To be a good writer you need to step away from the keyboard sometimes. After weeks immersed in a high-pressure book project, I took a breather and headed to Oak Park, ten miles west of downtown Chicago, to be inspired by Ernest Hemingway.
It is here in the second floor bedroom of a suburban Queen Anne style house that the Pulitzer Prize winning author was born in 1899. The property now belongs to the Ernest Hemingway Foundation Of Oak Park who conduct regular tours of the home where the writer lived until the age of six. The place is fascinating and has been carefully restored to mirror the decor Ernest experienced as a young child. This was achieved thanks to the array of snapshots Ernest’s photography enthusiast father took during their time in the house.
Unsurprisingly Ernest’s parents were interesting characters. His arts loving mother, Grace, was an acclaimed opera singer and vocal coach who out-earned his doctor father, Clarence. Dr Hemingway himself excelled at many hobbies including fishing, shooting, cooking, pickling and – wait for it – taxidermy. Indeed, among the many keepsakes the Foundation has collected are a pair of owls that Dr Hemingway shot dead on his honeymoon (their hoots were too noisy) and lovingly stuffed as a gift for Grace.
I was interested to hear that each year the Foundation invites a resident writer to move in and pen their own great novel in a private attic on the second floor of the home. Wordsmith Annette Gendler has been enjoying her time tapping away in the alcove. **UPDATE 2017: The latest writer-in-residence is Cameron Gearen.**
Our tour guide’s stories of how a disciplined Hemingway would get up and start typing from the break of dawn each day made perfect sense – some of my best writing is in the morning before my brain gets tired. I found more inspiration at the nearby Ernest Hemingway Museum which has more artifacts and many quotes from the writer throughout his career.
There’s nothing like a literary great to fire you up to write something awesome…