Happy Birthday, Ernest “Papa” Hemingway

Papa writing

Ernest “Papa” Hemingway, circa 1939. His works include A Moveable Feast (a memoir) and The Old Man and the Sea.

Happy July 21st, readers. (That happy and Hemingway go in the same sentence can only be an oxymoron.) Today marks the 115th birthday of American journalist, short story writer and novelist, Nobel laureate, outdoorsman, master alchemist, and best damn ambulance driver in world history: Ernest Miller Hemingway. He was born 21 July 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois.

In homage to the birthday of one the major writers in the English language, I will be brief. I also dedicate this brevity to FWR, who, sadly, has also gone to the great quail covey in the sky. Thank you, Fred, for teaching me everything I know about “Papa” Hemingway (among other literature).

For an overview of the writer’s life and his process, read Papa’s speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he could not give in person in Sweden in 1954, having been in a bushfire and recovering from not one, but two, airplane crashes in Africa that left him debilitated for the rest of his life. You can also listen to most of it, wherein he changes but one word from the paper speech.

In any case, without further ado, here is my poor Papa parody (the wrong way to Hemingway, to be sure, in contrast to, say, The Sun Also Rises!), written in 2011 and refreshed recently, in 2014. The names and certain details about the celebri-types have been changed to protect the infamous.

“Papa”-razzi Perspectives: If Hemingway Wrote for a Gossip Magazine

by Leigh Ward-Smith, ©2014

for FWR

Rex Diamondfield was once, and still is, a television actor in Hollywood. Do not think that I am much impressed by his job, but it means a lot to Diamondfield. And evidently to his new Compagne, Helen Troy-Taylor.

Two separate witnesses saw Diamondfield, 44, and 42-year-old actress Troy-Taylor at Disneyland, also in California, on Monday. One person said the pair “were having a great time” as they moved from ride to ride in the amusement park.

I rather liked Troy-Taylor, who reportedly showed Diamondfield quite the time on Monday. I first met Troy-Taylor at a cafe in Strasbourg or somewhere or other in Alsace, in 2001. She carried a dachshund in a pricey green handbag. Poochi in a Gucci, I thought at the time.

But neither witness recognized the bella dama this week. Diamondfield, however, was identified by fans, who described him as thin and gaunt, with deep wrinkles at the nape of his neck, though he had neatly combed dark hair. The eyewitnesses’ reports made me think he was the best form of lucky to be on a date with Troy-Taylor. I don’t have to tell you she makes men’s teeth sweat.

The couple walked around the park with a tour guide. He paused to pull out some teeth-whitening gum from an inner coat pocket near one of the most popular attractions at the park. He balled its silver wrapper into a wad and threw it toward a small bush. Outside Splash Mountain, one onlooker asked Troy-Taylor to take a picture of the group with Diamondfield. The rugged actor also wore a white shirt with two buttons undone, chinos and a black Bronx Bombers cap that the bystanders said was signed on the bill in gold ink by slugger Derek Jeter. After signing a final fan’s T-shirt, the couple made for the entrance. Diamondfield’s right arm casually drifted to the small of Troy-Taylor’s back, and he patted her derriere twice before they entered the ride itself with their guide.

An acquaintance of mine once remarked that “the rich are different from you and me.” Sure they are. They have Doozy-loads more money. But there are also other benefits. I’d go so far as to say Diamondfield scored a couple celebrity points just this week at Disneyland.



Words Matter Week: Day 5

What person in your life helped you understand the importance of choosing words carefully? What would you say to them if you met them today?

Five, five, words alive! Welcome to Thursday, Day 5 of Words Matter Week (WMW).

Mentoring-team-success-Make A Living Writing, Carol Tice

Many professional writers today offer mentoring services. One such writer is Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing. I found this graphic at Carol’s site. If you’re not interested in mentorship, at the very least check out her thriving writing community.

This was one of the more difficult WMW prompts for me. For I’ve been fortunate in my life to have several people who guided me toward a love of words, as well as being in situations simpatico—even if some of them were very adverse at the time—to the creative process. And who hasn’t been inspired by authors, journalists, musicians, photographers, artists, advocates, historians, or dancers from the world at large, outside our bubbles of direct experience? As I’ve already mentioned many of those literary mentors at my post here, I won’t enumerate them again this week. But I will send a digital shout-out to those word-folk who helped forge my love of wordsmithing.

Mentors Extraordinaire:

For Mrs. H: Thank you for sticking by me when I wasn’t the best, the brightest, or the most well-behaved student. It was because of you that I realized that spelling and diagramming sentences were important.

For Mrs. B: The daily journaling I did in your class was an invaluable experience to me as a young writer. That you believed in my writing (a satire piece) enough to suggest I send it to a literary magazine astounds me still today, and I thank you heartily for all you did as a mentor to encourage me to prop up my angsty self-esteem.

For Ms. F: You were tough, but you taught me how to write a good, evidence-based essay and to explore the canon. And when to blaze into other literary territories.

For Uncle J: You broadened my world experiences by taking me to a play, a symphony, and other artistic endeavors, as well as introducing me to other cultures and the notion that I could reach beyond our own limited, if upland, borders.

For Professors F and S: Artists in your own right, you whose professionalism and creativity remain real-world models of poetry-writing that I aspire to today. I humbly thank you.

For Dr. R: I owe so much of my thesis’ success to your guidance. You were the balanced and involved male intellectual I ‘d not had the privilege of knowing enough of in my life. You—if no one else—taught me several salient facts:

  1. Words slip, slide, perish, and sometimes break.
  2. Hard work and even harder study can pay off.
  3. Literature can be a passion, and maybe even a comfortable disease (i.e., a lifelong profession).
  4. There are worse things than to be a swinger of birches. Also, homo ludens. And Faulkner and Frost can be fun!
  5. Sandra Bullock makes some people’s “teeth sweat,” as yours.
  6. When in doubt, seek out a covey of quail. (Okay, to be fair, I don’t kill animals; I do, however, shoot them in photographs whenever I’m able.)
  7. I suspect there’s a hell of a good universe where you are now. I would say “let’s go,” but I have miles to go before I sleep (hope springs eternal, anyway). How’s that for mixing poets, Dr. R?

I will share Day 6 (Friday) later today, friends. Meanwhile, trip the light blogtastic and visit NAIWE’s WMW site for Friday’s prompt.

Atomic Words and the Authors Who Exploded My World

Bleeding Pen--ObjectsThe word I’d found in my grandmother’s book fascinated me down to the cellular level. P-tar-mi-gan. Ptar-mig-an. How do you even pronounce it?

Little did I know then, but words would collide, then cohere, to round out my “observable universe.”


noun \ˈma-tər\

2b :  material substance that occupies space, has mass, and is composed predominantly of atoms consisting of protons, neutrons, and electrons, that constitutes the observable universe, and that is interconvertible with energy

And as worlds go, I started small. A Dog Called Kitty was one of the first chapter books I read as a child. Fast forward to my “tween” years and I was reading everything from Brontë to Lovecraft to King. And when I turned over that pink scrap of paper and began to write my first horror—and horrible, I might add—short story, I certainly didn’t know what I was going to make of my life, but I hoped it might have something to do with language.

So it was with great interest that I discovered “Words Matter Week” (WMW) a few years ago, brought to you by the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE). This year’s WMW features a question each day, and NAIWE is actively seeking bloggers’ and writers’ ruminations on the power and prominence of words in our lives. I encourage you to participate all week long, March 2-8, 2014.

Writers craft words into memorable phrases, stories, poems and plays.
What writers make your heart sing? Why?

Unfortunately, I am limited in that I can read in only two languages, so I haven’t had the opportunity to touch all corners of the globe with this informal “Authors I Love” list. Naturally, I am open to your suggestions and will enjoy reading meditations on how words matter to you.

To prevent eyestrain, I will only briefly explain why each author has exploded my consciousness, thus reshaping my world.

In no particular order, here are some writers worth getting to know:

  1. William Shakespeare: A shroe, a shroe, my dingkom for a shroe! But seriously, hands-down, the Maestro Wordsmith.
  2. Charles Dickens: Character-driven, highly descriptive, and conflict-laden. Simply put, the best character-namer in the business.
  3. Mark Twain: Huckleberry Finn and the “damned human race.”
  4. Flannery O’Connor: Gothic, Southern, conflicted. One of the best short story writers in the English language.


    Photograph from the Southern Literary Trail

  5. Stephen King: Abandon all hope, ye who attempt to write as well as the King of Horror (as I did in my callow youth).
  6. Anne Carson: Faces pointed at me like knives. The surgeon’s skilled touch, but with words.
  7. Jean Auel: Research meets a strong female heroine or two.
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien: Language, lore, elves, and more.
  9. Harlan Ellison: Angry candy, a paladin of the lost hour, screaming without a mouth.
  10. Ray Bradbury: The writer’s writer; Martians, book-burnings, and pricked thumbs.
  11. William Faulkner: Eating toothpaste, dirty drawers, Yoknapatawpha, “Barn Burning,” and the “human heart in conflict with itself.”
  12. Tennessee Williams: Streetcars, lobotomies, tragedies, menageries.
  13. Marianne Moore: Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.
  14. T.S. Eliot: A modernist metaphysical poet whose music resonates into my time-present, time-past, and time-future.FourQuartets-book cover
  15. Wallace Stephens: Things as they are were changed upon Stephens’ blue guitar.
  16. e.e. cummings: listen, i dont pity one bit this überabsurd, underappreciated helluva good universe-creator.
  17. Toni Morrison: Haunting, harrowing.
  18. Julie Otsuka: Incisive, like a scalpel.
  19. Samuel Beckett: We are all born astride the grave.
  20. Dean R. Koontz: Three words: Watchers (the book).
  21. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Gatsby‘s partial people.
  22. Sherman Alexie: His works are at once human(e) and humorous. Pathos and black humor at their finest, and all “absolutely true”!
  23. (Poet) Allison Funk: At the epicenter.
  24. Langston Hughes: Sadly, we all defer dreams sometimes.
  25. O. Henry: Hometown boy, short-storyist and master of the “twist” at the end.
  26. James Baldwin, whose writing reflects back to me constantly and is rather like “a great block of ice [that] got settled in my belly and kept melting there slowly all day long”
  27. Vladimir Nabokov: I ooze with disgust for and loathing of Humbert Humbert (well done, Mr. Nabokov), but the writing is unparalleled.
  28. Maryn McKenna (science writer): Infectious diseases, you gotta love ’em.
  29. Carl Zimmer (science writer): Parasite rex and more.
  30. Piers Anthony: Wordplay and swordplay; dub me a Fanthony, but there’s nary a Mundaneday with this guy around.

Who bears your cup of literary nectar? I’d love suggestions of other authors and works.