This summer, the Writers’ Exchange published their latest student-made chapbooks. The kids at Writers’ Exchange produce about 14 of these every year, each showcasing some serious creativity, hard work, and writing chops. We caught up with Writers’ Exchange Co-Founder Jennifer MacLeod to learn more.
Let’s talk chapbooks! First off, what is a chapbook?
Great question! A chapbook is a small paperback booklet that is usually filled with short fiction and poems. Our chapbooks are filled with amazing short stories, riddles, poems, cartoons, and anything else the creative kids at WE want to submit.
For which Writers Exchange program are these chapbooks produced? Tell us how chapbooks tie into that program.
Every program we run (except for our summer partnerships) culminates in a chapbook. Our after-school sites each publish a chapbook right before winter break and once again before summer. We host book-launch parties to celebrate all of the work the kids have done throughout the term and invite their families, friends, community partners, and all of our Literacy Mentors.
We eat dinner, catch-up with everyone, and give the kids the opportunity to share their stories with the crowd. It’s so great to see the kids get up in front of 100 people, grab the mic, and read what they’ve written! Every kid gets to take a chapbook home with them to share with friends and family who couldn’t make the party and to read over and over again.
That must be fun for the kids.
The chapbooks are a huge source of pride for them; it’s so important for them to feel amazing about what they’ve accomplished and to have others celebrate them. We hire professional designers to bring the kids’ cover image ideas to life and the kids pick the titles. We want them to have something that reflects the level of their work, which is why we put so much care into the whole process. We couldn’t do it without a full printing sponsorship from our friends at Hemlock Printers.
We also publish chapbooks for every in-school project we run. The themes of these depend on the curriculum goals of the teacher as well as the interest of the class. Each week we go to the class and our Literacy Mentors work with the same small group of kids, finishing fun activities that are moving them towards their piece for their class book. Of course, we go back and throw book-launch parties for each in-school project, complete with chips, ice-cream with delicious fruit toppings. The kids love seeing their books and finding the page with their name on it and showing their friends.
When did Writers Exchange start producing chapbooks with the children?
Our first chapbook was published way back in 2011 at our original Writers’ Room program at Queen Alexandra Elementary.
What’s the process? How are these chapbooks made?
The kids work with their Literacy Mentors to create a piece of writing that they’re really excited to share. We don’t worry about grammar or spelling during the writing process as we want the kids to enjoy the process and just be creative. As a group, they pick the title and share their cover design ideas.
Then our program team types everything up and sends the information off to our publications manager who copy edits every submission and makes sure the kids’ voices come through. The files are sent back to our program team for a triple check and then they’re off to the designer who lays out the chapbook and creates the amazing, kid-directed cover. Each chapbook is unique to the program and the kids. Once the design is finalized the files are sent to Hemlock to be printed. Then it’s celebration time!
Why do this? Why create chapbooks?
We want to celebrate the kids and their amazing writing. Producing a professional looking chapbook shows them how important and special we think they are. They become published authors, attend parties where people tell them how great their stories are, and feel so proud of what they have done. This affects their confidence and feelings of self-worth, which is what we’re trying to do.
How has SVP been a part of supporting this project?
We wouldn’t have our programs without the support of SVP. Every kid who comes to our safe, supportive, and inspiring programs, where creativity is encouraged by a caring staff and Literacy Mentors, has benefitted from our relationship with SVP. The chapbooks are the perfect way to show SVP Partners how important their support is. Each time Partners see a new publication they should know that they have played a part in making all of the stories inside possible.
How many chapbooks have been produced to date?
A whopping 90!
Where can we find them?
You can see them all on our Issuu page. If you see a chapbook that you want to get your hands on, give us a call. We have additional copies of some of the chapbooks that we’d love share.