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Monday, August 31, 2015

Ghosts?

It's 6:10 AM Monday morning. I'm in the attic office at the Hemingway Birthplace home, my new writing space since being named the Writer-in-Residence here. I have a cup of French roast. One light shines in the room, just enough to illuminate the corner of the space. Miles Davis' So What plays softly out of my laptop's speaker. I write.

And I wait.

I've been in the house alone many times now. Early mornings are best. It's a cool, quiet, and a unique place to be and work. But I can't help wondering about the ghosts.

No one has said anything about any spirits, evidence of any Hemingway apparitions. But I wonder.

I write some more. It's going well. The story takes me places I wasn't sure I would go. I am being pulled along by something uncertain.

I sip coffee. I lower the volume on Miles Davis. I listen to the sound of my fingers tapping letters on the keyboard.

A few years ago, I was the Writer-in-Residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando. It was the home where he had lived with his mother and where he wrote The Dharma Bums. A poet who had been a previous resident once wrote of the scratching sounds she would sometimes hear in the home, the branches of the massive old oak tree just outside the front door moving in the wind and scraping along the home's tin roof. The sounds of Jack's pencil writing words from heaven.

There is no tin roof here at the Hemingway home. No big old oak touching the roof. But there is something in this space, something I can't put my finger on just yet. A force, a simple presence. A ghost? Not sure about that. It seems silly to consider. But, well, maybe.

I take another sip of French roast. I write some more. Davis has now shifted to Coltrane on my Spotify playlist.

I do not feel alone.

I write some more. And I will write again.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

At Hemingway's

It's been about a month now of writing off and on at the Ernest Hemingway birthplace house as the new Writer-in-Residence. And although I keep expecting to discover a ghost, a spirit, that hasn't happened yet. But, I must say, it's a wonderful spot...and maybe, in some ways, otherworldly.

Morning is best for me. Quiet and cool in the house. No visitors. Although it's also appealing to be writing in the upstairs attic office when visitors are touring the home. Nice to know history is being relived, retold just below me.

And yes, I am getting some writing done. Completed the rewrite on a new creative nonfiction/memoir and will soon be working on rewrites for new novel, Night Radio. But also picked up on another manuscript that had been abandoned and it's now finding its way. I think partly at least because of the Hemingway house experience. The story is about a writer, struggling with fame, but knowing deep down he may not be worthy of the attention, the notoriety. I think Hemingway struggled through a similar period. Some scholars believe his machismo and ego needed to be big and bold for him to overcome his self doubt. Ah, the writer's scourge!

The experience at the Hemingway house also makes me think a great deal about a writer's space. Why it works or doesn't? I thought this new office at the birthplace might be a bit tacky, hokey. It was said to be decorated in a Hemingway safari theme. Oh my, that could have been one big cliche. But no! Thanks to the Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park and the board's attention to detail, the writing space is remarkable. Those behind it clearly studied the Hemingway writing spaces in Key West and Cuba and without copying, captured the feel of both. It's -- you might say -- "a clean, well-lighted place."

One more thing...if you come to visit the Hemingway birthplace...be sure to eat here! (See bleow) Just down the street. It's like breakfast in France!

P.S. I'll keep you posted on the ghosts. 



The Hemingway Birthplace Writer-in-Residence Office









Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Pilgrim Soul

I have always loved William Butler Yeats' poem. "When You Are Old" is a beautiful, melancholy verse to a long time relationship and to the journey that relationship sparked. But what I love most is not that the subject of love in this poem, but rather its nod to the concept of pilgrimage.

A pilgrimage is mostly defined as a spiritual journey. But not necessary a religious one. Pilgrimage can come in may ways. Still what it means to me is the search for an essential, authentic truth about our lives, our reason for being here, our desires and wants and the long road trip we take to discover all of this.

How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

Recently I have been so very fortunate. I was named the Ernest Hemingway Writer-in-Residence at this birth home in Oak Park, Illinois. I signed a new deal for my very first novel. And I have been blessed with a new release—There's a Hamster in the Dashboard—which has been getting a wonderful response. But as I journey through this fortunate stretch, I know there will be times—both professional and personal—that won't be so fortunate. Still, I possess a pilgrim soul and through all of it—the good, the bad, and the ugly—I will stay on my road. I will keep believing that what is ultimately important is to keep moving on, keep truckin', keep writing, living, loving, and caring. I offer this belief to you in all that awaits you.

The pilgrim soul—the one who forever searches. Not because they are lost,  but because they want to be found.