It was a busy morning. I didn’t know what to do first: finish the essay I was writing, or lay out the next issue, or answer an irate reader who couldn’t believe how insensitive I was.
The phone rang. A woman said she was calling Republican business leaders in North Carolina with a message from Newt Gingrich.
“I’m not a Republican business leader,” I snapped, and hung up.
Right away, I felt sorry. I try not to be rude, even to telemarketers. Besides, making phone calls all day for Newt Gingrich must exact its own price.
I regretted, too, never finding out what the Speaker of the House would have said to me. Granted, I’m not your typical corporate type, but I’ve had to learn a few things about running a business. Otherwise, The Sun couldn’t have grown from a stapled stack of xeroxed pages sold on the streets of Chapel Hill to a monthly magazine with twenty-seven thousand subscribers.
I didn’t start The Sun because I wanted to become knowledgeable about postal rates and paper costs, any more than people have children because they want to change diapers. But when you love something, you honor the undeniable claims it makes on you. Deadlines need to be met no matter how you’re feeling. Two and two make four whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican.
After years of struggling to pay the bills, I’ve learned to pay attention to numbers in all their shapes and sizes: numbers with wings and numbers with claws. And I also pay attention to my conscience. That’s why The Sun doesn’t carry advertising. That’s why we stay away from questionable marketing practices. That’s why we don’t dilute the magazine with writing that’s safe and formulaic.
In the world of small-press publishing, merely surviving is a measure of success. The good news is that, despite our unconventional approach (or perhaps because of it), The Sun is not only surviving but thriving. We’re paying writers and photographers more. We’ve hired additional manuscript readers. We’ve established a reserve fund to help get us through lean times.
I can imagine a professional fund-raiser leaning over my shoulder, whispering that I’m painting too rosy a picture. But I’ve never wished to mislead our readers. During the years our situation was desperate, I plainly said so. This year, I’m happy to celebrate The Sun’s modest success, and to thank everyone whose support has kept the magazine alive.
At the same time, I’d be foolish to take our good fortune for granted. In the current political climate, there’s no way to know whether we can count on continued support from the North Carolina Arts Council or the National Endowment for the Arts. Postal rates keep going up. Paper prices have risen sharply.
The future is always uncertain for an independent, nonprofit journal willing to challenge not only the conventional wisdom but its own readers. But the future is uncertain for everyone — for you, for me, even for Newt Gingrich. All the more reason to live each moment with thoughtfulness and compassion.
If you think The Sun makes a meaningful contribution to your life, and you’d like to make a meaningful contribution to our work, please consider becoming A Friend Of The Sun with a tax-deductible donation.
We’ll use the money to become an even better paying market for writers. A passion for truth and a love of language shouldn’t be a writer’s only rewards. Some people whose work appears in The Sun are actually trying to make a living with their writing. They struggle financially, even though their contributions to society may be immeasurably greater than those of certain politicians or business leaders. We’d like to help change that.
We’ll also continue efforts to expand our readership. In addition to seeking more paying subscribers, we want to make The Sun available to those who can’t afford it by giving free subscriptions to several hundred libraries around the country. It’s a shame that many libraries can barely afford to keep their doors open, let alone subscribe to magazines like The Sun.
Your yearly or quarterly pledge would mean a great deal to us. In addition to asking for your donation, we invite your help in the following ways:
First, send us a few words about what The Sun means to you. We love encouragement — and value criticism. And we might choose to quote you in an ad or a brochure.
Second, send us your ideas about how we can find more readers. Use your imagination. Don’t be afraid to suggest something that might seem impractical. The Sun itself was once an impractical idea.
Editor, The Sun
P.S. You may send your check and your comments to The Sun, 107 North Roberson Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516. Your donation is tax-deductible, and we’ll send a receipt for your records.