Ben Hecht, who was born on this day in 1894, began his writing career working for newspapers in Chicago. He wrote news stories and later wrote a regular column. His first book, A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago, was a compilation of many of his columns. It was published in 1922. But, he couldn’t make a living there so he headed out to Hollywood to write screenplays. He won an Oscar for the 1927 film Underworld. He also collaborated on the screenplay for one of the most well-known films – Gone With the Wind. In 1928, he wrote the popular play The Front Page with Charles MacArthur. He used his adventures working on newspapers as the inspiration for the play. It, too, became a film. He continued his career writing other screenplays and plays, often with Charles MacArthur. He died in 1964.
Erma Bombeck was born on this day in 1927. While she was in college, she wrote obituaries and features for the Dayton Journal Herald. She married William Bombeck in 1949 and they had three children. She began writing for a local newspaper and got paid $3 a column. In 1965, the Journal Herald asked her to write a column three times a week. It was titled “At Wit’s End.” It eventually became nationally syndicated. She wrote several books during her lifetime, including At Wit’s End, her first book, which was a collection of her columns. She was diagnosed with kidney disease when she was 20 years old and struggled with it for the rest of her life. She also battled breast cancer, which she survived. Later, she had a kidney transplant but it failed. She passed away in 1996.
When Charles Dickens began writing, he used the pseudonym “Boz.” So when he came to the U.S. for a five-month tour in 1842, the elite of New York threw a lavish reception for him and called it the “Boz Ball.” Three thousand of New York’s upper crust turned out. They served the best food and beverages. In one newspaper, it described the event as “one of the most magnificent that has ever been given in this city.”
As the Winter Olympic Games approach, I discovered some Olympic writing trivia. The man who is known as the founder of the International Olympic Committee and the modern Games is Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin. He worked for five years to organize the Games and get them started. The first modern-day Games were held in Athens, in 1896. For several years, from 1912 to 1948, the Games also included Art Competitions. In 1912, Coubertin won a gold medal in literature for his poem Ode to Sport.
PLEASE COMMENT: How would you like to participate in the Games as a writer? What writing events would you like to enter?
Poet John Donne was born on this day in 1573. He led an extravagant life. But after he secretly married the daughter of his employer, he began to get serious about his relationship with God. It changed him so much that King James encouraged him to go into the ministry. He did and in 1621, he became the dean of St. Paul’s in London. Two of his most well-known phrases from his writings are “No man is an Island, entire in itself” and “For whom does the bell toll? It tolls for thee.”
Random Trails: 7 Fun Ways to Keep Your Idea Generation Skills Fresh This Winter | The Renegade Writer
If you’re stuck in the winter doldrums, this article may help you generate new writing ideas:
Yesterday, we celebrated Martin Luther King’s birthday. He dreamed of a world where people would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
PLEASE COMMENT: What does that mean to you? What can you write to encourage people to be colorblind?
On this day in 1604, the Hampton Court Conference of King James I appointed 54 scholars to complete an important project. Their goal was to produce a new translation of the Bible. They were divided into six groups and reviewed each other’s work in such a way that by the end of the project, the entire group had reviewed each book. They completed the translation in 1611. It was originally called the “Authorized” version but became known as the King James Version.
The King James Version has influenced the English language more than any other work, including Shakespeare. Many believe it contains some of the most beautiful poetry and prose ever written. Below is a list of some phrases that come from the KJV and became popular phrases. Some of these phases have changed slightly from the exact wording in the Bible, but the KJV is the original source:
- ask and you shall receive (Matt. 7:7)
- the blind leading the blind (Matt. 15:14)
- my cup runneth over (Psalm 23:5)
- a drop in the bucket (Isaiah 40:15)
- an eye for an eye ((Matt. 5:38, Exodus 21:24)
- a fly in the ointment (Eccl. 10:1)
- labor of love (1 Thess. 1:3)
- multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)
- in one’s right mind (Mark 5:15)
- the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13)
- a wolf in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15)
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12, NIV
How can you live out this verse? What does it mean to be “joyful in hope”? How do you remain “patient in affliction”? How do you stay “faithful in prayer”? What afflictions have you faced? How did God give you the patience to endure? Where do you place your hope? How does it fill you with joy? How do you maintain a faithful prayer life?
How can you use this verse in your writing?
- What personal stories can you tell that focus on this verse? What takeaway value can you give your readers?
- What tips and insights can you offer through a how-to article?
- What kind of devotion can you write for this verse?
- How can this verse inspire your fiction?
- How can this verse inspire your poetry?
- Who lives out this verse? Can you do a personality profile on them that focuses on this verse?
- How can you explain this verse to children through fiction and nonfiction?
- How does this verse impact your relationship with God?
- How does this verse impact your marriage?
- How does this verse impact your parenting?
- How does this verse impact the way you live out your singleness?
- How does this verse impact your work?
- How does this verse impact the way you serve others?
I saw Saving Mr. Banks right after the first of the year. It’s been almost two weeks and the movie still remains with me. It’s a touching account of how the beloved movie Mary Poppins came to the screen.
It tells the story of the creation of the screenplay for Mary Poppins, and the often-difficult relationship between Walt Disney and P. L. Travers. But, it also whisks us away to early 20th-century Australia and offers insight into why P. L. Travers wrote the book in the first place. So, one story becomes two.
Travers tried to make sense of her childhood and heal it through her stories. As she saved Mr. Banks, she also saved herself and her family.
Healing Our Pain
All of us carry pain. It might be pain from the past or pain we carry today. Our writing can help heal our pain and can allow us to help others heal their pain, as well.
Use your painful story in your fiction. This time, you can make it right. Give it the ending you wish had occurred.
If you write nonfiction, share the insights you’ve learned along the way. You may not have conquered your pain, but you can share your journey. Walk beside your readers. Help them see they’re not alone.
All of us carry regrets. We wish we would’ve done something differently, made a better decision, said a kinder word, walked away from a destructive relationship or chose a different path. We can write those choices. How do things change for your character when you do?
Again, in nonfiction, offer your insights. What would’ve happened if you’d done something else? What did you learn from your regrets?
Writers often write from their past. You have a story to heal. You can heal it through your writing. And, you can reach out to help your readers heal, too.
And then, like P. L. Travers, you can take a story of pain and turn it into a story of joy.
© Deborah Christensen