Literary lessons at Hemingway’s childhood home

Being a writer can sometimes be a weary business.

Circulations are dwindling, commissions are like gold dust and then there’s the fact you’ll often be your worst critic… *slumps head on keyboard*

So after a week of writer’s block I sloped off to Oak Park, ten miles west of downtown Chicago, to be inspired by Ernest Hemingway.

EH house

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 having 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 Clarence 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.

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 noisy owls that Dr Hemingway shot dead on his honeymoon 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. The latest wordsmith is Annette Gendler who has been enjoying her time tapping away in the alcove.

This revelation and our tour guide’s stories of how a disciplined Hemingway would get up and start typing from the break of dawn each day made me want to race home and begin that elusive fiction novel I always claim I will start writing.

Five minutes from the Hemingway home is a small museum featuring artefacts and quotes from the writer throughout his career.

EH quote1EH quote2

Sometimes you just need a literary great to help you get your writing mojo back…

Top 10 Writing Tips From Ernest Hemingway

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