Serendipity: the faculty of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for
This summer I almost became a believer in the alignment of the stars. In luck. In serendipity.
Like each summer of the last several, I spent a long weekend in June at a writing workshop. After another soul-numbing school year of education politics and stacks of teenagers’ writing, I needed the full immersion of a poetry workshop to loosen my creative juices. The workshop itself didn’t provide much of a spark this year, but I did learn of a contest that set my wheels turning: a publisher was offering publication for a poetry book with a Midwest theme.
Over the years, I’d amassed hundreds of poems and even a chapbook, but no clear theme had ever emerged from the pile that I could see. The prompt to write about the Midwest experience turned a spotlight onto those pieces that seemed to trace my family’s journey from rural spaces toward urban, and our settling in those mash-ups called suburbia. I organized the book into four sections, using a map theme and epigrams. I wrote new poems to fill in gaps. I revised others to make them fit. I re-discovered old poems I’d all but forgotten, then re-arranged again and again.
For the entire month of July, I wallowed in the rabbit hole. Finally, two days before the July 31 deadline, I decided the manuscript was finished and sent it off with the entry fee. Even though I knew it was not of the caliber to win a university-adjudicated contest, I felt proud of the accomplishment. It was a solid book, a unified collection of both published and new pieces, with a narrative arc and some emotional momentum.
By this time, August was around the corner, and it was time to turn my attention to preparing for the coming school year. And it was right then that I got a note from an old friend, letting me know of a small publisher in Minnesota who was looking for new manuscripts, poetry included. Did I have anything to send him? I blinked and read the message again, thinking this time his comment would end with the phrase: “…said no publisher ever.” It did not.
Within a week, I had signed a contract for Map-Making: Poems of Land and Identity. By October, the beautiful book was in my hands.
I’ve collected my breath just long enough to let the weight of it all sink in. Call it luck or serendipity if you will, but I refuse to. Ten years of hard work paved the path for this book. It came into being precisely because its time had come.
Kate Hutchinson is a poet, writer, and teacher in Chicago’s suburbs. Many of her poems and creative essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies over the years, including Minerva Rising. She tends to her family, her students, her birds, and the wild spaces around her, as well as her spot at PoetKateHutchinson.wordpress.com. Her full-length collection, Map-Making: Poems of Land and Identity, was published this fall by THEAQ Press. The collection is now available on Amazon.