I looked out into the small sea of faces and recognized those I had gotten to know well over the past few years and a few new faces, too. I paused as I felt tears start to well up in my eyes and I had to choke down the golf ball creeping up my throat. I looked down to my notes and the fresh-off-the-press copy of the SLCC Community Writing Center’s (CWC) anthology, sine cera, with the preface marked to read.
The reading and launch party for the XVIII sine cera: Writing It Down was likely to be the last big event I would spend months organizing and planning at the CWC, and this year’s edition of the sine cera would be the last edition of the anthology I complied, edited, sent off to the publisher and distributed.
Tears had already caught me off guard earlier in the day when I was sweeping the workshop room in preparation for the party. I set the broom down, found a chair to rest and let the tears fall. Handing the sine cera out to the fifty-or-so writers that had submitted was as joyful than Christmas morning. The anthology is a collaboration of stories, essays, and poems workshopped DiverseCity Writing Series groups. As the coordinator of the groups, I would miss working with the writers and volunteers greatly and I had a hard time imaging I would ever find a job that allowed me to connect with the community in the way I had at the CWC. What job could be better than visiting writing groups and helping to create writing?
As I was sitting there my phone rang. I hesitated to answer because the number did not come up on my caller ID. “Hello,” I said. It turned out to be a charter school my kids applied to earlier in the year. We had received letters letting me know they were not drawn in the lottery. The admissions officer informed me a slot had opened up and the school now had room for both my boys. Relief washed over me. The school was in an area with lots of affordable housing in walking distance, and was close to a Trax line I could take up to the University of Utah when I start working and studying there in a few months.
I thanked the admissions officer, and as I hung up the phone, I looked at a bookshelf lined with a colorful assortment of archived copies of the CWC publications. There were books created before I worked here, and there would be books after I left; I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to two of them.
I looked up from my copy of the sine cera: Writing It Down, excused myself from talking too much as I was losing my voice, and without further ado I started the reading with the preface I had written:
sine cera: Writing It Down
After nine days at the Capitol Reef Field Station, I sought refuge from my six companions in the solitude of the vast desert. I grabbed my black leather journal and headed down a winding, Navajo White dirt road. The sand was hot and dry, the scent of sage and juniper hung in the air, and cicadas created a roaring hum that vibrated in my eardrums. A small, light-brown cottontail bunny hopped across the path, paused to look at me, and hopped behind an large red rock.
I ventured off the road and down a well-traveled dirt path that led to two towering stone walls that formed a long canyon. A chalkboard sized rock rock felt like sandstone as I ran my fingers along the surface, stopping just before a faded white name and date painted on the rock–perhaps an early surveyor of the area. I paused at a small wooden fence built to protect archaic petroglyphs created by the Freemont people. I tried to interpret the stories held in the images of animals, hunters, and halos. As the canyon walls narrowed, I came to a large panel of names etched in stone by people passing through the area: Jed Herbert 1931, the Clark Family, Grace and Emory, and so on. The dates ranged from the late 1800s up to the current year.
I felt compelled to add my name and the year, Shauna Edson 2014, to the list on the massive rock wall. I tried to conjure up a single word I could add to define where I stood in the moment: travel, channel, passage, causeway, progression or chamber. I thought of the story my images would tell and wondered how my stories would differ from the stories of those that passed through this canyon before me. Stories of the past, of celebrations and sorrow, and stories of future adventure waiting to be had.
Stories are a commonality that draw communities together–everyone has a voice and a story to tell. In the SLCC Community Writing Center’s DiverseCity Writing Series writing groups, a diverse range of writers meet at differing locations along the Wasatch Front to discuss writing, read works, and offer constructive feedback, support, and inspiration for all writers to tell their stories by Writing It Down.