Literary Birthday - 16 April - Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis was born 16 April 1922, and died 22 October 1995

10 Kingsley Amis Quotes

  1. Laziness has become the chief characteristic of journalism, displacing incompetence.
  2. I don’t get up very early. I linger over breakfast reading the papers, telling myself hypocritically that I’ve got to keep up with what’s going on, but really staving off the dreadful time when I have to go to the typewriter. …I go on until about eight-thirty pm and I always hate stopping.
  3. No wonder people are so horrible when they start life as children.
  4. No writer, especially a young and unknown writer, resents publicity of any kind—whatever he may say.
  5. If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.
  6. The novelist always has favourites, and often he’s a minor character.
  7. It is natural and harmless in English to use a preposition to end a sentence with.
  8. I’ve been trying to write for as long as I can remember. But those first fifteen years didn’t produce much of great interest. I mean, it embarrasses me very much to look back on my early poems—very few lines of any merit at all and lots of affectation. But there were quite a lot of them. That’s a point in one’s favour.
  9. Writing for me is to a large extent self-entertainment, and the only child is driven to do that.
  10. But you can’t imagine how much I miss the intellectual stimulus of teaching English literature to young people. More than I ever realised – I do miss it.

Amis was an English novelist, poet, critic, and teacher. He wrote more than 20 novels, six volumes of poetry, a memoir, various short stories, radio and television scripts, and social and literary criticism. He was the father of English novelist Martin Amis

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Literary Birthday - 15 April - Henry James

Henry James was born 15 April 1843, and died 28 February 1916

13 Quotes

  1. Life is a predicament which precedes death.
  2. Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.
  3. Do not mind anything that anyone tells you about anyone else. Judge everyone and everything for yourself.
  4. We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.
  5. I don’t want everyone to like me; I should think less of myself if some people did.
  6. The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life.
  7. Ideas are, in truth, force.
  8. There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
  9. I hold any writer sufficiently justified who is himself in love with his theme.
  10. It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.
  11. In art economy is always beauty.
  12. I intend to judge things for myself; to judge wrongly, I think, is more honourable than not to judge at all.
  13. Never say you know the last word about any human heart.

James was an American-born British writer. He was regarded as one of the key figures of 19th century literary realism. James became one of his generation’s most well-known writers for such works as The Portrait of a Lady and The Turn of the Screw. James’ imaginative use of point of view, interior monologue and unreliable narrators in his own novels and tales brought a new depth and interest to realistic fiction, and foreshadowed the modernist work of the 20th century. Having lived in England for 40 years, James became a British subject in 1915.

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Literary Birthday - 15 April - Jeffrey Archer


Happy Birthday, Jeffrey Archer, born 15 April 1940

Jeffrey Archer’s top 10 writing tips

1. Make time “Decide when you’re going to write. Don’t be casual and only do it as and when it suits you. Don’t think you can write a novel after you’ve done a hard day’s work, it’s insulting to those professional novelists who spend their time doing nothing else.” 

2. Be disciplined “For example, I write from 6-8am, 10-12am, 2-4pm, 6-8pm. I keep that routine up for 40-50 days and handwrite every word. I then take a break and go back to it again a month later.” 

3. Write what you know “Don’t do vampires, wizards or ghosts because they’re in fashion. Jane Austen wrote about family life in a small village and gave us six of the greatest novels ever written.” 

4. Get some fresh air. “I go for two long walks between sessions, for two reasons, physical and mental. The plot will buzz around in your mind while you are walking, continually churning over, which it can’t be while you’re actually writing.” 

5. Do several drafts “Do not imagine that the first draft of your book is the one that will be published. My latest novel, The Sins of the Father, was 14 drafts and took approximately 1000 hours.” 

6. Be flexible “If you think of something better half-way through the writing process, don’t be frightened to go back and incorporate it or even change the story completely.” 

7. Seek opinions from professionals “When you want an opinion on what you consider the finished script, seek it from a professional editor, an agent or someone you don’t know, through a third party. Do not seek an opinion from your wife, husband, partner, mistress or close friend. They will lie.” 

8. Read the greats “There is no substitute for reading great novelists, and instead of just enjoying their craft, think carefully about how they’ve achieved it? Do they spend pages on description, do they move the story on quickly, how do they make you turn the page? It’s all there in front of you if you look carefully, so at least when you try to do it, you have analysed how successful authors have managed it in the past.” 

9. Stay fit “If the body is a physical wreck – too much drinking, smoking, late nights – how can you expect the written word to be anything less than drunken, useless and tired?” 

10. Don’t give up "My first novel, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, was turned down by 14 publishers, ended up with an advance of £3,000 and on first printing took a year to sell 3,000 copies. It is still extremely rare for a first book to be a best-seller."

Archer is an English author and former politician. His books, starting with Kane and Abel, have sold at least 250 million copies worldwide.

Jeffrey Archer and Amanda Patterson, 15 April 2012

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Literary Birthday - 10 April - Paul Theroux

Happy Birthday, Paul Theroux, born 10 April 1941

12 Paul Theroux Quotes

  1. Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us.
  2. I can’t predict how reading habits will change. But I will say that the greatest loss is the paper archive - no more a great stack of manuscripts, letters, and notebooks from a writer’s life, but only a tiny pile of disks, little plastic cookies where once were calligraphic marvels.
  3. Mark Twain was a great traveler and he wrote three or four great travel books. I wouldn’t say that I’m a travel novelist but rather a novelist who travels - and who uses travel as a background for finding stories of places.
  4. Many aspects of the writing life have changed since I published my first book, in the 1960s. It is more corporate, more driven by profits and marketing, and generally less congenial - but my day is the same: get out of bed, procrastinate, sit down at my desk, try to write something.
  5. Reading alters the appearance of a book. Once it has been read, it never looks the same again, and people leave their individual imprint on a book they have read. Once of the pleasures of reading is seeing this alteration on the pages, and the way, by reading it, you have made the book yours.
  6. The more you write, the more you’re capable of writing.
  7. I know there are writers who feel unhappy with domesticity and who even manufacture domestic turmoil in order to have something to write about. With me, though, the happier I feel, the better I write.
  8. A novel captures essence that is not possible in any other form.
  9. Fiction writing, and the reading of it, and book buying, have always been the activities of a tiny minority of people, even in the most-literate societies.
  10. I’m constantly running across people who have never heard of books I think they should read.
  11. You can’t write about a friend, you can only write about a former friend.
  12. Writing is pretty crummy on the nerves.

Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist. The Great Railway Bazaar is his most famous work of non-fiction. He is best known for his novel The Mosquito Coast. He is the father of British authors and documentary makers Louis Theroux and Marcel Theroux.

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Literary Birthday - 8 April - Barbara Kingsolver

Happy Birthday, Barbara Kingsolver, born 8 April 1955

Barbara Kingsolver: Nine Quotes on Writing

  1. The only way to become a writer is to sit still and write.
  2. Any writer is well served by learning about the world… The great underestimated source of knowledge for writers is school.
  3. I learned to write by reading the kind of books I wished I’d written.
  4. I tend to wake up extremely early with words flooding into my brain.  If I don’t get up, they’ll continue to accumulate in puddles, so it’s a relief to get to the keyboard and dump them out.
  5. The place where I write, upstairs in our farmhouse, has windows facing into the woods.  The walls are lined with bookshelves.  To avoid distraction, I write on a computer that is not connected to the internet.  (I check email elsewhere in the house.)  My companions in this room are the likes of Virginia Woolf and George Eliot, who peer down at me from the shelves, and a blue fish named Bruno.  They are all very quiet.
  6. I spend months or years thinking about the shape of a novel and earning the authority to write it.
  7. I struggle with confidence, every time. I’m never completely sure I can write another book.  Maybe my scope is too grand, my questions too hard, surely readers won’t want to follow me here.  A novel is like a cathedral, it knocks you down to size when you enter into it.
  8. Pounding out a first draft is like hoeing a row of corn – you just keep your head down and concentrate on getting to the end.  Revision is where fine art begins. It’s thrilling to take an ending and pull it backward like a shiny thread through the whole fabric of a manuscript, letting little glints shine through here and there. 
  9. I spend my days tasting the insides of words, breathing life into sentences that swim away under their own power, stringing together cables of poetry to hold up a narrative arc.

Read our Interview with Barbara Kingsolver

On Writing & Reading - Advice for a Teacher

Writing and reading are the two best ways humans have invented to participate with the larger world. Everybody in school wants to be popular: it’s so utterly human, to long for self-expression and connection with others. I would point out that writing and reading offer those things, and more. Writing is a kind of social networking in the way that it connects you with other people, but literature asks a bit more from you than Facebook, and offers more mature rewards. A great book can take you anywhere on earth, in the present or the past or the future. It’s the only mode of communication we have that actually lets you become another person by living inside his head, experiencing his problems and hopes. Fiction is a sort of inter-human magic, allowing you to travel into a scene and feel it tingle on your skin, see it in your mind’s eye and smell it with your mind’s nose!  But forming these images from the printed page is a skill you have to develop when you’re fairly young, I think, or else it’s very difficult to read for pleasure later on. Writing is also a tool you can use your whole life: to help people, make them laugh, change their minds. You can do it for people in faraway countries, even for people who haven’t been born yet. Writing is a way to live forever.

Kingsolver is an American writer. She is the author of 14 books, including The Poisonwood Bible, Pigs in Heaven, and Flight Behaviour. 

Source for Quotes On Writing

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Literary Birthday - 4 April - Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was born 4 April 1928, and died 28 May 2014 

12 Remarkable Maya Angelou Quotes

  1. The honorary duty of a human being is to love.
  2. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
  3. Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.
  4. Talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it. You can plug into it and light up a lamp, keep a heart pump going, light a cathedral, or you can electrocute a person with it.
  5. When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
  6. There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.
  7. My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.
  8. Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
  9. Life loves the liver of it.
  10. The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.
  11. When you learn, teach, when you get, give.
  12. Some critics will write ‘Maya Angelou is a natural writer’ - which is right after being a natural heart surgeon.

Angelou was an American author and poet. She published six autobiographies, five books of essays, and several books of poetry. Her career spanned more than 50 years. She received many awards and more than 30 honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou was best known for her series of autobiographies, which focused on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, brought her international recognition and acclaim.

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Literary Birthday - 3 April - Washington Irving

Washington Irving was born 3 April 1783, and died 28 November 1859

Nine Quotes

  1. The tongue is the only tool that gets sharper with use. 
  2. Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.
  3. There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.
  4. Others may write from the head, but he writes from the heart, and the heart will always understand him.
  5. He is the true enchanter, whose spell operates, not upon the senses, but upon the imagination and the heart. 
  6. The land of literature is a fairy land to those who view it at a distance, but, like all other landscapes, the charm fades on a nearer approach, and the thorns and briars become visible.
  7. There is never jealousy where there is not strong regard. 
  8. A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.
  9. History fades into fable; fact becomes clouded with doubt and controversy; the inscription molders from the tablet: the statue falls from the pedestal. Columns, arches, pyramids, what are they but heaps of sand; and their epitaphs, but characters written in the dust?

Irving was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian. Irving is remembered for his fictional works, including Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He also wrote biographies and historical non-fiction. He was one of the first noted American authors to be highly acclaimed in Europe during his life time. Many of Irving’s works have inspired adaptations to the stage and film. Irving served as the United States ambassador to Spain and promoted international copyright.

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Literary Birthday - 31 March - René Descartes

René Descartes was born 31 March 1596, and died 11 February 1650

René Descartes: 10 Quotes

  1. The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries. 
  2. The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as of the greatest virtues.
  3. When it is not in our power to determine what is true, we ought to follow what is most probable.
  4. Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power. 
  5. One cannot conceive anything so strange and so implausible that it has not already been said by one philosopher or another.
  6. I doubt, therefore I think; I think, therefore I am.
  7. If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.
  8. It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.
  9. Doubt is the origin of wisdom.
  10. To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.

René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and writer. He is called  the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’. Most Western philosophy is a response to his writings. Meditations on First Philosophy continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. 

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Literary Birthday - 25 March - Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O’Connor was born 25 March 1925, and died 3 August 1964

12 Writing Tips From Flannery O’Connor

  1. I’m a full-time believer in writing habits…You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away…Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.
  2. The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location. 
  3. Try arranging [your novel] backwards and see what you see. I thought this stunt up from my art classes, where we always turn the picture upside down, on its two sides, to see what lines need to be added. A lot of excess stuff will drop off this way.
  4. I certainly believe a story has to have meaning, but the meaning in a story can’t be paraphrased and if it’s there it’s there, almost more as a physical than an intellectual fact. 
  5. I think that anything that makes you overly conscious of the language is bad for the story usually.
  6. It might be dangerous for you to have too much time to write. I mean if you took off a year and had nothing else to do but write and weren’t used to doing it all the time then you might get discouraged.
  7. People without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them.
  8. Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.
  9. This may seem a small matter but the omniscient narrator never speaks colloquially. This is something it has taken me a long time to learn myself. Every time you do it you lower the tone.
  10. The writer can choose what he writes about but he cannot choose what he is able to make live. 
  11. Manners are of such great consequence to the novelist that any kind will do. Bad manners are better than no manners at all, and because we are losing our customary manners, we are probably overly conscious of them; this seems to be a condition that produces writers. 
  12. Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction. It’s not a grand enough job for you.

Flannery O’Connor was an important voice in American literature. She wrote two novels and 32 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries. She was a Southern writer who often wrote in a Southern Gothic style and relied heavily on regional settings and grotesque characters. O’Connor’s writing also reflected her own Roman Catholic faith, and frequently examined questions of morality and ethics.

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Literary Birthday - 20 March - Louis Sachar

Happy Birthday, Louis Sachar, born 20 March 1954

Quotes

  1. My favourite authors became my heroes, and I wanted to be like them.
  2. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Nothing in life is easy. But that’s no reason to give up. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it. After all, you only have one life, so you should try to make the most of it.
  3. I try to draw on the feelings I had as a child, or those that I still have, and capture those same feelings in the characters in my books, but under different circumstances.
  4. When I find an author I like, I usually read everything that author has written.
  5. Most days, it just feels like I’m not accomplishing much. I write for about two hours a day, and most of it just seems like a waste of time. It amazes me how after a year, all those wasted days somehow add up to something.
  6. Read, find out what you like to read, and try to figure out what it is about it that makes you like it. You have to rewrite. My first draft of anything I write is really awful.
  7. Usually, when I finish the book, I look back and think it was fun to write, but while I’m writing it, it’s not really fun at all.

For more from Louis Sachar On Writing

Sachar is an American author of children’s books. He is well known for the series Sideways Stories From Wayside School and for Holes which won the 1998 U.S. National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and the 1999 Newbery Medal for the year’s ‘most distinguished contribution to American literature for children’.

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