November 6 Writer Birthdays

1494 – Suleiman I (also called Birinci Süleyman, Kanunî Sultan Süleyman, and Muhtesem Süleyman, and commonly known as Suleiman the Magnificent and Suleiman the Lawgiver), Turkish-born leader who was the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire; he was a distinguished poet and goldsmith who became a great patron of culture, overseeing the Golden Age of Ottoman artistic, literary, and architectural achievements.

1671 – Colley Cibber, English dramatist, autobiographer, actor, and Poet Laureate.

1784 – Laure Junot (Duchesse d’Abrantès), French memoirist and nonfiction author.

1831 – Anna Leonowens, Indian-born English/Canadian writer, teacher, pedagogue, memoirist, autobiographer, traveler, suffragist, and social activist who became well known with the publication of her memoirs, beginning with The English Governess at the Siamese Court, which chronicled her experiences in Siam (modern Thailand), as teacher to the children of the Siamese King Mongkut; her account has been fictionalized in Margaret Landon’s bestselling novel Anna and the King of Siam, as well as films and television series based on the book, most notably Rodgers and Hammerstein’s hit musical The King and I.

1867 – Marie Bregendahl (née Sørensen), one of Denmark’s most acclaimed authors of rural literature; her novels and short stories were written in a realistic, almost grotesque style. She also published poetry.

1880 – Robert Musil, Austrian novelist whose unfinished book, The Man Without Qualities (Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften), is considered an important modernist novel.

1883 – Jonas Lauritz Idemil Lie, Norwegian novelist who was considered one of the Four Greats of 19th-century Norwegian literature.

1886 – Ida Barney, award-winning U.S. astronomer, author, mathematician, and professor who is best known for her 22 volumes of astrometric measurements on 150,000 stars.

1898 – Suzanne Comhaire-Sylvain, Haitian writer who was the first woman Haitian anthropologist; in addition to her interest in Haitian folklore and social issues and the condition of women in Haiti and Africa, her research focused on the origins of Creole language.

1900 – Juvencio Valle (also known by the pseudonym Gilberto Concha Riffo), award-winning Chilean poet.

1901 – Yáng Kāihuì, Chinese poet and teacher who was the second wife of revolutionary leader Mao Zedong; she began writing poetry to express her loneliness when his work kept him away for long periods of time. After she died at the age of 29, Mao mourned her for the rest of his life.

1907 – Catherine Crook de Camp, U.S. science-fiction and fantasy novelist, editor, and nonfiction writer; much of her fiction was coauthored with her husband, novelist Sprague de Camp.

1919 – Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, award-winning Portuguese poet, writer, politician, translator, and children’s writer who was one of the most important Portuguese poets of the 20th century.

1921 – James Jones, U.S. novelist, nonfiction author, and short-story writer whose work explored World War II and its aftermath; his first novel, From Here to Eternity, was adapted for both film and television.

1924 – William Auld, Scottish poet, author, translator, editor, essayist, science-fiction writer, musicologist, and esperantologist.

1926 – Zig Ziglar, U.S. motivational speaker and author of autobiography and self-improvement books.

1931 – Nasiha Kapidžic-Hadžic, Bosnian children’s author and poet.

1934 – Nadežda Plíšková, Czech poet, sculptor, and graphic artist whose work wa influenced by surrealism, pop art, and realism.

1935 – Beatrice Sylvia Vianen, Surinamese writer, novelist, and poet who goes by the name Bea Vianen; she wrote mainly in Dutch, but occasionally in Sranan Tongo, and her writing contained many autobiographical elements..

1938 – Diana E. H. Russell, South African feminist researcher, writer, and activist.

1940 – Ingeborg Day, Austrian-born writer, author, and novelist who was best known for the semi-autobiographical erotic novel Nine and a Half Weeks, which she published under the pseudonym Elizabeth McNeill, and which was later made into a film starring Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke.

1943 – Berlie Doherty, award-winning English novelist, poet, playwright, children’s author, and screenwriter.

1946 – Viivi Luik, Estonian poet, writer, and children’s author.

1950 – Linda LeGarde Grover, U.S. Chippewa novelist, short-story writer, essayist, columnist, and professor whose work concerns the Anishinaabe group of indigenous peoples.

1952 – Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. novelist, editor, screenwriter, and professor, best known for his novel The Hours.

1954 – Karin Fossum, Norwegian mystery writer and poet who has been called the Norwegian Queen of Crime; she has also been a taxi driver and a nurse.

1954 – Stephen Watson, South African creative writing teacher, poet, and critic.

1955 – Catherine Asaro, award-winning U.S. science-fiction and fantasy writer, author of the Saga of the Skolian Empire series; she is also a physicist, chemist, and dancer.

1955 – Maria Shriver, U.S. journalist, author, children’s writer, and television personality who was the niece of U.S. President John F. Kennedy; she was married to actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

1957 – Camille Laurens, award-winning French writer and novelist.

1964 – Ibrahim Al-Hsawi, Saudi Arabian poet, film producer, and actor.

1965 – Clare Vanderpool, Newbery Medal-winning U.S. children’s author.

1966 – Sandile Dikeni, South African poet, journalist, editor, essayist, and political commentator who was an activist against apartheid; he was called, “one of the finest poets and journalists our Struggle has produced.”

1966 – Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel, Equatoguinean author, poet, and activist who was a constant thorn in the side of his country’s long-standing dictatorial government, engaging in protests and political activism, including a hunger strike in 2011; he now lives in exile in Spain.

1969 – Colson Whitehead, National Book Award-winning and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. novelist, nonfiction writer, and columnist.

1973 – Simon Mol, pen name of Simon Moleke Njie, Cameroonian journalist, writer, poet, and anti-racist political activist.

1974 – Dorta Jagic, Croatian poet, playwright, travel writer, theater reviewer, teacher, and translator.

1982 – Zhang Yueran, Chinese novelist, short-story writer, and educator who is part of China’s Post-’80s Generation literary movement.

Mean People Suck

What has happened to civility? Airline passengers are punching out flight attendants. Shoppers are pulling guns on security guards who tell them to wear masks. The number of fights in our local schools has escalated. And many people interacting online no longer make any pretense of polite discourse.

A few nights ago, a woman I’ll call Lynn on an online home-design page posted photos of a room she had decorated. She was clearly proud of her work. She had repainted pink walls to a vivid shade of green, and called the space her “emerald paradise.” She was not asking for advice or opinions, just showing a room she loved.

I wasn’t crazy about the bright green walls; it’s not my thing. But that’s OK. It’s Lynn’s room. She loves the green and is proud of her other decorating choices. I did find her chandelier to be spectacularly gorgeous, so I complimented her on the chandelier, without mentioning the green walls — because that’s what you do if you’re a polite person. Right?

Other members of the group commented with compliments about the room. Many of them loved the green. And then one person — I’ll call her Betty — remarked, in total, “This is horrendous.”

I responded to Betty, saying, “That’s rude. She wasn’t asking for opinions. If you dislike her choices, the diplomatic approach would be just not to comment at all.”

And Betty laid into me, and into Lynn, detailing all the ways in which she hated the room. She called it hideous. She said it hurt her eyes to look at it. She had some merciless things to say about a wall hanging which turned out to be an actual stuffed peacock. And she declared that she could not go through life allowing Lynn to think this room was beautiful. She concluded, “Can’t handle it? Just grab that ‘snowflake’ stamp and slap it on your forehead.”

If Lynn had posted asking for advice or opinions, I would have no problem with someone responding with negative comments — though I would like to see them worded more tactfully. But this was just mean. I reported Betty’s comment to the moderator and it was removed, but only the particular one I reported, the second comment, which called the room hideous and tore it apart, bit by bit, as well as calling me (or maybe Lynn; I wasn’t certain) a snowflake. I was surprised that the moderator didn’t also remove the original “This is horrendous” post. Maybe I should have reported both, but I assumed the moderator investigating it would read the entire exchange.

Since then, the taxidermy peacock has come under more fire from Betty, who never seems to learn. Lynn, more power to her, posted more pictures of her taxidermy pieces, telling Betty, “If you didn’t like that one, you’ll hate this one even more.”

And now Betty has responded, “Joke is on you, honey. I love taxidermy work. Just not BAD taxidermy work. And yours is terrible. Sorry you spent so much money on it.” She calls Lynn’s pieces “shoddy.”

For the record, I would never hang dead animals on my walls — just in case my defense of Lynn makes you think I like this stuff. But there is no reason to be rude about it in a forum like this one.

And the rudeness continues, though I have not rejoined the conversation myself. Several others have stepped in to defend Lynn’s right to like her own decorations, and to chastise Betty for being mean about it. A few of them have been rude as well (“Shut up, Betty”). The last time I checked the page, the final comment was from Betty, charging, “You all are the same people that walk into a business and treat everyone like trash but try to pose as great citizens in your internet lives.” I’m not even sure what she’s referring to. It seems to me that she’s been treating us all a lot more badly than she’s been treated in this conversation.

The thing that worries me the most about this exchange is not that someone I have never met was mean on the internet. It’s how commonplace this kind of nastiness has become, how widely accepted. One person actually “liked” Betty’s “This is horrendous” comment. Who does that? Why?

Does attempting to crush someone’s excitement and pride in her home serve any purpose? She said she couldn’t go through life allowing Lynn to think her room was attractive. Why couldn’t she? She will never set foot in that room. Who appointed her the arbiter of taste for people she hasn’t met? In this case, Lynn turned out to be confident and resilient enough not to let Betty’s criticism make her doubt herself. But a less secure person could be devastated by such comments. Decorating choices are a matter of personal taste. And it’s just a room. Even if its owner has taste you can’t stand — it’s her room. Her green walls and stuffed peacock don’t affect anyone else.

Unless someone has asked for opinions, if you don’t like the room and can’t think of anything nice to say, just scroll on to the next post. As many of our mothers told us, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” The world seems to have forgotten that advice.

November 5 Writer Birthdays

1463 – Antonio Tebaldeo, Italian poet and writer who was born Antonio Tebaldi but changed his family name to Tebaldeo, in keeping with the practice of the Humanists, who sought to Latinize their names; he wrote verse in both Latin and Italian. His Italian verse is remarkable for diction and style rather than for any poetical excellence; with his artificial manner, his abuse of metaphor, and his studied imagery, he was a forerunner of the extravagant poets of the Marinism, or Secentismo, school.

1607 – Anna Maria van Schurman, Dutch poet, painter, sculptor, engraver, nonfiction writer, and scholar who is best known for her exceptional learning and her defense of female education. She was a highly educated woman who excelled in art, music, the sciences, and literature; was fluent in fourteen languages; and was the first woman to study at a Dutch university, though she was forced to sit behind a screen in classes so that the male students could not see her.

1750 – Bak Jega, Korean writer, poet, author, politician, and philosopher who wrote about economics and agriculture, among other topics.

1776 – Adelaide O’Keeffe, Irish poet, children’s writer, and novelist who authored what is considered by some to be the first verse novel for children.

1849 – Rui Barbosa (full name Ruy Barbosa de Oliveira), Brazilian writer, politician, diplomat, abolitionist, and defender of civil liberties.

1850 – Ella Wheeler Wilcox, U.S. author and poet, best known for her work, “Solitude,” which contains the lines, “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.”

1857 – Ida Tarbell, U.S. author, teacher, and investigative journalist whose work led to the breakup of the Standard Oil monopoly.

1862 – Thomas William Heney, Australian journalist, editor, poet, and novelist.

1883 – Ricardo Miró Denis, Panamanian poet, writer, and diplomat who is considered to be the most noteworthy poet of this country and who has been called the national poet of Panama; his work is nostalgic, filled with the author’s thoughts about living away from his native land. He also served his country as director of the National Archives and as a secretary for the Academia Panameña de la Lengua.

1885 – Will Durant, U.S. writer and historian, known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning 11-volume work on the history of civilization, co-authored with his wife Ariel; he was also an activist for women’s suffrage and labor rights.

1909 – Milena Pavlovic-Barili, Serbian writer, poet, painter, illustrator, and costumer designer who was a key part of the Serbian Modernist movement and whose work was at the forefront of Surrealism; she died in a horseback-riding accident at the age of 35.

1917 – Jacqueline Auriol, French aviator, test pilot, and autobiographer who was among the first women to break the sound barrier, and who set five world speed records; her autobiography is titled, I Live To Fly.

1919 – Helvi Juvonen, award-winning Finnish writer and poet.

1924 – Keshav Malik, prolific, award-winning Indian poet, anthologist, art and literary critic, arts scholar, and curator.

1926 – John Berger, Booker Prize-winning English art critic, painter, novelist, and poet.

1926 – Kim Jong-gil, award-winningearly-modern South Korean poet and professor; his poetry is characterize by his skillful exploration of the power of concrete images and a concentrated focus on clarity and lucidity. His poems incorporate ideas from the modern poetic tradition of Imagism, but unlike other Imagist poetry, his work exudes a classical elegance.

1927 – Thomas Gibbons Aylesworth, U.S. author and editor of books for children and young adults.

1934 – Ivonne Aline Bordelois, award-winning Argentine poet, essayist, journalist, linguist, and professor.

1935 – Christopher Hovelle Wood, English novelist and screenwriter who adapted two James Bond novels for the screen and also wrote historical fiction, semi-autobiographical fiction, adventure stories, and comic erotica; some of his work was published under the pseudonym Timothy Lea.

1936 – Om Prakash Aditya, popular Indian Hindi poet and satirist.

1943 – Sam Shepard, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. playwright, actor, and film director.

1944 – Carole Nelson Douglas, U.S. novelist and short-story writer who is best known for her mystery novels.

1945 – Franci Cerar, Slovenian author, short-story writer, and poet who is best known for his science fiction.

1948 – Baba Punhan (born Atababa Seyidali oglu Madatzadeh), Azerbaijani poet who known for his Meykhana, an Azerbaijani literary and folk rap tradition that is recited in time to a beat.

1953 – Joyce Maynard, U.S. author and memoirist who was criticized for writing about her relationship with J.D. Salinger.

1971 – Rana Dasgupta, award-winning British/Indian novelist and essayist; in 2014, Le Monde named him one of 70 people who are making the world of tomorrow.

1974 – Susana Chávez Castillo, Mexican poet, journalist, and human-rights activist who worked to end a wave of killings of women in her hometown of Juárez; she was found murdered and mutilated at the age of 36 for speaking out.

1982 – Uzodinma Iweala, award-winning U.S. and Nigerian novelist and essayist; his debut novel, Beasts of No Nation, depicts a child soldier in an unnamed African country, and was adapted as an award-winning film.

Google Doodle for a Family Friend

Have you done a Google search today? Today’s Google Doodle shows the late Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Charles Kao, to commemorate what would be his 88th birthday today. (He’s on my Writer’s Birthday list for today, too.)

What few people know is that Charles Kao, the Father of Fiber Optics, was an honorary Girl Scout. His wife Gwen and my mother were business partners and also co-leaders of our Girl Scout troop when I was in high school. Mr. Kao used to come on all the camping trips, hike up mountains with us, and help out with other activities. At the store our families owned together, he would pitch in doing whatever needed to be done, including janitorial work, and made the same lousy wages that all family members made, despite being a world-famous physicist.

Dinner at the Kao house was always a trip. Somebody would pose a question about physics or mathematics, and the whole family would pull out their pencils and start making complicated calculations on their napkins.

Someone asked his son Simon today what was the more prestigious recognition, his Nobel Prize, or his Google Doodle! I’m not sure how to answer that.

Here’s the Google Doodle:

November 4 Writer Birthdays

1310 – Song Lian (also called Jinglian), Chinese writer, teacher, politician, historian, painter, calligrapher, and politician who was a literary and political advisor and one of the principal figures in the school of Neo-Confucianism.

1568 – Michelangelo Buonarroti il Giovane, Italian Florentine poet, librettist, and man of letters; he became known as “the Younger” to distinguish him from his famous granduncle the sculptor; he studied mathematics at the University of Pisa, where he became friends with Galileo Galilei and Maffeo Barberini, the future Pope Urban VIII.

1574 – Erycius Puteanus, Dutch writer, linguist, humanist, philologist, musicologist, and university professor; his outspoken language provoked political animosities, and he was almost driven into exile by request of King James I of England, who wrongly believed him to be the author of a scandalous satire about James’s parentage and behavior.

1593 – Jón Ólafsson, Icelandic traveler noted for his autobiography, which covers his travels in Europe and later to the Danish settlement of Tranquebar (Tharangambadi) in India. His birth year is sometimes given as 1594.

1770 – François Pouqueville, French writer, scholar, physician, historian, art historian, archaeologist, anthropologist, explorer, and diplomat.

1801 – Kathinka Zitz (née Halein), German poet, short-story writer, journalist, translator, and novelist who has been called “the Poet Laureate of the German Revolution.”

1802 – Rosina Bulwer-Lytton (born Rosina Doyle Wheeler), English author of 14 novels, a volume of essays, and a volume of letters; she married Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a novelist and politician known for coining the book opening, “It was a dark and stormy night…”; after their separation, she published the novel Cheveley, or the Man of Honour, which bitterly caricatured him. Her mother was Anna Doyle Wheeler, writer and advocate for women’s rights.

1817 – Henry Cadwallader Adams, English cleric, schoolmaster, and writer of children’s novels.

1862 – Jean Blewett, Canadian writer, writer, poet, suffragist, journalist, lecturer, and essayist; her prose and verse had a wide appeal, with a light-hearted tone and humorous twists.

1862 – Eden Phillpotts, Indian-born English author, poet, and dramatist.

1872 – Bohdan Lepky, Ukrainian writer, poet, translator, journalist, scholar, artist, and literary critic.

1873 – Izumi Kyoka (also called Izumi Kyotaro), Japanese author of novels, short stories, and kabuki plays whose writing differed greatly from that of the naturalist writers who dominated the literary scene at the time; his works are surrealist critiques of society, drawing on his characteristic brand of Romanticism, but focused on tales of the supernatural, heavily influenced by works of the earlier Edo period in Japanese arts and letters. He is also considered one of the supreme stylists in modern Japanese literature, with the difficulty and richness of his prose frequently noted by literary critics.

1879 – Will Rogers (William Penn Adair Rogers), U.S. writer, actor, cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator.

1886 – Theodor Dahl, Norwegian journalist, short-story writer, novelist, and poet.

1897 – Janaki Ammal (full name Janaki Ammal Edavalath Kakkat), Indian botanist who worked on plant breeding, cytogenetics, and phytogeography; her most notable work involved studies on sugarcane and the eggplant, and she co-authored The Chromosome Atlas of Cultivated Plants, with C.D. Darlington.

1899 – Jóhannes úr Kötlum (born Jóhannes Bjarni Jónasson), Icelandic author, poet, songwriter, and member of parliament who is still one of Iceland’s most loved poets; he is popular for his verses for children and for how beautifully his words flow in the Icelandic language. Many of his poems have been turned into songs.

1903 – Watchman Nee (倪柝聲), Chinese Christian author and church leader who established many churches throughout China and wrote books that expounded the Bible.

1904 – Claire Beck Loos, Czechoslovakian photographer and writer.

1905 – Xavier Abril de Vivero, Peruvian poet, writer, and essayist who devoted time to studying the poetry of César Vallejo.

1906 – Sterling North, Newbery Honor-winning U.S. author, literary critic, journalist, editor, biographer, and children’s writer, best known for a children’s book that was a memoir about his own childhood, Rascal.

1916 – Walter Leland Cronkite Jr., U.S. broadcast journalist and author who was best known as anchorman for the CBS Evening News; he was often called “the most trusted man in America.”

1925 – Ritwik Ghatak, Bengali Indian filmmaker and script writer, notable for his meticulous depiction of social reality.

1929 – Shakuntala Devi, Indian writer, mental calculator, and child prodigy, popularly known as the “human computer”; her talent earned her a place in The Guinness Book of World Records.

1933 – Charles K. Kao, Nobel Prize-winning Chinese-born British and U.S. electrical engineer and physicist who has written on optical communications technology, laying the foundation for the evolution of the internet; he is considered the Father of Fiber Optics and the Godfather of Broadband.

1934 – Judith Herzberg, Dutch poet, writer, screenwriter, playwright, translator, and librettist.

1936 – C.K. Williams (full name Charles Kenneth Williams), Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet, critic, and translator who has been called, “one of the most distinguished poets of his generation.”

1939 – Gail E. Haley, Caldecott Medal-winning U.S. children’s author and illustrator.

1942 – Lajla Mattsson Magga, Swedish teacher, author, children’s writer, and lexicographer in the Southern Sámi language.

1942 – Carlos Moore, Cuban writer, researcher, journalist, professor, and social scientist dedicated to African and Afro-American history and culture.

1945 – Kadour Naimi, Algerian writer, playwright, filmmaker, and film producer.

1946 – Alexander “Alex” Shoumatoff, U.S. writer known for literary journalism and books and articles about nature and the environment.

1947 – Ma Sandar, well known award-winning Burmese writer, novelist, and short-story writer who writes with a clear and engaging style about the daily struggles of the people of Myanmar; ten of her novels have been made into movies.

1948 – Danila Comastri Montanari, Italian novelist and short-story writer who is best known for her historical mystery novels, especially the Publius Aurelius Statius series.

1948 – O.V. Usha, Indian Malayalam poet, novelist, songwriter, short-story writer, and lyricist; she has been described as displaying in her writings, “a deep moral concern and technical dexterity.”

1950 – Charles Frazier, U.S. historical novelist whose Civil War novel Cold Mountain became a bestseller and the basis for a film adaptation.

1953 – Stephen Jones, English writer who is an editor of horror anthologies and the author of several book-length studies of horror and fantasy films, as well as an account of H. P. Lovecraft’s early British publications.

1952 – Chen Maiping (pen name Wan Zhi), Chinese writer, poet, and translator whose writing for underground magazines drew the attention of Chinese authorities, resulting in his exile in Sweden.

1958 – Rodrigo Rey Rosa, award-winning Guatemalan novelist, short-story writer, and filmmaker who has based much of his work on legends and myths of Latin American and North Africa.

1959 – Tatiana Garmash-Roffe, Russian author of detective stories who also published under the pseudonym Tatiana Svetlova.

1966 – John Kilaka, Tanzanian writer, illustrator, and folklorist, best known as a creator of children’s picture books; he is also a storyteller and an enthusiastic collector of old traditions and stories.

1967 – Kate Cary, British author who, under the pen name Erin Hunter, writes books in the popular “Warriors” novels for young adults.

1968 – M.T. Anderson (full name Matthew Tobin Anderson), National Book Award-winning U.S. author of young-adult books.

1972 – Yiyun Li, award-winning Chinese-born novelist, short-story writer, editor, professor, and literary magazine editor.

1986 – Kristin Cast, bestselling U.S. author and editor of young-adult books who has often collaborated with her mother, the author P.C. Cast.

Election 2021: Good News and Bad News

(Trigger Warning: If you’re a Republican, you will not find this post to be sympathetic, and might want to skip it.)

I posted yesterday about volunteering outside the polls for Election Day here in Virginia, where our race to the Governor’s Mansion has been closely watched around the country. Now, most of the results are in. And we’ve got good news and bad news.

The good news: Alexandria voters stepped up! Here in my city, we voted the straight Democratic ticket for Mayor and City Council. And all of the progressive candidates and none of the scary ones got on the School Board. We elected the Democratic candidate for state delegate, by a wide margin. All of the other local races went our way, and Alexandria voters also chose the Democrats for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General by a landslide. The rest of Northern Virginia and a few other blue points around the state map showed similar results.

The bad news: The rest of the state did not. In the gubernatorial race, 75% of Alexandrians voting for Democrat Terry MacAuliffe (and other high numbers in the other blue jurisdictions mentioned above), was not enough to offset the high numbers of votes for his Republican opponent, mostly in the rural parts of the state. In the end, it was close, but Glenn Youngkin won, as did his running mates.

Votes are still being counted in races for seats in the General Assembly, but we will most likely lose our majority in the lower house. It’s possible that we could tie it, but a 48-50 split seems more likely. (State Senators were not up for reelection this year.)

I’m afraid we may have to brace ourselves for some Texas-style “reforms” in the areas of women’s health, education, immigration, and more. And after we had made so much progress over the past decade. It’s depressing.

November 3 Writer Birthdays

0039 – Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (better known in English as Lucan), Roman poet, writer, and historian who is considered one of the outstanding figures of the Imperial Latin period, known in particular for his epic Pharsalia.

1794 – William Cullen Bryant, U.S. romantic poet, journalist, and short-story writer who was also editor of the New York Evening Post.

1867 – Pearl Mary Teresa Richards, Anglo-U.S. novelist and dramatist who wrote under the pen name of John Oliver Hobbes and was wildly successful in her day; her first book, Some Emotions and a Moral, sold 80,000 copies in only a few weeks.

1873 – Margarita Morozova, Russian writer, publisher, memoirist, salonnière, and patron of the arts.

1874 – Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, prolific French writer, journalist, poet, novelist, sculptor, historian, and designer; she is best known in France for her poem beginning with the line “L’odeur de mon pays était dans une pomme” (“In an apple I held the smell of my native land.”) Her writings express her love of travel and her love for her native Normandy.

1886 – Vyvyan Holland, British author, translator, writer, poet, biographer, and linguist who was the son of poet and playwright Oscar Wilde.

1900 – Nikolai Pogodin, Soviet Russian writer, playwright, screenwriter, and journalist whose plays were recognized for their realistic portrayals of common life combined with socialist and communist themes.

1901 – André Malraux, award-winning French novelist who also wrote about art and was Minister for Cultural Affairs and Minister of Information.

1913 – Albert Cossery, Egyptian-born novelist and screenwriter who wrote in French and set all of his novels either in his home country of Egypt or in an imaginary Middle Eastern country; his writings pay tribute to the lowborn and the misfits of his childhood in Cairo. He was nicknamed “The Voltaire of the Nile.”

1919 – Jesús Blasco, influential Spanish author and comic-book artist whose work ranged from cute animal cartoons to shadowplay realism.

1919 – Květa Legátová, Czech novelist, short-story author, essayist, and screenwriter.

1920 – Oodgeroo Noonuccal (also known as Kath Walker), Australian poet, children’s author, artist, educator, and activist for Aboriginal rights.

1924 – Toyoko Yamasaki, Japanese writer, journalist, novelist, and short-story author.

1925 – Monica Hughes, English-Canadian author of books, mostly for children and young adults; her science fiction is especially well regarded, but she also wrote adventure and historical novels set in Canada, as well as children’s picture books.

1926 – Alice Rasmussen (born Alice Fallai), Italian-Swedish art historian, author, and translator who specialized in art history and botany.

1928 – Osamu Tezuka, prolific, influential Japanese manga artist, writer, cartoonist, animator, and film producer who has been called “the father of manga,” and “the Japanese Walt Disney.”

1931 – Mabel Condemarín, Chilean writer, children’s author, and educator.

1931 – Arun Sarma, Indian Assamese writer, novelist, and playwright who is known for his novels describing the Assamese way of life and for his unconventional plays.

1938 – Bette Bao Lord, Chinese-born writer and civic activist for human rights and democracy.

1938 – Terrence McNally, U.S. playwright whose many awards include four Tony Awards and an Emmy.

1938 – Daniel Sleigh, award-winning South African novelist, poet, children’s writer, nonfiction author, and historian; he writes in Afrikaans.

1942 – Martin Cruz Smith, U.S. mystery novelist best known for Gorky Park and other novels about Russian investigator Arkady Renko.

1948 – Mercedes Franco, Venezuelan novelist and editorial writer.

1952 – Michel Boujenah, Tunisian and French author, screenwriter, actor, comedian, and film director.

1954 – Heike Hohlbein, bestselling German author of children’s books, science fiction, and fantasy.

1964 – Farzona, award-winning Tajikistani poet and writer whose real name is Inoyat Hojieva.

1965 – Anne Scott, French novelist of social realism who has a cult following for her second novel, Superstars.

1967 – Amy Siu-haan Cheung, Chinese novelist, essayist, and blogger who is one of Hong Kong’s most popular writers; most of her books deal with love and relationships.

Election Day 2021

It’s Election Day in Virginia, and if you’re in the U.S., you’ve probably been hearing about how important (and how close) our race is for governor. Of course, that race is crucial, but it’s not the only one that is.

Here in Alexandria, this is a HUGE election, at all levels, from School Board on up to the Governor’s mansion. Don’t tell yourself “they’re all the same.” They’re not. We have candidates putting out dramatically different visions for the future of our city and our state.

So far today, I’ve worked a shift outside the polling place at our neighborhood middle school, handing out Democratic sample ballots. I have another shift at a different polling place this afternoon. The weather is exactly what we don’t want on Election Day. It’s cold and rainy and overall dismal. Bad weather usually suppresses voter turnout, but turnout was strong at the polling place I was working at. Let’s hope that holds throughout the city and throughout the state. A brisk pace of early voting in the past few weeks gave us a good start, but today’s turnout is key.

Have you voted yet? Decisions are made by those who show up. If you live in Virginia — or anywhere that’s having an election today — get out and VOTE!

It’s cold and it’s wet, but that did not daunt volunteers and voters at the George Washington Middle School precinct.

November 2 Writer Birthdays

1758 — Ryokan Taigu, eccentric Japanese poet and calligrapher who was a Zen Buddhist monk.

1847 — Georges Sorel, French philosopher and theorist whose ideas about the power of myth influenced Marxists and Fascists.

1906 — Daniil Leonidovich Andreyev, German-born Russian writer, poet, and Christian mystic.

1911 — Odysseas Elytis, Nobel Prize-winning Greek poet, essayist, and translator who is considered a key figure in romantic modernist poetry; his Axion Esti has been called “a monument of contemporary poetry.”

1919 — Jorge de Sena, Portuguese poet, essayist, and playwright.

1927 — Steve Ditko, U.S. comic book writer and artist who co-created (with comic legend Stan Lee) Marvel Comics heroes Spider-Man and Doctor Strange.

1928 — Paul Bede Johnson, English journalist, historian, speechwriter, and author.

1935 — Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Indian Bengali author of stories for children and adults.

1941 — Arun Shourie, Indian journalist, author, economist, and politician.

1942 – Charlotte Jacoba Maria Mutsaers, award-winning Dutch novelist, poet, painter, essayist, short-story writer, picture-book author, and politician.

1946 — Michelle Cliff, Jamaican novelist, short-story writer, poet, and literary critic whose works explore issues of post-Colonial identity.

1949 — Lois McMaster Bujold, multiple Hugo and Nebula Award-winning U.S. author of fantasy and science fiction, best known for the Vorkosigan Saga.

1950 – Jeannie Baker, award-winning English-born Australian children’s picture-book author and artist; she is known for her collage illustrations and her concern for the natural environment.

1951 – Joanne Horniman, award-winning Australian author who writes for children and young adults; her novels are often set in New South Wales, and deal with such themes as the search for identity, family relationships, growing up in rural communities, and teenage parenthood.

1951 — Thomas Mallon, U.S. novelist, nonfiction writer, and critic, best known for books of history and historical fiction.

1952 – Mai Ghoussoub, Lebanese writer, playwright, journalist, artist, publisher, feminist, autobiographer, and human-rights activist who wrote and published works on a range of controversial issues and producing challenging artistic installations; she also founded the first London bookshop to specialize in Arabic works.

1952 – Chaohua Wang, Chinese writer, essayist, editor, and researcher in modern Chinese literature; she was a member of the Beijing Autonomous Association of College Students in the spring of 1989 during the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square and was put on the Chinese government’s “21 Most Wanted Beijing Student Leaders” list, forcing her to spend more than six months in hiding before leaving for the U.S.

1954 – Enrique Máximo García, Spanish writer, author, musicologist, and university instructor.

1957 — Alyssa Satin Capucilli, U.S. children’s book writer, best known for the Biscuit books for early readers.

1958 – Tatyana Vladimirovna Moskvina, award-winning Russian columnist, novelist, essayist, theater and film critic, actress, and radio and TV journalist.

1959 – Subhash K. Jha, Indian writer, journalist, editor, film critic, and book reviewer who works in print and on television.

1962 — David Brock, U.S. author and neo-liberal political pundit.

1962 – Suleiman Cassamo, award-winning Mozambican writer.

1963 – Jonas Gardell, Swedish novelist, playwright, screenwriter, actor, comedian, and singer; several of his books have been adapted for film.

1965 — Laura Victoria Albert, U.S. author of novels and short stories attributed to a drug-addicted transgender teenage prostitute named J.T. LeRoy; she wrote “autobiographical” works by LeRoy for six years, until the literary hoax was finally uncovered in 2005.

1965 – Dejan Tiago Stanković, award-winning Serbian and Portuguese writer, novelist, and literary translator who writes in Serbian, Portuguese, and English.

1966 – Ni Ko Ye (born Ye Win), prominent Burmese writer, novelist, screenwriter, film director, and radio scriptwriter.

1970 — Lucy Hawking, English journalist, novelist, educator, and philanthropist; she is the daughter of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and writer Jane Wilde Hawking.

1975 – Ófeigur Sigurðsson, award-winning Icelandic poet, novelist, and translator.

1983 – Hiroko Oyamada, award-winning Japanese novelist and short-story writer who has cited writers Franz Kafka and Mario Vargas Llosa as her literary influences.

NaNo Is Now

It’s November 1, time to herald the start of National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo! The idea is to write like the wind all month and complete a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Or 50,000 words of a longer novel.

I am a NaNo Rebel this year, as I so often am. That means I’m stretching the rules to fit my own situation. Instead of starting to write a new novel today, I will be using this month to push ahead in an effort to finish the book I’ve been working on for months. In fact, I wrote my first outline for it as my NaNo Rebel project for NaNo 2020. That outline has gone through many changes since then, and I have a good portion of the book written. But I’ve been lurching forward with it in fits and starts, and I need to be more consistent with adding words to the page (or file).

I jumped in at midnight and had more than 400 words written by 1 am. That’s not exactly write-like-the-wind momentum, but it is 400 more words than I had when the calendar turned to November.

Stay tuned for progress reports.