February 24 Writer Birthdays

1304 – Ibn Battuta, Moroccan-born Muslim Berber writer, scholar, geographer, cartographer, merchant, and explorer who widely traveled the medieval world; his account of his journeys was called, A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Traveling.

1786 – Wilhelm Carl Grimm, German author, folklorist, librarian, and literary historian who was the younger of the Brothers Grimm.

1848 – Grant Allen, Canadian novelist, essayist, and science-fiction writer.

1852 – George More, Irish author best known for his early work in Paris and London as a struggling artist.

1885 – Juliusz Kaden-Bandrowski, Polish novelist and journalist.

1887 – Mary Ellen Chase, Maine-based American educator, teacher, scholar, and novelist who is one of the most important regional literary figures of the early 20th century.

1903 – Irène Némirovsky, Ukrainian novelist of Jewish origin who lived most of her life in France but was denied French citizenship; despite her conversion to Roman Catholicism, she was arrested as a Jew and died at Auschwitz in 1942.

1909 – August William Derleth, American writer and anthologist who was the first book publisher of H.P. Lovecraft, and who contributed himself to the Cthulhu Mythos and the Cosmic Horror genre, as well as founding of the groundbreaking supernatural fiction publisher Arkham House. He was also a leading American regional writer of his day, writing fiction, historical fiction, poetry, and nonfiction about Wisconsin, and was prolific in other genres, including historical fiction, poetry, detective fiction, science fiction, and biography.

1942 – Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Indian writer, translator, professor, literary theorist, and feminist critic who is best known for her essay, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” and for her translation of and introduction to Jacques Derrida’s De la Grammatologie; she is a founding members of Columbia University’s Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, and is considered one of the most influential postcolonial intellectuals.

1943 – Kent Haruf, American novelist who wrote literary fiction set in the fictional eastern Colorado town of Holt.

1952 – Judith Ortiz Cofer, Puerto Rican poet, novelist, essayist, autobiographer, and children’s writer.

1956 – Judith Butler, American writer, professor, journalist, sociologist, literary critic, philosopher, feminist, and gender theorist.

1959 – Kasi (Karen) Lemmons, American filmmaker, screenwriter, and actress.

1966 – Alain Mabanckou, Congolese-born French novelist, journalist, poet, and professor who is best known for novels and nonfiction depicting the experience of contemporary Africa and the African diaspora in France.

1971 – Gillian Flynn, American screenwriter, writer, journalist, film critic, novelist, television critic

1973 – Rainbow Rowell, American journalist and novelist best known for her young-adult books.

1976 – Yuval Noah Harari, Israeli historian and author of popular-science bestsellers.

February 23 Writer Birthdays

1633 – Samuel Pepys, English diarist and member of Parliament; the detailed diary he kept during the 1660s was first published in the 19th century and is one of the most important historical sources on the English Restoration period, including eyewitness accounts of such events as the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London.

1787 – Emma Hart Willard, American author, educator, and women’s rights activist.

1868 – W.E.B. duBois, American author, editor, autobiographer, professor, sociologist, historian, and civil-rights activist whose best known work is The Souls of Black Folk.

1873 – Liang Qichao, Chinese writer, historian, journalist, translator, philosopher, and reformist.

1877 – Frederic L. Paxson, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, historian, and professor.

1899 – Erich Kästner, German author, poet, satirist, children’s writer, and screenwriter.

1904 – William M. Shirer, National Book Award-winning American journalist, broadcaster, and historian whose best-known book was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

1937 – Amina Haider al-Sadr (also known as Bint al-Huda al-Sadr, Iraqi writer, educator, and political activist who in 1980 was executed by Saddam Hussein, along with her brother, Ayatullah Sayyid Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr.

1937 – Claude Brown, American novelist, autobiographer, and sociologist whose best known book is Manchild in the Promised Land.

1942 – Haki R. Madhubuti (born Don Luther Lee), African-American poet, essayist, critic, and publisher who founded Third World Press and was a key member of the black arts movement.

1944 – John Sandford (pen name of John Roswell Camp), Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and bestselling author of thrillers.

1944 – Bernard Cornwell, British author of historical novels, contemporary thrillers, and history.

1950 – Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, American novelist, philosopher, writer, biographer, classical scholar, and philosopher, who writes both fiction and nonfiction, often centered around science and philosophical rationalism.

1953 – Walter Wick, American artist and photographer known for his intricate photographs in the I Spy series of picture books for children.

1967 – Anupama Chopra, Indian author, journalist, film critic, and director of the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.

1968 – Sonya Hartnett, Australian novelist, young-adult author and children’s writer who has been called, “the finest Australian writer of her generation.”

February 22 Writer Birthdays

1804 – William Whipper, American anti-slavery activist and essayist.

1819 – James Russell Lowell, American poet, social critic, journalist, essayist, and abolitionist.

1876 – Zitkála-Šá (Lakota: Red Bird, or Cardinal, and also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, her missionary-given and later married name), Yankton Dakota Sioux writer, editor, translator, violinist, educator, and political activist; she wrote several works chronicling her struggles with cultural identity and the pull between the majority culture she was educated within and her Dakota Sioux culture into which she was born.

1892 – Edna St. Vincent Millay, Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, writer, translator, playwright, and librettist; the poet Richard Wilbur asserted, “She wrote some of the best sonnets of the century.” She used the pseudonym Nancy Boyd for her prose work.

1925 – Edward Gorey, American writer and artist noted for his illustrated books; his characteristic pen-and-ink drawings often depict vaguely unsettling narrative scenes in Victorian and Edwardian settings.

1935 – Danilo Kis, Serbo-Hungarian novelist and essayist.

1938 – Ishmael Reed, American poet, novelist, and essayist.

1950 – Julie Walters (Dame Julia Mary Walters), award-winning English actress and autobiographer; she is a mulitple BAFTA Award winner, has won a Golden Globe, and has been nominated for two Academy Awards; she is best known internationally for playing Molly Weasley in the Harry Potter films.

1971 – Elisha Cooper, American writer and illustrator of children’s books.

Photo Friday: Home Improvement

Yay! The custom built-ins in our master bedroom are just about finished. All we need now are paint and a few additions including the curtain rod and the other hardware. I am so excited about the work, which was wrapped up yesterday (for the most part) that I had to share the Before and After images for Photo Friday.

On the left, which is my side, it’s bookshelf space above and cabinets below. The lower cabinet has a pull-out shelf for a mini microwave, with space for tea bags and mugs. I’m not sure what I’ll use the higher cabinet for. It may just be closed storage for books. We could have left it as an open shelf, but it balances out the right side better this way. Both cabinets have electrical outlets inside.

The right side is a built-in dresser for my husband, so we can finally get rid of the old oak one. (Big Flea, it’s yours!) Above that are bookshelves, with the bottom one intended for stereo equipment, hence the electrical outlet there.

Across the top of the wall is more bookshelf space. The upper shelves are lighted inside, and above them, peeking out over the crown molding, are mood lights that can be set to change color. My son’s comment: “Why don’t I have cool stuff like this in my room?”

If I could afford it, I would put cool stuff like this in every room of the house.

The project was designed and constructed by Iain Lowrie of Studio Bianco Designs. This is the fourth job Iain has done for me — and
there may be more ahead. I would recommend him to anyone! See his website here: www.studio-bianco.com

February 21 Writer Birthdays

1755 – Anne Grant (often called Mrs. Anne Grant of Laggan), Scottish poet and author best known for her collection of mostly biographical poems Memoirs of an American Lady as well as her earlier work Letters from the Mountains.

1817 – José Zorrilla y Moral, Spanish poet and dramatist whose work was part of the Romantic movement.

1820 – Apollo Korzeniowski, Polish poet, playwright, translator, clandestine political activist, and father of Polish-English novelist Joseph Conrad.

1821 – Charles Scribner, American founder of the company, Charles Scribner’s Sons, a major publisher of books and magazines.

1888 – Clemence Dane, pseudonym of Winifred Ashton, English novelist, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, science-fiction writer, painter, and sculptor.

1903 – Anais Nin, French-born Cuban-American novelist, diarist, critic, essayist, and writer of short stories and erotica; she is best known for the journals she wrote for 60 years, many of which have been published, and which feature intimate details of her relationships with friends and lovers who included some of the best-known literary figures of the day.

1903 – Raymond Queneau, French author who produced some of the most important prose and poetry of the mid-20th century.

1907 – W.H. Auden (Wystan Hugh Auden), Pulitzer Prize-winning English-born American poet and anti-war socialist whose work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievement; its engagement with politics, morals, love, and religion; and its variety in tone, form and content.

1927- Erma Bombeck, American humorist, columnist, and author whose writing found the humor in suburban home life and gained her an enormous following.

1936 – Barbara Jordan, groundbreaking African-American lawyer, politician, professor, speechwriter, and autobiographer; she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was President Bill Clinton’s choice for Supreme Court Justice but was not nominated because of her poor health.

1937 – Jilly Cooper, British author, journalist, nonfiction writer, children’s book author, and bestselling romance novelist.

1943 – Lyudmila Evgenyevna Ulitskaya, internationally acclaimed modern Russian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, children’s writer, translator, and human-rights activist.

1946 – Monica Johnson, award-winning American screenwriter and producer for television and movies; she often collaborated with Albert Brooks and sometimes wrote under the name Monica McGowan.

1947 – Lidia Bastianich (Lidia Giuliana Matticchio Bastianich), Croatian-born Italian-American celebrity chef, television host, author, and restaurateur who specializes in Italian cuisine.

1948 – Elizabeth Edmondson (who also wrote under the names Elizabeth Aston and Elizabeth Pewsey), Chilean-born English author who wrote primarily in the mystery, historical, and contemporary fiction genres; many of her published stories were adaptations and sequels of Jane Austen’s works.

1952 – Jia Pingwa, one of China’s most popular authors of novels, short stories, poetry, and nonfiction; one of his best-known novels, Ruined City, was banned for more than 17 years for explicit sexual content.

1956 – Ha Jin, Chinese-born poet, novelist, short-story writer, and university teacher whose work is associated with the Misty Poetry movement.

1950 – Håkan Nesser, Swedish author best known for his crime fiction.

1952 – Jeff Shaara, American author of historical fiction; he is the son of Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Shaara.

1962 – Charles Michael Palahniuk, American novelist and journalist who describes his work as “transgressional fiction”; he is best known for the novel Fight Club.

1962 – David Foster Wallace, influential American novelist.

1977 – Jonathan Safran Foer, American modernist author of fiction and nonfiction, best known for his novels Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

Month of Letters, Day 20

Today, for the 20th day of February, I sent three pieces of mail for the Month of Letters challenge. All three were Postcrossing cards, two to Germany and one to the U.S.

  • To Anklam, Germany, an atmospheric evening shot of Jackson Square in New Orleans. The Postcrosser there, a 28-year-old named Lydia, loves New Orleans and specifically mentioned cards from there on her wish list. She also cited vampires, Harry Potter, and other fantasy and horror favorites, so I thought the moodiness of the scene might appeal to her. Also, I love New Orleans, too!
  • To San Luis Obispo, California, I sent a postcard of the Blue Ridge Mountains to a student named John whose “favorites” list all seemed to be photographs of mountains.
  • To Leipzig, Germany, a lovely painting by Belgian artist Herman Richir (1866-1942) of a woman reading. The painting (c1910) is called La Partition. I chose it because the recipient, Zoe, is a bookseller.

February 20 Writer Birthdays

1805 – Angelina Emily Grimké, American author, pamphlet writer, lecturer, abolitionist, and women’s rights activist who grew up in a white, slave-owning family and, as a child, defied her parents by teaching slaves to read. She and her sister Sarah left South Carolina for Pennsylvania and became Quakers; they were the only prominent white Southern women to become well known as abolitionists. Their niece Angelina Weld Grimké was an influential African-American playwright and poet.

1883 – Naoya Shiga, Japanese novelist, playwright,and short-story writer.

1894 – Jaroslaw Leon Iwaszkiewicz (pseudonym Eleuter), Polish writer, poet, essayist, dramatist, and translator who was nominated four times for the Nobel Prize in Literature;
in 1988, he was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations for his role in sheltering Jews during World War II.

1901 – René Dubos, Pulitzer Prize-winning French-born American microbiologist, pathologist, environmentalist, humanist, and author.

1902 – Ansel Adams, American landscape photographer and environmentalist known for his black-and-white photography of the American West.

1912 – Pierre Boulle, French novelist known for both The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes.

1913 – Dame Mary Durack, Australian author, poet, children’s writer, and historian.

1919 – Matilde Elena López, Salvadoran poet, essayist, playwright, and literary critic who was part of the League of Anti-Fascist Writers, a group of young writers with leftist ideas; in April 1944, she participated in the movement to overthrow the government of dictator Maximiliano Hernández Martínez.

1924 – Alex La Guma, South African novelist and activist against apartheid; his vivid style, distinctive dialogue, and realistic portrayal of oppressed groups have made him one of the most notable South African writers of the 20th century.

1924 – Nevena Stefanova, Bulgarian poet, literary critic, essayist, and translator.

1925 – Robert Altman, American film director and screenwriter.

1926 – Richard Matheson, American author of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, many of whose works have been adapted for screen.

1927 – Sidney Poitier, American-born Bahamian actor, director, diplomat, and author who was the first black to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.

1935 – Ellen Gilchrist, National Book Award-winning American novelist, short-story writer, and poet.

1939 – William Bayer, bestselling American detective novelist.

1943 – Diana Lucile Paxson, American fantasy and historical-fiction novelist, composer, journalist, and short-story writer whose work is primarily in the fields of Pagan and Heathen religious practices; she is a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism, where she is known as Diana the Listmaker.

1948 – David Kertzer, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian, anthropologist, biographer, professor, and author who specializes in the political, demographic, and religious history of Italy.

1951 – Sean Wilentz, American historian, author, and professor whose work explores U.S. social and political history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

1962 – Kenn Nesbitt, American poet who writes for children and was named Children’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation.

Month of Letters, Day 19

I managed to send only one piece of mail today. It was a postcard to a Postcrosser in Los Angeles. But at least it was a pretty one, a field of lupines by the water at Turnagain Arm, Alaska, a little south of Anchorage. The gorgeous blues and purples and the luminosity of the water makes me want to go back there. (But probably not in February.)

Tomorrow I hope to get at least one actual letter written.

Month of Letters, Day 18

For February 18, I sent just one letter in the Month of Letters challenge, but it had MailArt!

I wrote a letter to a new LetterMo Friend, a correspondent in Colorado. She said she enjoys MailArt and does quite a bit of it herself — a whole lot more than I do. So I decided to decorate the back of the evelope to send the letter in. I went with a retro Greetings From Virginia theme, and used mostly colored pencil, but with a little marker.

Unfortunately, colored pencil does not scan well. But here is the best scan I could get:

Another Weekend, Another College Visit

The Lafayette Statue (left) and Washington Monument in Baltimore, adjacent to Peabody Institute of Music

It was the third weekend of the month, so we had the third in our February series of weekly college, university, or conservatory interview/audition/portfolio review visits. This one was to Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University.

This one is in Baltimore, only an hour and a quarter’s drive from here. So we were able to plan it as a day trip instead of getting a hotel room. Then, the day before, we found out that we were expected to be there all day for a variety of meetings and other events, not just the half-hour needed for the interview. In all fairness, I suspect that information was provided to us much earlier than the day before, but fell victim to my son’s habitual neglect of his email. If I’d known we were supposed to be there early, I probably would have just planned on going up the night before.

But it wasn’t bad driving up early Sunday morning. Traffic was light at that time of the week, and it was a quick and easy drive. We even made it in time. We attended a coffee with the faculty who head the Composition department and a general parents’ meeting with some Peabody admissions officers. Particularly useful — and entertaining — was an informal spontaneous conversation with several current Peabody students, and some prospective students and their parents. This was while the professors were calling in the students one by one for their interviews. The high-schoolers were a bit nervous and awkward, and the college students were relaxed and happy and were not only helpful but were entertaining, too.

We also ate lunch in the dining hall, and prevailed upon a student who was apparently on general hang-out-and-answer-parent-questions duty to show us a dorm room. He happily let us see his own room, though I could tell he began to have second thoughts as he opened the door and remembered that it was a mess. He started apologizing, and we assured him and his roommate that we were accustomed to messes and would not freak out or hold it against him.

As for the interview itself, Jon Morgan has done this several times now, and is getting more comfortable with the process. Peabody does not require Composition majors to audition. It was just a review of the original music in his portfolio and a discussion about his own music and about music in general. He said it went well.

Jon Morgan on the landing of the grand staircase at Peabody Conservatory/JHU, with Bob behind him.

He has applied to both Peabody and the JHU main campus. If he gets into both, he can choose to enter the Dual Degree program, which means he would major in Music Composition at the conservatory and in whatever he wants at Hopkins. Usually this option takes five years.

If he gets into Peabody but not the rest of the university, he can major only within the music curriculum, but can still take courses (and minor) at JHU.

Like almost every other school he applied to, Peabody releases acceptances and financial aid offers on or around April 1.