International Chess Day

Here is my son Jon playing in a tournament, back in his chess champion days.

It’s July 20, also known as International Chess Day! I played a bit of chess back in when I was a kid, but haven’t played since high school. I was only OK at it. My son, on the other hand, has a real talent for the game.

He was a US Chess Federation-rated player when he was little. In fact, he did so well in his first tournament — playing against both adults and children — that he was initially rated very highly. Like, Queen’s Gambit highly.

That meant that in subsequent tournaments he was matched up against state champions who had competed in dozens of tournaments, and he really had no chance at all against kids who playing at that level. He started winning again after he had lost to enough of the super-experienced kids that his rating moved down to a more realistic level.

In the years since he stopped competing in tournaments, he hadn’t played the game much, and allowed his USCF membership to lapse. He hadn’t given it up completely; he was in the chess club in high school for a couple years, and won almost every match he played. Then after-school orchestra rehearsals started being scheduled against chess club, and he had to stop going.

Lately, he started playing again at college, mostly online because of the pandemic. And he can still beat his father almost every time they play. I’ll have to suggest that he get in a game or two today, to celebrate International Chess Day.

Happy International Chess Day!

July 20 Writer Birthdays

1304 – Petrarch (born Francesco Petrarca), Italian poet and scholar who is considered one of the earliest humanists.

1822 – Gregor Mendel, German-speaking Austrian scientist and monk who is considered the founder of modern genetics; he coined the terms “dominant” and “recessive” genes in his writings about his experiments with pea plants, such as his groundbreaking monograph, Experiments With Plant Hybrids.

1882 – Olga Hahn Neurath, Austrian mathematician, author, and philosopher who was a member of the Vienna Circle of philosophers and scientists.

1901 – Elizabeth Dilys Powell, British journalist, author, and film critic.

1910 – Cicely Veronica Wedgwood, English historian, author, and biographer who published under the name C.V. Wedgwood; she specialized in the history of 17th-century England and continental Europe.

1914 – Hana Zelinová, Slovak novelist, short-story writer, and playwright; she wrote several novels influenced by the Slovak social novel and the Scandinavian saga, and three Ibsenesque plays that dealt with the role of women in urban society.

1951 – Paulette Bourgeois, Canadian author and illustrator of children’s books, best known as creator of Franklin the Turtle.

1864 – Eric Axel Karlfeldt, Nobel Prize-winning Swedish symbolist poet, teacher, and journalist.

1920 – Mohammed Dib, Algerian novelist, children’s author, poet, and short-story writer who is probably Algeria’s most prolific and well-known writer.

1924 – Thomas Berger, American author of darkly comic novels, best known for his book Little Big Man.

1927 – Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Russian author, historian, politician, and human-rights activist.

1927 – Simin Beh’bahāni (Persian: سیمین بهبهانی), Iranian poet who is one of the most prominent figures in modern Persian literature; she was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize.

1930 – William H. Goetzmann, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian known for his research into exploration and settlement of the American West.

1930 – Lotte Ingrisch (born Charlotte Gruber), well known Austrian novelist, playwright, and librettist who wrote some of her work under the pseudonym Tessa Tüvari.

1931 – Marina Lavrentievna Popovich (née Vasiliyeva), Russian Soviet Air Force colonel, engineer, writer, and decorated Soviet test pilot who was the third woman and the first Soviet woman to break the sound barrier; she was known as “Madame MiG” for her work in the Soviet fighter and set more than 100 aviation world records. She also wrote a book about UFOs, claiming that the Soviet pilots had confirmed 3,000 UFO sightings and that the Air Force and KGB had recovered fragments of five crashed UFOs.

1933 – Cormac McCarthy, Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist and playwright, known for his books The Road, All the Pretty Horses, and No Country for Old Men.

1934 – Henry Dumas, African-American poet, short-story writer, science-fiction writer, and educator who was called “an absolute genius” by author Toni Morrison. Some of his work was about the violent killings of Black people by white police officers; ironically, he himself was shot and killed at the age of 33 by a white New York City transit cop.

1936 – Alistair MacLeod, Canadian novelist, short-story writer, and academician.

1939 – May Menassa, Lebanese novelist, translator, editor, journalist, and art critic.

1942 – Bang Young-ung, South Korean novelist whose works focus on affectionately portraying the lives of ordinary people in contemporary South Korea.

1946 – Htin Kyaw, Burmese politician, writer, economist, and scholar who served as the President of Myanmar.

1953 – Thomas Friedman, three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and author who is known for his books on globalization, climate change, and the Middle East.

1962 – Brian L. Falkner, New Zealand author, children’s writer, and science-fiction writer.

1963 – Federico Moccia, Italian author, screenwriter, filmmaker, and politician.

1965 – Abdourahman A. Waberi, award-winning Djiboutian novelist, essayist, poet, academic, and short-story writer.

1965 – Jess Walter, American author of novels, short stories, and nonfiction; he was a finalist for the National Book Award.

1973 – Anni Milja Maaria Sinnemäki, Finnish writer, poet, and politician who was a member of the Finnish Parliament.

1977 – Timothy Ferriss, American author, public speaker, and entrepreneur.

1981 – Hanna Hryhorivna Mashutina, Ukrainian playwright and poet who was also known by her pseudonyms Anna Yablonskaya and Hanna Yablonskat; she was killed at the age of 29 in the 2011 Domodedovo Airport bombing.

1990 – Galina Rymbu, Russian poet, author, translator, and curator.

Cornwall Question Mark

The United Kingdom released its revised pandemic travel restrictions today, and they don’t help us at all! We’re planning an October trip to Britain — specifically southern Wales, Cornwall, and a few other spots in southwestern England. When we booked, we knew the U.K. had travel restrictions in place, requiring Americans to quarantine for ten days on arrival and pass covid-19 tests. We can’t quarantine, so we were prepared to cancel if the restrictions weren’t loosened in time. We thought that would happen, but the new, more contagious Delta variant of the virus is rampant in the U.K., so despite steady progress with vaccinations, case numbers are up.

Today was the day that changes in travel restrictions were due to be released. I was hoping the U.S. would be moved from the “amber” to the “green” list of countries, or that the quarantine requirement for amber countries would allow a waiver for fully vaccinated people. Now the modified restrictions are out, and neither of those things happened. There is a vaccination waiver, but only for people who got their shots in the U.K.’s vaccination program. So unless the rules change again, we would still be required to quarantine.

Yesterday, I lined up the last hotel I needed — we’re booked at a castle in Somerset for a few days — and I already had booked a few nights at Doc Martin’s house and surgery in Cornwall (yes, the TV doctor’s house is a guesthouse you can rent!) and at a lovely small inn in Penzance. And I had us scheduled at a rather boring airport hotel for the final night, so we can get to the airport quickly in the morning and return our rental car before flying out.

And now I’m afraid I’ll have to cancel them all, and re-book for next spring or summer. I’ve checked the availability of Doc Martin’s house, and I should be able to find a 2022 time slot we can have — except that the prices next year are so much higher than this year! I think I may have gotten a deal this fall because the covid travel slowdown; I don’t think I’ll be able to afford next year’s prices.

We’re not ready to give up yet, but in another month or so, if the quarantine rule has not lifted and U.K. covid cases are still up, we may very well have to postpone the whole thing. And I was so looking forward to it.

July 19 Writer Birthdays

1727 – Ditlevine Feddersen (née Collett), Norwegian poet and translator; she was a central figure in the artistic and literary culture of Oslo.

1871 – André Raponda Walker, Gabonese author, ethnographer, fairy tale collector, Catholic priest, and missionary; he wrote extensively about the Gabonese language and culture.

1875 – Alice Dunbar Nelson, African-American writer, poet, educator, journalist, columnist, short-story writer, playwright, suffragist, and civil-rights activist who was part of the Harlem Renaissance.

1893 – Vladimir Mayakovsky, Russian poet, playwright, and actor.

1896 – A.J. Cronin, Scottish novelist and physician who wrote many books that were later adapted to film; his novel The Citadel is credited with laying the groundwork for the introduction of the National Health System in Britain.

1902 – Ada Verdun Howell, Australian author and poet; her best known work is the controversial prose/poem cycle Exit Strategies, which was praised by poet E. E. Cummings as “poetry as pure energy…just in time for atomic age.”

1906 – Susana Soca, Uruguayan poet, writer, and literary journal founder who was especially known for her support for fellow writers; she died in a plane crash in 1959 near Rio de Janeiro.

1909 – Nalapat Balamani Amma, prolific, award-winning Indian poet who wrote in Malayalam and was known as the “poetess of motherhood”; she was the mother of the renowned writer Kamala Surayya.

1913 – Manouchehr Sotoudeh, prolific Iranian writer, historian, geographer, lexicographer, and professor; he published Iran’s first dialectal dictionary.

1916 – Eve Merriam, American poet, playwright, children’s writer, director, and lecturer.

1919 – Miltos Sachtouris, Greek poet who adopted the pen name Miltos Chrysanthis.

1921 – Elizabeth Spencer, American novelist, short-story writer, memoirist, and screenwriter whose novella The Light in the Piazza was adapted for the screen and transformed into a Broadway musical. She is a five-time recipient of the O. Henry Award for short fiction.

1922 – George McGovern, American historian, author, and politician.

1923 – Joseph Hansen, American crime writer best known for his series featuring openly gay private eye Dave Brandstetter.

1925 – Minn Latt Yekhaun, Burmese writer and linguist who studied and published in Czechoslovakia and used the pen name U Gtun Kyi.

1935 – Tarsicio Herrera Zapién, Mexican writer, researcher, composer, musicologist, and academic.

1936 – Norman Manea, U.S.-based Romanian novelist, essayist, short-story writer, and essayist who writes about the Holocaust, daily life under communism, and exile.

1938 – Dominic Francis Moraes, Indian writer and poet who wrote in the English language and is widely seen as a foundational figure in Indian English literature.

1938 – Jayant Narlikar, Indian physicist, astronomer, astrophysicist, writer, university teacher, and science-fiction author.

1940 – Patricia Ann Tudor Sandahl (née Howard), Swedish psychotherapist and author.

1945 – Anna Enquist, pen name of Dutch novelist and poet Christa Widlund-Broer, one of the most popular writers in the Netherlands.

1946 – Stephen Coonts, American thriller and suspense novelist who is especially known for his Jake Grafton books.

1946 – Lucas Cornelis Malan, South African poet, academic writer, playwright, editor, and literary critic.

1949 – Thulani Davis, Grammy Award-winning African-American playwright, journalist, librettist, novelist, poet, and screenwriter.

1953 – Zinovia Dushkova, Moldovan writer of fiction and nonfiction, poet, philosopher, and historian; her work is part of the Theosophical tradition and deals with mysticism and the occult.

1958 – Maria Mercè Roca (full name Maria Mercè Roca i Perich), Spanish Catalan author, screenwriter, and politician.

1958 – Angharad Tomos, award-winning Welsh author and prominent language activist.

1959 – Vigdis Hjorth, Norwegian novelist, children’s author, screenwriter, and radio personality.

1962 – Ava Kitō, Japanese diarist who wrote about her experiences suffering from spinocerebellar ataxia; her book Ichi rittoro no namida (One Litre of Tears) was published two years before her death in 1988.

1963 – Garth Nix, bestselling Australian author of young-adult fantasy novels, including the “Keys to the Kingdom” series.

1966 – Alexis Leon, Indian software consultant and bestselling author of 50 books about information technology, the Internet, and management topics; he began writing after being paralyzed in a vehicle accident.

1966 – Lucien Moussa Shukri Soulban, Saudi Arabian game designer and writer who works primarily on role-playing games.

1967 – Rageh Omaar, Somali-born British journalist, writer, and television news presenter.

1968 – Lisa Jewell, bestselling British author of popular fiction; she began writing her first novel when a friend challenged her to write three chapters of a novel in exchange for dinner at her favorite restaurant.

1978 – Ketty Nivyabandi, Belgian-born Burundian poet writer, and human rights activist who writes in French.

Camp NaNo Update

After getting off to a great start on July’s Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I have fallen behind. My trip to Tangier Island cut into my writing time, but I’ve also had trouble getting back into it since I’ve returned. So many things have gotten in the way!

I’m not terribly far behind, but I’m certainly not on track, either. It’s July 18, so I should be more than halfway through to my goal of 20,000 words written for the month. I am definitely not halfway through. My current tally is 9,480 words. That means I have to increase my daily writing goal. I’d been writing at least 645 words a day. Now it has to be 810 words a day, in order to reach 20,000 by the end of the month.

That shouldn’t be too hard. In fact, I’ve exceeded 645 every day that I’ve written, sometimes by a lot. The problem is those days when I have not written.

I need to pick up the pace.

July 18 Writer Birthdays

1013 – Hermann of Reichenau, German Benedictine monk, writer, historian, astronomer, mathematician, poet, musicologist, and musical composer.

1635 – Robert Hooke, English author, astronomer, professor, physicist, surveyor, and scientist who often argued with Isaac Newton over scientific theories.

1811 – William Makepeace Thackeray, Indian-born English journalist, illustrator, editor, and author, best known for his satirical novel Vanity Fair; as a journalist, he often wrote under such absurd pen names as George Savage Fitz-Boodle, Michael Angelo Titmarsh, Theacuteophile Wagstaff, and C.J. Yellowplush, Esq.; his daughter Anne Thackeray Ritchie, step-aunt to Virginia Woolf, was also a prominent writer.

1864 – Ricarda Huch, German writer, poet, novelist, librarian, historian, playwright, philosopher, and seven-time Nobel Prize nominee; she was a pioneering German intellectual who wrote many works of European history. Asteroid 879 Ricarda is named in her honor.

1865 – Dowell Philip O’Reilly, Australian poet, short-story writer, teacher, and politician; he was known as a feminist and was praised for his ability to write with a feminine viewpoint.

1870 – Darío Herrera, Panamanian writer, modernist poet, journalist, and diplomat who was greatly influenced by contemporary French writing.

1880 – Esmeralda Zenteno Urizar (better known by her pseudonym Vera Zouroff), Chilean feminist writer, editor, novelist, poet, lecturer, and correspondent.

1892 – Gabriel Jönsson, Swedish author and poet who is best known for his works inspired by farming.

1893 – Anna Vasilyevna Timiryova (born Anna Safonova), Russian poet, writer, translator, and painter. When her lover was imprisoned by the Bolsheviks for his opposition to the Revolution, she approached them and declared: “Arrest me. I cannot live without him.” As a result, she was imprisoned but was released his execution; this was the beginning of a long string of her arrests, prison and labor camp sentences, and years of internal exile. She dedicated many of her poems to his memory.

1898 – Beata Obertyńska, Polish writer and poet who was the daughter of the “Young Poland” poet Maryla Wolska and the granddaughter of the sculptor Wanda Młodnicka. She used the pen name Marta Rudzka.

1900 – Nathalie Sarraute, Russian-born French lawyer, author, and dramatist.

1902 – Jessamyn West, American Quaker novelist and short-story writer, best known for her first novel, The Friendly Persuasion; she was second cousin to U.S. President Richard Nixon.

1906 – Clifford Odets, American screenwriter, playwright, stage actor, and theatrical director.

1909 – Bishnu Dey, prominent Indian Bengali poet, prose writer, translator, academic, literary critic, and art critic whose work is classified as symbolist, modernist, and post-modernism; his poetry is known for its musical quality and is seen as marking the advent of “New Poetry” in Bengali literature.

1914 – Adalcinda Magno Camarão Luxardo, award-winning Brazilian writer, poet, linguist, professor, and composer.

1918 – Nelson Mandela, Nobel Prize-winning South African president, civil-rights activist, and writer.

1920 – Zheng Min, Chinese modernist poet, scholar, and lecturer; together with eight other poets, she is considered one of the “Nine Leaves” of Chinese poetry.

1921 – Jón Óskar Ásmundsson, Icelandic poet, novelist, short-story writer, biographer, translator, and linguist who is typically categorized as one of the Icelandic Atom Poets.

1926 – Margaret Laurance, influential Canadian novelist and short-story writer who often wrote about Africa, where she once lived.

1930 – Vilborg Dagbjartsdóttir, Icelandic poet, writer, nonfiction author, children’s author, and translator who is one of the few women in Iceland to have been writing modernist poetry in the mid-twentieth century; her work combines lyrical realism with romantic imagery, and is concerned with social inequality, especially the status of women in society.

1933 – Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Soviet and Russian poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, actor, editor, and film director.

1934 – Ciril Bergles, award-winning Slovene poet, essayist, translator, and teacher who was especially known for his translations of poetry by Spanish and South American writers.

1937 – Roald Hoffmann (born Roald Safran) Ukrainian-born Polish-American theoretical chemist who won the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry; he is also a poet, playwright, and professor. As a small child, he escaped from a Nazi labor camp with relatives and lived in hiding for more than a year, because of his family’s Jewish background; most of his family was killed in the Holocaust, including his father.

1937 – Hunter S. Thompson, American journalist and author who is credited with creating the genre of “Gonzo Journalism”; his topics ranged from sports to politics to cultural commentary.

1938 – Jan Stanislaw Skorupski, Polish-born Swiss writer, poet, essayist, and Esperantist.

1943 – Joseph J. Ellis, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning bestselling American historian and biographer.

1944 – Wayne Vincent Brown, Trinidad and Tobagoan novelist, poet, columnist, and writing teacher who mentored many Caribbean writers.

1948 – Ólafur Gunnarsson, award-winning Icelandic novelist, short-story writer, children’s author, travel writer, poet, and translator.

1951 – Steven Hahn, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian whose work often focuses on the American South, African-American history, and the international history of slavery, emancipation, and race.

1969 – Elizabeth Gilbert, American writer best known for her travel memoir, Eat, Pray, Love.

1975 – Dima Ghawi, award-winning Turkish-born Jordanian-American author, leadership speaker, and executive coach; she is best known as the author of Breaking Vases: Shattering Limitations & Daring to Thrive – A Middle Eastern Woman’s Story.

1976 – Hardwar Goswami, Indian poet, writer, and playwright who writes in the Gujarati language.

1976 – Svitlana Pyrkalo, London-based Ukrainian writer, journalist, translator, and blogger who writes in Ukrainian, English and Russian.

1977 – Kristiina Ehin, Estonian writer, poet, translator, singer, and songwriter who specializes in folklore.

1977 – Alfian Sa’at, Singaporean writer, playwright, and poet who is known for his provocative works.

1985 – Zynnell Zuh, award-winning Ghanaian writer, actress, and television personality.

1990 – Xu Lizhi, Chinese poet and factory worker who attracted media attention after his suicide at the age of 24.

Bookcrossing, Up Close and Personal

I had actual, in-person conversations with real people today! My Bookcrossing group held our first nonvirtual meeting since the pandemic began.

We met in Andy’s backyard, with a canopy for shade, and it was great, despite the heat and humidity. We all brought food, and Andy offered soda, snow cones, and cotton candy. Of course, we all provided books for our usual “book buffet,” just a table full of books that everyone goes through to choose some to bring home, preferably different books than the ones we brought. The local Bookcrossers are a fantastic group of book-loving people, and it was so nice to catch up with them.

A storm was on the way, and when we started to hear thunder, we figured it was time to wrap it up. Andy had supplied a list of Little Free Libraries, and I’d planned to visit some afterward. I checked out the one in front of Andy’s house, and photographed Action Figure Jane Austen in it. But by the time I finished there, the rain was falling, so I skipped the rest of the LFLs and headed out.

Action Figure Jane Austen poses on the roof of a Little Free Library. She accompanied me to the Bookcrossing meetup today, and is looking forward to more LFL visits.

I guess I should explain the Jane Austen thing. I’m surprised I have not written a post about it before now! I call this project WWJR, or What Would Jane Read? Action Figure Jane Austen and I like to visit Little Free Libraries together. At each one, I take her photograph in the book box and leave behind Jane Austen-related books, along with a bookmark I made up. Then I blog about the visit.

Jane and I have checked out Little Free Libraries across the U.S., from Florida to Alaska, as well as some in Canada. I have recorded many such visits on my old blog, but during covid I had stopped traveling, so I haven’t created any WWJR posts since I’ve had this blog on WordPress. Someday I will move over the old posts and add more here. In fact, I restarted LFL travel with Jane a few weeks ago, and hope soon to post some accounts of our visits.

And if you don’t know what Bookcrossing is, take a look at my earlier post about it.

July 17 Writer Birthdays

1862 – Oscar Ivar Levertin, Swedish poet, critic, professor, and literary historian who was a dominant voice of the Swedish cultural scene.

1888 – Shmuel Yosef Agnon (published in Hebrew under the acronym Shai Agnon and in English as S.Y. Agnon), Nobel Prize-winning Ukrainian-born author whose work explores conflicts between the modern world and traditional Jewish life and language; he is considered a central figure in modern Hebrew literature and has been called “one of the great storytellers of our time.”

1889 – Erle Stanley Gardner, American lawyer and author of mysteries and pulp fiction, best known for creating the world’s most famous fictional lawyer, Perry Mason.

1896 – Yrjö Vilho Soini, Finnish journalist, novelist, and playwright, who used the pen name Agapetus; his humorous works enjoyed wide popularity in Finland, and several have been adapted into films.

1901 – Bruno Jasieński, Polish writer, poet, playwright, and science-fiction writer who was the leader of the Polish Futurist movement.

1902 – Matilde Rodríguez Cabo Guzmán, Mexican writer, surgeon, feminist activist, and suffragist who was also the first female psychiatrist; she also founded Mexico’s first school for people with learning disabilities.

1902 – Christina Ellen Stead, Australian author, short-story writer, screenwriter, and writing teacher who was noted for her satirical wit and penetrating psychological characterizations. Time magazine named her best-known novel, the loosely autobiographical The Man Who Loved Children, as one of the 100 Best Novels from 1923-2005, and American author and critic Jonathan Franzen hailed it as a masterpiece. Her book Letty Fox: Her Luck, though considered an equally fine novel, was banned in Australia for several years because it was considered amoral and salacious.

1903 – Michio Takeyama, Japanese screenwriter, writer, translator, literary critic, children’s writer, critic, novelist, linguist, and scholar of German literature.

1911 – Yang Jiang, Chinese playwright, author, and translator who is best known for her successful comedies; she was also the first Chinese person to produce a complete Chinese version of Miguel de Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote.

1912 – Michael Gilbert, British author of mysteries, thrillers, and short stories; he was also a lawyer who had writer Raymond Chandler as a client.

1917 – Christiane Rochefort, French novelist, short-story writer, essayist, feminist, and social critic.

1921 – Robert V. Remini, National Book Award-winning American historian, author, and professor who wrote a multi-volume biography of U.S. President Andrew Jackson.

1924 – Olive Ann Burns, American writer best known for her novel Cold Sassy Tree; as a journalist, she wrote under the pseudonym Amy Larkin.

1930 – Baburao Bagul, Indian Marathi writer who was a pioneer of modern literature in Marathi and an important figure in the Indian short story.

1932 – Karla Kuskin, American poet who writes, illustrates, and reviews children’s books; she was nominated for a National Book Award.

1935 – Anupurath Krishnankutty (popularly known as Mundur Krishnankutty), award-winning Indian Malayalam novelist and short-story writer whose work is renowned for the realistic portrayal of life in Palakkad villages, focusing on the transformational crisis of an agrarian society.

1937 – Oladele Awobuluyi, Nigerian linguist, professor, and author whose research focuses on African languages, in particular Yoruba, but also Kanuri and Edo.

1940 – Clive William Nicol, Welsh-born Japanese and Canadian novelist, nonfiction writer, children’s author, singer, songwriter, and actor who was also a game warden in Ethiopia; he wrote in English and Japanese.

1943 – LaVyrle Spencer, bestselling, prolific American author of modern and historical romance novels.

1944 – Shi-Kuo Chang, Chinese Taiwanese writer, science-fiction author, and computer scientist.

1944 – Thomas N. Huffman, South African archeologist, anthropologist, author, and professor who specializes in pre-colonial farming societies in southern Africa. He is best known for his book, A Handbook to the Iron Age: The Archaeology of Pre-Colonial Farming Societies in Southern Africa.

1946 – Chris Crutcher, American family therapist and author of young-adult novels, many of which focus on teenage boys who are athletes who face personal problems; his books are controversial and are often banned because of their honest depictions of subjects such as religion, homosexuality, poverty, and child abuse.

1951 – Mark Bowden, American journalist, magazine editor, and author; his book Black Hawk Down was made into a popular movie.

1951 – Alain Suied, award-winning Tunisian-born French poet and translator.

1954 – J. Michael Straczynski, American journalist, screenwriter, playwright, horror novelist, and comic-book writer who is best known for creating and writing the science-fiction television series Babylon 5.

1954 – Lourdes Urrea, Mexican author, children’s writer, artist, and speaker.

1955 – Francesca Marciano, award-winning Italian writer, screenwriter, filmmaker, and actor.

1956 – Angelo Cannavacciuolo, award-winning Italian novelist, short-story writer, playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker, and actor.

1957 – Maria Arbatova, award-winning Russian and Soviet writer, novelist, screenwriter, poet, playwright, translator, journalist, opinion journalist, politician, broadcaster, and feminist’ some of her works were censored for their controversial content.

1964 – Hajime Kanzaka, Japanese novelist and manga story writer; he is best known for writing the Slayers novels, which were adapted into a hit anime series.

1971 – Cory Doctorow, Canadian-British science-fiction author, journalist, activist, and blogger at Boing Boing; he is a Fellow of the Electronic Freedom Foundation and has released many of his books with Creative Commons licensing.

1990 – Mattie Stepanek, bestselling American poet, essayist, and peace activist who died at the age of 13.

Friday Five: Over the Summer Hill

  1. What sign marks the end of the summer for you?

It used to be Labor Day, because my son always started back to school the next day. Now that he’s in college, he’ll start earlier, so I guess it’s the now the third week of August that marks the end of the season in my house.

  1. What plans, if any, do you have for the rest of the summer?

Nothing all that exciting. We just returned a few days ago from our more unusual trip of the summer — to Tangier Island. And we will be driving up to Michigan in a few weeks to visit some of my husband’s family. His sister is planning a 40-mile bike trip for some of the group, but I don’t bike, so I’ll find something else to do that day with the other non-cyclist in the group. We have to buy some stuff for my son’s on-campus apartment, and the only other travel we have in mind for the rest of the summer is the trip to take him back to college.

This little guy was part of last months’ Cicada Invasion Force.
  1. How would you describe your summer/winter so far – too hot, too cold, too wet, too buggy or what?

It’s been hot, but I like heat, so I’m not complaining. As for bugs, the 17-year cicada invasion was interesting, but they’ve finished their assault on the region, and their babies are underground until 2038.

  1. Summer often means open windows and the sharing of conversations, music, games and so forth with everyone. What sort of neighbor are you? Loud or considerate?

We are fairly quiet neighbors, especially lately. The world is still in the midst of a pandemic, so we’re not holding parties. My writer’s group meets in my backyard once a week, but we get together and write (and chat a bit) so that’s not likely to disrupt anyone. As for opening windows, I generally don’t. I have allergies and don’t need pollen in the house. Sometimes my son practices piano when the front door is open (with the storm door closed). To be honest, he hasn’t spent much time at all practicing since he’s been home for the summer. The only feedback I’ve received about that in the past is very positive: the dog walkers passing by seem to appreciate the occasional Chopin or Rachmaninoff concert from my music major.

  1. Aside from spouses and pets, have you had any trouble with pests recently?

Yes! I saw a mouse in the house last night. We’ll have to pull out the traps today and bait them. There are a few fruit flies around the house, too, but we haven’t figured out why. Last week, I’d been warned about mosquitos and biting flies this time of year at Tangier Island, but we didn’t have any trouble with them, maybe because there was a breeze (also an actual tropical storm) while we were there.

July 16 Writer Birthdays

0239 – Ennius, influential Roman writer, poet, historian, and playwright who has been called the Father of Roman Poetry.

1194 – Saint Clare of Assisi (Chiara Offreduccio), Italian nun, mystic, and the founder of the Order of Poor Clares; she wrote their Rule of Life, the first set of monastic guidelines known to have been written by a woman. She was one of the first followers of Francis of Assisi.

1677 – Angharad James, Welsh writer, poet, and farmer; she was also a skilled harpist who commanded workers to dance to her playing as they returned from the milking.

1821 – Mary Baker Eddy, American writer, theologian, magazine and newspaper editor, and religious leader who founded the Christian Science movement (not associated with Scientology) and authored its main textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures; in her writings, she argued that the material world does not exist and, in particular, that sickness is a mental error that can be corrected by Christian Science prayer; she also founded The Christian Science Monitor, a newspaper that has won seven Pulitzer Prizes.

1860 – Otto Jespersen, Danish writer, autobiographer, philosopher, Esperantist, university teacher, and linguist who specialized in the grammar of the English language.

1862 – Ida B. Wells, African-American investigative journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, and early leader in the civil rights movement who was born a slave; she was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

1863 – Dwijendralal Ray (also known as D.L. Ray), Indian writer, poet, playwright, musician, composer, teacher, and civil servant who is known for his Hindu mythological and Nationalist historical plays and songs; he is regarded as one of the most important figures in early modern Bengali literature.

1872 – Roald Amundsen (full name Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen), Norwegian writer and polar explorer who was a key figure of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration; he led the first expedition to traverse the Northwest Passage by sea and the first expedition to the South Pole, but disappeared while taking part in a rescue mission in the Arctic in 1928. He wrote an autobiography and several books about his expeditions.

1880 – Kathleen Norris, American novelist and newspaper columnist whose writings capture upper-class life in the San Francisco area. (Not to be confused with modern poet Kathleen Norris).

1880 – Volodymyr Vynnychenko, Ukrainian Modernist writer, playwright, science-fiction author, artist, political activist, revolutionary, politician, and statesman who was the first Prime Minister of Ukraine; his works reflect his time spent among impoverished and working-class people, and among Russian emigres living in Western Europe.

1884 – Anna Alexandrovna Vyrubova (née Taneyeva), Russian lady-in-waiting, best friend of Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna, and memoir writer; she was imprisoned during the revolution but escaped with the help of family friends. Writer Maxim Gorky urged her to write her memoirs, and she followed his advice, recording her memories of life at court, which provided a rare glimpse of the home life of the Tsar and his family. She became a Russian Orthodox nun and spent the last years of her life in exile in Finland.

1889 – Arthur Bowie Chrisman, Newbery Medal-winning American children’s author and short-story writer.

1889 – Lauri Pohjanpää (also known as Lauri Nordqvist), Finnish poet, theologian, memoirist, and novelist.

1896 – Esther Popel, African-American poet, writer, and editor of the Harlem Renaissance; she was also an activist and educator.

1897 – Manuel Ortiz Guerrero, Paraguayan lyricist, poet in both the Modernist and Romantic traditions, and musician; he wrote both in Spanish and Guarani. Sometimes he typed his poems and sold them door-to-door. He was exiled from his country and died in Argentina of leprosy.

1902 – Ho Jong-suk, South Korean writer, poet, journalist, autobiographer, philosopher, women’s rights activist, and politician.

1912 – Amelia Cabeza de Pelayo Patterson (also known as Amy Patterson), Argentine writer, poet, composer, singer, and teacher who wrote the anthem of the Province of Salta.

1913 – Carmen Acevedo Vega, Ecuadorian poet, writer, and journalist who is known for writing on social themes and protest through sensitive, rhythmic, and lyrical verses.

1923 – Mari Evans, American poet, playwright, nonfiction author, and editor whose poetry is known for its lyrical simplicity and the directness of its themes; she is associated with the Black Arts Movement.

1927 – Shirley Hughes, award-winning bestselling English children’s writer and illustrator.

1928 – Anita Brookner, Booker Prize-winning British novelist, professor, and art historian, her novels explore themes of emotional loss and typically depict intellectual, middle-class women who suffer isolation and disappointments in love.

1928 – Robert Sheckley, American science-fiction author who has been nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

1929 – Sheri Tepper, American author of science fiction, horror and mystery novels. Many of her books have an ecofeminist slant.

1941 – Dag Solstad, award-winning Norwegian writer, novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and short-story writer, some of whose works are considered controversial because of their Marxist-leaning political emphasis.

1943 – Reinaldo Arenas, Cuban poet, novelist, playwright, and librarian who was an early sympathizer and later critic of Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution.

1948 – Ratna Sarumpaet, Indonesian playwright, novelist, theatrical producer, film director, actress, and human-rights activist who is especially known for her politically charged plays.

1950 – Frances Spalding, British art historian, writer, biographer, professor, critic, essayist, and editor; she is especially known as the author of Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision.

1951 – Esther Friesner (full name Esther Mona Friesner-Stutzman), award-winning American science-fiction novelist, short-story writer, poet, essayist, and anthologist who is known for her humorous style of writing and her themes of gender equality and social justice.

1951 – Suki Lahav (real name Tzruya Lahav), Israeli violinist, vocalist, lyricist, poet, screenwriter, novelist, and actress who played with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1974 and 1975.

1952 – Richard Egielski, Caldecott Medal-winning American illustrator and writer.

1955 – Susan Wheeler, National Book Award finalist and Pushcart Prize-winning American poet, essayist, and professor.

1956 – Tony Kushner, Pulitzer Prize-winning and Academy Award-winning American playwright and screenwriter; he is best known for his play Angels in America.

1958 – Laura Freixas, Spanish novelist, short-story writer, translator, columnist, editor, journalist, art critic, and literary critic.

1961 – Mongsen Ching Monsin, award-winning Bangladeshi journalist, researcher, and writer.

1962 – Ross King, Canadian scholar, historian, historical novelist, and nonfiction writer best known for his books about art and architecture, including Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, Brunelleschi’s Dome: The Story of the Great Cathedral in Florence, and
The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism.

1962 – Ahmed Mansour, Egyptian writer, journalist, television presenter, and interviewer who is one of Arabic news channel Al Jazeera’s most prominent journalists.