Dec. 17, 1999


by Tim Saibles

Broadcast Date: FRIDAY: December 17, 1999

Poem: "Marrow" by Tim Saibles from Hammerlock published by Cleveland State U.

It's the birthday in 1873, Surrey, England, of the novelist and critic, FORD MADDOX FORD. In the First World War he was an ambulance driver in the British army and got gassed and suffered shell shock, and changed his last name to Ford. His best-known book, The Good Soldier, was written during the war, and he's also remembered for his four-novel autobiographical series, Parade's End, that came out in the mid-'20s.

It's the birthday of writer ERSKINE CALDWELL, born in Moreland, Georgia, 1903. His father was an itinerant preacher in the South, and Caldwell grew up among poor sharecroppers and day laborers, people he put in his first novels, Tobacco Road (1932) and God's Little Acre (1933). Those were banned in libraries all around the country for obscenity, but Tobacco Road came to be a phrase in everyday speech: a nickname for a kind of rural squalor. Caldwell said, "I think you must remember that a writer is a simple-minded person to begin with and go on that basis. He's not a great mind, he's not a great thinker, he's not a great philosopher. He's a storyteller."

On the morning of December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took turns piloting their flying machine in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Orville piloted the first flight that lasted just 12 seconds. On the fourth and final flight of the day, Wilbur traveled 852 feet, remaining airborne for 57 seconds, becoming the first to demonstrate sustained flight of a heavier—than-air machine under the complete control of the pilot.

It's writer WILLIAM SAFIRE's birthday today, born 1929, New York City, the New York Times political columnist who also writes on the English language for the Sunday Times.

It's the birthday in St. Paul, Minnesota, 1945, of writer CAROL MUSKE-DUKES (muskie-dooks), author of five poetry collections as well as the novel Dear Digby (1989). Her advice to writers: "Read. Beyond that, don't take any advice. Especially from writers, they all lie."

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
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