In October 2021, Sarah Hulsman ‘13, published her first poetry book Tiny Anchors. It was born out of years of journaling and poetry written for her own enjoyment. “It’s one of the first times I wrote to just write,” she said. “You’re really just doing it for yourself.”
This chapbook, a short collection of poems, was at first inspired by her experience following a break up and the beginnings of fully understanding her sexuality. “Instead of texting her or calling her, I just started writing about it,” Hulsman said. “And it made me feel a lot better to process like that.”
Her poems are extremely personal. How she has understood her experiences and emotions plays a huge role in the themes present in Tiny Anchors. “I was nervous to put that out in the world,” she said.
Like many people, Hulsman was anxious about sharing such candid emotions with the public as well as with the people in her life. In publishing this chapbook she was finally able to convey to her friends and family the full picture of who she was at the time. “I had told so many people different snippets of myself and my feelings about [my sexuality],” she said. “And [the chapbook] was the whole thing laid out in one [place].”
Finding a publisher was the next obstacle. Breaking into the publishing world as a first-time author entailed submitting her poems to numerous competitions and publishing houses. While most of that activity did not lead to a deal, she was able to receive feedback on her poems, which helped her grow as a writer. Eventually, Hulsman heard back from Finishing Line Press, a small publishing house in Louisville, KY dedicated to highlighting stories from underrepresented voices, specifically LGBTQ+ authors and authors of color. “I’ve never set foot in Kentucky, but this seemed like a cool, tiny press to work with,” she said.
They responded well to her original submissions in early 2020 and quickly began the work to create a full-fledged chapbook. The process took about eight months to complete. “By the time [Tiny Anchors] got published the relationship [that inspired the poems] was so far in my rear view mirror,” Hulsman said. “It’s interesting to look at them like, ‘Oh they still kind of hold up.’”
Even if she no longer feels the same as she did while writing those poems she knows that there is still value in them in the long run. “I just remind myself to write and create authentically. If I put that authenticity into my writing and that into the world it’s going to benefit somebody,” she said. “It’s enough if that somebody’s me.”
While at USF, Hulsman was a Media and Film Studies student, focused on learning as much about the field as possible. After graduating she went on to complete a two-year film and television production masters program at Chapman University in Orange, CA. “I would have never guessed that if I were to publish something, it would be poetry,” she said.
She credits her interest in various creative forms with her time as an undergrad. While taking classes at USF she was able to explore different parts of film and the various paths one can take within the field. This translated to her willingness to try her hand at poetry, her foundation in creative exploration allowed her to be open to alternatives in writing. “Seeing how many artistic expressions there are within film is such a cool basis for any artistic thing you want to do,” Hulsman said.
Still reeling from the excitement of her first publication, Hulsman is already conceptualizing her next collection of poems. “I got kind of hooked on that feeling of somebody reading your writing and having something to say about it,” she said regarding the thrill of being a published poet with an audience, no matter how big or small.
Hulsman hopes to move on to tackling the spoken word world as well. Finally able to perform her poems following the COVID lock down and overcoming her own fears, she is inspired by other poets and performers. “There’s a whole art to performing your poetry,” she said. “It’s amazing to watch.”
Even though trying something new, like performing or publishing a debut chapbook, can be scary, Hulsman places a lot of value in venturing into the unknown. “If you end up creating something for the first time, then that’s awesome and you should roll with it,” she said.
Sarah hopes to have more of her poetry published in the future as she makes the move back to the Bay Area from Los Angeles, where she has spent the majority of her time since graduating.
Photos courtesy of Sarah Hulsman