Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Into The Fire

The Sun magazine is an important part of my life.  It is a monthly magazine of personal, passionate writing. that has survived for decades without running advertisements.  It's motto is a quote from concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl, - "What is to give light must endure burning." It consistently publishes pieces that are raw and real.  Unvarnished truth right in your face.  The prose and poetry are joined with black and white photos that unfailingly capture the spirit of the words.

I think The Sun has greatly influenced the content and style of this blog.  It somehow has given me permission to try to go beyond my comfort zone (and probably the comfort zone of some readers) in my awkward struggle to find the right words to express myself.

I just returned from a weekend writing retreat sponsored by The Sun.  The promotional material for this event described it as a celebration of personal writing. "To write about ourselves in a way that touches others and reminds them of our fundamental connectedness we must be willing to take a leap - with all our passion, fear, and longing - into the fire.  And that fire is not just a metaphor.  Its as real as our own mysterious existence; as real as a painful moment that has broken, and maybe opened, our hearts."

 The retreat was at the beautiful Rowe Conference Center in the mountains of rural western Massachusetts. It involved "a weekend of investigating our lives through the written word."  These investigations took place via workshops run by authors who have regularly published in the magazine.  It also, for me, involved a lot of chatting, eating delicious vegetarian food and shivering in an unheated cabin I shared with three other men.

Since I'm such a big fan of the magazine, the Irish pessimist in me I was prepared for the weekend to be a let down.   Infatuation once again deflated by the weighty reality. I can gratefully report that my weekend with The Sun was not a disappointment nor was it a thrilling ride into literary transcendence. It was inspiring and fun but it was also work.  The apply-titled workshops involved a considerable amount of writing which does not come easy for me.  There seemed to be many participants who were serious, full-time writers.  I was amazed at and intimidated by the quality of material written by others during the workshops.

Most of my efforts resulted in unreadable pages of crossed out scribbling.  The one piece that I completed and volunteered to read was a simply written short account of an event related to my mother's death.  It was a deeply personal and disturbing disclosure about a situation I had never discussed with anyone.  It was written during a "Reader's Write" workshop.  Readers Write is one of my favorite parts of the magazine.  Readers send in short prose pieces based on a different topic each month.  In our workshop the topic was "Eyes."

The best part for me was meeting, and talking at length with, other people who love the magazine, both readers and Sun staff members.  This common interest seemed to make substantive conversation fairly effortless.

Overall, the retreat was a positive, uplifting experience.  I hope it will motivate me to work to improve the quality and frequency of my writing.