Nov. 5, 1998

Gathering Leaves

by Robert Frost


Today's Reading: "Gathering Leaves" by Robert Frost (1874-1963).

It's the birthday in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, of playwright and actor SAM SHEPARD, born in 1943. He grew up on military bases around the country. The family finally settled in California and he tried college for a year, and then took off for New York to act in and write plays. He had his first successes in Off-Off-Broadway productions, writing a series of one-act plays like Chicago, Icarus's Mother, and Red Cross. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for Buried Child.

It was on this day in 1930 that writer SINCLAIR LEWIS became the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. When Lewis got the call from Sweden telling him that he'd won the prize, he thought it was a hoax, and he started mimicking the caller's Swedish accent.

It's the birthday of ROY ROGERS, born Leonard Frankly Slye in Duck Run, Ohio in 1911. He grew up in a house that stood right about where second base of Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium is today. Roger's first movie came out in 1938, "Under Western Stars", and he went on to make nearly 100 more.

It's the birthday in 1885 of philosopher and historian WILL DURANT, born in North Adams, Massachusetts. Durant was the author with his wife Ariel of the 11-volume Story of Civilization, which began as a series of lectures he gave in New York.

It's GUY FAWKES DAY, the anniversary of the "Gunpowder Plot" to blow up the Parliament building in London in 1605. Guy Fawkes and eight other conspirators secretly loaded 36 barrels of gunpowder into the basement of Parliament in an attempt to assassinate King James I. The plot was discovered on the evening of November 4th, the day before the intended explosion. The conspirators were arrested, tried, and beheaded for the conspiracy, and the next year Parliament enacted a law decreeing November 5 a day of public thanksgiving. It is still observed in Britain and the old verse is repeated: "Remember, remember the fifth of November Gunpowder treason and plot; I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason Should ever be forgot."

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 »