Cutting in Line, Part Two

Last week I posted here and on Facebook about being disgusted by Vice President Pence and his wife receiving the covid vaccine as part of the first group to get it — after we were all told we’d have to wait our turn because the first group of people to be vaccinated would be medical professionals. Shortly afterward, President-Elect Biden and his wife also received it, as did members of Congress.

I disapprove of all politicians cutting the covid vaccine line, even politicians I support. So I posted on Facebook again, pointing out that Biden and his wife are not in the healthcare field and should also not be allowed to ignore the guidelines and get vaccinated before their turn.

A few of my friends completely agreed with me. But I was surprised at how many more disagreed. Most of them responded that government leaders are in essential jobs and should receive the vaccine first. (Not a single one explained why they consider family members of Biden and Pence to be government leaders.) But my post wasn’t about my opinion of who should be first. My post was about clearly stated government guidelines that are being flouted. A few completely ignored the fact that the post they were responding to was about Biden, not Pence, and accused me of believing that only politicians I support should get vaccinated, though they know I am a Biden supporter.

Reasonable people can disagree on who should have priority. But my post wasn’t about any person’s opinion of who should have priority. And I don’t believe reasonable people can disagree on whether it’s OK for the government to lie to us about this. We were told medical professionals would be first. Many doctors and nurses who deal with covid patients every day have not yet been able to get vaccinated; yet, politicians have. So politicians have been placed before many healthcare workers — or have placed themselves there — despite the stated priorities. In other words, the government lied in saying medical professionals would get it first. That is a fact.

If politicians were supposed to be in the first group, that should have been spelled out. Strangely, some people tried to argue that politicians are essential workers, so the government did not lie. But the CDC guidelines are very clear, and we’ve all heard it touted over and over again: the first group to get the vaccination is medical professionals. Nobody else. People in other “essential” jobs are mentioned in the priority list, but they are actually in the third group, not the first. And the essential jobs listed don’t even include government leaders.

Is the stated priority list a sham? Is there a different list, one that is not being publicized, that gives our government’s real priorities for who is expendable and who is not?

Or did the CDC design its guidelines based on sound scientific reasons, only to have politicians flout the rules and jump to the head of the line?

Either way, I’m left with less reason to trust that our government gives a damn about us. I know, we already had ample reason to feel that way about the current administration, but now it seems that the incoming administration is complicit.

People say it’s good that our leaders are getting vaccinated in public, because it will convince others that they can trust that the vaccination is safe. Largely, the people who are suspicious of the vaccine are those who have been denying the pandemic all year. Pence’s actions might sway them — though Pence has been ignoring the science all year, too, so his actions shouldn’t sway anyone who cares about facts. But these people have no respect for Biden; I don’t see why seeing him vaccinated will make any difference to them. Besides, few of them can get vaccinated yet, anyway. They are, for the most part, not medical professionals. Medical professionals already know the importance of the vaccine. By the time the doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers have been vaccinated, we will have millions of examples of people receiving it safely, proof that it isn’t harmful. And that proof will come from people who actually know what they’re talking about. So I don’t see why there is any urgent reason to let Pence’s supporters know right now that it’s safe.

I guess the part that bothers me the most is that people I respect can’t seem to understand what I’m saying. That my argument is not about my opinion or their opinion of who should be first. It is about a rule that has been broken, and a very public lie to the American people.

December 21 Writer Birthdays

1702 – Tommaso Crudeli, Florentine Italian poet, lawyer, and champion of free thought who was imprisoned by the Roman Inquisition.

1804 – Sir Benjamin Disraeli (1st Earl of Beaconsfield, nicknamed “Dizzy”), British Tory statesman and pioneer of the political novel.

1829 – Laura Bridgman, American writer, poet, and teacher who was the first deaf and blind American child to gain a significant education in the English language, fifty years before the more famous Helen Keller; she lost her sight and hearing at the age of two, due to scarlet fever, and learned to read and communicate using Braille and a manual alphabet, gaining celebrity status when Charles Dickens wrote about her accomplishments in his American Notes.

1840 – Namik Kemal, Turkish Ottoman writer, poet, politician, historian, journalist, playwright, and political activist who championed freedom; his works had a powerful impact on future reform movements in Turkey.

1853 – Isolde Kurz, German poet, author, short-story writer, and translator who is highly regarded among lyric poets in Germany; her short stories are distinguished by a fine sense of form and clear-cut style.

1854 – Hason Raja, Bengali Indian mystic poet, author, and songwriter from what is now Bangladesh; in his time, he was a key figure in Bengali culture.

1859 – Gustave Kahn, French symbolist poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, and art critic who claimed to have invented the term vers libre, or free verse.

1872 – Albert Payson Terhune, American author and dog breeder, known for his books about dogs.

1892 – Amy Key Clarke, English mystical poet, nonfiction writer, memoirist, and teacher.

1892 – Rebecca West, pen name of Cicely Isabel Fairfield, British author, journalist, literary critic, and travel writer who said, “People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.”

1900 – Oda Schaefer (also known as Oda Lange and Oda Krus), German writer, poet, playwright, and journalist; during World War II she wrote for officially sanctioned publications but was secretly an enemy of the Nazi regime and helped hide Jews.

1905 – Anthony Powell, English novelist best known for his twelve-volume work A Dance to the Music of Time.

1915 – Helle Busacca, Italian poet, painter, and writer whose work shows a profound originality and incisiveness and combines a deep knowledge of classicism with the influence of modern poetry from diverse origins and cultures.

1917 – Diana Athill, British literary editor, novelist, short-story writer, nonfiction writer, and memoirist who worked with some of the most important writers of the 20th century.

1917 – Heinrich Böll, Nobel Prize-winning German author whose is credited with renewing German literature through a “combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterization.”

1919 – Ivan Blatný, Czechoslovakian poet who was part of Group 42, an artistic movement influenced by civilism, cubism, futurism, constructivism, and surrealism; he lived in exile in the U.K. after the Communist seizure of power in his native land.

1932 – Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthamurthy, award-winning Indian writer and critic in the Kannada language who was a fervent critic of nationalistic political parties and is considered a pioneer of the Navya movement.

1932 – Edward Hoagland, American essayist, travel writer, and nature writer; he joined the circus for two summers as a teenager, helping to tend the big cats, and wrote a novel, Cat Man, about the experience while an undergraduate at Harvard.

1936 – Adam Small, South African writer of the Black Consciousness movement; his work, written in English and Afrikaans, dealt with racial discrimination and satirized the political situation.

1940 – Rolf Sagen, award-winning Norwegian novelist, short-story writer, poet, and children’s author.

1942 – Anthony Summers, Irish biographer, bestselling nonfiction author, and Pulitzer Prize finalist who is also known for his conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Marilyn Monroe.

1955 – Brahim Dargouthi, Tunisian novelist, short-story writer, and teacher who is 460th in Arabian Business‘s ranking of the 500 most influential Arabs.

1958 – Hwang In-suk, award-winning South Korean poet and prose writer.

1970 – Ryoko Sekiguchi, Japanese writer, poet, translator, and linguist; she writes books in both Japanes and French.

1975 – Jemele Juanita Hill, American sports journalist and columnist.

1975 – Srijato Bandopadhyay (often called just Srijato), award-winning Indian poet, novelist, and lyricist in the Bengali language.

1978 – Julia Butschkow, award-winning Danish poet, novelist, short-story writer, and playwright.

1992 – Bisola Biya (born Abisola Esther Biya), Nigerian author best known for her book Life Lessons… My Path to Happiness, a work described as “a timely expression of Nigeria’s socio-economic reality, with viable advice on how to counter the demons of contemporary society and achieve all-round intelligence.”

December 20 Writer Birthdays

1808 – Laura Smith Haviland, Canadian abolitionist, suffragette, and social reformer who was an important figure in the history of the Underground Railroad.

1838 – Edwin Abbott Abbott, English schoolmaster and theologian, best known for the satirical novella Flatland.

1875 – Theodore Francis Powys (published as T.F. Powys), British novelist and short-story writer who is best remembered for his allegorical novel Mr. Weston’s Good Wine, in which Weston the wine merchant is evidently God.

1875 – Marie de Régnier (also known by her maiden name Marie de Heredia and her pen-name Gérard d’Houville), French writer, poet, novelist, journalist, and children’s writer who was a key figure in the artistic circles of early 20th-century Paris).

1880 – Sara Cecilia Görvell Fabricius (better known by her pen name Cora Sandel), Norwegian writer and painter whose most famous works are the novels now known as the Alberta Trilogy.

1883 – Marjorie Paget (Marchioness of Anglesey), British writer, art historian, biographer, artist, and illustrator.

1891 – Maria Skobtsova (born Elizaveta Yurievna Pilenko, and known as Mother Maria, or Saint Mary of Paris), Russian writer, poet, and member of the French Resistance during World War II; she died in a Nazi concentration camp and was canonized as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

1894 – Mara Ðordevic-Malagurski, prominent Serbian writer, playwright, and ethnographer who sometimes wrote under the pen name Nevenka.

1899 – Claudia Lars (born Margarita del Carmen Brannon Vega), award-winning Salvadoran poet, writer, and translator who was appointed cultural attaché to the Embassy of El Salvador in Guatemala.

1902 – Vasil Iljoski, Macedonian writer, dramatist, and professor who was an important figure in Macedonian literature.

1904 – Yevgenia (Eugenia) Solomonovna Ginzburg, Russian author, memoirist, and journalist who served an 18-year sentence in the Gulag as a political prisoner.

1905 – Galina Iosifovna Serebryakova, Polish-Russian writer, journalist, opera singer, and Gulag survivor; her most ambitious writing project was a three-volume fictionalized life of Karl Marx.

1911 – Hortense Calisher, American writer of neo-realist fiction who was the second female president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters; she was also an activist for abortion rights. Her books were known for extensive exploration of her characters; complex plots; imagination and daring; and allusive, nuanced language that was at odds with the minimalism typical of fiction at the time.

1920 – Väinö Linna, Finnish author best known for his novel, Tuntematon sotilas (The Unknown Soldier).

1927 – David Markson, American author of postmodernist novels, including Wittgenstein’s Mistress.

1951 – Kate Atkinson, postmodern British novelist and playwright whose work has been described as “Kurt Vonnegut meets Jane Austen.”

1951 – Peter May, Scottish novelist known for his crime fiction.

1954 – Sandra Cisneros, Mexican-American novelist, acclaimed for her first novel The House on Mango Street.

1957 – Lulu Delacre, prolific Puerto Rican author and illustrator of award-winning children’s books that celebrate Latino heritage and promote cultural diversity.

1960 – Nalo Hopkinson, Jamaican-born Canadian science-fiction and fantasy author of novels and short stories whose work often draws on Caribbean history and language, and on its traditions of oral and written storytelling.

1969 – Alain de Botton, bestselling British-based Swiss writer, philosopher, essayist, television presenter, and entrepreneur whose books and television shows emphasize philosophy’s relevance to everyday life.

1973 – Nadège Noële Ango Obiang, Gabonese short-story writer, playwright, romance author, poet, and economist.

1973 – Maarja Kangro, Estonian poet, short-story writer, librettist, and translator.

Plot Your Novel: Day 5

Friday was the final day of the Plot Your Novel in Just Five Days challenge, which puts together all the pieces from the preceding four days. The title of the lesson: Proof the Route.

Just a few of the issues discussed:

What is the difference between suspense and tension? (Suspense is a function of story; tension is a function of scene) And what is the difference between momentum and pace? (Momentum is a function of story; pace is a function of scene).

Is every story progression logical and inevitable? Characters who knowingly make stupid, counterproductive decisions without good reason end up alienating readers. Realistic characters choose the easiest way to move toward their goals; if your story requires them to choose the difficult, complicated way — as it usually will — you have to make that the logical choice by cutting them off from easier options. Characters’ reasons for their actions must make sense within the context of the story.

Is every scene essential to carry your protagonist to the final destination? Is it inevitable, given what has come before? Scenes should not exist just to provide background information. They should move the story along, as well. Each scene should move the story somewhere along a path either from a high point to a low point or from a low point to a high point. The story must always be on an upward or downward arc.

By the end of the novel, does the protagonist achieve his or her goal? It is fine if the character does not. But the character and situation must change in some way. The destination should be different from the starting point, even if it isn’t the destination the character had in mind at the start.

The worksheet for Day 5 is a checklist for making sure these and other issues are addressed.

The questions we were supposed to answer on the group page weren’t specifically about our plot, but look ahead to our goals for the book: How long will it be? When will we have the book finished? And who will we share these goals with? My answers: 60,000 words by the end of April. And the person I will share the goal with is the person who originated the project and is serving as my editor or publisher.

So that’s it. The five-day challenge is complete. I think it’s been useful, and hope to be able to move ahead with this plot now.

December 19 Writer Birthdays

1036 – Su Tung-p’o, greatest poet of the Chinese Sung Dynasty, often under fire in his day for satirizing government policies.

1723 – Susanne Katharina Seiffart von Klettenberg, German abbess, writer, poet, artist, and philosopher who was a friend of the writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his mother; he shaped a character, “Beautiful Soul,” after Klettenberg in his novel Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship.

1753 – John Taylor of Caroline, American writer and politician who authored books on agriculture and politics and served as a Virginia State Delegate and U.S. Senator.

1796 – Manuel Breton de los Herreros, prolific Spanish playwright and librarian.

1820 – Mary Ashton Livermore, American journalist, nonfiction author, lecturer, abolitionist, and advocate for women’s rights, including reproductive rights.

1852 – Flora Shaw (Lady Lugard), English journalist, writer, and novelist for children and young adults. As a journalist she traveled around the world covering politics and economics and was widely regarded as one of the greatest journalists of her time; she is credited with coining the name “Nigeria.”

1861 – Italo Svevo, Italian novelist best known for The Confessions of Zeno.

1875 – Carter Woodson, African-American author, historian, and journalist who was born to parents who were former slaves and grew up to earn a PhD and become a pioneering writer of Black history.

1895 – Ingeborg Refling-Hagen, Norwegian novelist and poet who was arrested for her work with the Resistance during World War II; her writings and activities in support of the arts made her a significant cultural figure in Norway during much of the 20th century.

1900 – Thelma L. Strabel, American novelist who specialized in tales of the American South and sea adventures; she is best known for her novel Reap the Wild Wind, which was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post and became a successful film.

1901 – Oliver La Farge, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and anthropologist whose work focused on Native American culture.

1908 – Gisèle Freund, German-born French photographer and photojournalist, famous for her documentary photography and portraits of writers and artists; her best-known book, Photographie et société, is about the uses and abuses of the photographic medium in the age of technological reproduction.

1910 – Jean Genet, French novelist and political activist.

1910 – Jose Lezama Lima, Cuban poet and lawyer who was one of the most influential figures in Latin American literature.

1916 – Manoel Wenceslau Leite de Barros, award-winning Brazilian poet who is regarded by critics as one of the great names of contemporary Brazilian poetry.

1916 – Ann Mari Falk, award-winning Swedish writer, children’s author, and translator.

1922 – Hanny Michaelis, award-winning Jewish Dutch poet and translator who lived in hiding during World War II; h er parents were sent to Sobibór in 1943 and never returned; much of her work has a prevailing tone of loneliness and despair, although her last collection of poems also has moments of hope and humor.

1923 – Robert V. Bruce, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian who specialized in the history of the American Civil War period; he is best known for the book The Launching of Modern American Science, 1846–1876.

1928 – Eve Bunting, prolific Irish author of children’s and young-adult books.

1929 – Barbara Kimenye, prolific British-born Ugandan writer who was one of East Africa’s most popular and bestselling children’s authors; she is best remembered for her Moses series, about a mischievous student at a boarding school for troublesome boys.

1942 – Jean-Patric Manchette, French crime novelist and screenwriting credited with reinventing and reinvigorating the crime novel genre; his books are violent explorations of the human condition and French society.

1944 – Richard Leakey, award-winning Kenyan paleoanthropologist, conservationist, and politician who was the son of Louis and Mary Leakey, and who, like his parents, is a groundbreaking paleoanthropologist whose work has shed light on the origins of humanity.

1946 – Miguel Piñero, Puerto Rican poet, playwright, actor, and leading member of the Nuyorican literary movement; he co-founded the Nuyorican Poets Café.

1950 – Péter Tímár, Hungarian screenwriter and film director.

1952 – Sean O’Brien, award-winning British poet, critic, and playwright who is well known for his collection of poems The Drowned Book.

1954 – Tim Parks, award-winning British novelist, short-story writer, translator, and professor.

1960 – Daniel Silva, American author of bestselling thrillers and spy novels; most of his books center around the character Gabriel Allon, an Israeli art restorer, spy, and assassin.

1965 – Tridip Suhrud, Indian writer, translator, cultural historian, and political scientist.

1967 – Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and musician who considers himself a “self-taught modern New England transcendentalist.”

1970 – Nagaru Tanigawa, award-winning Japanese author, children’s writer, manga writer, and science-fiction writer.

1972 – Ena Lucía Portela, Cuban novelist, essayist, and short-story writer whose work focuses on lesbian subjects.

1974 – Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, Saudi Arabian-born Filipina writer, journalist, women’s advocate, environmentalist, and legislator.

1975 – Brandon Sanderson, Hugo Award-winning American science-fiction and fantasy author who completed Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series as well as writing many of his own original works.

1979 – Robin Sloan, American author who is best known for his bestselling debut novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore.

1980 – Victoria Koblenko, Ukrainian-born Dutch columnist, writer, actress, and television presenter.

1982 – Ndaba Thembekile Zweliyajika Mandela, South African author, spokesperson, AIDS activist, and political consultant who is the grandson of Nelson Mandela, the founder of the Mandela Project, and the co-founder and co-chair of Africa Rising Foundation.

1984 – Mariko Asabuki, award-winning Japanese novelist who was named one of Vogue Japan‘s 2011 Women of the Year.

Plot Your Novel: Day 4

I didn’t have time to post about this yesterday, which was Day 4 of the online Plot Your Novel in Just Five Days workshop I’ve been working my way through. So I guess I should recap it now.

Day 4’s lesson was about defining some of the minor challenges (the intermediate ones that go in between the major ones we already came up with. We were asked to come up with some of the challenges or obstacles that go along one “leg” of the story’s journey, and plot them on the diagram we made the day before. For each one, we were supposed to doublecheck each plot point to be sure that each scene is essential, in that it raises the stakes, advances the character along his or her arc, or advances the plot. Or even better, does all three.

The questions asked on the Facebook page this time were more about what we’ve learned this week than about the specifics of my plot: “In the past four days, how have your beliefs about plot shifted? Did you come in believing you couldn’t plot and now you can? How have you changed?”

Overall, I don’t think I learned anything new about plotting. But I did get some guidance on reframing my way of thinking about the plot of my current manuscript. My answer: “I wouldn’t say my ideas about plot have shifted. But the discussion has helped me realize I need to increase the urgency at a particular turning point in my book, so now I’m adding a time limit to put more pressure on my characters.”

Cutting in Line for the Covid Vaccine

What hypocrites. Vice President Pence and his wife got their first covid19 vaccinations today. Members of Congress should all have theirs by next week. And yet, the rest of us are told we can’t get the vaccine yet because medical personnel have top priority.

I don’t mind waiting my turn behind doctors and nurses and sick people. But I am completely ticked off — though not surprised — that politicians are happy to ignore CDC guidelines to benefit themselves. I knew this would happen. We should not be making exceptions to the priority list, especially for people like Pence who played a large part in causing the deaths of 300,000 Americans. His sense of entitlement is disgusting.

Don’t tell me he is a hero for getting it publicly, that he is setting a good example for his followers who are wary of the vaccine. He is setting an example of ignoring public health guidelines — which he’s been doing for most of the year. He is setting an example of putting himself ahead of the country. For months, he has been lying about the severity of the pandemic. As chair of one of the administration’s covid task forces, he refused to recommend national policies to place public health over self-interest. He has denied states the equipment needed to fight the virus. He has often appeared in public without a mask. He has repeatedly ignored CDC guidelines and held large gatherings — including one a few days ago — and as if that’s not risky enough, he has attended these gatherings without a mask and has not required his guests to wear masks either. After being exposed to someone who tested positive, he ignored the rules and refused to quarantine.

His defenders say that seeing him get vaccinated on camera will increase public trust in the vaccine. I think seeing him place himself above the medical professionals who were supposed to get it first will erode public trust in this administration’s ability and willingness to save American lives.

Personally, I think that every public official who has publicly lied about the virus or ignored the CDC guidelines should automatically be moved to the end of the priority list for the vaccine. Instead, they are allowed to cut in line to save themselves, and the rest of us be damned.

Photo Friday: Christmas Past

Can you believe Christmas is next week? I am so not ready. We haven’t even put up our Christmas tree yet. So to get into the spirit, here is a photo from Christmas Past, complete with a decorated tree. This was taken on December 25, 2012. So it’s eight years ago, and my son is 10 years old and dressed like one of Santa’s elves, in his candy-cane striped pajamas.

A lot of things have changed since this photo was taken in 2012. We have a different house and a taller tree. And Jon Morgan is 18 now, and 6-foot-3. His hair has darkened considerably since his blonder days, but it’s just as untameably curly.

December 18 Writer Birthdays

1828 – Abraham Viktor Rydberg, important Swedish novelist categorized as a classical idealist; he has been called “Sweden’s last Romantic.”

1847 – Augusta Holmès, French composer, writer, poet, librettist, and pianist who published some of her work under the pseudonym Hermann Zenta; she wrote the lyrics to almost of her musical works.

1856 – Graciano López Jaena, Filipino journalist, orator, propagandist, and revolutionary, best known for his written work, La Solidaridad

1870 – Saki, pen name of British writer Hector Hugh Munro, known for his witty short stories.

1889 – Elsie Edith Bowerman, British lawyer, writer, suffragist, and RMS Titanic survivor.

1903 – Rokhl Auerbakh (also spelled Rokhl Oyerbakh and Rachel Auerbach), Israeli writer, essayist, historian, Holocaust scholar, and Holocaust survivor who wrote prolifically in both Polish and Yiddish, focusing on prewar Jewish cultural life and postwar Holocaust documentation and witness testimonies.

1907 – Christopher Fry, English poet and playwright whose dramas written in verse made him a key dramatist of the 1940s and 50s.

1913 – Alfred Bester, American science-fiction author, screenwriter, and magazine editor who won the first-ever Hugo award; he is credited with helping to invent modern science fiction.

1917 – Ossie Davis, African-American dramatist, screenwriter, novelist, and actor who wrote the play Purlie Victorious and its musical adaptation Purlie, about a Southern Black preacher who hopes to establish a racially integrated church; he was married to the American actress and civil rights activist Ruby Dee.

1918 – Hal Kanter, American screenwriter and comedy writer who penned movies and television shows and created the pioneering sitcom Julia, starring Diahann Carroll as Julia Baker, a widowed nurse bringing up a young son alone; it was the first show to feature a Black female lead.

1925 – Geulah Cohen, award-winning Israeli writer, journalist, publisher, and politician who founded the Tehiya party.

1927 – Sterling Lanier, American science-fiction and fantasy writer, editor, and sculptor; as an editor, his greatest contribution was championing the publication of the manuscript for what became Frank Herbert’s bestselling novel Dune.

1927 – Marilyn Sachs, award-winning American children’s and young-adult novelist who has written more than 30 books.

1932 – Na. Parthasarathy, award-winning Indian journalist, magazine editor, and writer of Tamil-language historical novels; his many pen names include Theeran, Aravindan, Manivannan, Ponmudi, Valavan, Kadalazhagan, Ilampooranan, and Sengulam Veerasinga Kavirayar.

1935 – Jacques Pépin, French chef, author, and television personality who has written many cookbooks.

1939 – Michael Moorcock, English author of science-fiction, fantasy, and literary novels.

1943 – Violet Barungi, Ugandan writer, novelist, children’s author, and editor.

1946 – Steve Biko, South African writer, political organizer, and anti-apartheid activist who published articles under the pseudonym Frank Talk, and whose best known work is the book I Write What I Like: Selected Writings and The Testimony Of Steve Biko: Black Consciousness in South Africa. After being tortured and beaten by state security officers, he died of a massive brain hemorrhage in 1977.

1948 – Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, fantasy author, children’s novelist, screenwriter, and poet whose most famous contribution to children’s fantasy is the bestselling Little Vampire series; Sommer-Bodenburg says her vampire “is not a bloodthirsty monster, however, but an affectionate little vampire with fears and foibles who will perhaps help free children of their own fears.” The books have been adapted to theatre, radio, cinema, and television.

1949 – Koigi wa Wamwere, Kenyan writer, politician, human-rights activist, and journalist and writer, famous for opposing both the Jomo Kenyatta and the Daniel arap Moi regimes, both of which sent him to detention.

1950 – Leonard Maltin, American film critic, film historian, and author.

1961 – A.M. Homes, controversial, award-winning American writer; her novel The End Of Alice raised hackles for its subject matter, a convicted child molester and murderer.

1971 – Barkha Dutt, award-winning Indian television journalist, editor, and columnist.

1973 – Lucy Worsley, English historian, young-adult novelist, nonfiction author, Jane Austen biographer, curator, and television presenter. She is best known as a BBC presenter on historical topics, especially about the English aristocracy.

1974 – Mazarine Marie Pingeot, French writer, journalist, essayist, philosopher, and professor.

1981 – Nives Celzijus Drpić (born Nives Zeljković), Croatian columnist, writer, model, and singer; her husband is Greek football player Dino Drpić.

December 17 Writer Birthdays

1556 – Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana, Indian Muslim poet and government minister, also known as simply Rahim; he was known for his Hindi dohe (couplets) and his books on astrology.

1807 – John Greenleaf Whittier, American Quaker poet and abolitionist.

1823 – Teréz Ferenczy, Hungarian poet who was only just beginning to see her works published when her shocking suicide brought her poems to wider prominence, with most of them published posthumously.

1830 – Jules de Goncourt, French novelist who published books together with his brother Edmond.

1873 – Ford Madox Ford (born Joseph Leopold Ford Hermann Madox Hueffer), prolific English novelist, poet, essayist, memoirist, critic, and editor best known for his novel The Good Soldier.

1884 – Alison Uttley (born Alice Jane Taylor), prolific English novelist, essayist, short-story writer, and children’s author, bests known for a children’s series about Little Grey Rabbit and Sam Pig, and for a pioneering time slip novel for children, A Traveller in Time, about the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots.

1894 – Margaret Mary Leigh, English poet and novelist who lived in Scotland and wrote about life in crofting communities; she was the cousin of novelist Dorothy L.

1903 – Erskine Caldwell, American Southern author who wrote about poverty and racism.

1907 – Christianna Brand, Malaysian-born British screenwriter, crime writer, children’s author, short-story writer, and novelist who wrote under various pseudonyms, including Mary Ann Ashe, Mary Brand, Annabel Jones, Mary Roland, and China Thompson.

1908 – Sylvia Constance Ashton-Warner, New Zealand writer, poet, novelist, autobiographer, and educator.

1916 – Penelope Fitzgerald, Booker Prize-winning British author of historical fiction; the Times included her in its list of the 50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945.

1919 – Es’kia Mphahlele, South African fiction writer and human-rights activist.

1921 – Anne Golon, French author, screenwriter, and journalist who is better known to English-speaking readers as Sergeanne Golon; her most famous work is a series of novels about a heroine named Angelique.

1926 – Solomon Adeboye Babalola, Nigerian poet, professor, and translator who wrote English translations of Yoruba oral poetry and traditional chants.

1929 – William Safire, American author, known for his novels and his works on writing and politics.

1931 – Yvonne Keuls, Indonesian-born Dutch writer and quiz show panelist who writes award-winning novels about social problems, as well as about herself and her family, in a realistic and sometimes humorous way.

1937 – John Kennedy Toole, posthumous Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Confederacy of Dunces.

1939 – Chong Hyon-jong, South Korean writer, reporter, poet, and professor whose poetry explores the dynamic tension between pain and happiness, and between reality and dream; his later work explores the acceptance of life and the wonders of nature, focusing on reconciliation rather than conflict.

1939 – Mustapha Matura (born Noel Matura), Trinidadian playwright and poet who lived in London most of his life and was called “the most perceptive and humane of Black dramatists writing in Britain.”

1944 – Jack L. Chalker, American science-fiction author and teacher.

1945 – Jacqueline Wilson, three-time Newbery Honor-winning American poet and author of books for children and teens.

1947 – Golrokhsar Safi, Tajikistani writer, poet, newspaper editor, and prominent Iranologist who is knwon for her contributions to modern Persian poetry and folk songs and for being Tajikistan’s national poet.

1974 – Nika Georgievna Turbina, Russian poet famous for her profound and emotional poems; she published her first collection of poetry at the age of 10.

1987 – Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, American writer and poet; her work covers such topics as mental illness and coming out as a transgender woman, as well as more traditional subjects such as love, anger, and beauty.