Nov. 12, 1999

In Addition to Faith, Hope and Charity

by Pattiann Rogers

Broadcast Date: FRIDAY: November 12, 1999

Poem: "In Addition to Faith, Hope and Charity" by Patti Ann Rogers from Fire Keeper published by Milkweed Editions.

It's the birthday of nonfiction writer Tracy Kidder, born in New York City (1945)—who is able to make a topic many people would assume to be nothing but dull (such as designing a new computer) into a compelling human interest story. A longtime contributing editor at the Atlantic Monthly magazine, he received a Pulitzer Prize for Soul of a New Machine (1981), about an 18-month struggle of engineers at the Data General Corporation to create a super-mini computer. For his book House (1985), which followed a new house from blueprints to finished product, he spent 6 months studying how the home-buyers, architect, and builders managed to get along, wrangling and compromising in a complex triangular relationship that eventually created a house—with digressions to explore such topics as the history of nails and Thoreau's Walden Pond shelter. Kidder's other books include Among Schoolchildren (1989), Old Friends (1993—about life in a nursing home) and Home Town (1999).

It's the birthday of Reader's Digest founder (William Roy) DeWitt Wallace, born in St. Paul, Minnesota (1889). His father, a minister, was president of the Presbyterian-related Macalester College in St. Paul; his mother was a minister's daughter. Recovering from a World War One wound, he pruned back some magazine articles as an exercise to keep himself busy. Back in St. Paul, he spent 6 months putting together a dummy issue of the Reader' s Digest, using 31 such pared-down articles that had appeared originally in other magazines. Potential backers rejected his concept as ridiculous; he shelved it until he was laid off from his advertising job. The Reader's Digest went on to enjoy the widest circulation of any magazine in the world.

It's the birthday of feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, born in Johnstown, New York (1815). When her brother died, she was allowed to take his place in the Johnstown Academy; previously she hadn't been admitted. She won honors there, but even so, no college would take her. She studied law in her father's office, but wasn't allowed to take the bar exam or practice. In 1848, the first women's rights convention in America was held in her home in Seneca Falls, New York. With Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage, she compiled the first three volumes of The History of Woman Suffrage.

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 »