This is the month that, for me, is just a metaphor for cold, gloom and depression, even with the trivial distractions of the Super Bowl, college basketball and Valentine’s Day. Thank goodness it’s a short month, because as soon as it starts, I just want it over with. Don’t show me that damn groundhog; I already know spring is too far away. All those years of getting my throat blessed on Saint Blaise Day (the 4th) didn’t prevent me from developing thyroid disease, which flared up over the winter and at the exact spot where those sacred candles crisscrossed my throat. I find myself gazing mournfully out the kitchen window at my frozen garden; and glaring at my husband’s Christmas crèche collection still sitting on the living room mantle. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything good in February, ever. I usually reserve winter for editing, when I’m cranky and impatient and more likely to be rigorous with myself. But I don’t have anything to edit yet. I’m only halfway through the first draft of the screenplay (and it already looks like a crushing amount of revision will be needed); and though I have a tantalizing new idea for a novel, it seems a fool’s errand, with my last attempt wallowing in the Amazon rankings basement.
This February is particularly bleak, as I await reviews from the 200 or so copies of my book I gave away back in November and December, through Goodreads and NetGalley. They are arriving, very slowly, almost piecemeal, and I panic a little when I get the notification for a new one. I’m tensed up for the inevitable one-star or snarky review I know is coming. No matter how ludicrous they are, they still hit like hot little bullets and sting for days. Still, painful reviews are better than no reviews (I keep telling myself). Having an annoying idiot at least noticing your existence is far preferable to the hell of being overlooked and forgotten about. But speaking of reviews, and I think this is going to save February for me, I am reading voraciously in hopes of starting my reviews page March 1st. I’m working at sharpening my critical skills, and my next post is going to be one of my first practice exercises, a long-form review of a popular, big-publisher book—NOT the type of book I will be reviewing, since my heart belongs to my fellow independents, who need the attention more, and often show more talent and promise than the stuff the big companies are spitting out.
The other thing that will make February bearable is my gainful employment, as the immigrant-children’s grammarian (which pays just slightly above minimum wage, just so you know). My job feels like a cross between Anna and the King of Siam and a Maryknoll lay mission, even though it’s your typical commercial strip-mall learning center. I am the Novice Mistress of the English department: My charges are a little bewildered by American schools and culture in general, so my job often utilizes my mothering skills more than my literary acumen. We are beginning a creative-writing workshop this month, just for the 3rd-to-5th grade set, and I’m going to introduce the concept of critique groups, although at that age level it’ll be more like herding cats and refereeing. It could get ugly, but my kids seem to have an odd sort of respect for each other, and I really can’t wait to see what they come up with.