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.

December 8 Writer Birthdays

65BC – Horace, Roman satirist & lyric poet.

1832 – Björnstjerne Björnson, Nobel Prize-winning Norwegian novelist.

1862 – Georges Feydeau, Belle Epoque playwright and a forerunner of absurdist theater.

1881 – Padraic Colum, Irish poet, novelist and dramatist who was a leading figure of the Irish literary revival.

1894 – James Thurber, author, journalist and cartoonist; especially known for work published in the New Yorker magazine.

1903 – Katherine “Kitty” Muggeridge, British writer and translator.

1906 – Richard Llewellyn, Welsh novelist who wrote How Green Was My Valley.

1912 – Jura Soyfer, Austrian political journalist and satirist; died at Buchenwald in 1939.

1913 – Delmore Schwartz, poet and short-story writer.

1930 – John Morressy, U.S. science-fiction author.

1943 – Jim Morrison, poet, songwriter and musician; lead singer of the Doors; he attended George Washington High School in Alexandria, which is now my teenager’s former school, George Washington Middle School!

1949 – Mary Gordon, American writer of novels, memoirs, and literary criticism.

Let the Judging Begin…

Yesterday was the Northern Virginia PTA Reflections deadline. In other words, it was the day when Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax’s top entries in the annual PTA preK-12 student art contest to be advanced to the Northern Virginia contest to compete at the District level.

The PTA Reflections contest is multi-tiered. A student enters the contest at his or her individual school, creating art that interprets a theme. For 2019-20, the theme is “Look Within.” The top winners from each school then move on to the city or county contest, and the top winners from that level advance to the Northern Virginia District contest, which is the contest I run. When we complete our judging, NoVa’s best entries will compete at the state level. And yes, each state’s 1st Place winners go to National.

The contest has divisions for different age groups and one for special-needs students, and students can enter work in any or all of six arts categories: Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography, and Visual Arts.

I spent all day yesterday at the Fairfax school system’s Gatehouse Administrative Center, accepting the entries, getting them sorted, and making sure everything was complete. Working with Northern Virginia PTA District Director Debbie Kilpatrick and the Reflections chairs from the three PTA Councils (Margaret McLaughlin for Alexandria, April Maddox for Arlington, and Denise Bolton for Fairfax), I received terrific artwork from some of Northern Virginia’s most talented students. And now the judging phase has begun. Here are some of Debbie’s photos from yesterday’s activities.

And did I mention that there were cupcakes? And pastries. And scottish shortbread….

In later blog entries, we’ll talk about the amazing student art.

December 7 Writer Birthdays

1872 – Johan Huizinga, Dutch historian and linguist who is considered one of the founders of modern cultural history.

1873 – Willa Cather, American author known for her novels of frontier life, like O Pioneers! and My Ántonia.

1878 – Akiko Yosano (与謝野 晶子), the pen-name of Hô Shô, a Japanese author, poet, pioneering feminist, pacifist, and social reformer who is one of the most famous, and most controversial, post-classical woman poets of Japan.

1888 – Joyce Cary, Anglo-Irish novelist and artist who chronicled his childhood in the fictionalized memoir A House of Children.

1909 – Nikola Yonkov Vaptsarov, Bulgarian poet, communist, and revolutionary who is considered one of the most important Bulgarian poets ever, despite working most of his life as a machinist and publishing only one poetry book in his lifetime.

1928 – Noam Chomsky, American linguist, philosopher, author, and prominent cultural figure.

1943 – Susan Isaacs, bestselling American novelist, essayist, and screenwriter.

Photo Friday – The Violin Lesson

It’s Photo Friday! This week, It’s a photo of my son.

Anyone who knows me knows that my teenage son is a gifted musician. He composes classical music as well as playing piano and violin. On this day, I went to pick him up from a violin lesson, and the light streaming through the gauzy curtains cast him in silhouette, making this color scene appear to be black and white.