February 8 Writer Birthdays

0412 – Proclus, Constantinople-born Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, writer, mathematician, and mythographer.

1424 – Cristoforo Landino, Italian writer, poet, philosopher, academic, and humanist who was an important figure of the Florentine Renaissance; his remembered for his advocacy for the use of vernacular Italian in literature, though he also wrote in Latin, and for the support of his patron, Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici.

1434 – Pere Miquel Carbonell, Spanish Catalan historian, humanist, notary, calligrapher, poet, and writer.

1552 – Théodore-Agrippa d’Aubigné, French poet, soldier, propagandist, and chronicler whose his epic poem “Les Tragiques” is widely regarded as his masterpiece.

1577 – Robert Burton, English writer, poet, playwright, satirist, librarian, and academic whose greatest achievement was the encyclopedic book The Anatomy of Melancholy, which he wrote under the pseudonym of “Democritus Junior,” alluding to the Greek pre-Socratic philosopher, Democritus, sometimes known as the Laughing Philosopher.

1675 – Temple Stanyan, British writer, historian, civil servant, and politician whose book Grecian History became a standard work on the history of ancient Greece.

1782 – Malla Silfverstolpe, Swedish author, diarist, and salonnière whose diaries, published in four parts between 1908 and 1911, offer a unique insight into the lives of the prominent writers, composers, and other intellectuals who formed part of her circle.

1819 – John Ruskin, English art critic of the Victorian Era, best remembered for his five-volume work, Modern Painters.

1819 – Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, Russian writer, essayist, journalist, biographer, and composer who is best known for her 40-year relationship with composer and pianist Franz Liszt and who may have written some publications credited to Liszt, especially his Life of Chopin. Her prolific correspondence with Liszt, Berlioz, and other luminaries of the day is of vital historical interest. (Some sources give her birthday as February 7.)

1828 – Jules Verne, French novelist, poet, playwright, and pioneer in the science-fiction genre, known for such classics as Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

1831 – Rebecca Lee Crumpler (born Rebecca Davis), U.S. physician, nurse, and author who was the first African-American woman to become a doctor of medicine in the United States; she wrote A Book of Medical Discourses, which focused on the medical care of women and children, especially on prevention of ailments.

1837 – Elise Aubert, Norwegian novelist, memoir author, journalist, short-story writer, diarist, and nonfiction writer; she sometimes used the pseudonyms “Tante Dorthe,” and “E-e.”

1842 – Asharam Dalichand Shah, Indian Gujarati-language writer who pioneered the research into Gujarati proverbs and idioms.

1850 – Kate Chopin, U.S. novelist and short-story writer who is best known for her novel The Awakening; a forerunner of American 20th-century feminist authors of Southern or Catholic background, she is still one of the most frequently read and recognized writers of Louisiana Creole heritage.

1869 – Georgette Leblanc, French operatic soprano, actress, author, autobiographer, children’s book writer, singer, and woman of letters; she was the sister of novelist Maurice Leblanc.

1878 – Martin Buber, Austrian, German, and Jewish writer, translator, educator, pedagogue, university teacher, literary editor, philosopher, and existentialist, best known for his philosophy of dialogue, a form of existentialism centered on the distinction between the I–Thou relationship and the I–It relationship.

1888 – Enrique Banchs, Argentine poet, writer, and journalist who cultivated an ephemeral, classicist style; he wrote his entire literary output within four years, early in his career, and then never published again.

1888 – Giuseppe Ungaretti, Italian writer, Modernist poet, translator, journalist, essayist, literary critic, and university teacher; a leading representative of the experimental trend known as Ermetismo (“Hermeticism”), he was one of the most prominent contributors to 20th century Italian literature.

1890 – Claro M. Recto, Filipino writer, lawyer, politician, judge, and diplomat who is remembered mostly for his nationalism.

1893 – Perrine Moncrieff, award-winning English-born New Zealand author, conservationist, and amateur ornithologist.

1959 – Gabriele Reuter, bestselling German novelist and short-story writer who was widely read in her lifetime but is now almost forgotten; she was best known for her novel From a Good Family (Aus guter Familie), which describes a typical young woman of the Wilhelmine era, the short-story collection, Frauenseelen (“Women’s Souls”), and the novel The Americans (Der Amerikaner.)

1895 – Maurice Samuel, Romanian-born British and American novelist,writer, translator, and lecturer.

1897 – Nina Mikhailovna Pavlova, Russian botanist, plant breeder, and children’s literature author. As a botanist she is noted for developing cultivars of berry plants, including 24 new varieties of currant and gooseberry; as a children’s author, she popularized scientific topics for children as fairy tales.

1911 – Elizabeth Bishop, U.S. poet and writer who was a Pulitzer and National Book Award winner and the U.S. Poet Laureate.

1912 – René Wheeler, French writer, screenwriter, and film director who received an Academy Award nomination in 1947 for writing the film A Cage of Nightingales.

1913 – Danai Stratigopoulou, Greek singer, writer, translator, and university academic; she acquired recognition in the literary world for translating the works of Chilean Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda into the Greek language.

1917 – Ehsan Tabari , Iranian philosopher and literary giant who played a major role in modernization of literature and cultural enlightenment in twentieth-century in Iran; he was also instrumental in fostering deep understanding of Marxist philosophy in Iran.

1921 – Eila Kivikk’aho (real name Eila Sylvia Sammalkorpi née Lamberg), award-winning Finnish poet, author, and translator.

1924 – Lisel Mueller, German-born National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet and translator.

1926 – Neal Cassady, U.S. writer and poet who was a major figure of the Beat Generation and the model for the Dean Moriarty character in Kerouac’s On The Road.

1930 – Eva Strittmatter (née Braun), bestselling German writer of poetry, prose, and children’s literature; she is regarded as the most successful German poet of the second half of the 20th century.

1934 – Lada Galina (pen name of Ganka Slavova Karanfilova), Bulgarian writer, essayist, journalist, magazine editor, publishing house editor, satirist, and literary critic.

1936 – Ogdo (Yevdokiya) Yegorovna Aksyonova, award-winning Russian writer and poet of the Dolgan language; she was born to a family of reindeer herders, and is now considered the founder of Dolgan written literature. She was also an editor and educator.

1940 – Zahid Hussain (better known by the pen name Wasim Barelvi), leading Indian poet in the Urdu language.

1941 – Elena Fernández Gómez (known by the pen name Elena Santiago), award-winning Spanish novelist, poet, children’s author, and short-story writer.

1947 – Yi Zhongtian, Chinese writer, historian, television presenter, and professor of ancient Chinese literature; his academic interests include literature, art, aesthetics, psychology, anthropology, and history, and many of his works focus on popularizing academic subjects.

1951 – Ashok Chakradhar, Indian writer, poet, literary critic, and university professor who works towards the propagation of the Hindustani language.

1951 – Sharman Macdonald, award-winning Scottish novelist, playwright, screenwriter, librettist, and actress.

1955 – John Grisham, U.S. author and attorney, lauded for his bestselling legal thrillers; Grisham is one of only three authors (along with Tom Clancy and J.K. Rowling), to have sold two million copies of a book on a first printing. In addition to his legal novels for adults, he writes nonfiction books, short stories, and legal thrillers for children. Many of his books have been made into movies and television programs.

1955 – Nancy Oliver, U.S. screenwriter, best known for the film, Lars and the Real Girl.

1956 – Mayadhar Swain, award-winning Indian Odia science writer, author, professor, and engineer who has written 50 books on popular science.

1959 – Amy Yamada (pen name Yamada Eimi), award-winning and popular but controversial Japanese writer who is most famous for stories that address issues of sexuality, racism, and interracial love and marriage; while she is most known for her stories of complicated and messy romantic love, she also writes on the daily minutiae of life, child-raising, and bullying.

1962 – Malorie Blackman, British screenwriter, children’s book author, novelist, and science-fiction writer who held the title of British Children’s Laureate; in some of her work, she uses science-fiction elements and situations to explore social and ethical issues.

1966 – Ra Heeduk, award-winning South Korean poet, essayist, writer, and literary critic; her poetic imagination is grounded in the force of life and growth as manifested in motherhood and plant life.

1969 – Mary Robinette Kowal, award-winning U.S. science-fiction and fantasy novelist and short-story writer who is also a professional voice actor and puppeteer.

1969 – Shahnaz Munni, Bangladeshi journalist, poet, essayist, novelist, short-story writer, translator, and young-adult writer who is chief news editor with the Dhaka-based television channel News24.

1980 – Ramona Badescu, Romanian-born French author of children’s literature; her most popular children’s book series, Pomelo the Garden Elephant, follows the adventures of the titled protagonist, a tiny garden elephant who is about the size of a dandelion.

February 7 Writer Birthdays

1478 – Thomas More, English Renaissance writer and humanist who coined the term “utopia.”

1559 – Catherine de Bourbon, French Navarrese poet, writer, and princess who was the daughter of Queen Joan III and King Anthony of Navarre and who ruled the principality of Béarn in the name of her brother, King Henry III of Navarre; her writings consist prrimarily of sonnets and letters.

1777 – Dinicu Golescu (full name Constantin Radovici Golescu), Romanian author, travel writer, journalist, translator,and politician.

1809 – Frederik Paludan-Muller, Danish poet whose work in many ways represents the ultimate idealist demands of Danish Romanticism.

1812 – Charles Dickens, English author, short-story writer, and social critic; he is considered one of the major novelists of the Victorian age, and one of the most important English novelists of all time, and his works are still widely read today. Many film and stage adaptations have been made of his work, which includes, among others, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations.

1833 – Manuel Ricardo Palma Soriano, Peruvian author, scholar, librarian, historican, and politician.

1837 – James Murray, Scottish lexicographer, philologist, and primary editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.

1867 – Laura Ingalls Wilder, U.S. writer, children’s author, journalist, and columnist whose “Little House” book series for children was based on her childhood as a pioneer on the American frontier. Her work is beloved by many but is now considered controversial for its depiction of racist remarks and activities.

1874 – Olive Eleanor Custance (also known as Lady Alfred Douglas), British poet and writer who was part of the aesthetic movement of the 1890s and a contributor to the quarterly literary periodical The Yellow Book.

1885 – Sinclair Lewis, Nobel Prize-winning U.S. novelist, playwright, and magazine writer lauded for his “vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters”; he was offered the Pulitzer Prize for his book Arrowsmith, but he turned it down.

1906 – Jean el Mouhouv Amrouche, Algerian francophone writer, poet, and journalist.

1908 – Fred Gipson, U.S. author best known for his 1956 novel Old Yeller.

1909 – Anna Swirszczynska, Polish poet, playwright, and children’s author, much of whose works deal with themes including her experiences during World War II, motherhood, the female body, and sensuality.

1922 – Marion Cunningham, U.S. food writer best known for her work on editions of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

1925 – Liu Binyan, Chinese author, journalist, and political dissident who recounted his life in the memoir A Higher Kind of Loyalty.

1926 – Guggari Shanthaveerappa Shivarudrappa, Indian Kannada poet, writer, and researcher who was awarded the title of Rashtrakavi (Poet Laureate) by the Government of Karnataka.

1929 – José Ramón Larraz, Spanish writer, comic book artist, film director, and screenwriter best known for his comic book series Paul Foran, and his horror films, including the erotic and bloody Vampyres.

1932 – Gay Talese, U.S. author, memoirist, sportswriter, journalist, and biographer whose work helped define modern literary journalism; his 1966 Esquire article about singer and actor Frank Sinatra, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” is one of the most influential American magazine articles of all time, and is considered a pioneering example of New Journalism and creative nonfiction.

1943 – Eric Foner, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. historian, author, and professor who writes extensively on American political history, the history of freedom, the early history of the Republican Party, African-American biography, Reconstruction, and historiography.

1944 – Witi Tame Ihimaera-Smiler (known as Witi Ihimaera), New Zealand author who was the first published Maori novelist.

1950 – Karen Joy Fowler, Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award-winning U.S. novelist, short-story writer, and editor of science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction; she is best known for The Jane Austen Book Club.

1955 – Steven Charles Gould, U.S. science-fiction writer, novelist, children’s author, and teacher.

1959 – Christine Angot, French writer, novelist, and playwright.

1964 – Ham Jeung Im, South Korean novelist, short-story writer, nonfiction writer, professor, literary critic, and literary editor; she made her literary debut with her award-winning short story “Gwangjangeuro ganeun gil” (“The Road to the Square”) and went on to become one of Korea’s most prominent writers.

1972 – Delia Grigore, Romanian Romani writer, essayist, linguist, philologist, academic, and activist for the rights of the Romani people.

1972 – Sabri Gürses, award-winning Turkish writer, translator, and science-fiction author who has published poetry, novels, and short stories.

1974 – Emma McLaughlin, U.S. novelist who wrote The Nanny Diaries with Nicola Krau.

1975- Barbara Samson, French poet, writer, and bestselling autobiographer who wrote about being infected with HIV at the age of 17 by a boyfriend who concealed his HIV-positive status; today, she travels and lectures about HIV.

1977 – Dee Rees (born Diandrea Rees), U.S. screenwriter and film and television director who was the first Black woman nominated for an Oscar for adapted screenplay; she cites her life experience as a Black lesbian as a major inspiration for her films.

1979 – Lebogang Mashile, South African author, poet, musician, and actor; Cosmopolitan magazine named her one of South Africa’s Awesome Women of 2005.

1987 – Durjoy Datta, Indian author and screenwriter who is especially known for his coffee-table novels about the romantic life of young Indians.

LetterMo 2023, Day 6

Once again, I am writing and mailing letters and cards every day for the Month of Letters, or LetterMo. Today’s outgoing mail is a letter to a pen pal in Pennsylvania.

I wrote so many letters when I was a child and when I was in my teens. I’d never gotten completely away from it, and have always been a letter-writer, but I do enjoy having a month of the year set aside for focusing on it, and for catching up with pen pals I may have fallen behind on correspondence with.

February 6 Writer Birthdays

1453 – Girolamo Benivieni, Italian Florentine poet, writer, philosopher, translator, and musician.

1564 – Christopher Marlowe, English playwright, poet, translator, and (probably) government spy of the Elizabethan era; he is sometimes credited with authorship of plays attributed to Shakespeare, but most scholars refute this.

1727 – Mary Coke, English Viscountess known for her letters and private journal, later published, in which she made pointed observations of people in her circle and political figures.

1753 – Évariste Desiré de Forges (Vicomte de Parny), French poet who was extremely popular during his lifetime; iconic Russian poet Pushkin once called him, “My master.”

1754 – August Nordenskiöld (also spelled Nordenskjöld), Finnish-Swedish writer, chemist, alchemist and critic of slavery; he was also involved in an attempt to found an anti-slavery colony on the west coast of Africa. He died in 1792 in a violent clash between locals in Sierra Leone, where he had moved.

1778 – Ugo Foscolo (born Niccolò Foscolo), Italian writer, revolutionary, and poet.

1788 – Karoly Kisfaludy, award-winning Hungarian Romantic poet, playwright, magazine founder, and artist.

1833 – José María de Pereda, Spanish journalist and novelist of the native realism school.

1833 – Frances Julia “Snow” Wedgwood, English feminist novelist, biographer, historian, philosopher, nonfiction writer, and literary critic who was described as “a young woman of extreme passions and fastidious principles” and “at once a powerful reasoner and an inexorable critic of reason.” Her two-part philosophical dialogue on the theological significance of her uncle Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species, argued that evolution was compatible with Christianity; in response, Darwin wrote her, “I must tell you how much I admire your Article…. I think that you understand my book perfectly, and that I find a very rare event with my critics.”

1845 – Kirstine Frederiksen, award-winning Danish writer, author, pedagogue, stenographer, and women’s rights activist.

1850 – Elizabeth “Lizzie” Williams Champney, U.S. novels, children’s writer, history writer, and travel writer.

1860 – Henriette Dessaulles (also known by the pen name Fadette), Canadian journalist, columnist, and diarist.

1860 – Johan (Eliza) de Meester, Dutch writer, publicist, and editor.

1864 – John Henry Mackay, Scottish-born writer and philosopher, known for his anarchist views.

1873 – Judith Anne Dorothea Blunt-Lytton (16th Baroness Wentworth, also known as Lady Wentworth), British writer poet, tennis player, and profoundly influential Arabian horse breeder. Her father was the poet Wilfrid Blunt, her maternal grandmother was renowned mathematician and pioneering computer programmer Ada Lovelace, and her great grandfather was the poet Lord Byron.

1876 – Alice Guerin Crist, Irish-born Australian poet, novelist, children’s writer, short-story writer, and journalist.

1879 – Carl Wilhelm Ramsauer, internationally known German physicist, professor, writer, and editor; he pioneered the field of electron and proton collisions with gas molecules and is best known for discovery of the Ramsauer–Townsend effect.

1882 – Anne Spencer, U.S. African-American poet, teacher, civil rights activist, librarian, and gardener who was an important member of the Harlem Renaissance group of intellectuals.

1888 – Ljudmil Stojanow, Bulgarian poet, short-story writer, and novelist.

1894 – Maria Dorota Leopoldyna Czapska, award-winning Polish author, essayist, historian, biographer, and literary critic.

1894 – Eric Honeywood Partridge, New Zealand–British writer, editor, short-story writer, and lexicographer of the English language, particularly of its slang. He also wrote books on tennis.

1894 – Sant Kirpal Singh, Indian author and spiritual leader who was president of the World Fellowship of Religions, an organization recognized by UNESCO, which had representatives from all the main religions of the world.

1898 – Carmen Eva Nelken Mansberger (known by the pseudonym Magda Donato), Spanish writer, journalist, playwright, and actress who went into exile in Mexico after the Spanish Civil War.

1898 – Melvin Beaunorus Tolson, U.S. Modernist poet, educator, columnist, and politician whose work concentrated on the experience of African Americans and includes several long historical poems; he spent most of his career in Texas and Oklahoma, but was named Poet Laureate of Liberia.

1900 – Rudolf Värnlund, proletarian Swedish novelist, playwright, critic, and social commentator.

1903 – Peter G. Buckinx, Flemish poet, essayist, playwright, and magazine editor.

1904 – Augusto Céspedes Patzi , Bolivian writer, politician, diplomat, and journalist.

1905 – Irmgard Keun, German author noted for her portrayals of life in both the Weimar Republic and the early years of Nazi Germany.

1913 – Mary Leakey, British paleoanthropologist and writer who made several important discovers that advanced understanding of human evolution; she is best known for her discovery of the first fossilised Proconsul skull, an extinct ape believed to be ancestral to humans.

1919 – Louis Philip Heren, British journalist and author of political theory and autobiography; he is considered one of the great foreign correspondents of the 20th century.

1920 – Max Mannheimer, award-winning Jewish Czech author, painter, and Holocaust survivor who was sent to Auschwitz in 1943 and then to other camps; it was not until the 1980s that he was able to write and speak about the horrors he experienced.

1921 – Carl Neumann Degler, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. historian and author.

1922 – Rahim Moeini Kermanshahi, Iranian poet, writer,songwriter, lyricist, journalist, historian, and artist.

1924 – Paolo Volponi, award-winning Italian writer, poet, novelist, and politician whose novels powerfully contract a visionary fictional world while exploring the ills of Italian society in the years of industrial expansion after the Second World War.

1925 – Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesian novelist, journalist, and human rights activist.

1928 – Sperantza Vrana (born Elpida Homatianou), Greek author, autobiographer, and actress, best known for her autobiography Tolmo (I Dare).

1929 – Keith Spencer Waterhouse, British novelist, newspaper columnist, and television writer.

1934 – Tomoko Yoshida (real name Tomoko Kira), award-winning Japanese author and teacher.

1936 – Mercy Adoma Owusu-Nimoh, award-winning Ghanaian children’s writer, publisher, educationist, and politician; in the 1996 parliamentary elections she ran for the National Democratic Congress, coming in second place.

1940 – Tom Brokaw, U.S. television journalist and nonfiction author.

1941 – Bahman Sholevar, Iranian-born novelist, poet, translator, critic, psychiatrist, and political activist who began writing and translating at age 13, his translations of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land are still renowned as classics of translation in modern Persian literature.

1942 – Ahmad-Jabir Ahmadov Ismail Oghlu, award-winning Azerbaijan academic and food and science writer who authored more than 300 scientific publications, including 60 books.

1947 – Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. author and economic researcher.

1951 – Lidia Ravera, Italian writer, screenwriter, journalist, essayist, and politician. Her most popular novel, Porci con le ali (Winged Pigs), dealt with the disillusionment of her generation with the ideals of the late 1960s; she also wrote the film adaptation.

1952 – Nay Win Myint, award-winning Burmese novelist, journalist, lecturer, and translator who also writes under the pseudonyms Win Phwe and Aung Maung; in his journalistic work, he focuses on environmental issues.

1955 – Carlos Barbarito, award-winning Argentine writer, poet, and translator.

1955 – Michael Pollan, U.S. author and professor whose work centers on food and culture; he is best known for his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

1956 – Hikaru Okuizumi (real name Yasuhiro Okuizumi), award-winning Japanese novelist.

1962 – Eleanor Wong Siew Yin, award-winning Singaporean playwright, poet, lawyer, and law professor who is best known for Invitation to Treat, her trilogy of plays centered on the experiences of the character Ellen Toh, a lesbian lawyer in Singapore.

52 Ancestors, Week 6: Social Media

I have some lines of my paternal grandmother’s ancestry traced back to the 1500s and 1600s. I would like to say that is the result of hard work and multiple trips to Italy to comb through church and commune records. Yes, I have done a lot of research (the kind that, unfortunately, does not involved multiple trips to Italy). But I can’t take full credit, especially for anything past the level of my great-great grandparents. I chanced upon a remarkable resource online, a family tree website created by a distant relative in Italy. His name is Roberto, he is a doctor, and his website is the secret to my success!

Italian records are hard. So much is not available online, and I don’t read Italian. When I started, I didn’t even know which villages I should be looking at. And then I found Roberto’s page. I don’t know Roberto. I haven’t even worked out exactly how he is related to me. But he visited churches and communes in Marche, Italy, and looked up birth, marriage, and death records. And then he documented it all on his family tree website.

The site has not been updated in several years. I don’t know if he is still actively researching. But I do know that because of Roberto, I have been introduced to many more generations than I’d have ever found on my own from the U.S., including several 11th great-grandparents.

Thank you, Roberto! He is my hero.

February 5 Writer Birthdays

1626 – Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sévigné (widely known as Madame de Sévigné), French writer who is revered as one of the great icons of French 17th-century literature for her letters, which were celebrated for their wit and vividness; most were addressed to her daughter, Françoise-Marguerite de Sévigné.

1634 – Maria Antonia Scalera Stellini, Italian writer, poet, and playwright.

1737 – Bak Jiwon, Korean philosopher and novelist who is regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of the Silhak (“Practical Learning’) movement; he belonged to the “School of Profitable Usage and Benefiting the People.” He wrote in classical Chinese.

1804 – Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Finnish lyric and epic poet, lyricist, and Lutheran priest who is the national poet of Finland and the author of the lyrics to the National Anthem; he was also a key figure in the modernization of the Finnish Lutheran hymnal and produced many texts for the new edition. Despite his literary accomplishments, his name is best known because of the quintessential Finnish dessert, the raspberry-topped Runeberg cake, which was invented by the poet’s wife, Fredrika Runeberg, and named after him.

1813 – Jermain Wesley Loguen (born into slavery as Jarm Logue), U.S. African-American writer and abolitionist, known for The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman, a Narrative of Real Life.

1844 – José Simões Dias, Portuguese poet, short-story writer, literary critic, pedagogue, and politician; his poetry is generally affiliated with the later Romantic tradition, sometimes termed Ultra-Romanticism, although some of his poems betray an affinity for Realist aesthetics.

1848 – Joris Karl Huysmans (born Charles Marie Georges Huysmans), French novelist and art critic whose work is considered remarkable for its idiosyncratic use of the French language, large vocabulary, satirical wit, and far-ranging erudition.

1855 – Katharine Bushnell, U.S. medical doctor, author, Christian writer, Bible scholar, social activist, lecturer, and forerunner of feminist theology; with a lifelong quest of showing biblical affirmation of the integrity and equality of women, she published God’s Word to Women, a correction of mistranslation and misinterpretation of the Bible, and several other books. She also traveled in China, India, Australia, and New Zealand, practicing medicine or speaking out against sexual discrimination, female trafficking, and other injustices.

1871 – Jovan Dučić, Bosnian Serb modernist poet, political writer, and diplomat.

1877 – Gertrude Elizabeth Heron Shane (née Hine), Irish writer, poet, playwright, and violinist; among her best-known works is “Wee Hughie,” a poem about a boy’s first day at school.

1880 – Liu Yizheng, Chinese writer, historian, librarian, academic, calligrapher, cultural scholar, and educator.

1884 – Paramananda (born Suresh Chandra Guhathakurta), progressive Indian swami, Hindu monk, mystic, teacher, book author, writer, and poet who was an innovator in spiritual community living; he established four nonsectarian ashramas where the residents are primarily women, and founded the Message of the East, a magazine published in the United States, which offered articles, poetry, and commentary on all religions.

1893 – William Earl Johns, English pilot and writer of adventure stories, usually under the name Captain W.E. Johns (though he was never actually a captain); he is best known as creator of pilot and adventurer Biggles.

1894 – Henriette Hardenberg (born Margarete Rosenberg), German-born Jewish poet who emigrated to Britain in the late 1930s; in Germany, she was part of the circle of writers around the magazine Die Aktion, which championed literary Expressionism. Her poems examined the relationship between people and their bodies, especially the skin as both an interface between self and world and a limiting factor, and she expressed a desire to transcend the limits of the body. She was one of the few women among the German Expressionist writers, and is now considered to have been one of the best of all the Expressionists.

1903 – Émile Roumer, Haitian poet who wrote both satirical poems, and poems about love and nature.

1911 – Galina Nikolaeva (born Galina Volyanskaya), award-winning Russian novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter, and physician whose written works are characterized by an interest in the inner world of contemporary men and women, and a direct confrontation of the social and moral issues of her time.

1914 – William S. Burroughs, U.S. experimental novelist, essayist, short-story writer, and visual artist who was a primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodern author whose influence affected popular culture as well as literature.

1915 – Margaret Ellis Millar (née Sturm), U.S.-Canadian mystery and suspense writer; married to Kenneth Millar (better known by his pen name Ross Macdonald); she often used Santa Barbara, California, as a setting in her novels, but fictionalized it as San Felice or Santa Felicia.

1916 – Janki Ballabh Shastri, award-winning Indian Hindi poet, writer, biographer, novelist, playwright, essayist, short-story writer, songwriter, and literary critic.

1920 – Leda Mileva, Bulgarian poet, writer, teacher, translator, journalist, linguist, politician, and diplomat.

1922 – Kim Gu-yong, Korean poet, calligrapher, and professor whose work showed the spirit of Taoism but also reflected Buddhist thought and revealed the influence of Western surrealism.

1924 – Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, Romanian-born German-language writer, poet, lyricist, translator, and Holocaust victim who died in a labor camp at the age of 18.

1928 – Andrew Greeley, prolific U.S. novelist, journalist, columnist, sociologist, and Catholic priest; his novels were controversial because of his explicit treatment of sexuality, leading the National Catholic Register to accuse him of having “the dirtiest mind ever ordained.”

1928 – Edmund Leroy “Mike” Keeley, Syrian-born award-winning U.S. novelist, poet, essayist, and translator who is a noted expert on Greek poets and modern Greek history.

1930 – Liliane Wouters, award-winning Belgian poet, writer, playwright, translator, anthologist, and essayist who wrote in French.

1936 – K.S. Nissar Ahmed, prominent Indian poet and writer in the Kannada language; he is also a geologist.

1939 – Gémino Henson Abad, award-winning Filipino poet, writer, essayist, editor, anthologist, professor, and literary critic.

1941 – Stephen Joseph Cannell, U.S. mystery novelist and television screenwriter and producer who created or co-created nearly 40 television series, many of them popular crime shows.

1946 – Oyewale Tomori, Nigerian scientist, author, professor of virology, public-health specialist, and university vice-chancellor; his written works include studies on ebola and yellow fever.

1950 – Sng Boh Khim (also known as Sunny), Singaporean poet and essayist.

1951 – Elizabeth Swados, U.S. novelist, nonfiction author, children’s book author, composer, and theatre director who often wrote humorous satire but also explored racism, murder, and mental illness; she collaborated on two musicals with cartoonist Gary Trudeau, writing the music to his lyrics.

1953 – Giannina Braschi, Puerto Rican novelist and poet who is considered an influential and revolutionary voice in contemporary Latin American literature.

1956 – David Wiesner, Caldecott Medal-winning U.S. illustrator and author of children’s picture books.

1957 – Azouz Begag (عزوز بقاق ‎), French writer, politician, and researcher in economics and sociology.

1967 – Alexandre Najjar, award-winning Lebanese novelist, biographer, nonfiction writer, lawyer, columnist, artist, and literary critic.

1982 – Maria Markova, award-winning Russian poet and writer.

1986 – Yashica Dutt, Indian writer and journalist who has written on topics including fashion, gender, identity, culture, and caste.

If It’s February, This Must Be LetterMo!

We are a few days into February, and I have not mentioned the Month of Letters, affectionately abbreviated as LetterMo. Every day this month, those of us who’ve taken the challenge aim to send at least one piece of handwritten mail by old-fashioned snail mail, and to respond to anyone who writes to us. Bills, junk mail, and other non-personal forms of mail don’t count. And we’re not required to send mail on days when there is no mail delivery (in the U.S., that would be Sundays and holidays).

This year, the Month of Letters conveniently began right after yet another postal cost increase. Yes, that sucks, but another 3 cent increase in first-class stamps will not deter us manic letter writers from sending mail.

I’ve been remiss about reporting in, both here and on the site, so let me catch up now on reporting my outgoing mail for the first four days of the month.

The first three days I sent Postcrossing postcards to Postcrossers in three European countries:

  • On the first day of LetterMo, I mailed a postcard of Luna Lovegood to a Harry Potter fan in Poland.
  • On Feb. 2, I mailed a postcard to Switzerland with a recipe for Key Lime Pie.
  • And on Feb. 3, it was a postcard with an awesome photograph of a whale, sent to a whale-watching Postcrosser in the Netherlands.

Today’s mail stayed much closer to home. For today, Feb. 4, I wrote to a pen pal who lives about an hour’s drive from home. And I wrote an actual, multi-page letter, not just a postcard.

I have to admit that I have been neglecting my pen pals for the past six months or so. I hate being an awful correspondent, and have vowed to use LetterMo as a catalyst for catching up.

February 4 Writer Birthdays

1447 – Ludovico Lazzarelli, Italian poet, philosopher, courtier, philosopher, translator, mystic, and reputed magician.

1688 – Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux (commonly referred to as simply Marivaux), French playwright, essayist, and novelist, he is best remembered for his comic plays, which are noted for their keen observations and literary excellence.

1691 – George Lillo, English playwright and tragedian; his play The London Merchant, or The History of George Barnwell, was one of the most popular and frequently produced plays in 18th century England.

1718 – Barbara Sanguszko, Lithuanian poet, writer, translator, philanthropist, and salonnière whose best known works included translations of religious works, a two-volume Voltaire novel, and a medical textbook, as well as poetry and a guidebook for mothers whose daughters were about to be married.

1731 – Mary Deverell, English writer, poet, and religious essayist whose work questioned the conventional belief that the female sphere was solely domestic.

1749 – Josefa Amar y Borbón, Spanish writer and pedagogue who belonged to a group of intellectuals who shared a concern for the decadent conditions of Spain and a desire to fix the situation through education; she is considered part of the first generation of Spanish feminists.

1808 – Vincent Dunin-Marcinkievic (also spelled Wincenty Dunin-Marcinkiewicz), Belarusian writer, poet, author, playwright, linguist, translator, and social activist who was one of the founders of the modern Belarusian literary tradition; he wrote in both contemporary Belarusian and Polish.

1820 – Božena Nemcová, Czech writer, poet, children’s author, and artist of the National Revival movement who wrote novels as well as books of fairy tales and legends; her image is featured on Czech banknotes.

1853 – Isa Asp, Finnish writer and poet who is considered her country’s first woman poet and first lesbian icon; she died of tuberculosis at the age of 19 but left behind about 100 poems, including her most popular one, “Lullaby to a Wave.”

1859 – Jacob Werber (also known as Ya’akov Verber), Galician Jewish journalist, editor, and writer.

1876 – Ma Fuxiang, Chinese warlord, military governor, mayor, author, and calligrapher.

1878 – Zabel Yesayan, Turkish-born Armenian author, short-story writer, poet, translator, university teacher, novelist, literary critic, opinion journalist, and professor who was inspired by the French Romantic movement and the nineteenth-century revival of Armenian Literature in the Western Armenian dialect. Her writings, nonfiction and fiction, about the massacres of Armenians led to her being targeted for arrest by the Ottoman Young Turk government, as the only woman on the list; she evaded capture and fled the country, eventually settling in Soviet Armenia.

1885 – Ahmad Hasan al-Zayyat, influential Egyptian political writer, journalist, university teacher, and intellectual who established the Egyptian literary magazine al-Risala, described as “the most important intellectual weekly in 1930s Egypt and the Arab world.”

1887 – Sheila Kaye-Smith, bestselling English writer and poet who is best known for her novels set in the borderlands of Sussex and Kent; her novel Joanna Godden was adapted as the film, The Loves of Joanna Godden.

1895 – Anna Helena Margaretha (Annie) Romein-Verschoor, popular, award-winning Dutch author, historian, journalist, autobiographer, and feminist writer.

1900 – Jacques Prévert, popular French poet and screenwriter of the Poetic Realist movement.

1902 – Charles Lindbergh, U.S. aviator, military officer, author, and environmental activist who wrote The Spirit of St. Louis about making the first solo transatlantic flight; he was controversial because of his extramarital affairs, racist views, and belief in eugenics.

1902 – Svetoslav Minkov, Bulgarian writer, translator, journalist, author, children’s writer, and science-fiction writer whose works primarily concern the loss of identity in the technocratic world, the uncertainty of morality and values, and the existential aspects of boredom; he vividly expressed his ideas through parody, diabolism, sarcasm and Absurdism, and is considered a pioneer of Bulgarian science fiction. He also wrote studies on Japanese culture and translated the tales of Scheherazade into Bulgarian.

1904 – Buell Gordon Gallagher, U.S. professor, minister, professor, and college president who wrote about civil rights and race relations in higher education.

1904 – MacKinlay Kantor, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. novelist, many of whose works were set during the Civil War.

1906 – Agniya Lvovna Barto, Soviet poet, screenwriter, translator, children’s writer, and radio personality of Russian Jewish origin.

1908 – Ellisiv Steen, Norwegian writer, biographer, literary historian, and professor.

1909 – Jean Bolikango, award-winning Congolese novelist, writer, educator, and politician.

1910 – Mattheus Uys Krige, South African writer, poet, journalist, linguist, and translator who was unusual among Afrikaans writers for his hostility to apartheid, White supremacism, and Afrikaner nationalism.

1913 – Rosa Parks (full name Louise McCauley Parks), iconic U.S. African-American civil-rights leader and autobiographer; she is best known for her pivotal role in inspiring the Montgomery bus boycott by refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a White person. The United States Congress has honored her as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement.”

1917 – Abdul Rahman Badawi, Egyptian writer, philosopher, and professor who was drawn to classical Greek philosophy and studied the relationship between Islam and the western world.

1918 – Narayan Gongopadhyay (also known as Narayan Ganguly, and by his pen name, simply “Narayan”), award-winning Indian Bengali novelist, poet, essayist, children’s author, and short-story writer who was one of the leading figures in modern Bengali literature.

1918 – Ida Lupino, English actress, screenwriter, film director, producer, and singer; she is widely regarded as the most prominent female filmmaker working in 1950s Hollywood. Her immensely influential filmmaking career, which tackled themes of women trapped by social conventions, usually under melodramatic or noir coverings, is a pioneering example of proto-feminist filmmaking.

1919 – Marta Schumann, award-winning Norwegian poet, short-story writer, historical fiction writer, and science-fiction novelist.

1921 – Betty Friedan, influential U.S. feminist writer who was a key figure in the women’s movement in the U.S.; she is best known for her book The Feminine Mystique.

1924 – Sebastián Salazar Bondy, Peruvian playwright, essayist, poet, and journalist who was among the most important Peruvian intellectuals of his time.

1925 – Russell Hoban, U.S. expatriate author of books for children and adults; he wrote fantasy, science fiction, magic realism, mainstream fiction, and poetry, and spent most of his career living in the U.K.

1925 – Stanley Karnow, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. journalist and historian, best known for his writings on the Vietnam war.

1931 – Thomas Risley Odhiambo, Kenyan entomologist and environmental activist who directed research and scientific development in Africa; he founded the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology but also encouraged the younger generation of thinkers to go into the fine arts.

1947 – Uche Ewah Azikiwe, Nigerian author and professor who is the widow of Nigerian President Nnamdi Azikiwe.

1958 – Keigo Higashino, Japanese author, screenwriter, and engineer best known for his mystery novels.

1959 – Tsitsi Dangarembga, award-winning Zimbabwean novelist, poet, playwright, and filmmaker; her semi-autobiographical novel, Nervous Conditions, is on the list of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the Last Century and the BBC’s list of 100 Stories That Changed the World.

1960 – Siobhan Dowd, British writer of children’s fiction.

1961 – Stewart O’Nan, U.S. novelist, short-story writer, and nonfiction author.

February 3 Writer Birthdays

1612 – Samuel Butler, English poet, satirist, translator, and artist; he is best known for the satirical novel Erewhon and the semi-autobiographical Bildungsroman The Way of All Flesh, published posthumously in 1903, both of which are still in print, but he also examined subjects including Christian philosophy and Italian art, and made prose translations of the Iliad and Odyssey that are still consulted today.

1763 – Caroline von Wolzogen (born Caroline von Lengefeld), German novelist and biographer of playwright and poet Friedrich Schiller, her brother-in-law.

1811 – Horace Greeley, influencial U.S. editor who founded the New York Tribune.

1826 – Walter Bagehot, English economist and journalist whose father-in-law was the founder of the Economist, which Bagehot edited.

1842 – Sidney Lanier, U.S. musician, poet, author, critic, and lawyer who served in the Confederate Army, was imprisoned for working on a blockade-running ship, was a church organist, and gave musical performances at a hotel.

1870 – Ada Negri, Italian poet and autobiographical novelist; her poetry often focused on the plight of the poor and others who suffered injustice.

1874 – Gertrude Stein, quotable U.S. expatriate writer, novelist, poet, and playwright whose memoir The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas made her into a cult literary figure.

1881 – Harry Edwin Wood, English-born South African astronomer, science writer, observatory director, and discoverer of minor planets; the asteroid 1660 Wood is named after him.

1883 – Clarence Mulford, U.S. novelist, short-story writer, and nonfiction author whose work focused on the Western United States; he wrote the Hopalong Cassidy novels.

1893 – Xu Dishan, Chinese author, translator, educator, and folklorist who was best known for novels that focus on the people of the southern provinces of China and Southeast Asia; he was also the first Chinese professor who taught Sanskrit at a Chinese university.

1899 – Lao She (pen name for Shu Qingchun), Chinese writer, politician, playwright, university teacher, and science-fiction author who is one of the most significant figures in 20th-century Chinese literature, best known for the novel Rickshaw Boy and the play Teahouse.

1905 – Herman Charles Bosman, South African writer, playwright, and journalist who is widely regarded as South Africa’s greatest short-story writer.

1907 – James Michener, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. author of meticulously researched historical sagas.

1909 – Simone Weil, French essayist, philosopher, and Resistance fighter.

1916 – Luz Machado, award-winning Venezuelan writer, poet, journalist, and political activist; she also wrote under the pseudonym Ágata Cruz.

1922 – Mireya Cueto, Mexican writer, playwright, screenwriter, and puppeteer; she co-founded the national marionette museum Museo Nacional de Títeres (MUNATI).

1927 – Joan Lowery Nixon, popular, award-winning U.S. author of historical fiction and mysteries for children and young adults; she was also a journalist.

1928 – H. Tipperudraswamy, Indian Kannada writer, poet, children’s author, biographer, scholar, and literary critic.

1946 – Oyewale Tomori, award-winning Nigerian virologist, veterinarian, author, educational administrator, and university vice chancellor who has written extensively on virology and epidemiology.

1947 – Paul Auster, U.S. author of genre-bending fiction who is also a film director; many of his works have elements of detective stories, but also address existential questions of identity, space, language, and literature.

1948 – Henning Mankell, Swedish mystery writer, crime author, children’s writer, and screenwriter best known for his popular Kurt Wallander book series, which has been adapted into several television series, in Sweden and abroad.

1957 – Marlon Riggs, U.S. poet, documentary filmmaker, and activist.

1966 – Maksudul Ahsan, Bangladeshi poet, artist, illustrator, editor, and teacher.

1966 – Anel Townsend, Peruvian journalist, author, and politician; she has written books on politics and equality, and the elimination of poverty.

1976 – Isla Fisher, Omani-born Australian actress, writer, and young-adult novelist.

1979 – Mehrnoush Najafi Ragheb, Iranian lawyer, writer, and blogger; she is an activist for women’s rights and the preservation of antiquities and the environment, and a member of the city council of Hamedan.

Six More Weeks of Winter for 2023

It’s Groundhog Day 2023! This morning, the world’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, emerged from his winter home and saw his shadow. Again. In other words, Phil predicts that we’re getting six more weeks of winter.

(Here’s a link to live footage of Phil from this morning.)

Of course, Phil is not the only prognosticating groundhog. In Wiarton, Ontario, the community’s celebrity groundhog, Wiarton Willie, did not see his shadow today. Can we get Willie’s forecast here, too, or is that one only good in Ontario? On a sadder note, a prognosticating groundhog in Quebec, Fred La Marmotte, was found dead in his burrow a few hours before he was scheduled to make his prediction this morning. That’s a little weird. On Groundhog Day last year, I reported here that a New Jersey groundhog, Milltown Mel, died shortly before Groundhog Day. Two years in a row? What’s up with that?

Years ago, I wrote a piece on my old blog about the history of Groundhog Day. This seems like a good time to repost it. I’m adding the images; they did not appear with the original post.


Those of you who know me may be familiar with my strange connection with groundhogs. Really, I have a thing for groundhogs. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that groundhogs have a thing for me. And not just because I am a huge fan of an early spring. I frequently see groundhogs by the side of the road. I mean, REALLY frequently. I once spotted 38 groundhogs on one day’s drive. Often I see several at the same time. They seem to know that I’m about to drive by, and they all flock to the side of the road to wave me on. Honest. They have been known to line up to watch me drive past. I can be walking in a residential neighborhood where nobody has ever seen a groundhog, and suddenly, a whole family of them just appears before me. I am the Goddess of Groundhogs.

So, it’s time for some Groundhog Day facts. These are compiled from my own groundhog research (I’m putting them in a novel) as well as from Wikipedia and from Groundhog.org – the Official Site of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

First, Some Groundhog Day Basics
Every year on February 2, the groundhog — let’s say, specifically, Punxsutawney Phil — emerges from his winter hidey hole, bleary eyed from his long winter’s sleep. According to legend, if the groundhog steps outside sees his shadow on this morning, he will be frightened back into his burrow, and there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If the day is cloudy so that he does not see his shadow, spring will come early.

The Groundhog Day tradition grew out of beliefs associated with Candlemas Day in Medieval Europe. It marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important. According to an old Scottish poem:

Cloudy, one of the groundhogs at Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, IL., contemplates
an exit from her wooden home on Groundhog Day, February 2, 2001. The weather-prognosticating groundhog did indeed see her shadow that year, a sign that winter will last another six weeks in North America, according to the time-honored custom. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Newsmakers)

As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and snow
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop

Roman soldiers spread the Candelmas tradition to the Teutons, or Germans. They expanded on it by concluding that if the sun shone on Candlemas Day, an animal — the hedgehog — would cast a shadow, predicting six more weeks of bad weather. Eventually, descendants of those Germans emigrated to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania, arguably the U.S. hub of all modern Groundhog Day activity. European hedgehogs were in short supply in their new home, but Pennsylvania was home to a large population of groundhogs. Soon, the settlers realized that the groundhog possessed the wisdom and good sense to know that it should scurry back into its burrow, hedgehog-like, if its shadow appeared on Candelmas Day. And a new holiday tradition was born.

Phil Becomes Famous
Groundhog Day is celebrated throughout the United States and Canada, but the holiday’s biggest fans know that the real party is at Gobbler’s Knob, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the home of Punxsutawney Phil. In fact, The Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper is credited with printing the news of the first Groundhog Day observance, in 1886.

Phil’s handlers claim that today’s Phil is the same groundhog that prognosticated an early spring that year, and that he is now more than 120 years old. They attribute his longevity to the magical Elixir of Life, a secret recipe that Phil sips every summer at the Groundhog Picnic. Standard-issue teetotaling groundhogs live up to 6 years.

Phil has met presidents and governors. He starred in a 1993 movie with Bill Murray and appeared on Oprah. During Prohibition, Phil threatened to impose 60 weeks of winter on the community if he wasn’t allowed a drink.

Fun Facts About Groundhogs
The average groundhog is 20 inches long and weighs 12 to 15 pounds. Punxsutawney Phil is indeed a giant among groundhogs, measuring 22 inches long and weighing in at 20 pounds.

A groundhog’s diet consists of lots of greens, fruits, and vegetables and very little water. Most of their liquids come from dewy leaves.

A groundhog can whistle when it is alarmed. Groundhogs also whistle in the spring when they want to attract groundhogs of the opposite sex. For that reason, they are sometimes called whistlepigs. Other names for the groundhog include woodchuck and land beaver.

Groundhogs are one of the few animals that really hibernate. Hibernation is not just a deep sleep. It is a deep coma. During hibernation, the body temperature drops to a few degrees above freezing, the heart barely beats, blood scarcely flows, and breathing nearly stops.

Despite their cute, cuddly appearance, groundhogs can be quite aggressive and will defend themselves if threatened. They are much faster than they look, and they have exceptionally strong jaws.

A Word to Phil
Phil, if you’re reading this, I am SO ready for an early spring! Please pay no attention to any shadow that may or may not be on the ground when you step outside this morning. Thank you. You’re my hero. (I’ve left this last part in for historical purposes, but obviously Phil did not come through today. In fact, he didn’t come through the year I originally posted this, either.)