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.

July in Fiction

Origins and Symbols of “July”

Julius Caesar was born in the month of “Quintilis,” meaning “fifth” in Roman times. However, after the introduction of the Julian and later the Gregorian calendars, the fifth month became the seventh month and was renamed, Mensis Julius, in his honor.

Summer in the Northern Hemisphere officially begins on the summer solstice on June 21st; thus, July introduces the second month of summer while at the same time beginning the second half of the year. Astronomically, the constellation Canis Major (the Greater Dog) graces July, resulting in the expression “dog days” of summer. The planet Sirius, the brightest light of Canis Major, rises and sets with the sun during the period from July third to August eleventh. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy the summer heat, while looking skyward to see if you can trace the stars that form the constellation of the Greater Dog. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, July marks winter and rainy days for you.

How Does July Impact the Setting?

In a novel, setting a scene in July could play off this tradition of the dog days of summer. Of course, the description of the scene would vary dramatically depending on where it takes place. Chicago during July is extremely hot, thus crowds of people visit the fountains and the greenery along Grant Park. Heat, of course, can be associated with individuals’ tempers being out of control but also be linked to fun in the sun. Independence Day, usually the setting for family picnics or parades or vacations in the USA, suffered a terrible wound this week.

In the Rocky Mountains, July is a suitable time to head for higher elevations and perhaps take a slide down a glacier. But in the Southern Hemisphere, July is likely to be rainy and colder than typical tropical temperatures.

July in American Fiction

This selection from Mark Twain’s Sketches New and Old, Complete, seems particularly appropriate to quote this month given the state of the Union in the United States:

“But I must not stand here and brag all night. However, you won’t mind a body bragging a little about his country on the fourth of July. It is a fair and legitimate time to fly the eagle. I will say only one more word of brag—and a hopeful one. It is this. We have a form of government which gives each man a fair chance and no favor. With us no individual is born with a right to look down upon his neighbor and hold him in contempt. Let such of us as are not dukes find our consolation in that. And we may find hope for the future in the fact that as unhappy as is the condition of our political morality to-day, England has risen up out of a far fouler since the days when Charles I ennobled courtesans and all political place was a matter of bargain and sale. There is hope for us yet.” I do hope Americans embrace the best of our nation in the days before us.

In The Brighter the Light, by Mary Ellen Taylor, the setting is the barrier islands of North Carolina, where the tourist season depends on the months when the weather is warm. The author uses the names of the months, mentioning all but November and December, to create parallel timelines for chapters that occur over a period of generations. Ships, boats, and shipwrecks figure in the novel. One character likes to sail: “By early July the Maisy Adams would be ready to sail again, and she would move on to the next port.”

Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry: I am still editing this new volume.

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

This month, I delved more deeply into the philosophy I am integrating into this book.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I sent pages to my critique group and read those of one of the group members. We had to move our regular meeting forward by a week, so we will be discussing our pages next week.

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

Boulder Writers Alliance: This month, I co-hosted, on Zoom, our fourth BWA Poetry Circle with Art Goodtimes, the Colorado Poet Laureate of 2013. I also chaired one Steering Committee meeting. A member of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association contacted me about sharing a common social/happy hour each month. This will be a beneficial connection.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I read the newsletter. The new president, Diane Blomberg, is encouraging members to become more active and involved in the DWPC.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:  I read the newsletter. RMFW is preparing actively for the in-person conference in Denver in September. Also, the award-winning author, Pam Nowak is offering a workshop in August on doing research for historical novels which looks informative.

Women Writing the West:  I followed conversations in the listserv. WWW is holding an in-person annual conference in Oklahoma City in October.

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 July 7, 2022, I am posting my seventh blog of 2022. We celebrated a July birthday on Independence Day. My wish for the USA is that all citizens support safety in our public venues, democracy, independence from tyranny over our bodies, and equality for all.

Today in History: Robert A. Heinlein the author of Stranger in a Strange Land was born on July 7, 1907. Curiously, July 7 is one of the 10 statistically most common birthdays in the USA.

June in Fiction

Origins and Symbols of “June”

Most sources indicate that the month of June took its name from the Latin word “iuniores,” which means “young people” or from the name of the goddess Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. Pearls and roses are associated with the month of June, thus brides often wear pearls and carry rose bouquets. Historically, most marriages occurred in June but recently September has garnered first place in the USA with June trailing only one percent behind. Common sayings about June weddings include: “Oh, they say when you marry in June, you’re a bride all your life, and the bridegroom who marries in June gets a sweetheart for a wife.” and “Marry when June roses grow, over land and sea you’ll go.” My husband and I did marry in June. Happily, both sayings resonate with our life together.

How Authors Use “June” in Their Fiction

In The Plot, by Jean Hanff Korelitz, on p. 7, the author describes the main character during a cold wet June, as having “mud on his shoes,” indicating that he is taking the wrong path.

In The Red Dirt Hymnbook (which won the 2020 Willa Literary Award in Original Softcover Fiction) by Roxie Faulkner Kirk, June is a time for dancing, “Maybe it was Leland’s encouragement. Or the relief of knowing that I wasn’t that far behind, after all. Or maybe it was the bumper crop of stars overhead, which have been known to make people way crazier than that on an Oklahoma June night…. Leland and I danced …until we just went plain nuts to whatever the DJ in Dodge City gave us.”

In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy refers to the month of June eight times while he mentions the other months not at all or at most three times. He focuses on the month of June partially because of the warm weather but also because of the feast of St Peter which is an important date in the Eastern Orthodox tradition and subsequently brings people together for celebrations: “Towards the end of May, when everything had been more or less satisfactorily arranged, she received her husband’s answer to her complaints of the disorganized state of things in the country. He wrote begging her forgiveness for not having thought of everything before and promised to come down at the first chance. This chance did not present itself, and till the beginning of June Darya Alexandrovna stayed alone in the country…. On the Sunday in St. Peter’s week Darya Alexandrovna drove to mass for all her children to take the sacrament.”

In the next four examples, Tolstoy uses June to tie part of the story to a historical moment: “But to the prince the brightness and gaiety of the June morning, and the sound of the orchestra playing a gay waltz then in fashion, and above all, the appearance of the healthy attendants, seemed something unseemly and monstrous, in conjunction with these slowly moving, dying figures gathered together from all parts of Europe.”

“Early in June it happened that Agafea Mihalovna, the old nurse and housekeeper, in carrying to the cellar a jar of mushrooms she had just pickled, slipped, fell, and sprained her wrist. The district doctor, a talkative young medical student, who had just finished his studies, came to see her. He examined the wrist, said it was not broken, was delighted at a chance of talking to the celebrated Sergey Ivanovitch Koznishev, and to show his advanced views of things told him all the scandal of the district, complaining of the poor state into which the district council had fallen.”

“Alexey Alexandrovitch’s characteristic quality as a politician, that special individual qualification that every rising functionary possesses, the qualification that with his unflagging ambition, his reserve, his honesty, and with his self-confidence had made his career, was his contempt for red tape, his cutting down of correspondence, his direct contact, wherever possible, with the living fact, and his economy. It happened that the famous Commission of the 2nd of June had set on foot an inquiry into the irrigation of lands in the Zaraisky province, which fell under Alexey Alexandrovitch’s department, and was a glaring example of fruitless expenditure and paper reforms”.

“The question of the Native Tribes had been brought up incidentally in the Commission of the 2nd of June, and had been pressed forward actively by Alexey Alexandrovitch as one admitting of no delay on account of the deplorable condition of the native tribes.”

In the following examples, Tolstoy writes at a level of departmental detail: “…another new scientific commission should be appointed to investigate the deplorable condition of the native tribes from the—(1) political, (2) administrative, (3) economic, (4) ethnographical, (5) material, and (6) religious points of view; thirdly, that evidence should be required from the rival department of the measures that had been taken during the last ten years by that department for averting the disastrous conditions in which the native tribes were now placed; and fourthly and finally, that that department explain why it had, as appeared from the evidence before the committee, from No. 17,015 and 18,038, from December 5, 1863, and June 7, 1864, acted in direct contravention of the intent of the law T… Act 18, and the note to Act 36.”

“On Monday there was the usual sitting of the Commission of the 2nd of June. Alexey Alexandrovitch walked into the hall where the sitting was held, greeted the members and the president, as usual, and sat down in his place, putting his hand on the papers laid ready before him. Among these papers lay the necessary evidence and a rough outline of the speech he intended to make.”

And, in this eighth example, Tolstoy returns to June as a symbol of home: “When Levin thought what he was and what he was living for, he could find no answer to the questions and was reduced to despair, but he left off questioning himself about it.…When he went back to the country at the beginning of June, he went back also to his usual pursuits. The management of the estate, his relations with the peasants and the neighbors, the care of his household, the management of his sister’s and brother’s property, of which he had the direction, his relations with his wife and kindred, the care of his child, and the new bee-keeping hobby he had taken up that spring, filled all his time.”

June in My Fiction

While in my fiction, I do focus on various months, particularly those with holidays, I have not yet created a scene that occurs in June. However, June in Colorado is often cool and rainy and the beginning of growing time, whereas in Tolstoy’s novel, he describes a warm summer season in June. Seasons vary by latitude.

My Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

My poetry collection now contains another eclipse poem because my husband and I watched the full lunar eclipse in May from our perch in the foothills of Colorado. Our view and the celestial display were magnificent. This manuscript still needs work before I send it off to my poetry editor.

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

This month, I worked on dividing the story into fourths.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I sent 1863 words of my manuscript to my critique group for comments.

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

Boulder Writers Alliance: Our BWA Poetry Circle is growing. I co-presented one workshop on performance/social justice poetry with a local performance poet, Gregory Seth Harris. I also held a Steering Committee meeting.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I read the newsletter and paid my dues for the upcoming year.


Women Writing the West: Our critique group met to discuss our draft pages. I also followed some conversations in the WWW listserv.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:  I read the newsletter and listened to a podcast about the upcoming conference keynoters presented by the conference co-leaders. I also paid my dues for the coming year.

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 June 7, 2022, I am posting my sixth blog of 2022, marking the halfway point of the year. It has been fascinating to research the meaning, symbolism, and holidays that occur each month. Rereading Tolstoy made me pay better attention to the versatility of symbols and months of the year.

Today in History: Gwendolyn Brooks, the poet who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1950 and who published the novel Maud Martha in 1953, was born on June 7, 1917.

May in Fiction

One of the traditions of May whose loss I have always personally lamented is dancing around the Maypole. When I was a child, I saw photos of young women in white dresses dancing around the tall flower-covered pole. The dancers carefully threaded the ribbons together, eventually covering the pole as they danced around in a circle. I wondered why we no longer celebrated the same way. Although when we were young, we did make May baskets to deliver secretly to neighbors.

Later in life, I learned that May Day celebrations are an ancient European holiday celebrating the return of warm weather and nature’s fertility to assure a good harvest for the year. Even today, the Swedes continue to celebrate the coming summer with adults and children circling a pole decorated with flowers. Pre-Columbians had similar ceremonies. And, still later, I learned that a massacre of workers became the basis for establishing International Works Day on May first, eclipsing this meaningful ancient tradition.

Derivations of “May”

One derivation of the name of the month of May goes back to the name of the Greek goddess of fertility, Maia. It is uncertain but assumed that the name means “increase” because of the blossoming and growth of plants at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. The Romans called the month “Maius”. A non-complementary second derivation of the name known to Romans was “maiories” which referred to the elder generation. The following month, June, then, celebrated the “iuniories” or the youth.

In the Anglophone tradition, the only month that has its own verb is the month of May. In early England, “to go a-maying” meant to get up at dawn on the first of May, go out to the forest, pick flowers and branches, set up the May tree or the Maypole, and celebrate the return of the blossoms.

May in Fiction

While doing my research to write this blog, I was delighted to discover the work of Margaret Osgood Wright, an American writer from the Northeast who lived from 1859–1934. She wrote a fictional piece entitled, The Open Window: Tales of the Months. In the section about the month of May, “The Tree of Life”, she recalls the Maypole of yore. She begins the chapter with “One day, Evan and I played make believe and went a-Maying”. Wright’s use of the verb demonstrates the importance of this month in history. The text continues: “We wait for the first blooming of an apple tree to tell us that the springtide is at its height. Not one of the opulent, well-fed orchard trees, having all the advantages of a protected location, but a wayside, ungrafted scion of the old orchard standing alone in a field, on the north side of the spruce windbreak… When this tree opens its buds, we know that its kindred of the hill country will also be decked, and it is our time to go forth, for here the Maying is the festival of the Apple Blossoms…”

Another use of the month of May occurs in the novel Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. The novel progresses through a series of characters’ thoughts and actions with little punctuation and no capitalization. About halfway through the book on page 225, a paragraph begins “this late May afternoon/after the sound of a thousand pairs of feet have stampeded out of the building and down the drive leaving the school in a post-traumatic silence/Penelope addressed the issue of the school’s poor exam performance, declaring that half the kids are so thick and badly behaved they should be suspended or expelled from school”. I found this use of the month of interest because the author ties a habitual occurrence that all school children have experienced to the inequities that exist in the American social structure. The month of May means different things to diverse individuals if social justice does not reign.

May in My Fiction

One of my novels takes place from the late 1960s into the early 1970s. This novel has an important scene that occurs in May after the college students have returned to their homes for the summer vacation.

Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

The manuscript still needs work.

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

This month, I read another book to learn more about the bucket that holds the story.

Continue to work on my other novels:

The first critique group met today. We workshopped about 1200 words of our novels.

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

Boulder Writers Alliance: I presented one workshop on Professional Development for Writers and a second one on Lyric Poetry. I also held a Steering Committee meeting.

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

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:  I communicated with members that I know.


Women Writing the West: I attended the April planning meeting for the critique groups and the first meeting of our small critique group.

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 May 7, 2022, I am posting my fifth blog of 2022. Because the weather finally turned cloudy with a bit of rain, this has been a good month for writing. While I did not go a-maying, I certainly have enjoyed the tulips blooming in my garden.

May 7th in history: The birth of Robert Browning, the English poet, occurred on May 7, 1812.

April in Fiction

Introduction

In Colorado, spring truly springs in April. Flowers are starting to appear. We know the snow will surely return but after two early fires this year, we will not mind having the moisture.

April is special to me because it marks our daughter’s birth on a beautiful day after a deep wet snowfall. She was born on the same day as my grandmother who died before I turned one and whose absence always saddened me. On the afternoon of our daughter’s birth, her father reported that there were seven rainbows over the meadow when he drove home to feed the horses. We believed those seven rainbows announced the birth of a special person. Our little rainbow baby has grown into an elegant woman whose open heart and loving presence are true blessings—a reflection of the roots of the name of the month.

Origins of April

The English word “April” derives from the Latin name for the month, Aprilis. Some sources tie the name to the ancient Greek name for Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Other sources note that the word comes from the word for “opening” from the Latin aperire which means to open, and which reflects the reality of flowers, bushes, and trees budding at this time of year.

Symbols of April

April Fool’s Day took its name from the shift in the 16th century from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar when April lost its position and became the fourth month. Because the vernal equinox occurred at the end of March, the ensuing celebration continued into April. After the calendar change, individuals who continued to celebrate the beginning of April became known as “April Fools”. It became customary to play pranks on April first. In France, if you are not attentive, someone will stick a poisson d’avril (a handmade paper fish) on your back. In Scotland, friends send friends on fake errands called “hunting the gowk” (a symbol for fool). They may also pin a fake tail on a person’s behind, mirroring the French tradition. In the USA, any type of funny prank appears acceptable—today written pranks appear even on Twitter.

Most years, various holidays from Mideastern religions occur in April: Easter, Ramadan, and Passover. Each has its traditions and expectations. Showers, as the song goes, are also a symbol of April. They are known to “bring the flowers that bloom in May”.

April in Fiction

In Passing, a novel Nella Larsen wrote in the 1920s, the author uses the unseasonably warm April weather in December to elaborate and reflect the character’s internal state of mind and her sense of being out of control:

“Here the holidays were almost upon them, and the streets through which she had come were streaked with rills of muddy water and the sun shone so warmly that children had taken off their hats and scarfs. It was all as soft, as like April, as possible. The kind of weather for Easter. Certainly not for Christmas. Though, she admitted, reluctantly, she herself didn’t feel the proper Christmas spirit this year, either. But that couldn’t be helped, it seemed, any more than the weather.” (Chapter 1, p. 94)

Edna St. Vincent Millay, in her poem “Spring”, contrasts the beauty and promise of April with her disappointments in life and the shock of death. The poem’s first and second lines read: “To what purpose, April, do you return again? / Beauty is not enough.” After stating in the 14th and 15th lines: “Life in itself / Is nothing,” she ends with “It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, / April / Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.”

Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

This month I accomplished more revisions and read four poems aloud for one of my women’s groups.

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

This month, I compared what I have been writing about the seventies with a current novel that addresses the same period.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I prepared the text that I will present for the critique group which begins this month.

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

Boulder Writers Alliance: As president, I organized our new BWA Poetry Circle, facilitated the first session, and prepared a workshop on Professional Development for Writers to present in April.

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

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers: I read the newsletter.

Women Writing the West: Critique groups are beginning to form. One fits my schedule. The planning session takes place next week.

Crestone Poetry Festival: I followed up with poets from the group. To my delight, they offered to help me with the BWA Poetry Circle.

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 April 7, 2022, I am posting my fourth blog of 2022. On the first day of spring, March 20, it snowed. Then, on March 26, we had another fire in the foothills nearby and had to evacuate again for a day. To say the least, it was disorienting to have to pack up the car and scram in less than an hour. Fortunately, we had a place to land. Now I have written two “fire” poems.

April 7th in history: William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770.

March in Fiction

Origins of the Word “March”

The name of the month of March has different derivations. In English, “March” derives from the Latin month’s name “Martius” which came from the name of the god of war, Mars. The god of war was named after the planet Mars because it marked the spring season when the Romans began their season of warfare. Interestingly, “march” also derives from an ancient word, “mearc,” which means border or frontier—a meaning which subsequently gave rise to the meaning of the verb “to mark.” The two derivations may be related because wars usually occur across borderlands.

Markings of March

Various celebrations from different traditions mark the month of March. This year in the European-American tradition, Mardi Gras, celebrated with feasting and drinking fell on the first day of March. The day after Mardi Gras marks the first day of Lent in the Catholic tradition which requires believers to fast until Easter. I have friends who have a home in New Orleans and spend the spring in Louisiana. I’ve been able to enjoy the New Orleans version of Mardi Gras from the photos they send displaying the costumes, parades, and special dishes.

On the Roman calendar, the word “ides” simply indicated the middle of the month. Nevertheless, to this day, “Beware the ides of March” remains a somber warning phrase in the European-American tradition because of a line in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar when the soothsayer warns the emperor not to go to the forum that day. In real life, Caesar was assassinated on the ides of March in 44 BC.

March 17th which marks the feast of Saint Patrick in Ireland, has become a secular holiday celebrated not only in Ireland but across the United States with parades, beer, and Irish dishes. True to my own Irish roots, I always serve a dinner accompanied by Irish soda bread and Guinness. In Illinois, Chicago dyes the Chicago River green to celebrate the holiday. For years, an Irish pub in Colorado hosted the shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It was one block long.

Astronomically, the spring equinox, or the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, occurs in March and marks the day when the sun rises exactly in the east and sets exactly in the west. In the northern hemisphere, the spring equinox brings earlier sunrises and later sunsets. The reverse is true in the southern hemisphere where my daughter lives and where it is now cyclone season.

March in Fiction

Because my 2022 blogs are devoted to the months of the year, I have been searching for examples of how authors approach the months. Do they just name the month, use the names of the months to delineate a time sequence, or is the month used to set a tone or a contrast?

Herman Melville, in The Piazza Tales, uses the month of March in an intriguing way to contrast the behaviors and lives of two men. The main character has bought a farmhouse in the country and after considering each direction, decides to build his piazza on the north side. His neighbor, Dives, ridicules him because Dives’ piazza faces the warm sun of the south. Dives chuckles and hopes that the new owner of the farm has warm mittens. Once the North-facing piazza is installed, the new farm owner is quite content to spend the warm days on it during the summer as he watches Dives suffer during hot days on his full sun piazza: “But March don’t [sic] last forever; patience, and August comes. And then, in the cool elysium [sic] of my northern bower, I, Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, cast down the hill a pitying glance on poor old Dives, tormented in the purgatory of his piazza to the south.”

Charles Dickens, in Barnaby Rudge, uses the month of March to set a bleak scene in a tavern. Again, this author equates the dour weather with the cold personality of the innkeeper who is willing to send his customers out into the pounding rain:

“The evening with which we have to do, was neither a summer nor an autumn one, but the twilight of a day in March, when the wind howled dismally among the bare branches of the trees, and rumbling in the wide chimneys and driving the rain against the windows of the Maypole Inn, gave such of its frequenters as chanced to be there at the moment an undeniable reason for prolonging their stay, and caused the landlord to prophesy that the night would certainly clear at eleven o’clock precisely,—which by a remarkable coincidence was the hour at which he always closed his house.”

March in My Fiction

One of my novels takes place during the era of Watergate. While the setting is not on the East coast, it would be appropriate to work news of Watergate into the characters’ perception of the government’s affairs.

My second novel takes place during the Spanish flu epidemic, first identified in the USA in March of 1918. While the epidemic is not the focus of the novel, it appears in the storyline.

My third novel takes place during the depression. Interestingly, March 5, 1933, was the day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed a four-day “Bank Holiday.” His goal was to prevent public panic and the withdrawal of so much money that the entire banking system would collapse.

My Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

This month I reworked some of the poems.

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

I worked on sections of this novel.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I worked on sections of one.

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

Boulder Writers Alliance: As president, I presided over my first Steering Committee meeting, presented an evening workshop on to topic of Goal Setting for Creative Work and Success, laid out four poetry workshops, and made the slides for my upcoming BWA workshop on Professional Development for Writers.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I advertised the DWPC’s Unknown Writers Contest to BWA.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers: I read about the conference and speakers planned for fall 2022.

Women Writing the West: I followed a discussion on the email list about “sensitivity” feedback during the editing process.

Crestone Poetry Festival: Over the last weekend of February, I zoomed into the Crestone Poetry Festival which was presented virtually again this year. Art Goodtimes, the Western Slope Poet Laureate (2011­–2013), is the organizer along with the Crestone team. I particularly liked the Talking Gourds session in which poets read one of their own poems or a poem by another poet. I read one of mine aloud for the first time. More than 90 poets logged on over the two-day sessions, read their poems, listened to others read, and commented in the chat room. The sessions were refreshing and inspiring.

Document my writing progress through my blog to be posted on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:

Today is March 7, 2022, I am posting my third blog of 2022. Studying the names of the months, their derivations, and meanings is expanding my understanding of history while providing me with ideas for my writing. What I am learning or perhaps re-learning studying the months, is how changeable human categorizations are and how much they vary depending on the language, culture, and religion of groups over time.

March 7th in history: Amanda Gorman, poet and author of The Hill We Climb, Call Us What We Carry, and Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, was born on March 7th.

February in Fiction

The second month of the year in our current Gregorian calendar is called February. February is a wiggly month in several ways. Its name is pronounced incorrectly so often that newer American dictionaries list the mispronunciation (which omits the first “R”) along with the correct American English pronunciation. The British pronounce both “R’s” but reduce the word to three syllables. In the time of the Julian calendar, it was the first month, then Julius Caesar decided to put January into first place. Not only is February the shortest month of the year but for three years in a row, it has 28 days, and every fourth year it has 29. February also has a wiggly history and diverse traditions.

The Origins of the Word “February”

The English word “February” derives from the Latin month Februarius—the traditional month of purification, februm in Latin. In the early days of Rome, when Februarius was still the first month of the year, on the fifteenth day of the month, priests sacrificed a goat. A priest then marked young men’s foreheads with blood and wiped it off with goat’s milk. Subsequently, the men ran naked through the town tapping passersby with pieces of goatskin. Women who wanted to conceive or deliver a healthy baby stepped up to be touched.

Once the Christian era began and February took its place as the second month, St. Valentine’s Day was feted on February 14th. Eventually, the festival of love became more important than the ancient februm. The connection with purification was lost. Over the centuries, February’s link with love evolved into an exchange of flowers, candy, or cards. In the USA, it has become a commercial holiday that has spread to some other cultures, while others have rejected both the holiday’s commercialism and its tie to Christianity. Today the hearts and flowers of St. Valentine’s Day are traditionally red and white. These colors appear to reprise those of the blood and milk of the ancient februm.

Symbols or Historical Events Associated with February

Reading up on the historical events associated with the various months is fascinating. Since I am European-American, my knowledge tends to be focused on the very short history of the USA, the long history of Europe, with my knowledge of Irish, Ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian traditions being more limited. However, when I do follow the clues backward in time, I am always intrigued with how the so-called “pagan” holidays were transformed slowly and in different ways after Emperor Constantine was baptized as a Christian and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire around 325 BC.

As monuments that still exist in Europe and Africa reveal, the pagan holidays were directly related to the seasons and to the revolution of the sun, moon, and planets. Newgrange for example dates back about 3,200 years before the Christian era. The Egyptian pyramids precede the Christian era by around 2550 years. Britain’s Stonehenge dates to 3000-1500 years before the Christian era. I read recently that an African henge 700 miles south of Egypt, called Nabta Playa, is even older than the European henges, dating back to approximately 7000 BC. The existence and function of these sites demonstrate the ancients’ knowledge of astronomy and the practical application of mathematics. This means that for more than 7000 years, human culture focused on astronomy and paid attention to the rotation of the spheres and the seasons. Yet, for the last 2022 years, European and American cultures have consistently masked astronomical events with Christian holidays. Perhaps it would make more sense to return to an observational and scientific view.

February in Fiction

In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare, knowing that listeners would relate the character’s look to the cold weather of the month, refers to the character Benedick as having: “…such a February face, so full of frost, of storm, and cloudiness.”  No one would want to be in a room with a person who has a February face. Shakespeare’s expression reminds me of a French expression that describes an arrogant, rigid, and cold person as having “un visage funèbre”—a funeral face.

In The Paris Wife, Paul McLain’s novel about Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife, weather frames the mood of the couple. February is first mentioned as the time for Hadley and Ernest to escape Paris for the warmer clime of Italy, (p. 142-143) “February was a changeable time in Italy. Some days were hung with mist, blotting out the hills behind the town until we felt very remote… Sometimes the air was humid and drenched with sun. We could walk in the piazza or along the promenade to see fishermen on the concrete pier, dangling their poles out into the tide.” Later, when their relationship is on the rocks McLain writes:  “February in Schruns was a small kind of hell. Outside, the weather raged or flailed. Inside, things weren’t much better…”

In Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis (a novel that should be reread today as it is certainly apropos), the months November, January, and February are used in a series of short chapters to show the speed at which Gantry progresses from engagement to marriage to running his evangelical meetings with his wife as a soloist. Gantry moves quickly to establish himself as the evangelist in charge. He tries to motivate his parishioners by saying, “If old Satan were lazy as some would-be Christians in this burg, we’d all be safe.”

My Writing Goals for 2022

Publish my second book of poetry:

I have established connections with a publisher and a poetry editor. I worked on revisions.

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

Over the last few weeks, I worked on one secondary character building in more accuracy for her motivation.

Continue to work on my other novels:

I only worked on one other novel, playing with the timeline.

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

Boulder Writers Alliance:  As president, I am working on increasing local participation and membership in the organization. On February 16, I plan to present a Zoom workshop on Goal Setting for Creative Work.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I sent feedback and comments on her manuscript to my critique partner at DWPC.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers: I read the newsletter.

Women Writing the West: I signaled my interest in joining a critique group and read the email postings.

Document my writing progress through my blog to be posted on the seventh day of each month, one blog per month in 2022:

Today is February 7, 2022, I am posting my second blog of 2022. The past four weeks have been trying with fires, floods, snowstorms, and cyclones affecting those I cherish and so many others. 50 Plus Marketplace published my poem about the fires in Colorado on page 7 (see link below):

https://www.50plusmarketplacenews.com/pdf/boulder/2022/B%20pgs%202-22w.pdf

February 7th in history: Sinclair Lewis, the first American novelist to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, was born on February 7, 1885.