Tag Archives: Hemingway

Inspired by Hemingway – My new play

That title’s a little misleading. My new play is called “For sale – Baby Shoes – Never Worn”, not “Inspired by Hemingway”. Look, maybe I should just tell the story I’ve been telling everyone about this. Whether it’s true or not…I don’t really want to know. This is what I heard:

Hemingway was dining with Dorothy Parker and her infamous Vicious Circle. Naturally they talked about writing and at some point Hemingway asserted it was possible to write a compelling story in only six words. Challenged to prove it, he grabbed a napkin and scribbled  “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn” and won the bet.

Hemingway is figure who towers in the mental landscape of writers. Many idolize him, ascribing almost mythic powers to him. I didn’t take much to the stories that he wrote, except (if it’s true) for this one. Those six words both tell the story and send your mind scurrying to fill in the other parts – whose was the baby, why did it never wear the shoes? Was there ever a baby? Who bought the shoes, and why must they be sold on? I have certainly spent more time thinking about those six words and all they imply than I have about the rest of Hemingway’s output.

It struck me one day that it would be neat to take the idea at the heart of those words – a dream lost, let’s say – and make a triptych of plays on that theme. Each one would take two words as the title, and the three plays performed together would make up the whole story, as well as carrying the theme. I even wondered who might write such a play. Seriously, it was a day and a half before I realised it might well be me.

The production I’ve written is not as ambitious as Hemingway’s short story. It could be performed by two actors, one male, one female. Staging could be minimal, with mainly hand props and black backdrop. Each actor would play the same character in two of the plays and another character in a third play.

Published for the first time on the 29th May 2013, the play is available through Lazy Bee Scripts. You can read the whole thing online for free, or pay a small fee to download it. I haven’t run it through with any groups here, so I don’t have any pictures of it yet – I’d love to hear from someone willing to stage the World Premiere. Let me know at dtrasler3@gmail.com if you have a production planned, or you’d like more information.

Later edit: This play HAS now been performed: By Kilmuckridge Drama Group. I borrowed the pictures of their performance from their Facebook page and added them to my gallery. They got the staging spot on.

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Fuelling the writing

Almost as important as my keyboard...

In his book “On WritingStephen King does an excellent job of dispelling the myth that great writers need something like whisky or drugs to function better. Hemingway didn’t drink because he was a great writer, he drank because he was a drunk and he happened to be a great writer too. So, drinking beer doesn’t help me get my writing done, and I would never claim taking any kind of narcotics helps you do anything except get poorer and die young. But coffee… Ah, coffee is a different thing altogether.

In the UK, I drank a lot of coffee. Working from home in Bournemouth I worked in the breakfast room, just off the kitchen (Look, it was a weird house, ok? Breakfast room AND dining room…) mainly because it was warm in the winter (because the boiler was in there too) but also because that kept me close to the kettle. I would drink instant coffee in much the same way as other people chain smoke…as soon as the cup was empty, I would hop up to refil it.

Once we arrived in Canada I realised this lifestyle could not continue. Not only because we no longer had a breakfast room, but because the instant coffee here is bad. Really bad. I don’t have a very discerning palette, for anything. I can distinguish between Coke and Pepsi, and red and white wine if I’m allowed to look, but distinguishing between Gold Blend and Full Roast? Pass. Not a chance. Over here, people can tell the difference between different brands of coffee beans just by the aroma BEFORE they’re made into a drink. People can tell the difference between a Starbucks coffee and a Tim Hortons (a couple of bucks, usually) But the instant coffee is so bad, even I couldn’t drink it.

We’d brought over our caffetiere, relic of dinner parties we’d never had, and it got a bit of a thrashing in the first few weeks as we used it every morning. Eventually the inevitable happened, and we smashed the glass bit. That’s when we bought the beauteous machine in the photo. A coffee maker! Load it up and it makes coffee for you! No plunging! You can even program it so that it comes on while you’re doing the school run and you come home to fresh, piping hot coffee! Miracle!

Sadly, all things must end. Yesterday I put on the coffee maker and hopped into the shower. I came out, dressed, and poured myself a cuppa. It was empty. The coffee was not made. I looked out the window, in case the Apocalypse had come to pass. But it was worse than that – the coffee machine was broken.

I’ve had twenty four hours without coffee, as the new machine had to wait until the shops were open. I’ve been that long without coffee before, of course, but that was by choice. This time I didn’t have coffee because I couldn’t and that was harsh, dear reader, harsh. Anyway, normality is restored with the arrival of the shiny new machine and a steady stream of liquid revitaliser, to which I give the credit for the completion of my first full-length play. Less than a year in the making, but at eight cups a day for ten months, that’s….a lot of coffee.