions has grown from the first year when there were 10 entries to this year to between 30 to 40 entries. The first year was also well attended with about 30 to 40 people, but last year we had about 100 and this year we’re expecting about 100 again,” Pearce said.

Submission guidelines include that the writer be from northern B.C., the chapbook be between eight and 48 pages and written and self-published by the author, and be produced in a minimum of 20 copies.

“The idea for the minimum number of copies is getting people away from special one-offs. The chapbook is supposed to be traded and sold and reproduced easily,” Pearce said.

The fair offers the public a glimpse into the fresh art and ideas of writers in the region that don't often show up in mainstream publications. The small run, homemade nature of chapbooks allows limitless creativity when it comes to paper, font and binding, and the overall appearance is often melded with the content.

While chapbooks are more a labour of love, as opposed to a path to literary glory, they are no stranger to awards. Canada’s bpNichol Chapbook Award recognizes the country’s best chapbook of the year, and was won by Prince George poet Barry McKinnon in 2004 for Bolivia/Peru and Arrythmia in 1994. Pearce said he believes the competitive aspect doesn’t take away from the original intent of chapbooks, and picking a winner proves to be a challenge -– in two of the past three years the Barry McKinnon Award was shared by co-winners.

“There’s still the idea it’s the chapbook fair and everyone that submits is still showcased, but it is a way to celebrate what is the best of the year. It matches up with what’s going on nationally and internationally –- people are interested in what rises to the top,” Peace said, adding this year’s entrants include established writers and some new names.

But the spirit of chapbooks is foremost at the fair; they are a connection between writer and community. Prince George poet Robert Budde, who started the event in 2006, writes in the April 2009 issue of Northword: “Above all, a chapbook is a relationship between me and you. Something more personal than what is found in a trade publication, where packaging, marketing and margins all conspire to distance writers from their works and, consequently, from their readers.”

Judging this year will be Prince George poet Gillian Wigmore, 2006 Barry McKinnon Chapbook Award winner Richard Krueger and 2008 co-winner Adam Pottle. A $250 prize is sponsored by the UNBC Arts Council, and Starbucks is donating gift baskets for second and third.

The event is free and open to the public and takes place Friday, April 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the College of New Caledonia, room 1-306.

No comments:

Post a Comment