Oct. 11, 2000

Broadcast date: WEDNESDAY, 11 October 2000

Poem: "Night," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

In medieval England, today was celebrated as Michaelmas Day, the day on which St. Michael expelled Satan from heaven.

On this date in 1975, the television program Saturday Night Live debuted.

On this day in 1968 the United States launched Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo space mission, and the first space flight to broadcast live on television from orbit.

On this day in 1962, Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II, aimed at renewing and modernizing the Catholic Church. Vatican II introduced a number of sweeping changes, including mass in the native language of the congregation (rather than Latin), and facing the priest toward the parishioners, rather than away from them.

It's the birthday of novelist Elmore "Dutch" Leonard, born in New Orleans, Louisiana (1925). Leonard started his career writing westerns while supporting himself with advertising work. But he didn't achieve commercial success until he switched from westerns to crime novels, which he did with The Big Bounce (1969). He made the bestseller lists in 1983 with Stick. Since then, a number of his books have been adapted for the screen, including Get Shorty (1995). Leonard is known for his lean style and his tough, wise-cracking characters who can be summed up with one word: cool.

It's the birthday of choreographer Jerome Robbins, born Jerome Rabinowitz in New York City (1918). Robbins joined Ballet Theater in 1940 and choreographed his first ballet in 1944. In 1949, he joined the New York City Ballet, where he stayed for ten years, leaving in 1959 to form Ballet: USA. He is best known as the choreographer of such Broadway shows as West Side Story (1957) and Fiddler on the Roof (1964).

It's the birthday of French novelist, playwright, poet and essayist François Mauriac, in Bordeaux, France (1885). Mauriac's work was influenced by his upbringing in Bordeaux and his devout Roman Catholicism. At the heart of each of his works is a soul grappling with the problems of sin, grace, and salvation. His novel Viper's Tangle (1932), is often considered his masterpiece.

On this date in 1881, David Henderson Houston, of Cambria, Wisconsin, patented the first roll film for cameras. Houston's invention made it possible for the first time to take a series of photographs in quick succession.

It's the birthday of Parson Mason Weems in 1759. It was Parson Weems who invented and popularized the story of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree in his 1800 biography, The Life and Memorable Actions of George Washington.

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 »