October 24 Writer Birthdays

1788 – Sara Josepha Hale, American novelist, editor, and poet, best known for writing “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

1868 – Alexandra David-Néel (born Louise David), Belgian-French explorer, spiritualist, Buddhist, anarchist, and writer, best known for her 1924 visit to Lhasa, Tibet, when it was forbidden to foreigners

1904 – Moss Hart, Broadway playwright and director.

1915 – Bob Kane, writer and comic book artist, credited along with Bill Finger as the creator of the DC Comics superhero Batman.

1923 – Denise Levertov, National Book Award-nominated British-born American poet and essayist.

1927 – Barbara J. Robinson, American author best known for her children’s books.

1932 – Steven Covey, author of business and self-help books.

1932 – Ziraldo Alves Pinto, Brazilian author, painter, comic creator, and journalist, usually known as, simply, “Ziraldo.”

1933 – Norman Rush, National Book Award-winning American writer whose experiences in the Peace Corps influence his novels, which are set in Africa.

1952 – David Weber, bestselling American author of science fiction and fantasy novels, best known for his Honor Harrington series.

1956 – Dale Maharidge, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and journalist, best known for his collaborations with photographer Michael Williamson.

1967 – Grant Cogswell, eccentric American screenwriter, independent film producer, journalist, poet, and political activist .

1969 – Emma Donoghue, bestselling Irish-born playwright, literary historian, and novelist who was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize; she is best known for the novel Room.

Friday Five: Old School

These Egyptian figurines are some of the many items from the ancient world on display at the Vatican Museums. I photographed them there in 2012.

I don’t officially participate in Friday Five, a blog prompt that provides a list each week of five questions on one theme. But every now and then I hear about the questions and find them interesting. This is one of those times! These questions were the prompt for a few weeks ago. The topic: Things That Are Old.

1) What is the oldest thing you own? I have a coin from the 1860s, which we found behind the molding in our former home. I guess that’s the oldest manufactured thing. But I suppose the very oldest is quite a bit older: some Petoskey stones, which are fossilized coral from the Devonian period, which makes them roughly 400 million years old. Old enough?

2) What is the oldest home you’ve lived in? That one’s easy. My last year of college I lived on The Lawn, the oldest, most historic student residence at the University of Virginia. Thomas Jefferson — who founded the University about 10 years after he left the White House — designed the Lawn rooms himself. They date to 1819 and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And what an honor it was to live in such a beautiful and important place!

3) What is the oldest book you’ve read? I’ll assume this refers to when the book was written, not when the particular edition was published. The oldest I can think of that I have read would be Gilgamesh, which dates from 2100 BC.

4) What is the oldest electronic device that you still use? We have quite a few gadgets around that are considered old for electronic gizmos, but I couldn’t tell you just how old they are. (We also have some that are considerably older, but I can’t claim to actually use those still.) Probably a CD or DVD player from the 1990s. I also do have some electric things, like lamps, that are antiques, but I’ll assume we’re talking higher-tech.

5) What is the oldest work of art/architecture that you’ve seen? I’m not even going to try to pick just one here. I have seen various artifacts from Egypt and other parts of the ancient world, including at museums here in Washington, D.C., and New York, Rome, and London. The photo above shows a small part of the Ancient Egyptian collection at the Vatican Museums. I’m not going to do the research to determine what was the oldest single item I’ve seen there or at any museum or historic site; those little figurines will have to stand in for all the ancient items. Don’t they look a bit like an array of foil-wrapped chocolate Santas?

Photo Friday: Halloween Parade

The Del Ray Halloween Parade, usually on the Sunday before Halloween, is generally a highlight of the year here in the neighborhood. Everyone of any age is welcome to walk in the parade, with costumes encouraged for all. This year, some of the costume and decoration contests will take place online, but the in-person parade itself had to be canceled because of the pandemic. This Sunday would have been parade day. So for this week’s Photo Friday, I’m revisiting a past parade, and hoping that 2021 will bring better times.

Holy Costume Cavalcade, Batman! I took this photo at the 2018 Del Ray Halloween Parade, when superheroes and supervillains roamed the Avenue.

October 23 Writer Birthdays

1844 – Robert Bridges, British Poet Laureate and physician whose daughter was the poet Elizabeth Daryush.

1897 – Marjorie Flack, American children’s author and illustrator, best known for her book The Story About Ping (some sources give her birthday as Oct. 22).

1904 – Harvey Penick, American golfer and author of a bestselling guide to golf, The Little Red Book.

1929 – Jere Hoar, American short-story writer, screenwriter, journalist, professor, and author of scholarly articles.

1942 – Michael Crichton, American author of bestselling science-fiction thrillers; also a television producer, scientist, and professor, he was best known as the author of Jurassic Park and the Emmy-winning creator of the television drama ER.

1950 – Bruce Brooks, American writer of young adult and children’s literature.

1952 – Antjie Krog, South African poet, academic, and writer.

1961 – Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling American author of children’s and young-adult novels; two-time finalist for the National Book Award.

1962 – Matt Novak, American author and illustrator of children’s books; he has also worked as a Disney animator and a filmmaker.

1963 – Gordon Korman, Canadian author of children and young-adult fiction who sold his first book manuscript to Scholastic when he was a freshman in high school.

1965 – Augusten Burroughs (born Christopher Richter Robison) bestselling American writer of memoirs, essays, columns, and a novel.

1969 – Trudi Canavan, bestselling Australian fantasy author, graphic designer, and artist.

1973 – Matthew Quick, American teacher and author of bestselling young-adult novels; he is best known for his novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, which was made into an Oscar-winning film.

1974 – Aravind Adiga, Man Booker Prize-winning Indian author, essayist, and journalist.

1974 – Derek Landy, Irish fantasy author, children’s writer, and screenwriter.

October 21 Writer Birthdays

1772 – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English poet, philosopher, and literary critic, best known for his works The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan; he was one of the Lake Poets and is considered a founder (along with his friend, poet William Wordsworth) of the Romantic movement in English poetry.

1845 – William McKendree Carleton, American poet who wrote about rural life.

1846 – Edmondo De Amicis, Italian novelist, journalist, poet, children’s author, and short-story writer.

1850 – Salomé Ureña de Henríquez (better known as Salomé Ureña), revered Dominican Republic poet and educator.

1894 – Edogawa Ranpo, pen name of Japanese author and critic Tarō Hirai, who helped developed Japanese mystery fiction.

1904 – Patrick Kavanagh, Irish poet and novelist who is considered one of the foremost poets of the 20th century.

1914 – Martin Gardner, American popular math and science writer and puzzle creator; he wrote a math games column in Scientific American for many years.

1929 – Ursula K. LeGuin, American science-fiction and fantasy author, multiple winner of both the Hugo and the Nebula awards, and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; she has also written realistic fiction, essays, and children’s books, and was designated a Grand Master by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

1936 – Simon James Holliday Gray, English playwright, memoirist, and university lecturer.

1940 – Frances FitzGerald, American journalist and author, best known for her account of the Vietnam War.

1943 – Ann Cameron, popular author of children’s and young-adult books who works with Lake Atitlan Libraries, a foundation that aims to improve literacy by supporting libraries in Latin America.

1947 – Ai Ogawa, National Book Award-winning American poet whose original name was Florence Anthony.

1947 – Mary Pipher, American psychologist and author.

1952 – Patti Davis, actress, novelist, and autobiographer who is the daughter of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

1956 – Carrie Fisher, American actress, bestselling novelist, and screenwriter who was best known for her role as Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” film series; Fisher was the daughter of iconic actress, singer, and dancer Debbie Reynolds and singing star Eddie Fisher.

Priceless Family Heirloom

This thing is an ashtray, but it’s a little bigger than a football.

Someone asked if I have any treasured heirlooms, such as portraits of my ancestors, hanging on my walls. Actually, I do have one family heirloom on the wall, but it’s not a portrait. In fact, it’s kind of a family joke.

Once upon a time, when ashtrays were a thing, my grandmother had these enormous, tacky, iridescent ceramic ashtrays ornamented with big sculpted roses on them and the family name in gilded lettering. She gave one to my parents. Back in the 1980s, they sold it at a garage sale. They didn’t know a neighbor bought it with a plan in mind. Years later, the neighbor wrapped it up and gave it to my mom as a joke gift. I am the only daughter who kept our maiden name, so my mother eventually gave it to me. It is so over the top that I proudly and gleefully hung it on the wall. I love it!

October 19 Writer Birthdays

1835 – Krišjānis Barons, Latvian writer, folklorist, and journalist who worked to preserve, catalog, and publish works of Latvian folk culture.

1835 – Amanda Theodosia Jones, American author, poet, and inventor who invented a vacuum method of canning called the Jones Process.

1856 – Elín Rannveig Briem (née Eiriksdóttir), Icelandic teacher and writer who published one of Iceland’s most popular books, Kvennafræðarinn (The Women’s Instructor), which was primarily a cookbook but which also provided advice on health, hygiene, and economics.

1899 – Miguel Ángel Asturias, Nobel Prize-winning Guatemalan writer of “vivid literary achievement, deep-rooted in the national traits and traditions of Indian peoples of Latin America.”

1908 – Olga Lengyel, Hungarian Jewish author who survived the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during World War II and wrote about her experiences in her book Five Chimneys; she was the only member of her immediate family to survive the Holocaust.

1922 – Ebrahim Golestan, Iranian novelist, screenwriter, photographer, writer, translator, journalist, film director, and literary critic.

1922 – Elsa Joubert, South African Sestigers Afrikaans-language novelist, short-story writer, autobiographer, and travel writer whose novel Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena (The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena) was translated into 13 languages and also staged as a drama.

1922 – Shanta Shelke, Indian Marathi poet, writer, short-story writer, journalist, translator, children’s author, and music composer whose pen name was Vasant Avsare.

1924 – Nirendranath Chakravarty, Indian Bengali writer, poet, and children’s author.

1931 – Ed Emberley, American author and illustrator of books that teach children how to draw.

1931 – John le Carré, bestselling British author of espionage novels; many of his books have been adapted for film or television.

1937 – Renata Adler, American author, journalist, and film critic whose books include Speedboat and Pitch Dark.

1942 – Andrew Vachss, American attorney and author of crime fiction.

1943 – L.E. Modesitt, prolific American science-fiction and fantasy novelist who also writes technical studies and articles, columns, poetry, and short stories. About writing, he says, “The bottom line is simple: As a writer, you first must entertain your readers. To keep them beyond a quick and final read, you have to do more than that, whether it’s to educate them, make them feel, anger them by challenging their preconceptions—or all of that and more. But if you don’t entertain first, none of what else you do matters, because they won’t stay around.”

1946 – Sir Philip Pullman, award-winning, bestselling, and sometimes controversial British novelist who wrote the YA fantasy masterpiece “His Dark Materials,” beginning with the book Northern Lights (titled The Golden Compass in the U.S.); among many other works, he has also written a fictionalized biography, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. The Times has named him one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945, and a BBC poll called him the eleventh most influential person in British culture.

1947 – Bárbara Jacobs,Mexican writer, poet, essayist, and translator.

1955 – Dan Gutman, American children’s author, especially of school stories and books about sports.

1960 – Susan Straight, National Book Award finalist American novelist celebrated for her book Highwire Moon.

1962 – Tracy Rose Chevalier, American-British historical novelist and screenwriter whose novel Girl with a Pearl Earring was adapted for film.

1963 – Mark Behr, award-winning Tanzanian-born author and professor whose work dealt with themes of violence, racism, nationalism, militarization, masculinity, and colonialism.

1966 – Jennifer Zeng, Chinese writer, autobiographer, and human rights activist.

October 18 Writer Birthdays

1569 – Giambattista Marino, influential Italian poet; founder of the school of Marinism, characterized by the use of extravagant conceits.

1638 – Lars (Lasse) Johnstown, Swedish baroque poet, usually referred to by his pseudonym, Lucidor.

1701 – Charles le Beau, French historian, writer, and educator.

1741 – Pierre Ambroise François Choderlos de Laclos, French general and controversial author, best known for his epistolary novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons), which was considered scandalous in his day; he also invented the modern artillery shell.

1777 – Heinrich von Kleist, German dramatist, poet, and novelist.

1785 – Thomas Love Peacock, author, poet, and essayist.

1865 – Logan Pearsall Smith, American-born essayist and critic who became a British citizen; he was especially known for his aphorisms and epigrams.

1889 – Fannie Hurst, novelist who frequently wrote about women as the subject of economic and social discrimination.

1894 – H.L. Davis, Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist and poet.

1895 – Raymond Brulez, Flemish author and broadcaster, known for his skepticism.

1897 – Isabel Briggs Myers, American psychological theorist and author, best known for the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, a personality assessment she created with her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs.

1948 – Ntozake Shange, American poet and playwright whose work explores issues of race and feminism.

1950 – Wendy Wasserstein, Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright and professor.

1951 – Terry McMillan, bestselling American novelist.

October 17 Writer Birthdays

1517 – Amalia of Cleves (sometimes spelled Amelia), German writer, poet, and princess who was the sister of Anne of Cleves and was descended from the kings of both England and France.

1711 – Jupiter Hammon, poet and slave who was the first African-American to be a published writer in the United States.

1719 – Jacques Cazotte, French author of romantic fiction, poety, and children’s stories.

1720 – Geneviève Thiroux d’Arconville. French writer, science writer, essayist, translator, chemist, biologist, and anatomist who is remembered for her work on the subject of putrefaction.

1725 – John Wilkes, outspoken English journalist and politician.

1813 – Georg Büchner, German playwright, poet, and author who was also a revolutionary, a natural scientist, and the brother of physician and philosopher Ludwig Büchner.

1827 – Samuel Ringgold Ward, African-American abolitionist who escaped slavery to become a minister and author.

1846 – Mary Davies (also known as Mair Eifion), award-winning Welsh poet.

1864 – Elinor Glyn, British novelist and scriptwriter whose romantic fiction was considered scandalous in her day.

1897 – Ștefana Velisar Teodoreanu, Romanian poet, novelist, and translator who was part of the Poporanist traditionalism movement, with her work infused with moral themes from Romanian Orthodoxy and with echoes of modernist literature.

1898 – Simon Vestdijk, Dutch doctor who gave up medicine and became instead a novelist, poet, and essayist; he is considered one of the Netherlands’ most important 20th century writers.

1903 – Nathanael West (born Nathan Weinstein) American novelist, screenwriter, and satirist.

1915 – Arthur Miller, Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright, essayist, novelist, and screenwriter; his second wife was actress Marilyn Monroe.

1917 – Sumner Locke Elliott, Australian-born American novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and actor.

1920 – Miguel Delibes, Spanish novelist, journalist, and newspaper editor.

1927 – Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi, internationally known Pakistani scholar and author in the field of spiritualism; he heads the Azeemia Sufi order, presenting spiritualism in a modern and scientific way.

1930 – Jimmy Breslin, Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, columnist, and author.

1936 – Doodhnath Singh, award-winning Indian Hindi writer, critic, literary analyst, poet, and playwright.

1937 – Mustapha Tlili, Tunisian writer, novelist, and United Nations official.

1944 – Ann Pilling, award-winning English author and poet best known for young-adult fiction; she has also written horror fiction under the pen name Ann Cheetham.

1945 – Choi In-ho, award-winning South Korean novelist, short-story writer, and professor, some of whose books were considered controversial; his works were translated into many languages and several were adapted for television. In his youth, he was known as a prodigious drinker, and his hand-prints were memorialized on the sidewalk in the Seoul neighborhood where he frequently drank. His writing depicts harsh and satirical landscapes of the results of consumerism, often focusing on people caught in the middle of a rapidly industrializing Korea.

1946 – Drusilla Modjeska, English-born Australian writer and editor whose work often explores the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction.

1948 – Robert Jordan (pen name for James Oliver Rigney Jr.), American writer, fantasy author, novelist, and military officer who is beloved for his Wheel of Time book series, which was finished by author Brandon Sanderson upon Jordan’s death; he is one of the original writers of the Conan the Barbarian novels and also wrote historical fiction under his pseudonym Reagan O’Neal, a western as Jackson O’Reilly, and dance criticism as Chang Lung. Additionally, he ghostwrote an “international thriller” that is generally believed to have been written by someone else.

1950 – Wally Lamb, award-winning American author of such novels as She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True; he has also taught creative writing to college students and in a program for incarcerated women.

1959 – Threes Anna (pseudonym for Threes Schreurs), Dutch novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker.

1961 – David Means, award-winning American novelist and writer of short stories whose best known books are the short-story collections A Quick Kiss of Redemption and The Secret Goldfish.

1963 – Beatriz Hernanz, Spanish writer, poet, literary critic, and translator.

1965 – Anna Leahy, American writer, poet, essayist, nonfiction author, and professor.

1966 – Mark Gatiss, British actor, screenwriter, comedian, television and film director, science-fiction writer and novelist who is best known for his work on the television series Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Game of Thrones.

Photo Friday: Green Eyes

I just learned that today is Global Cat Day. So here is a global cat. Specifically, it’s an Italian cat. I was with a small group that was having a cooking lesson with a Tuscan chef, in her lovely old villa in the hills around Florence. After we finished making the meal, we stepped outside onto the patio to eat it. Her fluffy, green-eyed friend had already claimed one of the wicker chairs, and I couldn’t resist taking a photo. Then we sat down to a truly amazing meal. I can still taste the homemade pasta and perfectly fried squash blossoms.

My original photo was in full color, but I converted it to black-and-white with spot color to emphasize the cat’s beautiful green eyes. The eyes are the actual, untouched-up color. This kind of manipulation was not easy to do at the time, which was before the availability of free online photo editing programs. I didn’t have Photoshop, but achieved the effect slowly and painstakingly using Microsoft Paint.