Publishing is just another trial as part of the writer’s journey. When we cross the threshold from the known world into the unknown world, answering the call to adventure, entering OZ, Wonderland, the Athenian Forest…into our dreamworld, “somewhere over the rainbow,” we follow the yellow brick road, follow gold bricks in the form of words to counter the white space on the page and, perhaps, in our life. The perfect word(s). This word and not that word. We pass through the abyss, reach the Emerald City, and eventually come back home. But before we can reach the city, earn our gift, tap our heels together, and share it with the known world, the trial of publishing confronts us.
Publishing is not the end of the journey nor is it a gift. When my first book, Sunshine Special, was published, I thought the world would change. It didn’t. I did, however, reach a revelation…publishing isn’t the key to a magical door that opens a garden of poppies and avenues. When my current book, Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Documenting Of, won a publishing contest and was published by Uncollected Press, I understood that the work had just begun. And I think understanding is crucial. Writers, especially poets, should understand that there may be many times we hear the word NO. It feels personal. It’s not. But when you write and write, edit, and write some more then finally build the strength to submit your work, placing your work on display for someone to just cut it open until it bleeds seems pretty damn personal to me. And, simultaneously, impersonal, since most of the time you receive a cookie cutter rejection from the publisher like they didn’t even bother to read it.
On a side note, if you receive a personalized rejection, cherish it.
Understand that publishing is a business like any other business and your success as a writer is not dependent on publishing. I just received a rejection through Submittable just the other day for one of my poems. I place it in a folder titled “submissions,” forget it and move on. Publishing is not an enemy; it is just a necessary hurdle along the way.
My advice, then, is to keep writing, and one day you may become published (if that is what you are striving for). It will feel good. It will be exciting. Someone out there appreciating your work as much as you do. Your hard work will finally be on display for others. You can stop plucking rose petals, wondering if they love you or if they love you not (maybe). Also, understand that the journey is not over. You will need to work just as hard for the next thing, to conquer the next trial.
It took a long time for me to truly think about publishing—decades. As a younger poet, I wasn’t that interested in publishing. I would submit a poem here or there. But it wasn’t until I crafted my art to a point where I wanted, no, felt like I needed to share it with more than my wife that publishing seemed like the next logical step. So, I put my stuff out there. Scary and exciting. I received rejections. Dejected. I received acceptances. Elated. Some won contests. Some still have never seen the light of day.
I am at a place, now, in my writing career that I know my talents, I know my successes, and they don’t depend on those publications. But it sure does feel nice. My writings are like my tattoos, on public display for all that I encounter, simultaneously, holding a personal meaning no one else will ever know, unless you ask. Every writer’s journey is unique; some trials along the way may come easy, some may never be conquered, but know the real gift is that you wrote something, you created new, you crafted art for a world where the “dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
About the Book
Donovan Hufnagle has assembled a careful poetic ethnography of tattooed bodies and the stories that they tell. Just as the tattoo inscribes meaning on the body, this book elegantly reveals the stories that only the body can tell. It is a book that connects tattoo adorned bodies to a profound human truth: we are each other’s mirrors, and the artful inscriptions of our bodies connect us to each other in ways that transcend political and social divides. This is an urgent book that does what only the best poetry can do; it opens spaces for conversation, connection, and healing.-Kristin Prevallet, author of “I, Afterlife: Essay in Mourning Time”.
About the Author
Donovan Hufnagle is a husband, a father of three, and a professor of English and Humanities. He moved from Southern California to Prescott, Arizona to Fort Worth, Texas. His new poetry collection, Raw Flesh Flash: The Incomplete, Unfinished Of, is a poetic scrapbook of interviews, poetry, and documents about the universal narrative of tattoos.
He also has three other poetry collections: The Sunshine Special, a “part personal narrative, epic poem, and historical artifact;” Shoebox, an epistolary, poetic narrative about Juliana’s “past and present, love and lack, in language that startles;” and 30 Days of 19, inverted Haiku poems juxtaposed to Trump tweets, capturing the first thirty days of the Covid 19 quarantine.
Other recent writings have appeared in The Closed Eye Open, Tempered Runes Press, Solum Literary Press, Poetry Box, Beyond Words, Wingless Dreamer, Subprimal Poetry Art, Americana Popular Culture Magazine, Shufpoetry, Kitty Litter Press, Carbon Culture, Amarillo Bay, Borderlands, Tattoo Highway, The New York Quarterly, Rougarou, and others.