December 15 Writer Birthdays

1867 – Georges Polti, French writer best known for his list of thirty-six dramatic situations.

1896 – Ann Nolan Clark, American children’s writer, who won a Newbery Medal for Secret of the Andes.

1896 – Betty Smith, American author best known for her novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

1897 – Zenta Mauriņa, Latvian writer, essayist, and researcher in philology.

1913 – Muriel Rukeyser, American poet and political activist, best known for her poems about equality, feminism, social justice, and Judaism.

1917 – Shan-ul-Haq Haqqee (Urdu: شان الحق حقی), notable Urdu poet, writer, journalist, broadcaster, translator, critic, researcher, linguist and lexicographer.

1939 – Alan Armstrong, Newbery Honor-winning American children’s author.

1933 – Vasireddy Seethadevi (Telugu: వాసిరెడ్డి సీతాదేవి), Indian writer in the Telugu language who published 42 novels, 10 short-story collections, and several essays; when her novel Mareechika was banned, she took the government to court and got her book released.

1953 – Robert Charles Wilson, American-Canadian Hugo Award-winning science-fiction author.

December 14 Writer Birthdays

1503 – Nostradamus, author, astrologist, and alleged seer, credited with foreseeing many world events (possibly born on Dec. 21; accounts vary).

1777 – Juan N. Gallego, Spanish poet, priest & interpreter.

1895 – Paul Éluard, French poet who helped found the surrealist movement.

1916 – Shirley Jackson, influential mystery and horror writer of novels, memoirs, and short stories; she is best known for her short story, “The Lottery.”

1917 – Tove Ditlevsen, Danish poet, essayist, and novelist.

1929 – Charles W. Ryan, American technical writer and nonfiction book author.

1938 – Leonardo Boff, Brazilian priest, theologian & writer.

1940 – Carolyn Marie Rodgers, poet, playwright, short-story author, and founder of one of America’s oldest and largest Black presses; a founder of the Black arts movement.

1945 – Stanley Crouch, American poet, music and cultural critic, syndicated columnist, novelist and biographer, perhaps best known for his jazz criticism and his novel, Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome.

1948 – Boudewijn Maria Ignatius Büch, poet, author, and TV personality.

1951 – Amy Hempel, PEN/Faulkner-nominated American short story writer, journalist, and professor.

1953 – Joe Toplyn, comedy writer for David Letterman.

1966 – Lucrecia Martel, Argentinian screenwriter and film director.

1968 – Kelley Armstrong, bestselling Canadian fantasy author.

Photo Friday – A Bookish Christmas Tree

Blast From the Past: I haven’t put up this year’s Christmas tree yet. But I was just reminded of this photo I took exactly three years ago today. That year, in addition to my more typical Christmas tree, I did something I’d been wanting to do for years: I built a Christmas tree (and friendly snowman) out of books! Creating it was more time-consuming than I had expected, but all that work did result in the coolest Christmas tree ever. Why stop with books as presents under the tree, when you can have an entire tree made of books?

December 13 Writer Birthdays

1797 – Christian Johann Heinrich Heine, German journalist, essayist, and literary critic who was also one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century; some of his early lyric poetry was set to music by such composers as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert.

1871 – Emily Carr, Canadian artist and writer who was heavily inspired by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast; her autobiography is still considered the finest example of Canadian autobiographical literature.

1890 – Mary Franeis Butts, British modernist writer whose work found recognition in literary magazines such as The Bookman and The Little Review, as well as from fellow modernists including T. S. Eliot.

1890 – Marc Connelly, Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright who was a key member of the Algonquin Round Table.

1902 – Yevgeny Petrov (Евгений Петров), pen name of Yevgeny Petrovich Katayev (Евгений Петрович Катаев), a popular Soviet author and war correspondent; he is best known for satirical novels written with his coauthor Ilya Ilf.

1903 – Shibram Chakraborty (শিবরাম চক্রবর্তী), popular Bengali writer, poet, playwright, humorist, novelist, nonfiction author, and revolutionary whose humorous stories are noted for their unique use of puns, alliteration, and irony.

1906 – Sir Laurens Jan van der Post, prolific Afrikaner book author, journalist, educator, philosopher, explorer, and conservationist who was also a farmer, war hero, political adviser to British heads of government, close friend of Britain’s Prince Charles, and godfather of Prince William.

1911 – Kenneth Patchen, award-winning American poet and novelist who experimented with different forms of writing and incorporated painting, drawing, and jazz music into his works.

1915 – Ross McDonald, Pen name of American-Canadian crime fiction writer Kenneth Millar, known for his Lew Archer series.

1916 – Leonard Weisgard, American illustrator whose work on Margaret Wise Brown’s The Little Island won him the 1948 Caldecott Medal.

1925 – John Ehle, Jr., American writer best known for fiction set in the Appalachian Mountains; he has been described as “the father of Appalachian literature.”

1927 – James Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet.

1949 – R.A MacAvoy, American fantasy author whose books draw on Celtic and Zen themes.

1952 – Jean Rouaud, French author who won the Prix Goncourt for the novel Fields of Glory (Les Champs d’honneur.)

1954 – Emma Bull, influential American science fiction and fantasy author; her novel War for the Oaks is a pioneering work in urban fantasy.

1954 – Tamora Pierce, popular and prolific award-winning American author of young adult fantasy fiction.

1959 – Todd Stanley Purdum, American writer, reporter, editor, and political correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine

December 12 Writer Birthdays

1821 – Gustave Flaubert, influential French author of literary realism best known for the classic novel Madame Bovary.

1905 – Mulk Raj Anand, Indian writer who wrote in English about the lives of the poorer castes in traditional Indian society; a pioneer of Indo-Anglian fiction, he was one of the first India-based writers in English to gain an international readership.

1914 – Patrick O’Brian, English novelist, famous for writing about his series of books about the sea, set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars.

1920 – Elena Garro, Mexican screenwriter, journalist, playwright, short-story writer, and novelist, commonly affiliated with the Magical Realism movement (though she rejected this affiliation). She was married to poet Octavio Paz.

1946 – Josepha Sherman, American author, folklorist, and anthologist, known for her own fantasy novels as well as work within the Star Trek universe.

1969 – Madeleine Wickham (born Madeleine Townley), English author of chick lit who is best known for work written under the pen name Sophie Kinsella.

December 11 Writer Birthdays

1725 – George Mason, American planter, politician, statesman, writer, and delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, one of three delegates who refused to sign the Constitution. His writings, including substantial portions of the Fairfax Resolves of 1774 and his Objections to this Constitution of Government, have greatly influenced American political thought; he is called the Father of the U.S. Bill of Rights, which was based on his Virginia Declaration of Rights.

1756 – Anton Tomaž Linhart, Slovene playwright and historian who is considered the father of Slovene historiography.

1810 – Alfred de Musset, French dramatist, poet, and novelist.

1849 – Ellen Karolina Sofia Key, Swedish feminist writer on many subjects in the fields of family life, ethics, and education, who was an important figure in the Modern Breakthrough movement and an early advocate of a child-centered approach to education and parenting.

1882 – Subramanya Bharathi, Indian poet, journalist, independence activist, and social reformer who wrote in the Tamil language; he was a pioneer of modern Tamil poetry and is considered one of the greatest Tamil literary figures of all time.

1892 – Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, American writer of books for pseudonymous children’s mystery series including “Nancy Drew” and the “Hardy Boys.”

1906 – Birago Diop, Senegalese veterinarian, diplomat, poet, and story-teller, whose writing is credited with popularizing African folktales.

1911 – Nahguib Mahfouz, Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian author, known for “works rich in nuance – now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous,” who has formed “an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind.”

1916 – Elena Garro, Mexican screenwriter, journalist, playwright, short-story writer, and novelist who was commonly affiliated with the Magical Realism movement (though she rejected that affiliation). She was married to poet Octavio Paz.

1918 – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Prize-winning Russian novelist, short-story writer, and dissident lauded for “the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature.”

1922 – Grace Paley, American short-story author, poet, teacher, and political activist.

1931 – Jerome Rothenberg, JAmerican poet, translator, and anthologist, noted for his work in ethnopoetics and performance poetry.

1932 – Keith Waldrop, National Book Award-winning American poet, translator, and scholar.

1937 – Jim Harrison, American author of poetry, fiction, reviews, and essays about the outdoors; his novella “Legends of the Fall” was adapted into a movie.

1939 – Thomas McGuane, American author of novels, screenplays, and short stories, known especially for his writing about fishing.

1945 – Pauline Gedge, New Zealand-born Canadian novelist best known for her bestselling historical fiction trilogies; she also writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

1946 – Diana Palmer, pen name of American romance and science-fiction novelist Susan Kyle, who has also published under Diana Blayne, Katy Currie, and her own name.

1964 – Ayelet Waldman, Israeli-American lawyer, novelist, and essayist known for her self-revelatory essays, and for her fiction and nonfiction about the changing expectations of motherhood, and the demands of children, partners, career and society.

Winter (Concert) Is Coming

The T.C. Williams H.S. Orchestra concert is coming! Tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., we will all be in the high school auditorium to hear the three orchestras (9th Grade, Concert, and Chamber) perform the music they’ve been working on this fall.

My son is a first violinist in the Chamber Orchestra, but on one piece, he’ll be accompanying the orchestra on piano. He’s accompanying the Concert Orchestra on piano for one of its pieces, too.

Alexandria schools have a terrific music program, and the high school orchestra program — especially our outstanding Chamber Orchestra — is one of the best anywhere. The concert is free and open to the public, so come on over and listen!

The T.C. Williams High School Chamber Orchestra taking a bow at the Fall Concert last month. (My son is the tall curly-haired violinist at left.)

December 10 Writer Birthdays

1783 – Maria Benitez, Puerto Rican poet.

1830 – Emily Dickinson, beloved and prolific American poet, most of whose work was not discovered until after her death.

1891 – Nelly Sachs, Nobel Prize-winning Jewish German poet and playwright who escaped to Sweden to avoid being sent to a forced-labor camp; in her work, she gave voice to the suffering of the Jewish people under the Nazi regime.

1925 – Carolyn Kizer, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet of the American Northwest.

1933 – Philip Craig, American author known for his Martha’s Vineyard mysteries.

1956 – Jacquelyn Mitchard, American journalist and bestselling author of adult and YA books; her novel The Deep End of the Ocean was named one of the ten most influential books of the past 25 years.

1958 – Cornelia Funke, U.S.-based German author of children’s and YA fiction, best known for her “Inkheart” trilogy.

1960 – Kenneth Branagh, Northern Irish actor, director, and screenwriter, best known for his Shakespeare adaptations (and his role as Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in the Harry Potter films); he was nominated for an Oscar for his Hamlet screenplay.

December 9 Writer Birthdays

1608 – John Milton, English epic poet who penned Paradise Lost.

1848 – Joel Chandler Harris, American journalist, fiction writer, and folklorist; collector and reteller of the African-American folktales that became known as the Uncle Remus stories.

1899 – Jean de BrunhoffFrench author of children’s books, best known for creating Babar the Elephant.

1899 – Leonie Fuller, U.S. Poet Laureate. writer, editor, and professor with connections to many of the leading intellectuals of her day; anthropologist Margaret Mead was her college roommate; friends included writer Gertrude Stein, literary critic Edmund Wilson, and another Poet Laureate, Louise Bogan.

1905 – Dalton Trumbo, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Roman Holiday, Exodus, Spartacus, and many other films; blacklisted for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

1915 – Eloise Jarvis McGraw, three-time Newbery Honor-winning American author of novels for children and young adults.

1916 – Wolfgang Hildesheimer, artist, author, playwright, and Mozart biographer who worked as a translator and clerk at the Nuremberg Trials.

1928 – Joan Blos, American writer and children’s literacy advocate whose historical novel A Gathering of Days won a National Book Award and the Newbery Medal.

1930 – Buck Henry, humorous actor and screenwriter; he worked on The Graduate, Catch 22, Get Smart, Saturday Night Live, and more.

1930 – Edoardo Sanguineti, Italian poet, critic, and playwright.

1936 – A.B. Yehoshua, Israeli novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and playwright whom the New York Times has called, “Israeli Faulkner.”

1937 – Mary Downing Hahn, American author of young-adult mysteries.

1942 – Joe McGinniss, American author of nonfiction, novels, and true crime stories.

1943 – Joanna Trollope, British writer of romantic and historical fiction who also wrote under the pen name Caroline Harvey.

Boston or Busk

In my role as high-school orchestra parent/roadie/groupie, I often accompany groups of violin-toting teenagers as they perform in various venues. One of the activities of the T.C. Williams High School orchestra is busking. Don’t know what it means to busk? Here’s a definition:

1. perform music or other entertainment in the street
or another public place for monetary donations.

Small groups of students play outdoors to raise money for orchestra activities; currently, that means raising money toward the spring orchestra trip to Boston. On Saturday, a group of seven orchestra students — six violinists and one violist — braved cold temperatures to play in public in Old Town Alexandria, just after the annual Alexanadria Scottish Walk Parade. A cello would have been nice, but none of our cellists was free that afternoon, and the musicians did just fine without one.

They set up in front of the Christmas tree on Market Square and performed for nearly two hours, despite cold temperatures that make it hard to keep fingers agile and strings in tune. But they sounded great, playing holiday songs and other favorites.

And they raised more than $500 for the orchestra!

My son is the tall, curly-haired one in back.