Aug. 15, 1998


by Paul Petrie


Today's Reading: "Summer" by Paul Petrie from STRANGE GRAVITY published by The Tidal Press (1984).

The EDINBURGH BOOK FESTIVAL begins today and runs through August in Charlotte Square Gardens, in Edinburgh, Scotland – the biggest book fair in Europe open to the public.

It's JULIA CHILD's birthday, in 1912, born and raised in Pasadena, California. She had a fairly quiet life as the wife of a Foreign Service officer, living in Paris after WWII, and studying at the Cordon Bleu cooking school. But in 1961, when she was 49, her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, came out, and two years later she was on TV with the first of over 300 cooking shows that dished out recipes and advice. She's 86 today and still writing and hosting her PBS cooking show, Baking with Julia."

It's the birthday in Tremadoc, a village in northwestern Wales, 1888, of T.E. LAWRENCE, best known as Lawrence of Arabia, though he also used two or three other names in his life. In the years right before WWI, he worked for the British Museum doing archeological digs along the Euphrates in Syria and Iraq. Then during the war he helped lead the Arab revolt against the Turks, who were allied with Germany. He was captured, tortured, wounded several times, and was one of the great British heroes by the war's end. In 1926, he wrote about his war exploits in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which was a huge hit in England.

It's the birthday of SIR WALTER SCOTT, born in Edinburgh, Scotland 1771. He wrote the first historical novels, books like Rob Roy, Ivanhoe, and The Talisman, most of them set in England or Scotland, and published in the 1820s. He was a prolific writer, and turned out dozens of these novels, as well as poems, and edited works of other writers – much of it to get himself out of debt when his publishing firm went bankrupt.

It's the birthday of NAPOLEON BONAPARTE, born on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, 1769. His parents were both Italian, but he went to school in France and joined the French army when he was in his teens. He rose quickly through the ranks and the soldiers came to love him because he made sure they were properly clothed, equipped and fed. He led them to a string of victories and was crowned emperor in 1804. By 1807 he ruled most of western Europe, but had spread his armies and supply lines too thin. He was defeated first at Leipzig in 1813 and was exiled; then came back to power two years later and was defeated again at Waterloo, and exiled for life to the south Atlantic island of St. Helena.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »