My First Sine Cera Reading by Caz*
I didn’t know what to expect in attending the CWC reading for their annual Sine Cera anthology. I haven’t been to any readings in Utah outside of academia; I haven’t joined any real writing groups since I considered myself a poet and paid my dues at a Duke University group as the only teenager among who, to me, at the time seemed like a group of otherwise senior citizens. But, there’s something instantly at-home about the CWC. People come from every corner of the valley with a variety of backgrounds and it just seems… right.
I arrived early. At first, I felt a little out of place and almost like I was in the wrong room although I immediately recognized a few of the staff members. I looked around and watched everyone intently. I like to watch people. I like to know what they are doing and listen in on their conversations. Ironically I learned this trait from a book who taught me that observing people and their dialogue is the best way to strengthen your own ability to write dialogue in fiction. Indeed, I can write great dialogue, but never have I been able to write fiction. So I watched.
I watched as each each DiverCity group filled the room and took their corners – at first dispersed in their own cliques. And then, they began to recall from years before other DiverCity group mentors who said hello, CWC leaders who complimented their bravery in being there as readers and their efforts as writers, and before the meeting started each group began to relax and smile at one another, greet each other, and wave hello to anyone who seemed familiar from years prior.
Andrea and Faye started the meeting with a beautiful explanation of not only the CWC Mission Statement but of the new Sine Cera theme, the front cover contribution, and how they would let the first reader express what the theme of “the other side of the window” meant. You could tell that the first reader was not nervous, but touched. Tears came to her eyes before she even began to read. I wondered if the piece was about someone. And as I sat there, it occurred to me that as a writer, our judgements are different. If I were sitting in school, my first thought would be to somewhat laugh to myself and think, “this person is nervous,” because of their instant reaction of tears. In this setting, however, I almost wanted to stand up and support her. After all, we are a community. Was this perhaps about a husband? Did he pass away? Why was this hard for her? I had to calm my thoughts to be sure I didn’t miss anything. Her piece was short and it was written well so that everything you were waiting for was in the last line and made you go “oh, duh.” Even in the end, the piece left you wondering, still. Yet, satisfied. It was none of those things my mind raced through in an attempt to solve her. She was fighting tears because she was touched. Nothing more. She was touched to be the featured writer. The spotlight. The first to speak.
The night continued with a variety of writers in both story and talent. Some of the simplest stories were the most touching to me – a story of how a young woman came to find herself in a wheel chair, troubled with doctors who wouldn’t operate for issues that would never leave her alone in a life that no one would think that she had because no one ever assumes the best for someone who has such little reason to smile. No one even thinks to ask and yet here she was, so willing to tell. I had to try to not cry as I sat there alone, guarded by my own way of spreading out my things over three chairs as not to have anyone sit in my personal space while I thought about each one of these pieces so intently. Another piece struck me as deep to the core, however short, but made funny only by the disclaimer of, “I wrote this when I was having feelings because, ya know, we have those sometimes as writers and that’s just what happens.” I had to laugh because that’s just the way it goes and isn’t it true? Feelings. Damn those sorts of things. I wish I had them more like I used to. His boldness in his disclaimer made me feel like I had stuffed them all somewhere in some sort of societal attempt to… I dunno, behave? Maybe I took one too many prescribed pills to make someone else’s life easier and for that, I was a little pissed off for a brief moment and by the end of his poem, I knew he understood that sort of thing even though his poem was about relationships and my thoughts were more about the relationship I have to myself.
Some of the funniest ones caught me at the edge of my seat over nothing more than a story over bottle caps while at other times I sat at the edge of my seat trying only to understand the thick accents of readers from countries as far as Thailand or Sudan. The CWC hosts readers from all walks of life and from all over the world. I was intrigued by readers who told their stories from far off countries, with English as their second language. I was proud of readers who joined the program in recent years as an addition to what they are already learning as a student of the American Literacy Council who’s greatest accomplishment in the last year has been the ability to read and comprehend a job application. Their celebration of self truly touched my heart and moved me as I remembered my Mom who spent the better part of 3 years teaching a man named Harold to read who was also part of the ALC. It made me feel that in some part, subconsciously, I am following in her footsteps as a woman who was known for her great dedication to service. As the night continued, I was more than entertained by the riveting stories and charisma of great public speakers such as the Gay Writes DiverCity leader (Doug) and taken down memory lane as if by a waltz by the many Silver Pen writers. It was truly a wonderful night and I look forward to years to come!