Part of the fun of being a writer is the love of words, which also includes a love for the history and mystery of words. I often find myself wondering “Where did that word come from? And did its meaning get transformed into something else over the years?” The word “January” is a good example. Who came up with that word, and why? With a little research, I discovered that January is a very old word whose meaning has not changed or mutated over the years—or centuries, in fact.
Back in the good old days of Ancient (very ancient) Rome, about eight centuries before the Christian era, the calendar year began in March (not a bad idea if you hate winter!) with only ten months being counted. The year still ended in December but skipped the two cold months. (Good for you guys!) Then Numa Pompilius came along and added the two extra months. History is not sure if he was the second king of Rome or if he ruled in 715 or 673 BCE, but they give him full credit for adding January and February to fill in the missing gap. (The blame falls on you, old Pompi!)
Where did old Pompi get the idea for January? From the god Janus, a minor deity not worth a temple or a hell-raising clergy, but who seemed to be running around Rome since the beginning of time. In fact, January was present at the creation of the world and assigned to guard the gates of heaven—St. Peter must have been bumped him out of the job a little later. Symbolizing change and transitions, January was also two faced; one visage looking back at the past, the other surveying the future. That pretty well sums up January doesn’t it? The old year is gone, and the new year is now here, in our face. Auld Lang Syne and all that.
And we are here, too, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, eagerly facing the new year with a new format, with new challenges and new hopes, looking for new poems and exciting stories. We look to discover wonderful new writers and poets while also saluting our past, proud of how far we have come, celebrating the delightful poets and writers we have met, and the selection of excellent stories and poems we have published.
You did good, old Pompi! January is a damn fine name. Now we gotta work on February.
In the meantime, enjoy the winter 2021 issue of the Roundtable. Our interviewee for these cold months is none other than Charlaine Harris, best-selling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, among other exciting works. She will be the judge of this year’s short story competition, which is now open for entry—so sit up and take note all you writers! Our theme for this anthology and the next is “mystery stories,” so, readers, confound us!
Speaking of our contest, you’ll meet several of last year’s writers in this issue. Our main stories feature Paula Gail Benson, our second-place winner with “Cosway’s Confidence,” and third-place winner Alexandra Otto with “Last But Not Leashed.” You’ll also be able to read the works of honorable mentions Debra Goldstein and Louella M. Nelson. Congratulations to all! Poetry lovers will not be neglected either, with two splendid pieces by Emma Snyder and Devon Balwit. Editor Carol Wright muses on time travel, and there are, as always, several useful links included to help you on your writing way.
Thanks for reading, and keep safe and warm this January!
“Cosway’s Confidence” by Paula Gail Benson
2nd place, 2020 Short Story Contest
In some ways, it was the best time of her life. In other ways, it was the worst.
When Arleen Schuster found the mid-town red brick building with its black awning shading the sidewalk, she knew instinctively she’d found the place she’d been seeking. The wide heart of pine plank floors with their sheen like a thin layer of glass, a temptation for sliding in new soles, and the boxy dark wooden lighted display case, perfect for arranging the delicacies her customers craved, confirmed that in this spot she would transition from personal chef and caterer to restaurateur.
“Last But Not Leashed” by Alexandra Otto
3rd place, 2020 Short Story Contest
Max reporting for duty.
Former CIA dog. Eight years.
Alias: Good Boy.
“Bodies Stacked Like Cordwood” by Devon Balwit
After the tree’s felled, we’re left with the body,
a life of seasons become dead weight.
The neighbors return to their own concerns—
foremost, what to do for privacy now
that we can see into each other’s bedrooms.
Also in this issue
Interview with author Charlaine Harris
Short story by Debra Goldstein
Short story by Louella M. Nelson
Short story by Jerome W. McFadden
Poem by Emma Snyder
Literary Learnings by Carol L. Wright