Project Without a Label

I’ve been working on a special project for the last year and a half, and I’m getting close to completing it and publishing it. This is exciting! Naturally I want to tell you about it.

There’s just one little problem. How do I describe this project?

Is it a memoir? I think it is. Sort of. It fits the definition.

memoir—a historical account written from personal observation and intimate knowledge

Yep. My project is a memoir. In it I recount my personal experiences from October 2017 through January 2019. That’s memoir.

Except that all the memoirs I’ve read consist of narrative prose. Mine has narrative prose in it, but it also includes a boatload of poetry. So is it a chapbook?

chapbook—a small book or pamphlet, often containing poetry or narrative vignettes

That’s the modern chapbook.

Chapbooks from the fifteenth century (called broadsides) through the nineteenth century contained a wider selection of articles: almanacs, folk tales, popular songs, nursery rhymes, unreliable history, woodcut illustrations, and religious and political tracts.

Because my project also contains photographs, it might fit the definition of the historical chapbook better than that of the modern one.

(The three photos in this blog post are among the 49 included in the book.)

But old-time chapbooks were 8, 12, 16, or 24 pages at most. Even the modern chapbook is only 40 pages. My project will be close to 100 pages.


So it’s sort of a memoir, but not really. It’s sort of a chapbook, but not really. Is it an elegy?

elegy—a mournful or melancholy poem, especially a lament for the dead

I’m chronicling my experiences in the wake of my mother’s death. There is much of mourning and lament present. But although my journey starts with intense grief, it does not stay there. I returned to life and living over those months, unevenly, in fits and starts, with setbacks, and I share all of that, along with my eventual emergence into the light of day.

Honestly, I don’t think there is any good way to label this project. And maybe it does not matter.

It is a true book of the heart. I felt called to create it. I feel really good about completing it. And I intend to publish it. But I’m not sure anyone but me will have any interest in it.

If you are curious, you can see samples of Journey’s early pages in my blog posts from late 2017 and early 2018:
Too Late
Beacons Unreachable
Beauty in the Close
Gusty and Fresh