Hemingway House cats
  • Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote in Key West for most of the 1930s, and descendants of his six-toed cats still live on the grounds of the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum there. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)


  • By: Carol Shaughnessy
  • July 13, 2016

Whether you’re an experienced or aspiring writer, a passionate reader, or simply a fan of Ernest Hemingway’s exuberant Key West lifestyle, you’ll find a rich roster of literary events during Hemingway Days 2016.

Hemingway Days begins with two literary museum exhibits -- including "Depicting Hemingway" at the red brick Custom House Museum. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Hemingway Days begins with two literary museum exhibits — including “Depicting Hemingway” at the red brick Custom House Museum. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Hemingway lived on the island for most of the 1930s — writing books and short stories that became literary classics, fishing for marlin and other oceanic “big game,” and drawing inspiration from local residents who became his lifelong friends.

He even portrayed the quirky, end-of-the-road community he loved in “To Have and Have Not,” his only novel set in the United States.

So it’s no surprise that, every July for more than three decades, Key West has celebrated his larger-than-life character — and especially his literary legacy — with a lively event known as Hemingway Days.

The 2016 festival’s cultural calendar begins Tuesday, July 19, with a museum day that honors Ernest AND Key West’s other most famous writer-resident.

Explore “Depicting Hemingway” at the Custom House Museum at 281 Front St., and you’ll discover 59 original pen-and-ink drawings by world-renowned marine wildlife artist Guy Harvey — all providing a visual narrative to Ernest’s “The Old Man and the Sea.”

The drawings are paired with rare artifacts from the author’s Key West years and a life-sized bronze of him in his prime.

Plus check out an exhibit at 513 Truman Ave. that offers insights into playwright Tennessee Williams’ long residence in Key West.

Irish writer Denyse Woods

Denyse Woods will be among the noted authors giving presentations at the Hemingway Days highlight event, “Voices, Places, Inspirations.”

Highlights include personal photographs of Tennessee at home with his partner and friends, first-edition plays and books, a typewriter he used in Key West and much more.

(If you can’t catch the exhibits Tuesday, don’t worry! Both continue throughout Hemingway Days and beyond.)

It’s contemporary writers who star in the eagerly anticipated “Voices, Places, Inspirations” readings set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, at the beautiful Key West Woman’s Club at 319 Duval St.

Talent runs high in the scheduled participants — especially Irish novelist Denyse Woods, who recently triumphed over 2,100 other writers to win the Florida Keys Flash Fiction Contest and a one-of-a-kind writing residency in the island city.

She’ll be joined by Chuck Ball, author of the fascinating “Hemingway’s Heist” among other volumes … Steven Hull, creator of the riveting Hunter Benson series … Key West’s own Mandy Bolen Miles, renowned for her “Tan Lines” books and newspaper columns … and journalist Terry Schmida, whose “True Crime” series chronicles criminal deeds in the Florida Keys.

The event is staged by Literacy Volunteers of America–Monroe County and includes a “meet-the-authors” reception.

Head back to the Custom House Museum Thursday, July 21, for a 5 p.m. presentation titled “People and Places That Influenced Ernest Hemingway.” This intriguing offering is presented by Nancy Sindelar, Ph.D., an internationally acclaimed Hemingway scholar — and also the author of “Influencing Hemingway: The People and Places That Shaped His Life and Work.”

Blue Heaven Key West gate

Step inside the gate of Blue Heaven for the Key West Poetry Guild’s reading of Hemingway’s little-known poetry

After her presentation, don’t miss the “birthday party” marking the 117th anniversary of Ernest’s July 21 birth.

If you’re like most people, you probably didn’t realize that Ernest Hemingway wrote poetry that helped launch his writing career. Discover that little-known poetry at 5 p.m., Friday, July 22, when the Key West Poetry Guild presents “The Poetry of Ernest Hemingway,” which also spotlights guild members’ own work.

Fittingly, the event takes place at the Blue Heaven restaurant at 729 Thomas St. — a site where Ernest sometimes refereed neighborhood boxing matches in the 1930s.

As always, the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition is held in conjunction with Hemingway Days. Recognizing the work of emerging writers, the contest has been directed by author Lorian Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter, since it began in 1981.

Keep checking the competition website for updates and the winners’ announcement.

Want to explore the full schedule of Hemingway Days literary and lifestyle events? Just click here.

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