Inside MAI Blog: Thoughts on global publishing

The writing field, by guest blogger Larry Brook

I’m standing inside Cambodia’s tallest pagoda at the center of the Choeung Ek genocide memorial outside of Phnom Penh. In front of me is a 60-foot high glass cupboard consisting of 17 shelves stacked with 8,000 human skulls retrieved from the killing fields.
 
While I try to absorb the cascading horror, I am also trying to assess what we accomplished in the five days of our Fount of Wisdom two-track article and book writing workshop.
 
I am happy to say that we now have rough material for two new booklets. One is on “Christian Life in Cambodia” and the other is on “Marriage and Family in Cambodia.” The two booklets will feature eight new articles by eight writers.
 
What else? The article writers are giving good feedback on each other’s manuscripts. They now distinguish between abstract and concrete writing. “Your whole article,” Makara scolds, “is about how God provided for your new house, but nowhere do I see the house! Can you show me instead of just tell me?”
 
In the book-writing track, Seila’s first effort is a tangle of ideas with no coherence. Patiently, we work together to get the fragments reorganized into his book outline. Nara starts each idea with a personal experience and then bridges into his main idea. It works! But when I check on him in the “book writing room,” he confesses, “The rabbits (his term for his main ideas) are running away again in all directions.”
 
My final tutorial is with Savy (photo at left), who is determined to write a book that “gives hope to women in Cambodia.” She has hope herself. She keeps going. How does she do this? She tells her story with tears in her eyes. During the “Pol Pot” days, Khmer Rouge soldiers massacred her mother, her grandmother, and eight of her brothers and sister. She never found the bodies. Only one brother survived along with her.
 
So which chapter does that go in? How does the killing strengthen the writing? We probe her book outline. I get her to promise she will tell her story. “Thank you for helping me,” she says as we finish.
 
I conclude that Cambodia is Janus-faced. Janus, the Roman god with two faces on opposite sides of the head – representing the beginning and the end, primitive vs. civilized, peace and war. The Janus faces of Cambodia – what are they? Actually there are three. First is the face of history, beauty, and culture, as seen in the Angkor Wat temples and in the Silver Pagoda near my hotel. The second face is the demonic, banal face of murder and genocide. The third is the face of the victim.
 
But not your ordinary victim. It is the victim who rises from the bone shards and skulls. In this face, I see the face of the Creator, the initiator, the inspiring face of Savy glowing in the field of writing. Thank God for Savy and the other writers - and for our hope that Light shines in the darkness.

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