So You See It Could Be A Lot Worse

In November of 1922, a young foreign correspondent writing for the Toronto Star, kissed his wife goodbye at their home in Paris and boarded a train for Switzerland to cover the Lausanne Peace Conference. Like many young writers just starting out, Ernest Hemingway had not yet found his way into publishing the kinds of works he really wanted to produce, but he managed to get some networking done while working his day job and soon editor Lincoln Steffens expressed an interest in his fiction.

At that point, Hemingway did what any writer looking for his big break would surely do. He contacted his wife Hadley in Paris and asked her to bring his writing to Switzerland. Hadley readily agreed and packed up her husband’s work, carbon copies and all, into a small suitcase. Then she boarded a train just as soon as she could.

There could be some very valuable papers stuffed in a suitcase in someone’s attic somewhere. photo credit: FUMIGRAPHIK_Photographist Travel via photopin (license)

Before the train pulled out of the station, Mrs. Hemingway stowed her bags and left them just long enough to locate and buy a bottle of water. When she returned, the suitcase containing all the written works of her future Pulitzer Prize winning ex-husband was gone.  The works lost included several short stories as well as a novel about World War I.

I don’t know about you, but to me this is a soul-crushing kind of a story. I’ve borne witness to the agony authors feel when their laptops self-destruct and swallow partial manuscripts. I myself have misplaced thumb drives or failed to back up scenes and lived to regret it. Thousands of words have tripped from my fingertips and fallen, for one reason or another, off the face of the earth, never to be recovered.  No matter how careful we are it happens.

Ernest Hemingway writing bigger and better things. (Public Domain)

And it’s not always the worst thing ever. Often it leads to better scenes, more careful word choices, more thoughtful expressions, and all around improved creative works.  Sometimes, it even pushes us to find new ways to share our work with the world.

Recently I lost a novel. I didn’t leave it unattended in a suitcase at the train station, though some days it feels like that’s what happened. Instead I entrusted it to a publisher that fell on hard times and proved unable to care for the work as promised.

The somewhat complicated situation has caused me many sleepless nights and no shortage of agony, but I also count myself lucky. As the author of a project that had not yet reached publication (something that after a previous one-year delay was finally supposed to happen this past month), my position is not as difficult as many of the authors this publisher used to work with before ceasing all communications and leaving everyone scrambling for a way to reclaim their rights.

I know that some of you lovely readers will want to venture legal advice and while I appreciate the desire to help, I assure you I’ve explored a lot of options and carefully considered my best course of action. I’ve had a long time to watch this play out. I just wanted to include you in the loop, and also assure you that the book is going to make it into the world eventually, just not in the way I had originally hoped.

What’s the best way to cope with losing a book? Write another one, of course!

So you see it could be a lot worse.

Hemingway never attempted to re-write the novel he lost. Instead he went on to write bigger and presumably better things, but it seems he may have never totally recovered from the loss either. In some of his drunker moments, he was known to occasionally admit that the loss of all of his work at once was a big factor in his decision to divorce his first wife.

All I need to do is divorce a publisher.


By the way, if you would like to receive updates as I pursue publication for this and additional books, you can sign up to do just that right here:

Better than a Pulitzer: The Creative Blogger Award

On May 7, 1912, a few months after the death of Joseph Pulitzer, Columbia University set the plans in motion for establishing the Pulitzer Prize as stipulated in the journalist’s will. Five years later, on June 4, 1917 the Prize Board named the first recipients of that honor, awarding prizes in four categories: history, biography, reporting, and newspaper editorial.

Born in Mako, Hungary, the well educated Joseph Pulitzer fell into his journalism career the way most people do, by well-timed networking at a public chess match. But it wasn’t luck that brought him success as the owner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and later as owner of The New York World.

Joesph Pulitzer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Joesph Pulitzer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It was hard work and the kind of business savvy that pairs hard news with sensationalized stories, exaggerations, and occasionally stuff that’s just plain made up. And it was also his unfailing belief that a free press and the freedom of creative expression was central to the success of a free society. He once stated, “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery.”

For Pulitzer, free expression and a free press would always be the watchdog that would protect people from government abuses, calling to account politicians who act in their own interest rather than that of the nation they represent. His ideals stand firmly against suppression of speech, whether deemed prudent or not, and demand that all voices can be heard.

And so he established a school for journalism and a system for awarding excellence in journalism and other creative pursuits, with a particular emphasis on works that in some way serve the betterment of humanity, particularly exposure of government corruption and injustice.

Pulitzer also had the foresight to recognize that society would evolve over the years and so he gave the Board authority to expand the award categories as they deemed appropriate. Since the award was first established, it’s expanded at various times to include, among other things, telegraphic reporting, poetry, music, and feature photography. And since 1995, it’s been adapting to the expansion of online news outlets.

Even so, to the best of my knowledge, there is not yet a category for independent practical history blogs, despite the fact that they tend to pair history with sensational stories, exaggerations, and occasionally stuff that’s just plain made up. And who knows, they may even lead to the betterment of humanity.

But that’s okay, because bloggers are pretty good about recognizing the efforts of other bloggers. Of course blogs cover a wide variety of topics and there are about a million different reasons a writer might turn to blogging. But whatever the purpose, a blog is an unfettered creative outlet with the potential to influence society. We should recognize one another in our creative efforts.

That's prettier than a Pulitzer medal.
That’s prettier than a Pulitzer medal.

That’s why I am extremely grateful, on this 103rd anniversary of the day Columbia University first approved plans to establish the Pulitzer Prize and in this week when I celebrate the third anniversary of my silly little blog, to accept the Creative Blogger Award.

Like most blog awards this one comes with a few rules. First, thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog. Second, share five things about yourself. Third, nominate 10 -15 more creative blogs.

Thank you very much to Susan Roberts of Susan’s Musings for the kind nomination.

Five things about me:

1. My fourth grader’s teacher sends an e-mail every week asking parents to remind students they need to practice their recorders. I’ve never reminded him. Not once. And I never will.

2. I once spent a few months working as a dog trainer for a major pet supply retailer. At the time I was a cat person. Actually I still am a cat person. Seriously, it’s a strong preference. Just don’t tell my dog because it would hurt his feelings and he’s pretty sweet.

3. When I was sixteen, my grandmother offered me a piece of sage advice. She said, “If you have to fall in love and marry someone, he might as well be a farmer.” My husband isn’t a farmer, but Grandma always liked him anyway.

4. I read a lot of literary fiction, upscale historical fiction, and narrative nonfiction, but I have a serious weakness for young adult dystopian fiction. I can’t help myself. It doesn’t even have to be well written. And I will set aside just about any great literary work currently on my “to read” shelf in favor of one.

5. The very first home cooked meal I made after my husband and I were married was macaroni and cheese. From a box. He thanked me and ate it with a smile. Now that’s a keeper! And thankfully, I have since become a better cook. Though my kids still prefer the boxed mac ‘n’ cheese.


Victo Dolore

I Didn’t Have My Glasses On

Childhood Relived


Notes From a Hermitage

Loni Found Herself

Russel Ray Photos

Ponies and Martinis

The Armchair Sommelier