Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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When The Sun turned twenty this year, I was interviewed by a reporter for a local newspaper. He admitted he didn’t read the magazine, and I could tell that some of my thinking seemed odd and hopelessly idealistic to him. But he admired our achievement in keeping a small journal alive. It’s a miracle, he said. I could agree with that. You’re a visionary, he said. I laughed. I remembered that when the Dalai Lama was asked how the world would be different in fifty years, he replied, “I don’t even know what kind of tea I’ll be having with dinner tonight. How could I possibly know what will happen fifty years from now?”
The reporter asked about the magazine’s finances. We’re supported by our readers, I explained, along with a modest grant from the North Carolina Arts Council. We don’t accept advertising. We don’t have corporate sponsors. Once a year we invite subscribers to pledge additional help. He seemed surprised. “Why would someone give money to a publication?” he asked. I told him that to many readers The Sun isn’t just another publication. The arrival of an issue, they say, is like a visit with a friend. Reading the magazine, they feel respected in a fundamental way.
Still, I told him, I can’t really explain the grace that sustains the magazine: a check arriving at the right time, an issue coming together amidst a whirl of editing and proofreading and worrying. I can’t explain why someone wakes up in the middle of the night and walks outside and stares at the sky. Why she realizes her life is a coat she’s borrowed and needs to return. Why she sits down and begins writing. Why her story makes me gather my own coat around me and say to myself, I want people to read this.
After he left, I thought how ironic it is that the struggle to be more fully human can still strike others as odd. Many distributors shy away from The Sun as too funky, too unpredictable, yet somehow the magazine finds its way into the right hands: readers who don’t want to be sold a political solution or a spiritual solution, who appreciate writing that doesn’t talk down to them or up to them but meets their level gaze.
I’m grateful for our growing readership, and for the fact that we no longer face the same nagging concern each month about whether we can pay the bills. Frugality has been a good teacher, stern but fair, and we continue to economize however we can. But we’d like to pay our writers more; they deserve it. Some of them are trying to make a living from their writing, no easy task.
Then, too, there are only so many manuscripts I can jam into my briefcase at the end of the day. I’d like to hire additional readers to help me sort through the hundreds of submissions that arrive here monthly, many of them from writers who have never been published. For we remain committed to those who haven’t been recognized but in whose work we recognize ourselves.
I never want The Sun to rest on its laurels, or to reduce life to something manageable (and marketable). Simply being different isn’t enough; it turns into a posture. Being honest isn’t enough, either: honesty can be a striptease in which we never get completely naked. I want The Sun to keep growing not just in readership but in substance — its voice more resonant, more passionate, more thoughtful.
Your tax-deductible donation as a Friend Of The Sun will help toward that end.
Editor, The Sun
You may send your check to The Sun, 107 North Roberson Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516. Your donation is tax-deductible, and we’ll send you a receipt for your records.
Please indicate whether this is a one-time donation or a quarterly pledge. Quarterly donors will receive a postpaid return envelope each quarter. Pledges may be changed or canceled at any time.
I’ve just read your “Friend Of The Sun” letter June 1994], telling me how The Sun works, how my donation will help.
I’ve also spread all the Suns I have in a fabulous multicolored ring on the floor, letting my eyes and fingers spin the wheel, remembering what snagged and nagged and was dissolved, what still snags and slices and draws blood, and what makes me smile.
I’ve shown issues to friends, with results that are often disquieting. One says, “Ideas? You call these ideas?” Another leafs through and, looking as if she held a dead fish, hands it back, holding her pretty nose. “The production values stink.”
After these experiences, I always look at it lying there rejected in my lap and wonder what it is they’ve seen. How can they miss the questions, the great and terrible superglue questions that peel your skin off in huge strips if you jerk away too soon? As long as there’s an address leashed to my being, I want those questions pressed upon me.
When the issue comes each month, that day is lost. I end up sprawled on the carpet, reading. Sometimes I wince away from it, feeling the weight of the previous issues; all those ideas and thoughts undigested, bread-crumb trails winding off between trees into the distance.
I’ve just read your fine letter again, telling me how you think The Sun works. You do presume, don’t you? You really know only the smallest part of the “workings” of The Sun. The rest of the workings are hidden here, warm and juicy within me.
So here’s some extra money, Sy, whoever you are, you gentle, foolish panhandler. Spend it, then come back and shoulder that miserable forty-page burden, and agonize over what to print, and somehow choose, as always, what you think I’d like to read, to experience, to think about awhile.