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The Wheel of the Year A Writer's Workbook

All About the Book.

The Wheel of the Year: A Writer's Workbook was published in 2015 by Red Dashboard Publishing.

What's Here?

About the Book
Linda gives a description of the book, and tells a bit about why and how she came to write it.

What in the Wheel?
Information about the eight seasons of the year.

Who's That Girl?
The story of the cover photo.

Collected Comments by Commonplace Readers.
We've collected some readers' comments about the book here. Send us a note and we may include yours too. A few excerpts from professional reviewers are included.

Table of Contents
What's included in the book and its layout.

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About the Book

For the past few years I have divided my writing year into eight seasons, pausing at the start of each segment of the year to examine my goals for living and writing. For each of these eight holidays, I wrote a meditation, an essay linking common writing predicaments or challenges with the natural world and the chores of my daily life, so that the writing reflects my connection to the earth.

Daily life can be a particularly difficult topic for women writers to address because much of our work has been seen as insignificant because it is the work of women. Still, I write here of ways to regard these daily tasks as part of the quiet meditation that can lead us to our best writing.

Further, the book’s essays illustrate the nature of the essay, a short prose writing on a particular topic. An essay is a writer’s way to lead readers down fascinating personal or universal paths in prose, sometimes for the sheer joy of the stroll. Some essays may explain a particular theme or idea; some persuade the reader to adopt an idea, or analyze a particular problem, or attempt to prove a particular point of view.

Each meditative essay in the book is followed by writing suggestions aimed toward guiding writers to topics that will challenge them and encourage them to achieve their writing goals.

--- excerpted and paraphrased from the Preface, pages 3 - 5

The workbook is intended as a guide and teacher as a writer sets up her own schedule of writing and develops a relationship with the natural and mundane worlds in which we live. If the reader came to a retreat at my Windbreak House Retreats, this might be a series of conversations we would have about writing.


If you would like to purchase an autographed copy from me, please send a check or money order for $28 to:

Linda M. Hasselstrom
PO Box 169
Hermosa SD 57744

Let me know if you would like me to personalize a message along with my signature.

The $28 covers shipping & handling within the USA and any applicable sales tax.


What in the Wheel?

Dividing the year into four seasons each three months long was simple, symmetrical, and tidy. Yet as soon as I began paying close attention to the seasons and their effects on my life and my writing, I discovered that no matter where I lived, many days defied that simplified structure.

Perhaps the simplicity of dividing the year into only four segments arose in part as cities and industrialization came to the world. Even today, city folks spend less time outdoors and may be surprised by weather changes. Many authorities suggest that modern people separate ourselves so completely from nature that we are losing touch with essential elements of our being.

A calendar called the Great Wheel lists eight seasons in a year, anchored by the solstices and equinoxes. Since time is considered cyclical and often represented by a circle or wheel, forming a calendar in this way seems eminently sensible. The progression of birth, life, decline and death as humans experience them is also echoed by a circular calendar. Most scholars agree that though the dates of the solstices and equinoxes vary from year to year with planetary shifts, the general divisions remain the same.

The Winter season begins in November, after Samhain, our Halloween.
Midwinter is the Winter Solstice, or Yule, between December 20 and 23.
Winter runs through Candlemas, also called Imbolc or Saint Brigid’s Day, on February 2.

Spring begins after February 2, our Groundhog’s Day.
The Vernal Equinox is the midpoint of the Spring season and falls between March 20 and 23.
Spring lasts until Beltane, May Eve, on April 30.

Summer begins on May Day.
The Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, occurs between June 20 and 23.
Summer ends on August first, called by the ancients Lammas or Lughnasad.

Autumn begins to take hold in early August.
The Autumnal Equinox occurs September 20 to 23 and is the height of the Fall season.
Fall ends at Samhain on October 31, our traditional Halloween.

Then we begin another circuit around the Great Wheel of the Year.

Eight seasons more fully describe the subtle ways that the natural world changes throughout the year no matter where one lives. For the past few years I have divided my writing year in this way, pausing on each of eight holidays to examine my goals for living and writing.

--- excerpted and paraphrased from the Introduction "Writing Around Nature's Calendar," pages 13 - 17

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Taking the cover photo in a ranch pasture, 2014.

Who's That Girl?

Yes, I'm the cover girl on The Wheel of the Year.

I've disliked some of the covers of my books because they did not adequately or correctly represent the arid southwestern South Dakota environment of my ranch. I've especially disliked the covers of the Western women's anthologies, because they are so very unlike the books' contents. The cover of Leaning Into the Wind looks like Kansas (and is), not the High Plains of the West; the cover of Woven on the Wind makes people think the slouching women on the tired horses are the three editors (no, they are not Nancy, Gaydell, and Linda); and Crazy Woman Creek, with the straw cowboy hats hanging on a clothesline, diverges from the other two covers in the series as much as the title does. We were particularly annoyed with the latter two covers since we editors had put a lot of time and creativity into suggestions to the publisher for covers that would more nearly have shown the books' contents.

So at the same time I was editing the contents of The Wheel of the Year, and working with the publisher on the layout, I was also thinking about a cover photo that would at least hint at the contents and would entice someone browsing in a bookstore to pick up and thumb through the book.

On a sunny day in August, about a year before the book was published, we tramped and drove around parts of my ranch and tried out a number of cover ideas, some with me in them and some without. We took photos of a large wooden wagon wheel, a smaller metal wheel, cattle, the old red barn and surrounding corrals, prairie landscapes, round hay bales that hinted at a wheel shape, a journal and pen, a hand holding a journal, and many others (see the left-hand column of this webpage). We put together a few mock-up book covers, then sent a couple of the best to the publisher for her input.

Eventually we settled on a photo of a writer (me) holding a journal and pen, looking out across the western South Dakota prairie that is the location written of in the book.

Appearing on the cover of my book wasn't necessarily my intention, but it is a bit of a tradition. I am on the cover of my books Windbreak, Dakota Bones, and Feels Like Far. And the cover photo used for Dirt Songs was taken on my ranch by my co-author Twyla Hansen's husband, Tom.

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Collected Comments by Commonplace Readers.

We're collecting readers' comments about the book here. Send us a note and we'll include yours too. A few excerpts from professional reviewers may be included.

From David Pichaske, publisher, poet and Professor of English at Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall, MN

I enjoyed The Wheel of the Year (I can transcend gender into some of those female experiences) and especially the bit about Poe, Whitman, Ginsberg and Dylan. It made me resolve to spend more time outside. I liked the family stuff, the crazy assignments on page 33 . . . A lot of the memoir/history sounds like what I have been doing lately, and encouraging other people to do: write it down from journals, legal papers, letters, photographs. . . . It would make a good text for a memoir writing course, and if I get the chance to teach one, I'll use it.

From Amazon.com reader T. Nafekh (read the full review at Amazon)

There is a New Age, Celtic/pagan, rhythm-of-the-earth feel to the essays that made me want to cut a garden into my sodded lawn and raise some livestock. The author incorporates knowledge from a time when we touched the earth and toiled in nature, and her point-of-view is entirely sincere and novel. . . . There is a wonderful surprise "Intermission" essay in the middle of the essay collection, between year one and two. It will rejuvenate you and remind you of what you need to carry on. I love this brilliant little "pause" amongst the essays that I read in a relaxed position; it soothed my soul.

From Art Elser, a Colorado poet who writes a haiku a day

I love Wheel. I get it out at those spokes on the wheel and read both years’ worth of discussion and advice. It always resonates with me . . .

From Amazon.com reader Janet Blank-Libra (read the full review at Amazon)

Hasselstrom frames life as art, sees joy as essential, and helps readers to comprehend how important it is that they deliberately seek out their individual depth while recognizing ways in which they are intertwined with the world and influenced by the flow of the seasons . . . With wisdom born of her life as a West River rancher in South Dakota, Hasselstrom addresses . . . the importance of our understanding—as writers and as human beings—that we are a part of the natural world, not separate from it. Clearly, she believes we will best come to know ourselves by immersing ourselves in the world, by exploring it with our senses. Only in such a way can we become stronger writers. . . . She lives in the world fully, and she encourages the reader to do the same, not only by telling stories about her experiences, particularly as a rancher, but also by providing readers with exercises that jumpstart the writer within. As a teacher, I have read many a book on writing. This book offers exercises that are fresh and thought-provoking. My students are going to benefit from Hasselstrom’s wisdom.

From a Story Circle Book Review by Trilla Pando (read the full review at Story Circle Book Reviews)

As a devoted urbanite, I thought that likely this book's emphasis on nature as an inspiration for writing did not apply to me. Wrong. As I read through the book I became, as the author had predicted [I] would, aware of the presence of nature right here on my busy city street . . . As the title indicates, the seventeen essays in this book move through the year by season. Not merely through the four familiar seasons of winter, spring, summer, and autumn, but rather through the eight of the Celtic and other traditions. Plus there is a refreshing intermission essay between the two rotations. . . . take a look at the current date and then pick up The Wheel of the Year and go to work. I found, though, that it is more play than work, for author Linda Hasselstrom makes it fun to work with words.

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Table of Contents

The book is structured with sixteen essays, one for each of the eight seasons through two years, with an intermission essay, “Honor Writing By Not Writing,” which discusses taking time off. Extensive writing suggestions are included at the end of each chapter; additional resources are listed at the end of the book.

---page 1---
Table of Contents

---page 3---

---page 9---
Writing Around Nature's Calendar

---page 21---
The Wheel of the Year:
A Writer's Workbook---Year One

---page 23---
February 2: Brigid
Write to Light This Dark Season

---page 37---
March 21-23: Vernal Equinox
Inaugurate Spring: Put Crunch in Your Writing

---page 51---
April 30: Beltane (May Eve)
Writing Your Garden

---page 67---
June 20-23: Summer Solstice
Writing Family History: Ruth Said This But Mary Said No

---page 83---
August 1: Lammas
How to Write While Avoiding Writing

---page 97---
September 20-23: Autumnal Equinox
Gleaning As Writing, Writing As Gleaning

---page 113---
October 31: Samhain
Weave Light into Darkness

---page 125---
December 20-23: Winter Solstice (Yule)
Celebrating Yule: How Epiphanies Happen

---page 139---
Honor Writing By Not Writing

---page 153---
The Wheel of the Year: Year Two

---page 155---
February 2: Brigid
Write With the Goddess of Poetry

---page 169---
March 21-23: Vernal Equinox
Writing Eternal As Spring: Persistence

---page 185---
April 30: Beltane
Leap Your Creative Fire

---page 199---
June 20-23: Summer Solstice
Light Illuminates Fragments of Glass

---page 215---
August 1: Lammas
What Rain and Rejection Make: Turning Loss into Harvest

---page 229---
September 20-23: Autumnal Equinox
Shop with Your Senses

---page 245---
October 31: Samhain
Light Creates Dark: Thinking is Writing

---page 259---
December 20-23: Winter Solstice (Yule)
Wrap Yourself in Darkness to Banish Fear

---page 273---
Return, Return, Return, Return

---page 277---

---page 290---
Additional Resources

---page 296---
About the Author


Note that in the book the page numbering somehow got off by two pages for the second half of the text so the book's Table of Contents is incorrect starting with February 2: Brigid "Write with the Goddess of Poetry." The book's Table of Contents shows this chapter starting on page 153 though it actually starts on page 155 as posted above on this webpage. One of those glitches that slips by somehow and makes an author cringe.

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