Tag Archives: Ethan Baker

Hemingway in the Spring

Longtime visitors here will recall my association with the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center located in Piggott, Arkansas. The Pfeiffer home is where Hemingway lived for a short time while married to Pauline Pfeiffer and where he wrote parts of A Farewell to Arms. I have a great affection for the place not just because they invite me there, but because it’s in Piggott, my second home of sorts.

The museum holds three annual retreats. Writing retreats are different from writing conferences in that the object for the writers (most of them) is to get away and just write. At a conference, the writers play more of a student role and sit in on lectures and presentations. While there are fun writing exercises for the writers at the HPMEC retreats, the goal is to WRITE! My function as mentor is to lead them in the short exercises, provide feedback and comments to them on their writing, and to generally encourage them to get’er done! I very much enjoy reading the work and offering the encouraging feedback. Writing is work, yes, but it should also be fun!

HemingwaySpring2014 copy*Pictured: Bethany Mallett Stephens, Linda Wyss, Anne Winchester, Barbara Taylor, me (in all my bearded glory!), Susan Hemingway, Ethan Baker, Doug Hemingway, Fay Guin. Yes, we did have a couple who shared Ernie’s last name and Doug even looked the part of Ernest!

I’m not sure exactly when the retreats started, probably 2002, because 2008 was the 6th Annual. Initially they were weeklong summer retreats led by Dr. Rob Lamm from Arkansas State University. I learned about the retreat when I was editor of The Piggott Times in 2007. The very next year, 2008, one of the mentors couldn’t make it and they asked me to step in to to help out, which I gladly did!! The retreats had become so popular that they decided to begin an annual Fall retreat and I was asked to lead the first one. It was an abbreviated version (three days), but was no less packed with writing! In April of 2011, I was then asked to lead the first ever Spring retreat, a near-mirror image of the Fall version (meaning, it’s just a little shorter).

During my association there, I’ve worked with three different directors, but it’s a testament to them and the staff there—who are fantastic!—that the retreats continue to grow and flourish. Last week, five of the nine retreating writers had never been to any of the retreats before (and I specifically mean the HPMEC retreats, not retreats in general…because I don’t know the answer to that).

Writers come from all over, but mostly from the Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee area. I understand there was a New York writer there this past fall.

If you’re a writer and you’ve never been to a retreat, the Hemingway Writers Retreats are excellent ones to attend. They’d take great care of you and you can write where Hemingway did—maybe even channel some Hemingway in your writing.

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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.

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