February 13 Writer Birthdays

1469 – Elia Levita (Hebrew: אליהו בן אשר הלוי אשכנזי) also known as Elijah Levita, Elias Levita, Élie Lévita, and Eliahu Bakhur or “Eliahu the Bachelor”), Bavarian-born Hebrew grammarian, scholar, and poet, best known as the author of the Bovo-Bukh, the most popular chivalric romance written in Yiddish.

1769 – Ivan Andreyevich Krylov (Russian: Ива́н Андре́евич Крыло́в), Russia’s best known fabulist, who wrote fables loosely based on Aesop’s and La Fontaine’s, but was also known for his original work, often satirizing the incompetent bureaucracy.

1879 – Sarojini Naidu (née Chattopadhyaya), known as The Nightingale of India (Bharatiya Kokila); she was a child prodigy, Indian independence activist, and poet, who was the second Indian woman to become the President of the Indian National Congress and the first woman to become the Governor of Uttar Pradesh state.

1881 – Eleanor Farjeon, English author of children’s stories and plays, poetry, biography, history, and satire; many of her works had charming illustrations by Edward Ardizzone.

1891 – Kate Roberts, one of the foremost Welsh-language authors of the twentieth century, she is known mainly for her short stories but also wrote novels.

1903 – Georges Simenon, Belgian author best known as the creator of the fictional detective Jules Maigret.

1911 – Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Punjabi-born Nobel Prize-nominated Pakistani leftist poet and author; one of the most celebrated writers of the Urdu language.

1932 – Simms Taback, Caldecott Medal-winning American writer and illustrator of children’s books.

1945 – Simon Schama, British historian and author, best known for his multivolume history of Britain.

1945 – William Sleator, American science-fiction author who wrote primarily for a young-adult audience.

1952 – Lung Ying-tai (龍應台), Taiwanese essayist and cultural critic; she occasionally writes under the pen name ‘Hu Meili.’

1957 – Denise Austin, American fitness instructor and prolific author of fitness books.

1958 – Lenard Duane Moore, American poet, essayist, playwright, and literary critic.

1959 – Maureen F. McHugh, American author of science-fiction and fantasy novels and short stories.

1961 – Henry Rollins, American spoken-word artist, writer, journalist, publisher, actor, radio DJ, activist, and singer-songwriter.

1980 – Mark Watson, British comedian and author.

Curtis Is a No-Go

The latest news in the seemingly never-ending saga of my son’s college admissions process: He was not asked to come to Philadelphia to interview at Curtis Institute of Music.

Curtis is one of the most prestigious, smallest, and most selective music schools in the country, with only 175 students and a 3 to 4 percent acceptance rate — one of the smallest ratios among colleges of any kind. So we always knew it was a long shot.

I didn’t see the email, but I think my son said there were 86 applicants into the Composition program, that six were asked to come in for interviews, and that only one or two will be offered admission.

I have mixed feelings. He would love to know he could win such a highly coveted, competitive acceptance. But I was afraid the school was too small, was too limited to music only, and might have a higher-pressure environment than he would like. But I’m glad he applied. Everyone should have one dream school on the list that is a stretch.

So now there are five.

February 12 Writer Birthdays

1809 – Charles Darwin, English naturalist, biologist, and geologist whose On the Origin of Species advanced the theory of natural selection and became the foundation for the science of evolution.

1828 – George Meredith, English novelist and poet who was nominated seven times for the Nobel Prize.

1893 – Fred Albert Shannon, Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer, professor, and historian whose work looked at American history from the perspective of average people.

1905 – Federica Montseny Mañé, Spanish anarchist, intellectual, trade unionist, and Minister of Health during the Spanish Revolution of 1936 who was one of the first female cabinet ministers in Western Europe and was also known as a novelist, poet, essayist, and children’s writer.

1919 – Subhash Mukhopadhyay, one of the foremost Indian Bengali poets of the 20th century.

1923 – Alan Dugan, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet whose work is known for everyday, no-nonsense language, irony, and a lack of sentimentality.

1929 – Donald Kingsbury, American-Canadian mathematics professor and author of science-fiction novels and short stories.

1932 – Axel Buchardt Jensen, Norwegian author of novels, poems, essays, a biography, and manuscripts for cartoons and animated films.

1938 – Judy Blume, bestselling American author primarily of children’s and young adult fiction whose works were groundbreaking in their handling of tough issues; a Library of Congress “Living Legend,” she has also been awarded a National Book Foundation Medal for distinguished contribution to American letters.

1939 – Yaël Dayan, Israeli novelist, columnist, memoirist, biographer, and politician; she served as a member of the Knesset and was the chair of Tel Aviv city council.

1945 – Janaki Srinivasa Murthy (nickname Vaidehi), popular, award-winning Indian writer of fiction, poetry, and children’s literature in the modern Kannada language.

1945 – David Small, Caldecott Medal-winning American children’s author and illustrator.

1948 – Ray Kurzweil, American author, inventor, and futurist who is a proponent of transhumanism and has written books on topics including health, artificial intelligence, and futurism.

1960 – George Elliott Clarke, Canadian novelist, poet, playwright, and professor.

1963 – Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award and Newbery Honor-winning African-American author who writes books for children and young adults; her works often explore issues of race and class and tackle subjects that were not commonly discussed when she began writing, including interracial couples, teenage pregnancy, and homosexuality.

Month of Letters, Day 11

It is Tuesday, February 11, also known as the eleventh day of the Month of Letters challenge (fondly known as “LetterMo.”

Today I sent three cards and letters:

  • A Valentine’s Day card to my mother in Williamsburg, Virginia.
  • A Get Well Soon card to my father in California.
  • A birthday card and letter to my older sister, also in California. (Actually, at the moment we are the same age, but she will be older again on her birthday next week. We were born in February and December of the same year, so we’re twins for ten months of each year!) The card shows the 1902 Klimt painting Portrait of Emilie Floge.

Month of Letters, Day 10

On Monday, February 10, the tenth day of the Month of Letters challenge to send at least one piece of mail each day in February, I sent two Postcrossing cards:

  • To China, a superhero robot card.
  • To The Netherlands, a card with a reproduction of the cover of an old pulp fiction book called Musk, Hashish, and Blood.

February 11 Writer Birthdays

  • 1783 – Jarena Lee – first female African-American autobiographer and first female African-American ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • 1802 – Lydia Maria Child, political-rights activist for the cause of women, slaves, and American Indians; also a novelist and poet; she is best known for the poem used as the lyrics to the song, “Over the River and Through the Wood.”
  • 1898 – Leo Szilard, Hungarian-born physicist, biologist, inventor, and professor who played key parts in the invention of the nuclear reactor, linear accelerator, and electron microscope, and was involved in the first cloning of a human cell.
  • 1900 – Hans-Georg Gadamer, German philosopher and writer.
  • 1909 – Joseph Leo Mankiewicz, American film director, screenwriter, and producer
  • 1916 – Florynce Kennedy, American attorney, civil-rights activist, feminist, and autobiographer.
  • 1917 – Sidney Sheldon, American writer who started out writing for TV, but then moved to his best-selling fiction work.
  • 1931 – Larry Merchant, American sportswriter, television commentator, and boxing analyst.
  • 1939 – Jane Yolen, prolific, award-winning American author of sci-fi, fantasy, and children’s books, as well as poetry; she has won two Nebula Awards, the Caldecott Medal, a World Fantasy Award, a National Book Award nomination, and a Damon Knight Grand Master Award, among others. She has written more than 350 books and is best known for the novel The Devil’s Arithmetic and the picture book How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?
  • 1946 – Jeffrey Gitomer, American author, professional speaker, and business trainer who writes and lectures internationally on sales, customer loyalty, and personal development.
  • 1957 – Pico Iyer, British-born essayist and novelist, many of whose works deal with the crossings of cultures.
  • 1959 – Celeste O. Norfleet, American author of romance novels and young-adult books.
  • 1962 – Sandra Tsing Loh, American writer, actress, and radio personality.
  • 1968 – Mo Willems, American children’s book author and illustrator, best known for the picture book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

February 10 Writer Birthdays

1775 – Charles Lamb, English essayist, poet, and historian, best known for Tales from Shakespeare, co-authored with his sister Mary Lamb.

1868 – William Allen White, American author, biographer, newspaper editor, and politician who was a leader of the Progressive movement.

1890 – Boris Pasternak, Russian novelist, poet, and translator who is best known for his novel about the Russian Revolution, Doctor Zhivago; the manuscript could not be published in his own country and had to be smuggled out of the Soviet Union to Italy for publication.

1898 – Bertolt Brecht, influential German poet, playwright, and theater director who is a key figure in 20th century drama.

1898 – Joseph Kessel, French journalist and novelist.

1906 – Adrienne Adams, Caldecott Honor-winning American children’s book illustrator.

1910 – Princess Eugénie of Greece and Denmark, French-born Greek princess and author who wrote a biography, in French, of Tsarevitch Aleksey Nikolaevich, son of the last Tsar of Russia.

1920 – Alex Comfort, British scientist, physician, gerontologist, and anarchist best known for his sex manual, The Joy of Sex.

1930 – Michael Anthony, Trinidad novelist, historian, poet, and short-story writer.

1930 – E.L. Konigsburg, two-time Newbery Medal-winning American author and illustrator of children’s and young-adult books; she is best known for the beloved novel, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

1939 – Adrienne Louise Clarkson, Hong Kong-born Canadian journalist, broadcaster, and stateswoman who served as Governor General of Canada.

1943 – Stephen Gammell, Caldecott Medal-winning American children’s book illustrator.

1944 – Francis Moore Lappé, American author and food ecologist, best known for the Diet for a Small Planet.

1944 – Vernor Vinge, American computer scientist and science-fiction novelist and short-story writer who has won multiple Hugo Awards; he is considered the first author to present a fictional “cyberspace”; he was once married to science-fiction author Joan D. Vinge.

1946 – Sarah Joseph, award-winning Indian novelist and short-story writer in the Malayalam language who is considered one of India’s leading writers; she is a leader in the feminist movement in Kerala and a political activist.

1964 – Glenn Beck, American conservative media personality and author.

1979 – Johan Harstad, Norwegian novelist and playwright.

Month of Letters, Day 8 (and Day 9)

On Saturday, February 8, I mailed just one letter for the LetterMo (Month of Letters) challenge. This one was a letter sent to another LetterMo participant, this one in Pennsylvania. I was traveling (on yet another college visit) and sent it from a hotel mailbox in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

No breathtaking scenes, clever pictures, or quirky photographs this time, just a pretty, gold-embossed card from the Papyrus clearance sale. (Though it is a lot prettier than the image here; what my scanner reads as black lines are actually embossed metallic gold.

Day 9 was Sunday, with no outgoing mail.