As a much younger writer, I once composed a short story based upon one hunting trip I took with my grandfather. On that trip, I shot a young jake (turkey) with almost no beard, and moments later, a huge flock of larger turkeys came strutting by, including one with an earth-dragging beard. As hunting camp guests, we were limited to one bird, and these bigger ones had long spikes on their legs and weighed nearly double what my quarry did. The point of the story was supposed to be “good things come to those who wait,” but in retrospect, the amateur creative nonfiction probably missed its mark.
I thought back on that story today, though, as I received an acceptance for my manuscript Middle Class American Proverb. The book is an 85-page collection of poems based upon rural life in old Florida and its highs and lows, among other topics. Understand: I graduated from the MFA program at University of Tampa in January, and since that time, I’ve been waiting for a publisher to accept this hard-worked collection of poems which I produced as my creative thesis. I had widely submitted it long before I graduated, starting last fall. It’s been entered into contests, shopped around to academic and small presses around the country, and generally plastered everywhere I could find a spot for it in the literary community.
Many of my fellow writers wait far longer than just a few months to receive those magic words, “Your manuscript has been accepted.” In today’s market especially, poetry is not a big seller, as it is purchased mostly by other poets, literary critics, and academics. To get a volume of poetry accepted by a press, even a small one, is a near-miraculous feat. Making the process worse is that seemingly interminable period between submission and the yea or nay of publishers. As the old song says, waiting is the hardest part. Indeed.
Now, as the manuscript has found a home and the edits begin, I can breathe a little easier. Colleges and universities smile more favorably on applicants with a book or two under their belt, and the old notion of “publish or perish” still thrives at serious institutions around the country. I am incredibly grateful to my publisher, Negative Capability Press of Mobile, Alabama, for their interest in and attention to what I consider my masterpiece (thus far).
It is incredibly gratifying when editors and publishers recognize the labor and serious thought that you as an artist have invested into a work. And certainly this collection, by far, has received the best parts of my work and creativity. As the edits fall into place and the book comes to life from its manuscript form, I can hardly wait to see it emerge as the book I’ve always dreamed it to be. The process, I know, will be long. It will require the patience of a seasoned turkey hunter — or maybe that of a more experienced writer. Either way, I’m ready. This time, the first offer is one worth taking. Bigger “birds” might be out there, but this one is just right.