Steering the Craft—A Handbook for Story Tellers

During her extraordinary career as a novelist and poet, Ursula K. Le Guin won more than eighty literary awards including among others multiple Nebula, Locus, National Book, Jupiter Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize in 1997. She published novels, poetry, essays, translations, children’s books, chapbooks, edited volumes, and anthologies. Additionally, Le Guin produced a short book on writing—Steering the Craft: A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story.

I read the second edition of Steering the Craft which is based on years of writing workshops that Le Guin presented and feedback from participants she received. Her 141 pages on the craft of writing provide solid direction to aspiring writers. The volume presents ten topics: The Sound of Your Writing, Punctuation and Grammar, Sentence Length and Complex Structure, Repetition, Adjectives and Adverbs, Verbs: Person and Tense, Point of View and Voice, Changing Point of View, Indirect Narration or What Tells, and Crowding and Leaping. An appendix “The Peer Group Workshop” follows. She ends her book with a Glossary of essential writing terms.

In the “Introduction,” Le Guin emphasizes that the book is not for beginners but rather for writers wanting to improve their craft. She points out the difference between expository writing and narrative. She explains that narrative writing—storytelling—requires scenes where something is happening: an act or an action. She emphasizes that storytelling is about change. She also encourages aspiring writers to read the classics, not just contemporary fiction.

In “The Sound of Your Writing,” Le Guin provides four examples to be read aloud. She emphasizes the physicality of language: saying that its sounds, rhythm, and pace create the meaning and the oral and aural pleasure of the reader. She states that “A good writer, like a good reader, has a mind’s ear.” She then provides exercises to encourage writers to experiment with writing while attending to the sounds and rhythms of words and sentences they produce.

In the chapter, “Punctuation and Grammar,” Le Guin emphasizes that writers need to use the elegant tools at their disposal. She states that “…punctuation tells the reader how to hear your writing.” She mentions that because copy editors are an endangered species these days, it is up to writers to be competent in punctuation. She stresses that grammar and punctuation go hand in hand and that it takes craft to write well. It pleased me that in this chapter she called attention to the modern misapprehension of the use of the passive. Le Guin’s sense of humor is visible in this chapter.

In her chapter on “Sentence Length and Complex Structure,” Le Guin focuses on what a sentence does rather than what a sentence is. She says that the duty of a sentence is to lead to the next sentence in a coherent fashion. She then goes on to give examples that break these rules: misplacement of words, dangling words, and what she terms “conjunctivitis.”

Le Guin’s chapter on “Repetition” illustrates through literary examples how repetition can be used to enhance meaning, rhythm, and the structure of a work.

In “Adjectives and Adverbs“, Le Guin reminds writers to keep prose clean, intense, and vivid.

In her chapter on “Verbs: Person and Tense,” Le Guin emphasizes that the person and the tense of the verb tell the story. She explains how to decide in which person and in which tense an author can best write the narrative and the dialog. She also criticizes those who complain about the use of the passive voice without even understanding its function.

Le Guin’s chapter on “Point of View and Voice” clarifies the difference between the point of view character and the author’s voice. She describes diverse ways to approach the narrative point of view: the reliable narrator, first-person narration, limited third-person narration, the omniscient or involved author, the detached author, and the observer-narrator, explaining and giving examples of each one.

In her next chapter, “Changing Point of View,” Le Guin argues that shifting points of view are only for the brave and skilled writer and explains why.

In “Indirect Narration or What Tells,” Le Guin asserts that plot is “not superior to story and not even necessary to it.” She also emphasizes that action can interfere with storytelling. She explains that there is a limited number of plots but a limitless number of stories. She also discusses world-making in this chapter.

“Crowding and Leaping” is a fascinating chapter. Le Guin explains a narrative technique that has to do with details and focus. She exhorts writers to avoid “flabby language and clichés” by carefully selecting appropriate words that keep the story moving. She prefers prose that is “…crowded with sensations, meanings, and implications.” Le Guin views “leaping” as having a clear idea of what needs to be left out—leapt over—whether in the language or in the story itself.

For those who might like to use Le Guin’s Steering the Craft as the basis for a group workshop or critique group, in “The Peer Group Workshop,” she provides guidance on using her book as a resource to build your writing skills. She ends this jewel of a book with a “Glossary” on writing terms.

I find Ursula K. Le Guin’s short book on writing to be one of the most useful I have ever read. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to write novels (or poetry) and to write them well.

My Writing Goals for 2023

Continue to work on my poetry.

I have continued to write a poem per day this month.

Submit poetry to contests/awards:

I sent one book of poetry off to a contest.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

The feedback I have received on my novel being workshopped in our critique group includes the following comments: “I want more details.” “In this section, a lot of it is kind of staccato.” “…some scenes are too detached. We are not experiencing them the way the characters would be…” So, back to the drawing board, as they say.

Continue to work on my other novels:

No new work to report.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers AllianceThis month I attended our Write to Publish, Publish to Sell session presented by Jennifer Wortman on publishing in literary journals. I also joined the BWA Happy Hour Group at the Corner Bar. I hosted a BWA Poetry Circle which featured the poetry of Ursula K. Le Guin. I enjoyed reading her poetry.

I also participated in Gary Alan McBride’s Writers Who Read group in which we discussed The Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. I also watched a good interview with the author on YouTube which inspired me to read her previous books, so I read Station Eleven and The Glass Castle. 

Denver Woman’s Press Club: I read the newsletter and worked to recruit a new member.

Women Writing the WestOur critique group discussed two thousand words for three members of the group. One person was unable to participate.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers I read the RMFW newsletter and listened to a podcast Mark Stevens recommended: the Collaborcast by Ben LeRoy and Jason Bucholz at They discussed “Writers! Let’s dive into the Subconscious.” Their podcast was about a workshop-style get-together in which a small group of writers used painting to clarify writing issues they were having. They conveyed ideas from their novels in color on an artist’s canvas with the goal of discovering the magic going on between the writer’s unconscious mind and the writer’s writing mind. They found it to be a good process for writers who hit a place where they are looking for a significant breakthrough and need a solution. View Ben and Jason on Instagram at THECOLLABORIST.

This year I plan to monetize my blog:

No progress on this goal yet.

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month 2023:

Today is the seventh day of May. I am posting my fifth blog for 2023. After such a cold dreary winter, I am so happy to have the warmer temperatures return. Tulips are finally blooming in my garden. I am beginning to feel a return of the energy of summer. May the summer colors stir my unconscious writing mind!

May 7th in History

On May 7, 1997, Luc Besson’s sci-fi film “The Fifth Element” was released.

On Writing

Although the hardcover edition of Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft was published in the year 2010, I read it just recently. Interestingly, the book has three forewords. A long memoir section called “C.V.’ follows. A five-page section called “What Writing Is” precedes a longer section entitled “Toolbox.” A 108-page section called “On Writing” follows. “On Living: A Postscript” follows. The next section, “And Furthermore, Part I: Door Shut, Door Open” shows how and what to edit in a manuscript. The concluding section, “And Furthermore, Part II,” contains a list of books Stephen King recommends.

In the first section which is solidly honest, King recounts episodes of his childhood and adolescence, his marriage, his education, his teaching career, and his beginning and eventually successful attempts at publication. He interweaves stories about his family, his struggles with alcoholism and drugs, and his work with moments that stimulate thoughts about writing. On page 37, he says “…good story ideas seem to come literally from out of nowhere, sailing right at you out of the empty sky…recognize them when they show up.”  His first face-to-face introduction to editing occurred when he turned in an article to a newspaper editor who edited his submitted article right in front of him. The editor told King to “…write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door closed.”

In the short second section, “What Writing Is,” King expounds on the reality that writing and the resultant reading are a form of telepathy. What the writer writes, the reader sees. He encourages writers to take their writing seriously.

In “Toolbox,” he uses his uncle’s heavy toolbox full of every necessary tool as a metaphor for the writing kit every writer needs—vocabulary, grammar, and understanding of paragraphs (which he calls “maps of intent.” He refers to Strunk & White, model writers, and points out the mistakes a competent novelist must avoid.

In the next chapter which has the same title as the book, “On Writing,” King discusses good and bad writing and good and bad writers—both historical and contemporary. He emphasizes the necessity of loving writing and being willing to devote considerable time to writing. He also underscores the importance of reading novels saying, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” In fact, King states, “Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.” He discusses his own writing schedule and says, “I like to get ten pages a day which amounts to 2000 words.” He believes that stories and novels are made up of three parts: narration, description, and dialog. He adds that he believes “plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” King goes on to discuss his own approaches to the aspects of writing he introduces in this chapter. He discusses writing classes, finding an agent, evaluating novels, and other intriguing topics.

 “On Living: A Postscript” illuminates the painful reality King lived through in 1999. An erratic driver hit him while he was walking on the side of the road. He details his injuries, his surgeries, and his recovery. He also states that the book he was working on prior to the accident was his book On Writing, which he proceeded to complete. This chapter makes clear, as did other chapters, the love he feels for his wife, Tabby, and the terrific support she has and continues to give him.

In “And Furthermore, Part I: Door Shut, Door Open,” King provides an unedited piece of a manuscript and follows it with a copy of the same document hand edited to demonstrate how editing occurs.

The final section of the book, “And Furthermore, Part II: A Booklist” provides a list of books that Stephen King thinks have had an impact on his novels.

I was looking forward to reading Stephen King’s On Writing. I was not disappointed. In fact, I was intrigued, amused, and grateful for his honesty and knowledge. Every writer attempting to write anything could benefit from reading this book. I intend to reread it again and again.

My Writing Goals for 2023

Continue to work on my poetry.

I continue to meet my goal of writing one poem per day, on the best of days and on the worst of days.

Submit poetry to contests/awards:

The announcement of a poetry contest appeared in my inbox. The theme of the contest happily matched the topic of poems I had written this year. I got to work, edited them, and sent off ten poems to the contest.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

This month I deepened my understanding of the foundation of the storyline.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I did not work on this novel this month.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers AllianceThis month I hosted a BWA Poetry Circle featuring Wilnona Marie, one of the And I Thought Ladies. She presented a process to approach writing a poem based on generating adjectives and building the poem from the list of words.

I also participated in Gary Alan McBride’s Writers Who Read group in which we discussed The Candy House by Jennifer Egan.

Denver Woman’s Press Club: I read the newsletter and attended the club’s 125th Anniversary celebration. I also attended a session Page Lambert presented. She donated a copy of her book In Search of Kinship to each member of the audience.

Women Writing the WestOur critique group has not met this month yet because we had to change our meeting date. I did send my 2000-plus words to the group.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers RMFW is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year. I listened to a podcast that Mark Stevens conducted with the co-editors of the upcoming 2024 RMFW Short Story Anthology, Linda Ditchkus and Paul Martz. They are both science fiction writers. The theme they have chosen for the anthology is “Colorado’s Changing Climate.” An important topic.

This year I plan to monetize my blog:

I did not work on this topic this month.

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month 2023:

Today is the seventh day of April. I am posting my fourth blog for 2023. After a ridiculously cold month of March, I am happy to experience the arrival of April. Unfortunately, the last six nighttime temperatures have been in the tens and twenties. Today’s temperature is normal for April, so spring might be on its way!

April 7th in History:

On April 7, 2003, Jeffrey Eugenides received the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his novel, Middlesex, which happens to be one of my favorite novels of all time.

A Writer on Writing

Margaret Atwood’s A Writer on Writing: Negotiating with the Dead

Continuing my pursuit of books on writing written by novelists, this month I read Margaret Atwood’s A Writer on Writing: Negotiating with the Dead. Atwood’s book is more about being a writer than about the act of writing. It is a thoughtful and intriguing summary of her thoughts on the matter.

In the first chapter, “Orientation: Who do You Think You Are?”, she examines her youth, her adolescence, and her young adulthood for clues about her personal development as a writer. She notes that anyone can write but that being a Writer leans toward the use of a capital W to indicate the significance of the act.

Her first realization that she wanted to become a Writer occurred when she was sixteen years old. She created a poem in her head, then wrote it down, and experienced a jolt of “electricity.” She explained (much to her parents’ dismay) that her  “… transition from not being a writer to being one was instantaneous….”

In the second chapter, “Duplicity: The Jekyll Hand, the Hyde Hand, and the Slippery Double,” Atwood focuses on the duplicity of doubleness involved in being a writer. She begins by explaining that growing up without television, her world was full of comic books with doubled heroes, such as Superman who was really Clark Kent. She sees the person who is a writer as the “cozy sort of person” who “walks the dog every morning” yet dies, and the writer as the “more shadowy and altogether more equivocal one” who commits the act of writing and whose works live on.

The title of Chapter 3 is “Dedication: The Great God Pen.” In this chapter, Atwood begins by discussing the evolution of humans’ viewpoint on images and the word from one of religious significance to that of productivity for the market, or as she expresses it, “the dichotomy between art and money.”

In Chapter 4, Atwood address “Temptation: Prospero, the Wizard of Oz, Mephisto & Co.” This discussion of the writer as the waver of wands, puller of strings, and signer of the book of the devil raises for Atwood the question of whether or not a writer should feel guilty about the work produced. The chapter is a cogent discussion of whether the writer’s work has consequences in the real world. This chapter interested me because I have often wondered if Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has had a negative influence on current society.

In Chapter 5, entitled “Communion: Nobody to Nobody,” Atwood considers the relationship between the writer, the book, and the reader. She sees the relationship as a V, with the book at the bottom of the V and the writer and reader—unconnected—at the top. She points out that the writer and the reader only communicate through the page.

Chapter 6 reprises the subtitle of the volume: “Descent: Negotiation with the Dead.” In this concluding chapter, Atwood explains her hypothesis that all writing is “motivated, deep down, by a fear of and a kind of fascination with mortality.” She postulates that the very nature of writing is that it “survives its own performance.”

As I read Margaret Atwood’s lucid self-questioning of the writer and writing, I found it spellbinding. Her discussion made me think about and question my own reasons for writing, my own choice of topics, and my own goals and expectations. This is a book I think every writer (whether he or she views the word with a small or capital W) should have on their shelf and read very carefully.

My Writing Goals for 2023

Continue to work on my poetry.

A line editor went through the manuscript of my in-process poetry book and pronounced it “gorgeous.”

Submit poetry to contests/awards:

I am submitting my finished manuscript to a poetry book contest this month.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

This month I worked on the organization.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I added sections based on the collected photos from the era of this novel featuring vehicles, clothing, and settings. 

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers AllianceThis month I presented a session on E. Ethelbert Miller for the BWA Poetry Circle. I provided feedback on a poem to a BWA member. I also attended our session on Writers Who Read with Gary Alan McBride in which we analyzed Dan Fesperman’s Winter Work, a spy novel about East Germany.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I read the newsletter. I also zoomed in to a DWPC special event in which DWPC member Ruth J. Abram, a friend and colleague of Letty Cottin Pogrebin and a renowned historic preservationist, interviewed Letty about her recently published book: Shanda: A Memoir of Shame and Secrecy. Letty’s responses were enlightening.

Women Writing the WestOur critique group met and provided feedback on our 2000-word drafts for each of the four members.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers I read the newsletter and listened to a podcast in which Mark Stevens interviewed Jasmine Cresswell, author of seventy novels and longtime member of RMFW. She discussed the shift publishers made to romance novels which provided opportunities for more women writers in the late 1970s and 1980s. She also mentioned how participating in the RMFW conferences fulfilled the function of connecting with other writers, being in a well-managed critique group, and developing long-lasting friendships.

This year I plan to monetize my blog:

This month, I explored how to set up charges on my blog. 

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month 2023:

Today is the seventh day of March. I am posting my third blog for 2023. February was a difficult month in the USA given the extreme weather conditions across the nation. This month I have avoided driving and profited from time spent indoors writing and reading.

March 7th in History

On March 7, 1965, what came to be known as Bloody Sunday, occurred when police attacked civil rights marchers on a bridge in Selma, Alabama. The injuries suffered by protestors shifted the American public’s support of the Civil Rights movement in a positive direction.

How Fiction Works

How Fiction Works by James Wood

In this blog, I will give you a brief introduction to James Wood’s How Fiction Works. It is a crucial resource book for anyone who aspires to write a novel. I read the Tenth Anniversary Edition with a new preface. He divided the book into the following sections: Narrating; Flaubert and Modern Narrative; Flaubert and the Rise of the Flaneur; Detail; Character; A Brief History of Consciousness; Form; Sympathy and Complexity; Language; Dialogue; and Truth, Convention, Realism.

James Wood devotes his preface to a discussion about style and content. He summarizes the ideas of literary critics such as Roland Barthes and Viktor Shklovsky and juxtaposes them with the ideas of famous novelists such as Gustav Flaubert, Virginia Woolfe, Leo Tolstoy, George Eliot, Elena Ferrante, and Karl Ove Knausgaard.

In his chapter on narration, Wood describes the differences between the use of first, second, and third person in fiction. He discusses the reliability quotient of each. He also treats the topic of whether the reader sees the actions and the scenes from the characters’ viewpoint or through the author’s eyes. I was particularly intrigued by his view that “the author wants to have his or her own words, wants to be the master of a personal style; … narrative bends toward its characters and their habits of speech.”

Wood states that Gustav Flaubert created modern realist narrative by deliberately confusing habitual detail with dynamic detail, that is, some details are unique, and others are recurrent, but they flow together as though they are all happening at the same time.

Wood also discusses how Flaubert introduced the character known as the flaneur—a male character who walks around and notices what is going on and what is not going on.

In his chapter on “Detail,” Wood points out that life itself is full of detail. Details surround us. In literature, the author must use detail to direct the reader’s attention. Interestingly, he again points out that how detail manifests can be from the authorial voice side or from the character’s viewpoint.

My main takeaway from Wood’s How Fiction Works is that I must address my authorial voice and style and clearly delineate my voice and style from that of my characters. This book may become my “bible” as I continue to work on my fiction. I encourage my readers to buy a copy and study it thoroughly.

My Writing Goals for 2023

Continue to work on my poetry.

I sent my poetry manuscript to a line editor.

Submit poetry to contests/awards:

I submitted four poems to a poetry contest.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

My critique group workshopped around two thousand words of my novel. We added a new member to our group, so I received a different kind of feedback during this session. I also had to critique a new novelistic style of writing.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I collected photos from the era of this novel that I can use for reference on vehicles, clothing, and settings. 

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers AllianceI communicated with our newsletter editor and our webmaster.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I read the newsletter and am considering submitting to an in-house contest.

Women Writing the WestOur critique group has added a fourth member after almost one year of meetings.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers I read the newsletter.

This year I plan to monetize my blog:

This month, I made no progress toward monetizing my blog. 

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month 2023:
This is my second blog of 2023. I post regularly on the seventh day of each month. This past month has been excruciatingly difficult for me. My husband, Bill Border who was an illustrator and painter, had an infection that resulted in congestive heart failure. He passed away on Groundhog’s Day. My husband loved the tradition of Punxsutawney Phil, who did wake up to see his shadow on February second, predicting six more weeks of winter. But Bill did not wake up to see Punxsutawney Phil, he passed in his sleep. My writing has been a solace and a refuge for me during this time.

Today in History:

February 7, 1940: Walt Disney released the film “Pinocchio.”

Writing Fiction

In each month of 2023, my blog will focus on a review of a book about writing fiction. I will select books that I have enjoyed and from which I have learned important concepts. My comments will address what I liked about the book, what surprised me, and the most important concept I took from the author’s approach. To begin, I will discuss a book on writing fiction that has been so successful that it is now in its tenth edition.

Janet Burroway on Writing Fiction

Even though Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, dates its University of Chicago Press, 10th Edition to 2019, I recently discovered the book. The Florida Humanities Council awarded Burroway a Lifetime Achievement Award in Writing in 2014. She has published eight novels but is also known for her short fiction, plays, poetry, essays, and books for children.

First, what I liked most about Burroway’s guide to writing fiction was the structure and the suggestions provided. Because Burroway developed Writing Fiction after teaching creative writing at the University of Florida, and at the Iowa Writers Workshop, the book addresses what writers need to know to create a final product that might at some point “be read in a literature class.” Its textbook format is clear and followable for writers working on their own with no classroom or program support. Although my personal goal is to write a novel of interest to women’s book clubs (not to write a classic that would end up in a literary canon), I find her suggestions elucidating.

What surprised me about Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft was that her examples seemed clearer and more understandable to me than in other books on writing that I have read. I particularly liked her chapter on Building Characters which covers dialogue, appearance, action, and thought. Her explanation and example of a “no” dialogue caught my attention. In a “no” dialogue, the speakers are at odds with each other, contradicting or correcting each other, or avoiding the meaning of the situation. The format creates tension and reveals the animosity or dislike hiding below the surface words of the interlocutors. I have not yet tried writing this type of dialogue, but I have the possibility of doing so because I have two characters who are in conflict.

The most important concept I took from the book is her explanation of “theme” which she deliberately positioned at the end of the book. I agreed with her that writers have trouble selecting a theme as they begin to write. It is something I have struggled to articulate when I think about what I am writing. She suggests that the theme arises or takes form as the book progresses. Thus, she puts her discussion of themes in the chapter on revision.

I found this book so useful that I plan to purchase it (I have been reading a copy from the library) and use it as a guide to my practice. This month I rewrote a dialogue using guidance provided in Janet Burroway’s guide to narrative craft .

My Writing Goals for 2023

Continue to work on my poetry:

This month I am sending my corrected manuscript of Moon Glow back to my editor.

This month, I Zoomed into Joanna Spindler’s Bardic Trails poetry circle which featured the poet, José Antonio Alcántara. A poet in the Bardic Trail’s group recommended that poets write a poem every day. I have never set myself this goal, so now for 2023, I will draft a poem every day. It will be good to focus deliberately on my subconscious and my daily presence.

Submit poetry to contests/awards:

I have been collecting a list of potential poetry contests. I plan to submit to at least one contest.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

My critique group has now workshopped about 14,000 words of my novel in progress.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I am still doing research on a specific period of each of these novels and reading more books about the history of the areas, so I understand them better.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers AllianceI will serve as president again this year. I will also convene and present at the Boulder Writers Alliance Poetry Circle.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I continue to read the newsletter and follow what the DWPC is doing.

Women Writing the WestI love working with our critique group because I am learning how readers react to my writing. I enjoy the other writers’ work and the support we give each other. I look forward to the WWW online conference in October 2023.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers I read the weekly newsletters. I also read Maggie Smith’s blog on How to Be a Top-Notch Podcast Guest.

This year I plan to monetize my website:

I plan to add information that readers can download for a small fee. I also plan to add a purchase link to my published book of poetry, Moon Chimes.

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month 2023:
In December 2022, I reconsidered whether to continue my blog into 2023. I decided that publishing this blog once a month on what I am working on keeps me learning what I need to learn and makes me accountable to myself and my public. Once I selected my topics for discussion—each month I will review a book on writing—it made me realize that this would be an exciting and productive year to delve into areas I have overlooked. Thus, this is my first blog, published on January 7, 2023. I look forward to the next eleven!

Today in History: 

The Canadian literary scholar, William Hugh Kenner, was born on January 7, 1923. As a critic and professor, he wrote about James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Ezra Pound.

December in Fiction

Origins of December

December, like the preceding months, derives from the Roman calendar’s name for its tenth month as decem means ten. Of course, today, December is our twelfth month, so the meaning of the word conflicts with its current position. Nevertheless, the traditions of the month have remained similar. Larentalia, a Roman holiday celebrated on December 23, celebrated families, and the giving of gifts. The Latin name given to December 25 was Dies Natalis Solis Invicti which translates as the birth of the unconquered sun, commemorating the return of the lengthening of daylight. When Christians chose December 25 as a marker, the Roman holiday was transformed to mark the birth of Christ.

What I love about December is the darkness that brings out the light. Where I live, the sun sets around 4:30 PM. Our community’s reaction to the darkness is to transform the local mall with colorful decorative lights, position a bright star on the mountain above the town where it is visible for miles, and decorate streets and houses with holiday radiance. The twinkling, colorful light displays are whimsical and heartening. It is the one time of year that individuals in the community truly share their community spirit with others in a visible way. Taking a drive across town to view the various displays is a tradition in our family.

December is a popular month to include in novels. I have read two recent novels that treat the holiday in a unique way—Jonathan Franssen’s Crossroads has a passage in which the color red at Christmas time is treated in a manic fashion. Monique Roffey’s novel Archipelago: A Novel tells the story of a father who escapes on a sea voyage with his young daughter after his baby son is killed in a flood in Trinidad and his wife is incapacitated. The father and daughter spend the Christmas holiday in the tropics.

December in Contrasting Eras

This section provides examples of how three different novelists from different eras envisaged December.

In War and Peace, Leon Tolstoy refers to the month of December 13 times. In Tolstoy’s Russia, it was a time for celebrations and multiple social encounters. At one point, Tolstoy ties the feast of St. Nicholas’ Day to an interaction the French doctor has with Prince Nicolas, displaying the disparity in social rank:

“In 1811 there was living in Moscow a French doctor—Métivier—who had rapidly become the fashion. …

On December 6—St. Nicholas’ Day and the prince’s name day—all Moscow came to the prince’s front door but he gave orders to admit no one and to invite to dinner only a small number, a list of whom he gave to Princess Mary.

Métivier, who came in the morning with his felicitations, considered it proper in his quality of doctor … as he told Princess Mary, and went in to see the prince.…

At first she heard only Métivier’s voice, then her father’s, then both voices began speaking at the same time, the door was flung open, and on the threshold appeared the handsome figure of the terrified Métivier with his shock of black hair, and the prince in his dressing gown and fez, his face distorted with fury and the pupils of his eyes rolled downwards.

“You don’t understand?” shouted the prince, “but I do! French spy, slave of Buonaparte, spy, get out of my house! Be off, I tell you…” and he slammed the door.”

In Swann’s Way (1922) Marcel Proust also exploits the month of December as a commentary on French social and individual behavior:

“…”The Verdurins never invited you to dinner; you had your ‘place laid’ there….

From the beginning of December, it would make her [Mme. Verdurin] quite ill to think that the ‘faithful’ might fail her on Christmas and New Year’s Days. The pianist’s aunt insisted that he must accompany her, on the latter, to a family dinner at her mother’s.

“You don’t suppose she’ll die, your mother,” exclaimed Mme. Verdurin bitterly, “if you don’t have dinner with her on New Year’s Day, like people in the provinces!”…”

In Damon Galgut’s contemporary novel, The Promise, set in South Africa, the weather is reversed from what readers in the Northern Hemisphere typically expect in December. About two-thirds of the way through the contemporary novel, Galgut writes:

“Nearly the midpoint of summer and the days are long and white and glassy. Could still rain, even in December, but only sputtered through the winter so not likely to happen now. Weather’s changing everywhere, hard not to notice, but this is huge, a whole city running out of water!… But difficult meanwhile not to enjoy the heat, as the sun showers down its gold. How can you not open to all that radiance and light? Everywhere in Cape Town, it seems, the mind retreats and the body takes its place, baring itself on beaches…”

My Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

I am still working on the final edit.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

This month, I did not work on this novel although I read two novels on a related topic.

Continue to work on my other novels:

We workshopped about two thousand words of my novel in the critique group. I picked up a good research book for the other one.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance: The BWA Steering Committee met. We held our elections for officers for 2023 and I was re-elected president. I hosted Write to Publish, Publish to Sell which featured Jim Ringel, the author of the Lama Rinzen novel series. I have enjoyed reading the first two of the series, 49 Buddhas: Lama Rinzen in the Hell Realm and Hidden Buddha: Lama Rinzen in the Hungry Ghost RealmI also led the BWA Poetry Circle in which we examined the work of the poet who won the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature. Wisława Szymborska, a poet from Poland, trained a critical eye on all she wrote.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I read the newsletter.

Women Writing the West: I met with our critique group. Our discussions are enlightening.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:  I read the newsletter and listened to a podcast in which Mark Stevens interviewed T. O. Paine, who wrote the thriller, The Excursion.

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:

Today is December 7, 2022, and I am posting my twelfth blog of 2022. This month I need to sit down and reconsider whether I will continue this blog into 2023. What I like about writing the blog is that it keeps me focused on my own writing because I need to report each month what I have accomplished, thus I work on aspects of my novels each month. I also must research topics to write the blog which gives me detailed knowledge that I can integrate into my novels. Thirdly, it keeps me connected to other novelists and bloggers from around the world, so I never feel alone in my work. It is amazing that writers from more than one hundred countries have read my blog. I will not decide today—I may or may not “see” you next year! Have a Merry Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!

Today in History: Willa Cather was born on December 7, 1873, in Virginia. She became famous for her novels about settlers on the American frontier. In 1943, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, One of Ours. Women Writing the West presents an annual award for novelists called the “Willa Award” in her name.

November in Fiction

The Meaning of November

The current eleventh month of the year, November, is also a child of the changes in the calendar over the centuries. November is based on the Latin number, novem, for nine, yet because of the Gregorian calendar’s inserts of January and February as the first and second months, November is no longer the ninth month. November is one of my favorite months because I love the fall colors that soon turn to white and grey. Where I live the sky is often a brilliant blue, the air is crisp, and on cloudy days the clouds form great white mounds and decipherable shapes in the sky. I always have more energy in November to complete both indoor and outdoor tasks. While I miss my summer garden, I enjoy the snow blossoms covering the bushes and ground.

November in Current Fiction

In Robert Frost’s poem, “My November Guest,” he personifies his own sadness who loves the dark and barren days and comes to appreciate the beauty of the “bare November days” even when he is not sad.

My November Guest

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,

Thinks these dark days of autumn rain

Are beautiful as days can be;

She loves the bare, the withered tree;

She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.

She talks and I am fain to list:

She’s glad the birds are gone away,

She’s glad her simple worsted gray

Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,

The faded earth, the heavy sky,

The beauties she so truly sees,

She thinks I have no eye for these,

And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know

The love of bare November days

Before the coming of the snow,

But it were vain to tell her so,

And they are better for her praise.

In Patricia Lockwood’s contemporary and experimental novel, No One is Talking About This, the author uses the trope of being online, texting, and tweeting. She mentions the month of November in an ironic statement on page 44, “for not only had sex ended in American on November 8, 2016, but English, that language of conquerors that broke rock and built with it, had never been capable of sounding that way, as if it were in the process of tumbling into its own long open-ended ruin.” This is the day Trump was elected. It allows her to set up the “dictator” in the portal.

She mentions November again on page 70, “Was it better to resist the new language where it stole, defanged, coopted, consumed, or was it better to text thanksgiving titties be popping to all your friends on the fourth Thursday of November just as the humble bird of reason, which could never have represented us on our silver dollars, made its final unwilling sacrifice to our willingness to eat and be eaten by each other.” Patricia Lockwood’s use of common holidays in November (voting day and Thanksgiving Day) is also ironic.

My Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

I continued working on the rewrite of the chapbook.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

This month, I attended a book launch for a friend of mine. It was fun to see the final product. I need to put more time into my current draft because I do want to see it published.

Continue to work on my other novels:

In our October critique group, we had a good discussion about how we write, what we work on, and how we organize our stories. Today, we discussed 2000 words for each of our novels. I truly appreciate the feedback and encouragement my co-members provide to me.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance: 

Our BWA Poetry Circle featured Chris Hoffman who incorporates ecopsychology into his poetry. Chris enjoys integrating psychology, spirituality, mythology, and native wisdom in his work. His books of poetry, Son of the Earth, On the Way, Realization Point, and Cairns are available in bookstores and on Amazon.

The Steering Committee held a meeting. The editor of our newsletter and I worked on our November edition.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I listened to a podcast facilitated by a member of the DWPC, Judith Briles. Judith interviewed Nicole Sullivan, the owner of the innovative Book Bar, who recently took over The Bookies, a bookstore in Denver.

Women Writing the West:  The national conference took place in October in Oklahoma City. I enjoyed seeing conference photos on Facebook and reading the comments that members posted on our listserv.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:  I read the newsletter which currently features literary humor, member authors, and information about writing retreats.

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:

Today is November 7, 2022, and I am posting my eleventh blog of 2022. October was a busy month because we had family visiting from Madagascar. Autumn has been colorful and warm in Colorado with no freeze until the first week of November. Thus, my flower garden continued to bloom much longer than usual.

Today in History:

One of my favorite writers, Albert Camus, was born on November 7, 1913. I will never forget reading L’Etranger in a college French course. The writing intrigued me. I can still remember the first line: «Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas.» In 1957, the Nobel committee awarded the Nobel Prize for literature to Albert Camus. Only two years later, Albert Camus tragically died in a car accident in France.

October in Fiction

What Does “October” Mean?

“Octo” in Latin stands for the number eight. In the original Roman calendar, Octubris was the eighth month. Thus, the month of October exists in English with a mismatch between its meaning and its current position as the tenth month in the modern calendar. The Romans attempted over time to change the name of the month, devising different names based on emperors’ names, but none of the names ever stuck. Remember this as a writer when you are choosing names. Choose meaning and memorable names for characters, titles, places, and events that your readers can remember.

October is a colorful month, because of traditions that have carried on through time despite changes in religion and culture. In the United States, individuals and businesses decorate their surroundings with orange pumpkins, white skeletons, straw scarecrows, and black witches that reflect the changing leaves and barren branches of fall. Children and adults dress up in costumes that suit their inner fantasies and parade around their neighborhoods yelling “Trick or Treat.” The Halloween holiday is a celebration of change, and contrast, and ends with the passing of souls on All Saint’s Day.

October in Fiction

Grant Allen’s Moorland Idylls (1896) contrasts the original placement of the Latin month Octubris as the beginning of spring and the current October as a celebration of fall. With careful forethought, he turns the idea of the deadness of fall into the reality of nature’s vitality, hidden but ready to spring forth when the earth has completed the rotation and tipping that shifts winter from the north to the southern hemisphere six months later:

“The year used once to begin in March. That was simple and natural—to let it start on its course with the first warmer breath of returning spring. It begins now in January—which has nothing to recommend it. I am not sure that Nature does not show us it really begins on the first of October.

“October!” you cry, “when all is changing and dying! when trees shed their leaves, when creepers crimson, when summer singers desert our woods, when flowers grow scanty in field or hedgerow! What promise then of spring? What glad signs of a beginning?”

Even so things look at a superficial glance. Autumn, you would think, is the season of decay, of death, of dissolution, the end of all things, without hope or symbol of rejuvenescence. Yet look a little closer as you walk along the lanes, between the golden bracken, more glorious as it fades, and you will soon see that the cycle of the year’s life begins much more truly in October than at any other date in the shifting twelvemonth you can easily fix for it. Then the round of one year’s history draws to a beautiful close, while the round of another’s is well on the way to its newest avatar.

Gaze hard at the alders by the side of this little brook in the valley, for example, or at the silvery-barked birches here on the wind-swept moorland. They have dropped their shivering leaves, all wan yellow on the ground, and the naked twigs now stand silhouetted delicately in Nature’s etching against the pale grey-blue background. But what are those dainty little pendulous cylinders, brown and beaded with the mist, that hang in tiny clusters half-unnoticed on the branches? Those? Why, can’t you guess? They are next April’s catkins. Pick them off, and open one, and you will find inside it the wee yellowish-green stamens, already distinctly formed, and rich with the raw material of future golden pollen. The birch and the alder toiled, like La Fontaine’s ant, through all the sunny summer, and laid by in their tissues the living stuff from which to produce next spring’s fluffy catkins. But that they may lose no time when April comes round again, and may take advantage of the first sunshiny day with a fine breeze blowing for the dispersal of their pollen, they just form the hanging masses of tiny flowers beforehand, in the previous autumn, keep them waiting in stock, so to speak, through the depth of winter, and unfold them at once with the earliest hint of genial April weather. Observe, though, how tightly the flowerets are wrapped in the close-fitting scales, overlapping like Italian tiles, to protect their tender tissues from the frost and snow; and how cleverly they are rolled up in their snug small cradles. As soon as spring breathes warm on them, however, the close valves will unfold, the short stamens will lengthen into hanging tassels, and the pollen will shake itself free on the friendly breezes, to be wafted on their wings to the sensitive surface of the female flowers.”

In The Fairy Babies (1924), Laura Rountree Smith uses the school year to mark time, beginning with September and ending with summer vacation in June. She begins each chapter with a short poem, which for October reads:

“October, October, you gay little rover,

You are welcome, the wide world over;

Merrily, merrily, school-bells ring

And children all delight to sing.

The Ink-Bottle Babies are absent to-day,

Or perhaps they lingered upon the way;

I heard the Ink-Bottle Babies sigh,

‘We are busy bidding the birds good-bye!’”

When I started reading this children’s story, I was delighted to discover lines from a poem that my mother used to recite to us when we were children:

“Cross-Patch, pull the latch,

Sit by the fire and spin;

Cross-Patch, pull the latch,

Open the door, come in.”

This poem is the first resource I have found that I might be able to use in one of my novels which takes place when this book was popular.

My Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

Over the past month, I reworked the introduction to the poetry chapbook.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

This month, I reworked how to emphasize the major sections.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I was embarrassed in September because I forgot to log on to my critique group even though I had sent them my two thousand words and had critiqued their pages. I did send my comments on their work to the group members and told them that we could go over my pages at the next meeting. Fortunately, I was able to receive feedback on this section during our early October meeting.

I also spent time working on my third novel, trying to create good blocks for the sections.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance:  I attended the BWA Off the Shelf Book Club for a discussion of Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo. Debra Kahn graciously stepped in to lead the discussion which was informative. It is an important book for potential speakers.

I presented a workshop on Goal Setting for Creative work for Boulder Writers Alliance and led a Poetry Circle on Ekphrastic Poetry based on the painting Mourning Picture by Edwin Romanzo Elmer and the correlative poem by Adrienne Rich.

Denver Women’s Press Club: The DWPC had a wonderful schedule of events on their calendar this month which I was unable to attend. I did read the newsletter.

Women Writing the West: I read the member e-list. Members’ resource lists are informative. I am enjoying the interaction with the novelists in the critique group I joined.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:  I followed the conference on Facebook reading comments and enjoying looking at photos members posted.

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:

Today is October 7, 2022, and I am posting my tenth blog of 2022. This past month, international disasters and household repairs have interrupted my normal flow of work. It has been disconcerting and disturbing. Thankfully, our weather has been mild with just the right amount of moisture. On October 7, 2022, my flower garden, at 5300 feet of elevation, is still flourishing.

Today in History:

Sherman Joseph Alexie Jr., the author of Reservation Blues which received the 1996 American Book Award, was born on October 6, 1966.

September in Fiction

What Does “September” Mean?

The month of September was the seventh month in the Roman calendar but became the ninth month in the modern calendar. The shift disconnected the root of its name “septem” (seven in Latin) from its new status as the ninth month. As a writer, this bothers me. Words and months should say what they mean!

A number of popular songs, including “Try to Remember,” pay tribute to the month of September. Tom Jones penned the lyrics and Harvey Schmidt wrote the score of the song, forever tying together the words “September” and “remember,” and “mellow” with “fellow.” The musical “The Fantastiks” made the song famous in the 1960s on Broadway. The show’s 17,162 performances off-Broadway spanned an incredible 42 years. Recorded over the following years by other musicians, the melody and lyrics are firmly rooted in memories of lovers of musicals, including my own, although I never saw the play.

In my mind, September is a vibrant month. I always wake up a bit when the cooler, colorful days of September come to my part of the country. To me, September is about energy: children heading back to school (school never used to start until after Labor Day), farmers harvesting, stacking bales, and marketing their hay, and cities buzzing with the return of college and university students. Late blooming asters colorize the garden. Autumn color begins to display its grandeur.

September in Fiction

September is a popular month in fiction. The harvest moon appears larger than normal in September, lighting up the night sky. This month it will shine in all its glory on the tenth of September. The drama of the harvest moon is attractive to novelists.

Multiple novels have the name of this month in their title—to name a few: Rosamonde Pilcher’s SeptemberSeptember Moon by Candice Proctor, another September Moon by Constance O’Banyon, September Saturdays by James Lewis, September Morning by Diana Palmer, and Fierce September by Fleur Beale.

In The Open Window: Tales of the Months (1908), Mabel Osgood Wright focuses on September as a month of beginnings, endings, and reprisals, albeit over a period of thirty years. In the chapter entitled: “SEPTEMBER—The Moon of Falling Leaves,” John Hale and Jane Mostyn had fallen in love in their youth in Italy when they shared a gondolier in Venice under the supervision of a neighbor from their hometown in the northeastern United States. Years later, after encountering obstacle after obstacle that prevented their union, they meet in the woods above their properties. Wright uses a beautiful metaphor to reflect the love of the now middle-aged spinsters. John observes Jane whose hair has turned silver and is nostalgically dressed in the same gown she was wearing when they took the ride in the gondolier.

“‘What is that you are gathering?’ Hale asked, transferring the basket to his arm and touching the feathers lightly; ‘I’ve never seen it before, and yet it grows here in profusion.’

‘Groundsel-tree.’ she answered; ‘You might pass by week in and out and never notice it, for its flower has no beauty; for that it must wait until frost releases its seed wings. I love the dear, shy thing; it has blown from the lowlands, and it keeps one’s courage up.’”

Thus, Wright ties September to the latter period of the lovers’ lives when, despite years of frustration, their love has the possibility of renewal.

In All Day September (Astounding Science Fiction, 1959), Roger Kuykendall, uses September in a unique way, reversing the typical image of the moon. The story takes place on the Moon itself. The main character looks down and observes the light of September on Earth from his position on the moon. In the story, the passage of time on the moon is slower than time on Earth. The author creates tension in the story through the lack of time Evans has to return to his settlement on the Moon before his oxygen runs out.

“The meteor, a pebble, a little larger than a match head, traveled through space and time since it came into being. The light from the star that died when the meteor was created fell on Earth before the first lungfish ventured from the sea.

In its last instant, the meteor fell on the Moon. It was impeded by Evans’ tractor.

It drilled a small, neat hole through the casing of the steam turbine, and volitized [sic] upon striking the blades. Portions of the turbine also volitized [sic]; idling at eight thousand RPM, it became unstable. The shaft tried to tie itself into a knot, and the blades, damaged and undamaged were spit through the casing. The turbine again reached a stable state, that is, stopped. Permanently stopped.

It was two days to sunrise, where Evans stood.

It was just before sunset on a spring evening in September in Sydney. The shadow line between day and night could be seen from the Moon to be drifting across Australia.

Evans, who had no watch, thought of the time as a quarter after Australia.”

September in My Fiction

In one of my novels, September is a time of beginnings because several of the main characters are college students.

My Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

I integrated the revisions suggested by my poetry editor. I still have work to do to prepare the chapbook for publication.

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

This month, I studied more about my topic. I keep learning more but I do not know if it is helping. When I worry about reading too much about the topic, I remember that other authors mention the number of books they had to read and the exhaustive research they had to do to write. I have heard authors mention from 50 to 1000 books—so I am still on the lower end of the continuum.

Continue to work on my other novels:

The critique group gave me feedback on about two thousand words of the novel I am working on with them. One commented, “It is rich. I can see the scene and the people.” Another member said, “I want some foreshadowing and some more conflict in the character’s head.”

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance:  I held a Steering Committee meeting. I attended Caitlin Berve’s Zoom workshop on writers learning to use video to build their online presence using Tiktok and other video presentations to advertise and market their books.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I read the newsletter and wished that I had time to attend the fall garden party.

Women Writing the West: I followed the public group discussion. It is useful because the authors provide resources and suggestions.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:  I listened to an informative RMFW podcast in which Mark Stevens interviewed Amy Collins who works as an agent for Talcott Notch Literary Services.

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:

Today is September 7, 2022, and I am posting my ninth blog of 2022. The last month has been full of activities and work.

Wilnona Marie, from the And I Thought Ladies, interviewed me about my writing. The interview is posted on YouTube and below.

Today in History: Taylor Caldwell, author of Dynasty of DeathDear and Glorious Physician, and other novels, was born on September 7, 1900.

August in Fiction

The Meaning of “August”

We use the word “august” in ordinary speech to refer to a person who is wise or highly respected or a thing or place viewed as majestic or grand. Interestingly, the Latin verb “augere” (to increase, honor or exalt) and the Latin adjective “augustus” (dignified, majestic, sacred, honorable) are also roots of the word “augur.”  Ancient Rome had a religious college of augurs who divined the meaning of signs from the gods. The augurs studied the night sky in search of signs such as lightning, the flight of birds, or the appearance of shooting stars or comets and then provided guidance to the ruler.

In parallel with the original name of the Romans’ fifth month “Quintilis,” August was originally called “Sextilis,” meaning the sixth month. However, in 8 B.C., Sextilis became the eighth month of the year and was renamed to honor Emperor Augustus. To balance out the total days of the year, the Romans lengthened the month of August to include 31 days.

Knowing the history of the name of the month is useful to writers of fiction as is knowing the weather patterns associated with a particular month of the year. Understanding the meaning of the name unlocks the potential for using symbols or references, just as the weather allows the writer to create scenes and emotions.

August in Fiction

In her novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), Anne Brontë refers to every month of the year except for May, mentioning August eight times. Her usage reflects her familiarity with the meanings discussed above. In chapter 13, Brontë ties the night and the full moon to the narrator’s sense of autonomy beneath the cloudless sky clouded with the fear of others’ insinuations which recalls the augurs of early Rome:

“And I turned round to look at the old Hall. There was little besides the chimneys visible above my contracted horizon. I walked back to get a better view of it. When it rose in sight, I stood still a moment to look, and then continued moving towards the gloomy object of attraction. Something called me nearer—nearer still—and why not, pray? Might I not find more benefit in the contemplation of that venerable pile with the full moon in the cloudless heaven shining so calmly above it—with that warm yellow lustre peculiar to an August night—and the mistress of my soul within, than in returning to my home, where all comparatively was light, and life, and cheerfulness, and therefore inimical to me in my present frame of mind…”

The month of August reappears in Chapter 15, where Brontë ties the meaning to her respect for Mr. Huntingdon:

“August 25th.—I am now quite settled down to my usual routine of steady occupations and quiet amusements—tolerably contented and cheerful, but still looking forward to spring with the hope of returning to town, not for its gaieties and dissipations, but for the chance of meeting Mr. Huntingdon once again; for still he is always in my thoughts and in my dreams.”

Again, in Chapter 29, Brontë discusses an August evening:

“… Mrs. Hargrave did not visit London that season: having no daughter to marry, she thought it as well to stay at home and economise; and, for a wonder, Walter came down to join her in the beginning of June, and stayed till near the close of August….

In Chapter 30, during the month of August, Brontë recalls her respect for her old home:

“About the third week in August, Arthur set out for Scotland, and Mr. Hargrave accompanied him thither, to my private satisfaction.

Shortly after, I, with little Arthur and Rachel, went to Staningley, my dear old home, which, as well as my dear old friends its inhabitants, I saw again with mingled feelings of pleasure and pain so intimately blended that I could scarcely distinguish the one from the other, or tell to which to attribute the various tears, and smiles, and sighs awakened by those old familiar scenes, and tones, and faces.”

In Chapter 31, Brontë’s narrator tries to focus on the present, rather than trying to divine the future:

“August 20th. —We are shaken down again to about our usual position. Arthur has returned to nearly his former condition and habits; and I have found it my wisest plan to shut my eyes against the past and future, as far as he at least is concerned, and live only for the present: to love him when I can; to smile (if possible) when he smiles, be cheerful when he is cheerful, and pleased when he is agreeable; and when he is not, to try to make him so; and if that won’t answer, to bear with him, to excuse him, and forgive him as well as I can, and restrain my own evil passions from aggravating his; and yet, while I thus yield and minister to his more harmless propensities to self-indulgence, to do all in my power to save him from the worse.”

In Chapter 50, in the month of August, the narrator neglects to ask Lawrence to be the bearer of a message:

“Lawrence seemed to expect me to take advantage of this circumstance to entrust him with some sort of a message to his sister; and I believe he would have undertaken to deliver it without any material objections, if I had had the sense to ask him, though of course he would not offer to do so, if I was content to let it alone. But I could not bring myself to make the request…

He did not return till towards the latter end of August.”

And, again finally in the last paragraph of the novel in Chapter 53, making it the eighth mention of the eighth month in the novel, Brontë has the narrator marry in August:

“To return, however, to my own affairs: I was married in summer, on a glorious August morning. It took the whole eight months, and all Helen’s kindness and goodness to boot, to overcome my mother’s prejudices against my bride-elect, and to reconcile her to the idea of my leaving Linden Grange and living so far away.”

I enjoyed reading through Anne Brontë’s incorporation of the meaning and the symbols of August in this novel. I recommend that you read the book.

August in My Fiction

I am working on the timelines of my novels to figure out how to place the action according to months. To date, I have not focused on August.

My Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

My supportive poetry editor has reviewed half of my second poetry collection. I appreciated very much the comment with which she returned them, ” I will cherish these poems forever and shake my head in wonder over them.” 

Finish, request feedback, and send my first novel out for review:

This month, I studied more about my topic.

Continue to work on my other novels:

The critique group workshopped two thousand words of one of my novels. I truly value their feedback and enjoy reading and commenting on their work.

I did not work on the other one.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance:  I represented Boulder Writers Alliance at the Telluride poetry presentation by Joanna Spindler, who is the current Poet Laureate of San Miguel County in Colorado. Joanna is also the lead partner on the Bardic Trails Zoom virtual poet series in Telluride. She is a phenomenal poet and reader. Her heart and her mind shine through her work. I also worked on the BWA bylaws.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I read the newsletter which contains information about members’ publications, book launchings, and events at the clubhouse.

Women Writing the West: The WWW listserv is a terrific source for information and resources on writing about the West. The WWW conference this year is in Oklahoma.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:  The current president of RMFW, Z. J. Czupor, who is in the process of publishing a book on jokes, loves humor. He peppers the current newsletter with dad-style bits and bytes. The newsletter also features current members’ novels. The RMFW’s Gold Conference is in Denver this fall.

Document my writing progress through my blog and post it on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:

Today is August 7, 2022, I am posting my eighth blog of 2022. This summer I am grateful for the availability of Zoom which allows me to participate with other writers across the state and across the nation. The women in my critique group live in three different time zones. The Telluride Poetry group is miles across the mountains from where I live. Connection with other writers is invaluable.

Today in History: Ann Beattie, the author of The Accomplished Guest and Chilly Scenes of Winter was born on August 7, 1947.