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  • Another November Writing Opportunity: The Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge
Another November Writing Opportunity: The Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge
Written by
Susanne Barrett
November 2011
Written by
Susanne Barrett
November 2011


After taking a break last year, I've returned to the adventure of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) even though fiction isn't my thing. My participation in NaNoWriMo in 2008 marked my first foray into writing fiction since college, but, nonfiction writer though I am, I was happily hooked.

I think it was the freedom of NaNoWriMo that drew me in, hypnotizing me into writing until the wee small hours when the rest of our busy household slept. I wrote with only a single sheet of notes in front of me—just a class schedule, a few background notes, a few street names. Allowing my fingers to roam, I merely typed whatever came to mind as I followed my main character around, describing what she did, what she said, how she felt.

I finished NaNoWriMo in 2008, and in 2009 I attempted and succeeded in completing the second half of the 2008 novel. Writing stories with such abandon was a heady feeling for this nonfiction writer who is usually bound by minor details such as facts and truth.

When 2010 rolled around, too many obligations filled my proverbial plate to seriously consider participating in NaNoWriMo. Instead, I tackled a very different challenge that seemed to require less time and energy.

I was wrong about that last part. My choice for last November's writing challenge was anything but quick and easy. In fact, I spent more time on it per day than I did on NaNoWriMo and definitely more brain power.

Robert Lee Brewer, the editor of
Poets Market, offers his annual November PAD (Poem a Day) Chapbook Challenge on his Poetic Asides blog on the Writer's Digest website. In past years I have pounced on the opportunity of NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month, also a poem-a-day challenge) in April, but with the main website hosting it now defunct, Brewer's chapbook contest immediately tempted me.

While I enjoyed Brewer's daily prompts which produced some very unique poems, the major advantage to the Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge was the contest itself: a chapbook of poems composed during the Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge would be selected by Brewer with the possibility of publication and the certainty of fairly awesome bragging rights.


While the Poem-a-Day challenge lasted throughout the month of November (ending on December 1), Brewer gave us the month of December to revise and edit our work before submitting a 10-20 page chapbook by December 31st. The winner was announced on Groundhog Day, February 2, the judges being Brewer and his equally-talented wife, Tammy.

Plus, a few of my pieces received excellent feedback from contemporary poets. It was rather mind-boggling to note the familiar names in the contemporary American poetry scene leaving very helpful comments on my blog, offering guidance in improving my more promising efforts.


Of the thirty poems I wrote last November, this piece, circling around the unspoken diagnosis of Alzheimer's, received the most positive commentary from participating poets:


Do You Remember?
Do you remember
when the leaves fell
dark and dank,
clinging to your boots,
the rain pilfering thoughts,
robbing our years remaining?

Do you remember
when snow quilted our meadow,
sheathing us into our home
as days gleaned our hours--
the fire blooming anew,
swallowing seasoned oak hungrily?

Do you remember
when spring arrived fresh,
pale blossoms peopling Pippin boughs--
our meadow greening thick with
warming winds tossing kites wild,
and you pledged promises sweet?

Do you remember
when summer heat swelled peaches plump,
beaches brimming wetly, waves curling
into themselves like titans clashing--
in short nights we hugged late coolness,
praying arrival of crisp autumn?

Do you remember
who I am, Sweetheart?



Brewer's daily prompts appeared fairly simple on the surface, but when explored more deeply, the possibilities (and thus my imagination) abounded. Over the course of the month, my writing both broadened and deepened, maturing me as a writer and a poet. And isn't that what we writers desire more than anything?

If poets have already committed to participation in NaNoWriMo this month, Brewer also hosts a Poem a Day challenge in April, his own version of NaPoWriMo. So all is not lost if poets are too committed to join this year's Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge.

Link for the rules for Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge:

Link for Brewer's Poetic Asides Blog (the site of the challenge):




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