Key West, Sun Valley, Oak Park, Kansas City, Africa, Spain, Italy, France, Cuba — Ernest Hemingway got around! These are just a few of the geographical locations that come to mind when thinking about his work. But as many of us in the region know, Wyoming also played a significant role in Hemingway’s life and writing.
Hemingway will receive a lot of attention in the coming years, partly through a documentary by the acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns, scheduled for release in 2019. Here in Wyoming, we’ll start the ball rolling sooner, with a special statewide celebration of Hemingway that will begin in 2018. The connection between Hemingway and Wyoming is an exciting literary story that residents of the state will have a chance to experience in a variety of ways.
A collaborative initiative is being planned to take place throughout the state, in celebration of the 90th anniversary of Hemingway’s writing of “A Farewell to Arms” at Spear-O-Wigwam in the Bighorns. (He completed the book in 1928 and it was published in 1929.) Sheridan College has taken on the leadership role, with John Sutton spearheading the effort. Ucross Foundation is honored to participate alongside the Wyoming Humanities Council and the Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research at UW. Another collaborator will be a national organization, The Hemingway Society. Much news will be forthcoming soon on this unique multidisciplinary project.
Ucross has had an involvement in the work of Ernest Hemingway since 1995, when we first partnered with the Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction. This literary prize was established in 1976 by Mary Hemingway, the wife of Hemingway, in order to honor his legacy. The award, administered by PEN-New England, has grown in stature and impact over the years. Currently the winner is awarded $25,000, as well as a residency and honorarium from the University of Idaho’s MFA Creative Writing Program and a one-month residency at Ucross Foundation. (Ucross also offers residencies to two finalists and two honorable mentions for the award.) Support of this magnitude at the early stage of a writer’s career can be a life-changing experience.
This year’s winner and finalists will be announced within the next week. The awards ceremony will take place in Boston on April 2, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The critically acclaimed writer Roxana Robinson, who is president of The Author’s Guild, will give the keynote address that day.
The 2016 PEN/Hemingway award winner was Ottessa Moshfegh, for her novel “Eileen.” She has recently published a collection of stories, Homesick for Another World (Penguin). We are looking forward to hosting Moshfegh for a residency at Ucross this fall. Kevin Powers, a winner in 2013, will also be in residence at Ucross soon. (Powers, who won for his novel “The Yellow Birds,” served in the U.S. Army in Iraq.) Since the partnership between Ucross and the PEN Hemingway Award began, we have given residencies to nearly 60 writers at the beginning of their literary careers, including Colson Whitehead, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ben Fountain, Ha Jin, Jennifer Haigh, Ravi Howard, Murad Kalam and Sigrid Nunez.
I’m looking forward to all things Hemingway this year and next, including rereading “A Farewell to Arms,” which I first read (and loved) in high school. I’ll be reading a recent Scribner paperback edition of the book, called “The Hemingway Library Edition.” It features an introduction by Ernest Hemingway written in 1948, a Foreword by his son, Patrick Hemingway, and an introduction by his grandson, Sean Hemingway, who is a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Hemingway was an extraordinary writer — exemplified by his reply to a question about why he rewrote the ending of “A Farewell to Arms” 39 times. “I wanted to get the words right,” he said.