Word Play, February 2020

Text by Diane Slocum

Why is this called a “leap” year? Wiktionary suggests that it is because any given date will skip a weekday after Feb. 29. In 2018, March 1 was Thursday; last year, it was Friday; this year, it is Sunday, leaping over Saturday. To find a load of books related to leap year, you can leap over to leapyearday.com.

For instance, “Mommy, Where’s My Birthday?” by Lakisha Cornell discusses what to tell a child when his birthday is only on the calendar once every four years.

Kenneth Stevens’ “February the 29th” is a book of adventure geared toward 8- to 12-year-olds. Toby has to leave home on Feb. 29, his 12th (or is it third?) birthday because his mother is in the hospital. He is sent to his eccentric Uncle Nichol’s rural Scottish home, where the adventure begins.

“Leap Year: How small steps can make a giant difference” by Helen Russell gives ideas on how to make big decisions and welcome change, whether it involves where you live, your work, relationships or other aspects of life.


John Byrom (born Feb. 29, 1692), an English poet, wrote the lyrics for the hymn “Christians Awake.” He also invented a system of shorthand. Sedley Brown (born Feb. 29, 1856) was an American playwright, author and stage director. Occasionally, he acted in silent films.

His twin brother, J. Edwin, was an actor.

Howard Nemerov (born Feb. 29, 1920) was twice the Library of Congress’ Poet Laureate (in 1963 and 1988). He won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and Bollingen Prize. His best-known poem is “A Primer of the Daily Round.”

Patricia Anne McKillip (born Feb 29, 1948) is an American writer of fantasy and science fiction. Her awards include Bram Stoker, World Fantasy Life Achievement and Mythopoeic Fantasy. “The Forgotten Beasts of Eld” was her first novel.


Julie Appelbaum has published her second book of poetry, “Thriving in the Thicket.” She describes it as being “about finding one’s path through life’s thicket.” Rather than becoming stymied by fear, doubt and conflict, her poems suggest “proceeding through it with light, hope and joy. The poems reach to pull the reader to a better plane.”

Her book leads off with “A Glimpse Ahead:”

Arise! Let hope beckon and light shine.
Stand aside as joy like a berry ripens
on a lush pathway bush,
feeding you its good.

Besides her poems, the 100-page book includes questions and quotes chosen from well-known thinkers. Its ISBN # is 9781689401258, and it is available on Amazon.com.

Poet Brynn Saito has launched her chapbook and online letter archive titled “Dear —. “ The launch event on Feb. 8 included a community reading commemorating the Day of Remembrance. “Dear – “is an archive of letters related to the incarceration of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II. Saito worked on the project in conjunction with Densho, a Seattle-based organization dedicated to preserving stories of the incarceration and to inspire equality for all.

Saito’s grandparents were among Central Valley residents who were forced out of their homes and imprisoned far from their farms, businesses and friends. They met, married and gave birth to their first child while held on the tribal land of the Gila River Indian community in southern Arizona. 


“Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” (Vintage Press, 2017) by David Grann was named the best book of 2018 by a long list of publications, led by Time Magazine, Wall Street Journal and the Smithsonian. It tells the true story of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma, who were the richest people in the world after oil was discovered on their land in the 1920s. Then someone started killing them. The motion picture adapted from the book stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.


The Community of Writers is celebrating 50 years in the High Sierra. Summer writing workshops will be held for poetry, fiction, nonfiction and memoir in Squaw Valley at Lake Tahoe. Application deadline is March 28. Details: communityofwriters.org.


“A strange amazing day that comes only once every four years. For the rest of the time it does not ‘exist.’” — Vera Nazarian