Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Interview for Random House e-Book

Here is an interview I did for the Random House e-Book edition.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Town and Gown Appearance

After a whirlwind visit to the Big Apple, I'm back in Bozeman and heading off to Billings to speak at Town and Gown tonight. The subject is Cuba, a place that seems to be in Limbo right now. It is very hard to predict what the future there will be. I note that Castro is on the ballot for another term in office, that is, El Jefe, not his brother Raul.

As the photographer Roberto Salas told me when I visited Havana last March, Cuba has two problems, "the embargo and blaming the embargo." Something will have to be done to improve the Cuban economy whether there are Castros or no Castros in power. Cubans are very resilient and very creative. Maybe one day they will be able to direct their own destiny.

My destiny in the next couple of days will be determined by the state of the roads, which I'm happy to report are in a relatively dry and drivable condition this morning. However, in Montana they say about the weather: "Ask me again in five minutes."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dog Authors: A New Trend?

The last two book signings I attended were, in fact, paw signings.

Last Saturday Jag Schweitzer was signing his FIRST DOG (Farcountry Press 2007) at Bozeman's Country Bookshelf, A black-and-white border collie, prominent these days in the State Capitol of Helena, Jag was accompanied by his buddy Governor Schweitzer, who used the occasion to greet constituents and promote his bid for reelection. Jag assumed an independent air and schmoozed with his fans throughout the session, not allowing his dogship to be upstaged by the Gov. Author Jessica Solberg and illustrator Robert Rath were on hand to add a sketch along with their signatures, and Schweitzer, not to be outdone appended his own pawprint to the historic dogument.

A month ago I was a panelist at the Billings book fair. For me, a highpoint of the festivities was Tess Kahn's presentation of her new book, TRAINING PEOPLE: HOW TO BRING OUT THE BEST IN YOUR HUMAN (Chronicle Books 2007) A black labrador rectreiver, Tess of Helena as her nom de plume describes her, gave an admirable performance before a select audience. Her insight into human behaviour, its foibles and pitfalls, was quite hilarious. I rather wickedly asked her to sign a book for my cat Mimi, a first for her, which presented a small quandary, since Tess's intentions towards the species makes the U.S. military's routing of Al Queda seem like cats play.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembering Norman Mailer

Yesterday November 10th, Norman Mailer died in New York City. This country has lost a great literary figure whose inquiring mind challenged the conventions, and whose sharp pen rattled a couple of generations, while providing food for thought, for gossip, for debate, for delight. I have lost a friend.

I met Norman Mailer in 1963 and could count him as a friend in the subsequent decades. I can recall countless memorable occasions at the Mailers' apartment in Brooklyn Heights and in their sea front house in Provincetown in the 1960's and 1970's. It was there Norman taught my oldest son to swim.

I was sitting in the Brooklyn Heights watching television with the Mailer family one Sunday afternoon in late 1963 when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, President John F. Kennedy's assassin. Norman saw the unscripted murder as it was happening and immediately understood its implications. For the next several years I would hear Norman discussing Kennedy's assassination from every possible angle, especially the conspiracy theories.

When I resigned my job as publicity director of Hawthorn Books because the company was sold, Norman recommended me to his publisher. At the time he was in Miami covering one of the boxing championships. He did not let distance deter him from helping out a friend.

Norman recommended my husband Gregory Hemingway to his agent when Greg decided to write a memoir in 1974. He then offered to write an introduction for the book, PAPA: A PERSONAL MEMOIR, which received the New York Times Book Review front page slot.

Thirty years later Mailer wrote a blurb for my own memoir, RUNNING WITH THE BULLS: My Years with the Hemingways.

Last year Mailer said of my illustrator son Edward's little cocktail book: HEMINGWAY AND BAILEY'S BARTENDING GUIDE TO GREAT AMERICAN WRITERS, "I like everything about this book except that I am not in it."

Farewell, Norman, you may be gone but you will not be forgotten.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Trick or Treat?

Halloween is a big deal in Bozeman for children and adults alike. Especially on a mild autumn night like yesternight.

Costumes are planned ages in advance. Routes are discussed. The best streets for getting booty are not always in the immediate neighborhood. Parents or older siblings may be roped in as chauffeurs. Receptacles can vary from pillow cases and garbage bags to plastic pumpkins.

The street where I live is one of the most popular venues in town. Last night between six and seven fifteen p.m. about one hundred supermen, monsters, witches,

fairies and recognizable popular cultural figures from two feet to six feet high, knocked on my door begging treats or threatening tricks if denied.

What a great custom to indulge in one night late in the year before the winter robs all joy of nocturnal outings.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Visit to a Paleontologist Extraordinaire

This morning I visited Jack Horner at the office in the Museum of the Rockies to discuss his life as a Curator of Paleontology for the past twenty-five years. My exclusive interview will be published in DISTINCTLY MONTANA's spring issue.

(I have written six other pieces for the magazine; here is a link to the most recent profiles of writer Deirdre McNamer and actor Peter Fonda.)

Jack Horner has made the most astonishing discoveries in the field of paleontology during the past quarter of a century. All of his major work has taken place in Montana and concerns dinosaurs. His work is showcased at the Museum of the Rockies which has the world's most extensive dinosaur collection and research facilities.

Jack Horner was the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Award in 1986.

Horner is a Montana native. He has had an amazing life. He was a technical advisor to Stephen Spielberg on his Jurassic Park movies. He even has a sizeable Wikipedia entry.

I cannot think of a better way to spend a Monday morning than listening to Jack Horner recounting his adventures in the field.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Up Above the World so High

A week ago I had a bird's eye view of Yellowstone Park and the Paradise Valley. I was aboard a four seater single engine plane that looked like a toy when it was on the ground. Our pilot and guide was a Livingston lawyer. My companions and hosts were a Bozeman couple who purchased the trip at a benefit auction for a local theatre.

We took off from Gallatin Airport on a two hour trip, looping over the mountains, through the park and up the valley. It was a beauiful calm clear day. I could see my house as we glided over Bozeman. What a great way to sightsee! We circled Old Faithful but the geyser was not gushing at that moment. Instead, we spotted a number of other geyers in action. We paused over the waterfall for a photo op, observed the Lamar Valley and Mammoth hot springs. Gardiner stood sentinel serenely outside the park with its great archway dating back to Teddy Roosevelt's time. What a spectacular trip!

One week before we were forced to postpone our trip because of a huge snowstorm. As they say around here: If you want to see a change in the weather, stick around for an hour or two.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nobel Prize in literature to Doris Lessing

On Thursday morning Oct. 11th when I turned on the morning radio I heard a discussion of Doris Lessing's work and life. I thought, "Lessing is 87, she must be dead." I had to wait an hour to learn that Lessing had won the Nobel prize for literature.

It brought me back to London twelve years ago when I had the good luck to visit Doris Lessing at her home. It was for an interview. She had been difficult to reach because she avoids being interrupted by inconsequential events. As soon as she opened the door and invited me in, neither of us could help noticing that we were wearing exactly the same attire, navy skirts, shirts, tights and shoes. Only our scarves were different. The coincidence made us laugh. We got off to a good start which gathered momentum as the time passed. Before we left she asked the photographer with me to take a photograph of "the navy sisters." We found that we had many interests in common. It was a memorable morning for me.

Three years ago I saw Lessing again at Hay on Wye, one of the great English book festivals. She kept a standing room only audience enthralled as she recounted various tales from her very full life. Every now and then she would pause and say, "Now where was I? Oh yes, ..." and she was off again on another verbal adventure. I spoke to her briefly afterwards and presented her with a small cat I had bought for her at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. She was delighted, even though she was quite tired and the crowds were pushing forward with their books to be signed. What fortitude! What a great spirit! How lucky I was to be there!

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Last Rose of Summer

The leaves are changing color from summer green to glorious shades of yellows, orange and rust. Time to turn off the sprinkler and put the garden to bed for the winter.

The Hatch Film Festival is in full swing. The festival was founded half a dozen years ago by Montana resident, Peter Fonda. (See my interview with him in Distinctly Montana, Fall 2006). The Bozeman Symphony gave the first performance of their fortieth season with a rousing rendition of Rachmaninoff's 3rd piano concerto (opus 30, D minor) with Jon Nakamatsu at the piano and Matthew Savery at the podium.

My next foray will be to speak at the Billings bookfest October 18 to 20. More about that later.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ketchum Hemingway House Benefit

I spent last weekend in Ketchum, Idaho attending the third annual Hemingway Festival there and being the featured speaker at the Nature Conservancy's one thousand dollar a plate benefit dinner. The proceeds will be used for the upkeep of the Hemingway house which was bequeathed to the non-profit conservation group by Ernest's widow, Mary Hemingway in 1986.

Drinks and hors d'oeuvres were served on the newly paved patio after which the twenty-four guests partook of a very elegant dinner in the large diningroom overlooking the Big Wood River, with a view of high mountains and sagebrush hills. I think both Ernest and Mary would have been proud of the feast, an elk tenderloin, preceeded by slivers of smoked wild duck and partridge filled pastries. Soup, salad and pear tart completed the meal which was accompanied by a variety of wines. The house was open to the guests for inspection and for photographs.

As I drove back to Bozeman, I noticed the changing of the colors in the trees, yellow, red, orange and rust. The fleeting autumn season, gone before it hardly begins, was apparent as the first snows descended on the distant mountains. All I encountered on the highway was a heavy rain but I have lived in these parts long enough to know it could turn to snow at any moment

Sunday, September 16, 2007

9/11 in Denver

On September 11th I spoke to a very appreciative audience of about five hundred people as part of the Town Hall Denver lecture series. The unflagging interest in Ernest Hemingway's life and work never ceases to amaze me. The questions are always stimulating, After the talk and booksigning I was taken to the beautiful Denver Country Club for lunch with the dialogue continuing throughout the meal.

A couple of days ago I saw the film: 3:10 to Yuma, the latest western with its fine photography, spectacular scenery, and complex characters. Apart from the excessive shoot'em'ups, the story is one that gives much food for thought. What do you think?

Next week I shall drive for seven hours to Idaho to speak at the Hemingway House in Ketchum. The $1000 a plate dinner sponsored by the Nature Conservancy is a benefit for the preservation of the house where the writer spent his last year and where he took his life. Often our first big snowstorm of the fall occurs at the equinox. Fingers crossed that this year it will hold off till my return.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

On the Circuit

September has come and I'm back on the road giving talks. On Tuesday September 11, I'll be the featured speaker at the Town Hall luncheon meeting in Denver. The subject will be my memoir, Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways. There seems to be an inexhaustible interest in Ernest Hemingway, his life and work.

On September 22nd I'll give a talk to a private group at the Hemingway House in Ketchum, Idaho. The occasion will be a special fundraiser dinner to benefit the Nature Conservancy and the Hemingway House which will take place during the Sun Valley Hemingway Festival.

In August I gave my memoir writing workshop to a group of forty in White Sulphur Springs, Montana as part of the Meagher County Bookfest. The workshop was so successful I was invited to give similar sessions in Great Falls and Fort Benton.

The second weekend in August I spoke at the Irish festival, An Ri Ra, in Butte. It is one of the more colorful Montana summer festivals, covering all aspects of Irish culture. Particularly endearing are the Irish step dancing performances by children from three years up. The music, much of it imported from Ireland, was fabulous.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Oxford in August

You may have been wondering what happened to me. On the spur of the moment I accepted an invitation to attend a wedding at Birmingham University (England) mid-August and was rewarded additionally with the offer to housesit a beautiful cottage and garden in Oxford. I returned to Bozeman last night, very much exhilarated by my experience.

Birmingham was drizzling with rain, but a few forays to the countryside of Shropshire and Wales brought me to various rustic establishments including a two hundred year old cider mill, stilll pressing away as it distills a fine rich hard cider, once meted out to the field workers at a quantity of five gallons a day to get them through the harvesting. The tap water was unsafe so the cider quenched the thirst and spurred the peons on. Every inch of England is fraught with history.

August is tourist time in Oxford, but I was fortunate that my old school chum, Delphine Kelly, came over from Dublin to spend a few days with me. You will have read about Delphine in my memoir. We had not seen each other in sixteen years. She and her husband had spent five years at Oxford as a young married couple when John Kelly was a Don at Trinity College. Delphine showed me around all the authentic spots, and noted where her two oldest boys romped around on the college lawns and scampered over stone walls. We went to Blenheim Palace where Winston Churchill was born and were intrigued by a new kind of museum entertainment, a historical drama featuring former inhabitants of Blenheim, enacted by means of life sized wax figures and video beamed through mirrors and picture frames. All was automated, as doors opened electronically to let us through to the next scene of the drama. Quite a production! I've seen nothing like it in the U.S.

I was very fortunate to catch up with two people I had hoped to see, both Elspeth Huxley connections. C.S. Nicholls wrote a wonderful biography of Elspeth, and Tanzanian artist, zoologist, anthropologist, Jonathan Kingdom, who has done some remarkable work and who was introduced to me by Elspeth twelve years ago. More about these people will be revealed on another occasion.

I'm off to the magnificent van Cleve ranch in the Big Timber Canyon for the Labor Day weekend. Hope you're having as much fun as I am.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Ernest Hemingway's Havana Home Restored

My article on revisiting Cuba and the restoration of the Hemingway home in Havana appears in the current issue of Smithsonian Magazine, August 2007. So far the responses have been positive.

I have just returned from a conference in Vienna, a beautiful city, lighthearted, filled with the music of Mozart and Strauss, palaces and museums, trolley cars and river boats cruising the Danube.

Memoir Writing Workshop
August 4th, 2007 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Meagher County Bookfest in White Sulphur Springs, Montana

Come join my five hour memoir writing workshop if you're in the area.

Butte Irish Festival
August 10th, 11th, 12th

I'll be giving a talk at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday August 11th, following artist, writer, publisher, Russell Chatham, at the lively Irish festival in Butte. If you have a touch of the Blarney, it is an occasion not to be missed.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Article in Smithsonian

My article came out in the Smithsonian magazine which you can find at www.smithsonianmagazine.com.

There is also an author profile which is a bit more freeform than I would have liked; you can find it here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Interview w/CubanHeadlines.Com

Here is an interview I did for CubaHeadlines.com.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Independence Day in Montana

Distinctly Montana's summer issue appeared on the stands on July 2nd just as I was about to join the McNamer clan in Red Lodge to celebrate July 4th. I brought several copies of that glorious glossy magazine of Montana life with me to the reunion because my profile of their cousin, Missoula novelist Deirdre McNamer, appears alongside some funky photos of her taken by photographer Steven Begleiter (Page 46). The piece coincided with the publication of Deirdre's fourth novel RED ROVER (Viking Penguin) which already has received high acclaim from fellow writers, Richard Ford, Alice Munro, Jim Harrison and Tom McGuane. Set in Montana and loosely based on family history with a twist of mystery, I recommend that you put RED ROVER on your summer reading list.

Today I received an advance copy of the August issue of Smithsonian Magazine with my article: "Hemingway's Cuba, Cuba's Hemingway" inside (page 66). It will hit the news stands on July 26th, and your mailbox if you have a subscription before that. More on this in my next dispatch.

I'm heading out to Vienna (Austria, where else?) to attend a conference tomorrow. I include the country because when I first came to Montana in 1980 the local newspaper seemed to be filled with inconsequential items with international datelines. I learned about happenings in Glasgow, Amsterdam, Manhattan and Moscow. It took me some time to realize these places were within a pony ride of where I lived, hence the interest in broken fences and lost dogs. Will return on the 27th.

August will be a merry month. I'm giving an all day memoir writing workshop at the White Sulphur Springs Bookfest on Saturday August 4th. The following Saturday, August 11th I'll be talking in Butte at An Ri Ra, the famed Irish Festival. My gig follows that of the renowned artist, writer, publisher, gourmet, and former restauranteur, Russell Chatham. See you in Butte at 3:30 pm on August 11th.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What's New in Big Sky Country?

The summer social scene is in full swing in this corner of Montana. This weekend I attended two art shows, a pre-wedding barbeque and and a thirtieth wedding anniversary party, the last at the McGuane ranch in Sweet Grass County.
Tom McGuane's lead review of OUT STEALING HORSES by Per Petterson appeared in The New York Times Book Review the same day. Everyone here is reading his latest book, a collection of short stories called GALLATIN CANYON.

Note: the hard cover edition of my memoir RUNNING WITH THE BULLS, no longer available through the publisher, can now be purchased through my website: valeriehemingway@valeriehemingway.com. I would be happy to autograph and personalize each book for you. The paperback can still be purchased in the usual way through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Back from the Dig in One Piece

Just returned from my fourth archaeological dig in the Galilee, all in one piece, a bit dusty and achy but very happy and refreshed. Why anyone would want to move rocks and sift dirt in extreme heat from 5:30 in the morning till one in the afternoon is a bit of a mystery, but the satisfaction of gleaning a little insight into the secrets of our past is tremendous, not to mention uncovering the odd two thousand year old coin, or more likely, waching someone else make the find.

When I asked Israeli friends if anything was going on, they said they didn't bother to read the newspapers, and indeed, there was little sign of unrest in the northern part of the country.

Jerusalem is an ancient and marvellous city well worth visiting. I made my first trip to Jordan to see Petra which aspires to be chosen one of the seven wonders of the world in the next wonders election. Computers were available and we were encouraged to vote to make this aspiration a reality. I rode loftily on a rather ill tempered camel, another first for me and ended the day (about 104F degrees) on horseback. Donkeys and carriages were also offered the weary visitor, but I felt I should leave some thrills for a future visit.

While away the final editing of my Smithsonian article took place. Oh, the wonders of the internet, which make communication from the farthest corners of the universe a possibility! Watch out for "Hemingway's Cuba: Cuba's Hemingway" in the August issue.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Article about Deirdre McNamer

My profile of Deirdre McNamer is out in Distinctly Montana: see it here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Met my deadline!

My article on Cuba for the Smithsonian magazine is in the editor's hands and I am off to Israel for some archeological relaxation. More when I return...

Monday, April 9, 2007

Last week I headed for Miami to talk to the Honors students at Miami Dade College about A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway's 1929 World War I novel. This talk was given under the auspices of the National Endowment for the Humanities' One Community One Book program. The college was abuzz with activities. So much going on ... a three day writing workshop, a month of panels, discussions, lectures, dramatisations of A Farewell to Arms, a book that was published seventy eight years ago, and is as fresh today as then in it observations on the futiltiy and incoherence of war. It is also a story of love and loss exquisitely written. My audience ranged from greatly enthusiastic to politely bored as might be expected from a required attendance on a beautiful spring afternoon. There was a lively discussion afterwards, many of the questions preprepared but nonetheless thoughtfully inquisitive, often reflecting the preoccupations of the moment. I regaled the audience with some of my own experiences working as Hemingway's secretary in Spain, France and Cuba when I was their age, and this seemed to make a deep impression. I returned from sunny Florida to snowy Montana, one foot deeper than at my departure, just in time to bring our skiing season to a powdery close after one of the most disappointing ski seasons in memory.

Off to Palm Beach next week to talk about my memoir RUNNING WITH THE BULLS: My Years with the Hemingways. Will let you know how it goes.

Friday, March 23, 2007

St. Patrick's Day Memoir Workshop

I spent Saturday last, St. Patrick's day in Billings, Montana giving a memoir workshop to members of the AAUW. Fifty five people attended, five over the maximum, and another fifteen came to the luncheon and stayed for the half hour wrap-up session. I am amazed at the number of people who are interested in writing their memoirs for various reason: self-fulfilment, to share with the family, for publication, etc. We had a four hour session with lots of participation and input from the attendees. There were quite a few laughs and when it came to doing the exercises, there was true dedication. One woman said that she suddenly remembered something she hadn't recalled in forty years, since she was a teenager. She read her discovery to those at her table. There was general rejoicing. Each person went away with renewed determination to continue recovering the secrets and lost moments of a past life. I had brought along three dozen copies of my memoir, RUNNING WITH THE BULLS: My Years with the Hemingways. Every copy was sold. Yesterday I received a letter asking for a repeat performance next spring.

Off to Miami next week to talk to Dade County Community College about Hemingway's favorite novel: A FAREWELL TO ARMS. Will let you know all about it.