Friday, October 24, 2014

Holding Class at the Hemingway House

My Advanced Memoir Workshop meets in the dining room
of the Hemingway Birthplace Home. What a cool occasion
to take a group selfie!

Yesterday my Advanced Memoir workshop, usually held at StoryStudio Chicago, met at the Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park where I am currently writer-in-residence.

This class has been running since 2008, and this was the first time we ever did a "field trip." It was fun to hold class in such historic surroundings, have the grand house to ourselves (I gave a tour, including my attic studio!), and of course our book discussion for this month's meeting was Hemingway's wonderful memoir A Moveable Feast.

For me it was also the first time I’d been to the house in the evening. I arrived as dusk set in, so the volunteers who hold tours during the afternoon had already left and closed shop. Letting myself into the house, I still got that Goldilocks feeling as I wandered from room to room searching for the light switches. Turns out many of those lights are rather dim, something that hasn't changed since the Hemingway Family lived here. Hemingway’s older sister Marcelline notes in her book, At the Hemingways“Abba had the first electricity installed in any house in Oak Park, and the contract he made with the electric company was for the flat sum of twenty dollars a year, no matter how much electricity we used. But with the few dim bulbs of that time, often only one to a room, the company probably made money.” (This was around 1900). 

I had planned to hold class in the parlor, but alas, it was too dark in there, so we perused the illuminated dining room, where Hemingway's grandfather, Ernest Hall, called "Abba" by the children (which means father in Hebrew), would entertain the children with stories about, for example, the brown squirrel that lived in the oak tree outside the window. Those stories were the reward for being quiet while he had his breakfast (Hemingway's parents ate before the children), until one morning little Ernest announced that he didn't have to be quiet because he had made up his own story. Thus a storyteller was born not only in that house, but in that room. What a privilege it was to hold class in the very spot!


  1. You're so lucky to be sitting in literary history!

  2. What a fun story about Ernest Hemingway as a boy telling his grandfather he didn't have to be quiet because he had made up his own story. Your memoir writing group is a good looking group. Are you in it?

  3. Thanks for allowing us to share such an intimate evening with Hemingway history, Annette. It was inspirational to say the least!