December 23 Writer Birthdays

1597 – Martin Opitz, German poet, novelist, and editor who is considered the father of German poetry.

1657 – Hannah Duston, colonial American memoirist who was taken captive by the Abenaki people during King William’s War, in a raid in which 27 colonists were killed; shortly afterward, the Abenaki killed her newborn baby too. About six weeks later, Duston led a revolt, personally killing and scalping 10 of her captors and escaping in a canoe with two other captives. She became a folk hero and is believed to be the first American woman honored with a statue.

1714 – Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, Italian poet and librettist who was most famous for his collaboration with the composer Christoph Willibald Gluck.

1795 – Rósa Guðmundsdóttir, prominent Icelandic poet who wrote poems and folk songs.

1802 – Sara Coleridge, British writer, poet, translator, novelist, and linguist who was the only daughter of acclaimed poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

1804 – Charles-Augustin de Sainte-Beuve, French writer, poet, semi-autobiographical novelist, and literary critic.

1812 – Samuel Smiles, Scottish author and government reformer whose masterpiece, Self-Help, claimed that poverty was caused by irresponsible habits, while also attacking materialism and laissez-faire government; it has been called “the bible of mid-Victorian liberalism” and raised Smiles to celebrity status almost overnight

1828 – Mathilde Wesendonck, German writer, poet, and children’s author who was a friend and possibly mistress of composer Richard Wagner.

1858 – Vladimir Nemirovitch-Dantshenko, Russian playwright and novelist who co-founded the Moscow Art Theatre.

1860 – Ada Copeland King, African-American writer, geologist, and explorer who was born a slave and married geologist Clarence King, an upper-class white man who presented himself to her as a light-skinned black Pullman porter under the name of James Todd; he did not reveal his true identity to her until he was on his deathbed. They married in 1888, with King living as Todd with her, but as Clarence King while working in the field; he was also the first director of the United States Geological Survey. She died in 1964, one of the last of the former American slaves.

1860 – Harriet Monroe, American poet, scholar, literary critic, and patron of the arts; she was the founding publisher and long-time editor of Poetry magazine.

1862 – Henri Pirenne, Belgian historian and influential medievalist.

1881 – Juan Ramon Jimenez, prolific Nobel Prize-winning Spanish poet and prose writer praised “for his lyrical poetry, which in the Spanish language constitutes an example of high spirit and artistic purity.”

1886 – Albert Ehrenstein, Austrian-born German Expressionist poet whose work exemplifies rejection of bourgeois values and fascination with China.

1895 – Lilian Helen Bowes Lyon, British poet and novelist who was a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and whose work has been compared to tht of Christine Rossetti and Emily Dickinson. During World War I, Bowes Lyon helped nurse soldiers at Glamis Castle, being used as a convalescence home; her brother’s death in the war inspired her poem “Battlefield.” She suffered from Buerger’s Disease, eventually requiring amputations of toes, a foot, and eventually both legs, but continued to write even as the disease began to affect her hands.

1896 – Máiréad Ní Ghráda, Irish poet, playwright, and broadcaster.

1896 – Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Sicilian Italian novelist and essayist.

1902 – Norman Maclean, American short-story writer whose most famous work is the book A River Runs Through It and Other Stories; a film was made from the title story. As a student at Dartmouth College, Maclean served as editor-in-chief of the college humor magazine; the editor-in-chief to follow him was Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss — and who, according to MacLean, was “the craziest guy I ever met.”

1917 – Miriam Waddington, Canadian writer, poet, critic, short-story writer, and translator.

1922 – Calder Baynard Willingham, Jr., American novelist, short-story writer, and screenwriter whom The New Yorker described as having “fathered modern black comedy”; his screenplays include The Graduate and Little Big Man.

1923 – Leonard B. Stern, American screenwriter for television comedies including Get Smart; he was also co-creator of the Mad Lib.

1926 – Robert Bly, National Book Award-winning poet and men’s movement leader.

1929 – Alika Lindbergh (born Monique Dubois, but more commonly known as Monique Watteau), Belgian fantasy fiction writer and artist.

1931 – Sara Gallardo Drago Mitre, influential Argentine author and journalist.

1937 – Avi, pen name of Edward Irving Wortis, prolific Newbery-winning American children’s book author who wrote in many genres, including historical fiction, fantasy, graphic novels, comedy, mystery, ghost stories, adventure tales, realistic fiction, and picture books.

1937 – Vénus Khoury-Ghata, French and Lebanese writer, poet, novelist, editor, and translator who was Miss Beirut in 1959.

1938 – Migirdiç Margosyan, Turkish Armenian writer and novelist of Armenian descent.

1941 – Olive Senior, award-winning Jamaican poet, journalist, novelist, nonfiction author, and short-story writer now based in Canada.

1945 – Raymond E. Feist, bestselling American author of fantasy novels and short stories.

1952 – Muhammed Zafar Iqbal, Bangladeshi science-fiction author, activist, physicist, engineer, and professor.

1955 – Carol Ann Duffy, award-winning Scottish poet and playwright who was the first woman and the first Scot to be appointed Britain’s Poet Laureate.

1960 – Miyuki Miyabe, popular, award-winning Japanese author of science fiction, mystery, historical fiction, social commentary, children’s books, and young-adult literature; her work has been widely adapted for film, television, manga, and video games.

1963 – Donna Tartt, Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist and short-story writer who was included in Time magazine’s 2014 list of “100 Most Influential People.”

1965 – Martin Kratt, American nature writer, screenwriter, and television host who, with his brother Chris, created children’s educational television programs including Kratts’ Creatures.

1968 – Mohamed Saïd Raïhani, Moroccan translator, novelist, and short-story writer

1979 – Megan Mayhew Bergman, American short-story writer, journalist, essayist, columnist, environmental writer, and critic.

1980 – Ishmael Beah, Sierra Leonean writer, soldier, and human rights activist who rose to fame with his acclaimed memoir, A Long Way Gone, about being forced to be a child soldier at the age of 13.

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