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A Lakeside Chat with Author Valerie Hemingway

Friday, April 19 – Talcott Event Venue, Walloon Lake

Very few people who knew Ernest Hemingway are still around to share their stories of this charismatic and complicated author — who spent his summers traipsing through the woods and waters around Walloon Lake. Author Valerie Hemingway, who met Hemingway when she was just 19 and after his death in 1961 met and married one of his sons, returns to northern Michigan this spring to lead a group of budding writers in a series of workshops, readings and other creative exercises meant to inspire personal storytelling during the 3rd Annual Walloon Lake Writer’s Retreat Weekend (April 18-20) at the award-winning Hotel Walloon.

As part of that four-day retreat, the public is invited to a FREE event – A Lakeside Chat with Author Valerie Hemingway – on Friday, April 19 at the Talcott Event Venue in downtown Walloon Lake. Doors will open at 7pm with a cash bar featuring a Pilar Rum Hemingway Daiquiri, along with select wine and beer; the discussion will begin at 7:30pm and a book signing will follow.

A chance encounter in Spain in 1959 brought 19-year-old Irish reporter Valerie Danby-Smith face-to-face with the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author Ernest Hemingway (who himself began his writing career as a teenager, writing for the Kansas City Star). What started as a simple and likely awkward interview turned into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Valerie. One that would shape her life as a writer, editor and public speaker.

For the next two years, Valerie devoted her life to Hemingway and his fourth wife, Mary, traveling with them through beloved old haunts in Spain and France and living with them during the tumultuous final months in Cuba. Swept up in the wild revelry that always exploded around Hemingway, Valerie found herself dancing in the streets of Pamplona, cheering bullfighters at Valencia, careening around hairpin turns in Provence, and savoring the panorama of Paris from her attic room in the Ritz.

Working as Hemingway’s “personal secretary,” Valerie became so much more—she earned the role of confidante and sharer of the great man’s secrets and sorrows. She literally came of age in the company of one of the greatest literary legends of the twentieth century.

Even after Hemingway’s death, Valerie remained a key part of the family. She assisted Mary in organizing his files in Cuba and back in the United States, helping to pull together the pages of A Moveable Feast, which was published posthumously in December 1964.

Five years after Ernest’s passing, Valerie became a Hemingway herself when she married his son Gregory, the author’s third and youngest child with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. Valerie and Gregory had four children themselves, before divorcing after 21 years of marriage.

In 2005, Valerie published the 325-page book Running with Bulls, which recounts her years with the Hemingways. In her memoir, she tells the story of the incredible years she spent with this extravagantly talented and tragically doomed family. In prose of brilliant clarity and stinging candor, Valerie evokes the magic and the pathos of Papa Hemingway’s last years.

Hemingway’s connections to northern Michigan date back to his infancy, his parents building a cottage on Walloon Lake the year he was born. He would go on to spend every summer of his childhood and young adult life fishing the waters of the lakes and rivers in and around the area. These special places also showed up in his works, most notably The Nick Adams Stories and Torrents of Spring. The Michigan Hemingway Society, based in Petoskey, celebrates his ties to the Great Lakes States—regarding it as influential in the writer’s life as Paris, Spain, Cuba and Key West.

The 2022 inaugural Writer’s Retreat was led by Ernest’s great granddaughter, Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, author of Ernest’s Way; in 2023, Ernest’s grandson (and Valerie’s stepson), author John Hemingway, was the guest of honor.

Ernest Hemingway was just three months old when he made his first trip from his hometown of Oak Park, IL to Walloon Lake where his parents – Clarence and Grace (Hall) – had purchased property along the North Shore. Ernest spent time every summer until 1921 at the family’s beloved Windemere cottage there, the simple cottage still owned by descendants today. The woods and waters in and around Walloon Lake shaped Hemingway’s life in many ways and it was a place he always held dear to his heart. It was here that his 1972 posthumously published book, The Nick Adams Stories, is primarily set.

Limited space remains for the 3rd Annual Walloon Lake Writer’s Retreat Weekend (April 18-20), please contact Hotel Walloon at 231-535-5000 for details.