Monday

Nov. 29, 1999

The Simple Methods

by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Broadcast Date: MONDAY: November 29, 1999

Poem: "The Simple Methods" by Elizabeth Coatsworth from Night and the Cat published by Macmillan.

It’s the birthday of American novelist and poet Louisa May Alcott, born in Germantown Pennsylvania (1832). Alcott grew up primarily in Boston and Concord, Massachusetts, one of four daughters of the prominent Transcendentalist philosopher and educator, Amos Bronson Alcott, and his wife Abigail. The Alcott’s social circle during Louisa’s youth included men such as Ralph W. Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. By the age of thirteen, Louisa had already decided she would become a writer, but was also aware that the family was in an increasingly dire financial state. Setting aside writing to find suitable ways to earn money to support the family, she worked as a domestic and as a part-time tutor. She found both occupations distasteful and, by the time she was 19 years old, she’d begun in earnest trying to earn a living from writing fiction—she began selling sensational adult stories (which she called her "blood and thunder tales") to magazines like The Saturday Evening Gazette and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. These potboilers were published under a variety of pen names. In 1868 she published her classic of young adult fiction, Little Women, which proved to be a landmark in her writing career and opened many professional doors for her. She died in 1888, at the age of 56, of pneumonia.

It's the birthday of writer and theologian C.S. Lewis, born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1898. In his teenage years at English boarding school he proclaimed himself an atheist, but by his early 30s he was teaching English at Oxford University and said, "Picture me alone in my room, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet." He wrote 40 books, including the children’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia.

It is the birthday of Madeleine L’Engle, American writer, born in New York City in 1918. She is the author of more than 40 books of fiction and non-fiction, and is best known for her young adult novels, A Wrinkle in Time (1962), A Wind in the Door (1973), and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978) known as the Time Trilogy. She is currently ranked by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the 10 best selling children’s authors in the U.S. today.

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer Sue Miller, born in Boston, 1943, who started writing when she was 35 after jobs as a day-care worker, waitress, model, and high-school teacher. She took a creative writing course to help her with a story she was thinking about. She was married with children and said she was annoyed by "the postfeminist novels which suggested that all you need to do is shed your husband and then you enter this glorious new life of accomplishment and ease." Miller's first book came out to great acclaim a few months later, in 1986, The Good Mother. Her fourth novel, While I Was Gone, was published this February.

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 Sharon Olds 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 »