Tag Archives: ernest hemingway

Retreating Writers

For the second year in a row, I had the incredible pleasure of mentoring/instructing a very talented group of retreating writers at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center in Piggott, Ark. Part of the ASU system, HPMEC has had success with the writer retreats as this past summer was the 7th Annual, and the one just finished was the 2nd Annual Fall Retreat.

But the writers weren’t actually “retreating,” at least not in the military sense. In fact, they were very much advancing, taking full advantage of the beautiful Fall weather on the HPMEC grounds, which features a “barn studio” where Ernest Hemingway penned parts of A Farewell to Arms. Catered to by Deanna Dismukes and the staff, the writers are able to spend the entire week focused on writing, whether that be finishing a project, trying new ideas, or searching for an elusive muse. What a cool idea.

The neat thing is that the writers came from all over the state of Arkansas and Missouri just to spend the week writing. Some of them know each other from other writing groups, some were first timers, and some were even first-time writers. But they were all treated equally.

So what is it we actually do at the retreat? Each morning begins with a writing exercise, something with the intention of loosing up the writing muscles. Writers aren’t required to do the exercises—they can immediately tackle whatever project they want to tackle—but most end up participating in them each day. At lunch the morning exercise work is read, and often (though not every day), an afternoon writing exercise is given. Again, the main purpose is to hopefully inspire creativity for the writers. Those exercises are they read by the writers before the group leaves for the afternoon.

At the end of the week, the writers turn in those exercises along with other writings they’ve chosen, and a special Retreat Anthology is created. I’m the lucky owner of two thus far and I’ve enjoyed the works in both. I’m looking forward to receiving the one just created.

The picture was taken in the barn studio—that’s Hemingway’s typewriter (or rather, one of them) in the bottom right of the picture. From L-R; bottom to top: me, Ethan Baker, Bob Jones (looking a little like he’s channeling Hemingway), Wanda Jones (red), Linda Wyss, Monica Moore, Chris Henderson (who’s commented on some of my blog posts in the past), Carol Griffin, Rita Dortch, Joseph Hargrave, Pat Laster, Phyllis Rhodes and Elizabeth Foster.

On Friday, Faye Williams Jones signed copies of her new release: Erasing People. It can be ordered online here! Though tired and ready to get back home, I think many of the writers—like me—hated to see the week come to an end.



Filed under Columns

Hemingway in the fall

When I was asked to be the only instructor for the First Annual Fall Hemingway Writer’s Retreat, I will confess that I was a little nervous. Writers can be an…uhm…unusual lot—trust me, I’ve dealt with my share of over-inflated egos—and there was no pressure when I was the wingman this past summer. But flying solo carried a much heavier weight.

Writer Retreats aren’t unusual at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum & Education Center, in fact, this past summer celebrated 6 years of Retreats to the small town of Piggott, Arkansas, where Ernest Hemingway lived for a brief period of time and penned portions of A Farewell to Arms.

The fall version just finished, was the first to occur outside the summer dates. The retreat began Thursday, November 13 and ran through Saturday, November 15. Each day was a full day, beginning at 9 a.m. and closing at 5 p.m. The writers were there to write—and write they did!

And, I worried for nothing.

An incredibly talented bunch, the produced a wide range of stories and poetry. Needless to say, it kept me very busy. Editing is not something I ever really “wanted” to do, but it was something I discovered—over time—that I’m pretty good at. Even in college, all I really wanted to do was write…but I kept being drawn to circumstances and situations that put me in an “editing” mode. Even moving to Piggott back in ’06 was to take an editing job. Though, truthfully, I probably wouldn’t have taken it had I not been able to write as much as I did as well.

But editing can be a tough job. Often, you’ve got to tell a writer—who we’ve already established is just a little bit different—that something isn’t working or something needs revising. The writer in me knows that I don’t always like to hear that sort of thing either. I know I need to hear it, but don’t necessarily want to hear it. As an editor, I think my strength lies in “big picture;” plot, story, etc. I’m not one who spends a lot of time on line edits. I guess I’ve always thought the individual writer should focus on that part.

But again, the worry was for nothing. These writers were like sponges. They soaked up everything I said. Let me tell any of you reading here what I said to each of them: Mine is but one opinion—an experienced one, sure—but just one. Ultimately, the opinion that matters is that of the writer…and the person/editor/publisher that’s going to give them money for their work!

And, it must have gone over well with most of them, too. I wasn’t home two days when I’d gotten an invitation to return next November to lead the Second Annual Fall Hemingway Writer’s Retreat, this time for a full week! The date is November 16-20 and space will be limited. Contact Deanna Dismukes, Education Coordinator (who, by the way, takes incredibly good care of all participants—each writer, and instructor!, is treated as if they were Hemingway themselves!) for more information.  

The participants were (left-right): John Murphree, Monica Moore, Bob Jones; Kathy Helmer, Linda Wyss, me; Sandra Harrison, Phyllis Rhodes; Wanda “Faye Williams” Jones, Christine Henderson; Glynda Bates, Ethan Baker, Mary Lester. Not pictured: Freeda Nichols, Marilyn Stroud and Barbara Longstreth-Mulkey.


Filed under Projects, writing

Whirlwind time again

Well, I’m off this weekend for another 10-day jaunt! Or thereabouts. I mentioned earlier that I’d be one of the mentors/coaches at the Hemingway Writer’s Retreat at the Hemingway Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center in Piggott, Arkansas, and I’m very excited about that. I mean, how cool is that?

Essentially, what HPMEC does is cater to a group of writers for an entire week. That’s right, writers come to the workshop and…well, write. The only responsibility they have for the week is focusing on the craft of writing. They’ll have the opportunity to get feedback and to share their work with other writers. Mostly, they’ll be writing. I will have internet connection, but my online time will likely be limited (I have Monday’s scheduled already!). I hope to be able to write some about the retreat next week—maybe even include a photo of the goings-on.

So the Retreat is over on Friday, the 20th. On Saturday, the very next day, I’m scheduled to spend the entire day at the Southern Christian Writers Conference in Tuscaloosa, Ala., about 300 miles away. I haven’t decided exactly what I’ll do just yet, but the plan is to leave immediately after the Retreat is over in Arkansas—oh, and I forgot to mention that my truck will be full with a “load” from our storage (Hi Mom and Dad!).

You may be wondering why on earth do that? Well, Brett will be going to Arkansas with me, so I have to swing back by Oxford before going to Alabama anyway, so we just figured I’ll pick up some oddball sized stuff, stuff that doesn’t fit very well in a U-haul truck. Things like our bicycles and garbage cans (which actually have some of my tools in them while in storage). It’s hard to “pack” 4 bicycles in a U-haul.

So, I’ll swing by Oxford, drop off Brett and whatever things I’ve managed to stuff in the back of the truck, and then truck-it down to Tuscaloosa. I’ll grab a room for the night there so that I won’t have to get up so early and do a 3 hour drive for the conference.

THEN—you thought it was over, didn’t you—then, we’re expecting the carpet to have been put down in our house by then, so the next Monday I’ll return to Arkansas and pick up a U-haul truck, spend a day loading it, drive to Oxford and spend that day Unloading it. And finally, move into our house that we’ve been working on for a month now! We will try to get some pictures of THAT, too.



Filed under General