Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Michigan Hemingway Society Conference 2016: A Student's Perspective

The Michigan Hemingway Society Conference 2016: A Student Perspective
by Lily Rosenberg, 2016 Bill and Donna Coté Scholarship Award Winner

I had the amazing opportunity of traveling to Petoskey, Michigan for this year's Michigan Hemingway Society conference! It was an amazing experience, and one I will never forget!

I will first start out by explaining how I got the opportunity to participate. Mrs. McQuillan gave the opportunity to all of her former Honors American Literature students who are currently juniors or seniors to write an essay about how Pure Michigan relates to Hemingway. I took the opportunity and surprisingly won the MHS Coté Scholarship.

While I was in Petoskey, I learned a lot more about Hemingway and the town itself. I got the opportunity to talk to many of the people at the conference and have some really great conversations about the Literary Garden and Hemingway. I was also able to help Mrs. McQuillan with the presentation she gave on the Literary Garden. I was honored to be a part of it. Mrs. McQuillan told the society all about how the Literary Garden has influenced the school and the community. I even did a little bit of impromptu speaking about my experiences with the garden!
All throughout the weekend people were coming up to Mrs. McQuillan and telling her how amazing they thought the garden was and how they wished they had thought of it themselves.

On the first day (Friday) I met the president of the society, Chris Struble, who was very accommodating. The opening ceremony included Chris introducing many special guests and Mrs. McQuillan’s Literary Garden presentation. Then Mrs. McQuillan participated in a roundtable. From just that night I was able to learn so much about Ernest Hemingway. I was also able to connect Hemingway with other works I read in Honors American Literature, such as The Great Gatsby and the Transcendentalists.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at Jesperson’s which is thought to have been one of Hemingway’s favorite hangout spots in Petoskey. There was also a special appearance from Teddy Roosevelt! I had the pleasure of having breakfast with Mrs. McQuillan, Teddy Roosevelt and Dianna Stampfler, a certified tourism ambassador and a fellow first time guest to the conference.

Later that day we attended a tour of the town and all of the spots that are associated with Hemingway. Our tour guide, Chris, took us down into the underground tunnels of the city and told us some of the ghost stories. (They sometimes even reminded me of stories by Poe!) 

Next we witnessed a speech by young Ernest Hemingway himself! He told us all about his life growing up and visiting Petoskey and the surrounding area. 

Throughout the weekend I learned a lot about how Hemingway’s works relate to nature. Mrs. McQuillan and Chris Struble brought up a very interesting point about how in “The Big Two-Hearted River,” silence speaks louder than words. For instance, Nick Adams has come home from the war and he is able to just simply put up a tent without having to worry about being bombed.

I truly hope that other students will be able to have this opportunity in the future. I learned a lot, not only about Hemingway, but also about literature and just being in public situations with new people. You do not need to be in love with literature or Hemingway to benefit from this type of experience. I was able to talk to many teachers, professors, and even a journalist which helped me gain life experience and social skills for the real world. I encourage students who will have this opportunity to take it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How I Spent My Summer Vacation Part II

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part II

In August, I visited four important American authors to gather plants for the garden. Here’s the update on how those plants are faring!

Mark Twain: In Hartford, Connecticut, we visited the Mark Twain House and Museum to try and cultivate the wisteria for the third time. Master gardener Meg Lambert reports that while she is ever hopeful, the wisteria cuttings are struggling. We do have a Mark Twain Liberty burr oak tree generously donated by retired teacher Michael Brown, so Twain is represented. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the wisteria survives!

Harriet Beecher Stowe: I am so pleased to report that Beth Burgess of the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hartford, Connecticut (right next door to Mark Twain’s house!) generously donated two plants to our garden: a clematis vine and Harrison’s yellow roses. Both plants have survived and taken root in the Literary Garden.  

Walt Whitman: I could not contain my excitement when we visited Walt Whitman’s House in Camden, New Jersey. I stood in his bedroom and saw his shoes! His cane! I could not get enough information about one of my favorite poets, and curator Leo Blake kindly obliged. Late in September, the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association director, Cynthia Shor, along with volunteer gardener Leslie Lockhart, sent a lilac cutting and lilac seeds from the lilac bush at the Huntington Station, New York home. The tiny cutting seems to be thriving in a pot in the Literary Garden. We will be bringing it inside for the winter to give it the best chance for survival.

Ernest Hemingway: In Petoskey, Michigan, I had the special good fortune to spend a full day exploring Hemingway’s haunts with the president of the Michigan Hemingway Society, Chris Struble. Not only did I get to plunge my own hands into the cold waters of the spring Hemingway describes at the beginning of “Summer People,” but I also got to see, smell, and taste the mint Chris had sent to us at its source. I was ALL IN that day – when Chris said we could still check out the pilings left of the dock Hemingway had stood on with his friends, I – frustrated that I could not see – walked into the lake with my clothes on and peered into the water until I could see them for myself. Chris, more than startled, ended up following me in, his battered copy of the Nick Adams stories in his hand, reading in the middle of the lake where Hemingway and his friends had summered nearly a century ago. It was, without question, one of the most memorable Literary Garden adventures I have had! And yes, the mint has EXPLODED in our garden! The students and staff love it!

The Michigan Hemingway Society Conference is this weekend in Petoskey, Michigan, and I know Chris has been working hard to put together a terrific program. More on that soon!