a few formatting notes for readers and writers…

Chapbooks in the “nodding onion” series are available in two formats, pdf (which Google Play identifies as the “original file”) and epub. If you purchase a chapbook, either or both can be downloaded from your library (using the dropdown menu that appears when you click the three vertical dots that appear on the cover image). The pdf preserves the formatting of the original document and is the most dependable way to see the poems in the shape the poet intended. If you want a print copy, this is the file to use. Epub is designed for the screen (with prose, not poetry, in mind). It generally breaks lines the way lines are broken in prose, when they reach a margin or come to the end of a paragraph. The many possible combinations of screen size, font and font size (which may be selected by the end user), hardware, and software make it difficult to predict exactly how the text you see on your screen will appear. We do our best to create responsive pages using mobile first design, but poetry collaborations with devices that expect text to flow in a language most suited to prose can be a challenge to writers and readers of poetry. We hope for interesting results in epub (and we’ll keep tinkering to get the best results we can), but we encourage you to download pdfs for reference.

If you’re a poet who is thinking about submitting work for this series, you might want to keep in mind that prose poems and relatively short poems with relatively short lines probably work best in epub (especially on small screens). The prose poems will flow and change shape from one device to another, and the short poems will (mostly) fit within the confines of the screen. This is not really that different from what happens when you lovingly format a poem on letter or A4 paper with just the right font and spacing then send it off to a publisher who must figure out what to do with that text in a different font on a page smaller than either “standard” size. If you’re lucky, there will be a designer on the publisher’s end with an eye for poetry. When the design is intended for digital media, the page/screen size, the font, and the font size are all moving targets. To get a sense of what is likely to happen to your poems, you might try changing the page size of your document to something like 5×8 inches or 127×203 mm. If you can live with the way the lines break, it’s probably ready to send. If not, you should probably look forward to some negotiation about formatting.

Another strategy I’ve been thinking about recently is writing poems that have a fixed form that could be presented in pdf but also a flowing form for epub that would shift and change with changing devices and changing font/size selections. The pdf and epub documents don’t have to be the same, and that might turn out to be an interesting way to play with the poem. I’d be delighted to see submissions that took that into account and would be happy to work with you in seeing where that might lead us. I’d also be happy to get reports from readers about what happens to the poems in our chapbooks on various devices with various settings. Especially if you find that your choices (and/or your devices) do something interesting to the form of a poem, I’d love to hear about it (or see a screenshot).

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