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Hemingway? Sure I found something of his once upon a time.

What inspired me most about the collection of books my uncle had.  Well, was the sheer number of the first editions or binders of unpublished works. Were the binders that seemed to be filled with actual handwritten and typed manuscripts. Specifically, I found one written on what World War I was like by Hemingway, according to marginal notes.  My  uncle's story on how he got it?

Uncles tale of how he got the notebook.

I had just experienced an auction of sorts. I had gotten off a train in Paris, France. There was a long line of people peering into a room. So I thought I would see what was in the room as well. They were auctioning off old luggage.

Wildly, people were bidding small prices on some of what looked like old suitcases and items that evidently got lost at the train station.

The prices were ridiculously low. Seemed absurd how low the people would bid. Since I was there and had some change. I threw my bid in for a weather-beaten suitcase. Tags read both in German and French via France, some town to Swiss. The tag showed no month either gone or curled up and 15, 1922, Hadle curled up a portion of the last name.

My bid of five dollars American did the trick. I got the bid. Paying the five dollars, however, was just the beginning of the process. Seemed, let alone did I have to pay five for the bid? I had to pay a pound of weight for the weight of the suitcase. It total it cost me 1.23. Kin of wild. 23 cents in US currency took forever to exchange. However, evidently the charges of this are this, and that is that in France is uniquely bureaucratic.

Upon getting the suitcase to the hostile I was staying at next to a bookstore that allowed writers to sleep on the floor if they were writing, I got to opening the case. When my first attempts did not work. I went next door to see if I could bum a screwdriver from the English-speaking bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. I had taken the tag off the suitcase, replaced it was my own.

Getting permission from the bookstore owner to use their screwdriver took sometime. So I just wanted to get to my bed and open the thing right away.

I opened it to find notepads filled with writing. A mans suit, and a few personal items from a woman. I read the notepads. All handwritten the cursive was hard for me to sort of translate.


Then the ambulance driver is in Italy driving soldier to safety against the Austrians. The tale is about an ambulance drive in Italy went into vivid details. Serving in the American Red Cross during 1918. How the driver handed out chocolate and cigarettes to soldiers and children. That the driver wounded by mortar fire ascribed to Austrian’s “then there was a flash, as when a blast-furnace door swung open, and a roar that started white and went red,” is most surreal to read the handwritten account. The driver while wounded carried some wounded soldier to safety and injured again, trying to go back by machine gun fire. The handwritten story describes how the driver received a Medal of Valor from the Italian government.

Then the handwriting, like a short story, went into some detail about how hard war was on a person’s soul. Going into minor details of how gory and inspiring speeches seem to contradict one another in war and that inspiration one should find not in war but in writing or peace or something outside the horrors of war.

The handwriting was wet. And after a moment of realization, I could smell whiskey or rumor someone had spilt some sort of liquor on the paper. It had dried now, but the words inspiring by not being a warmonger was something to understand from the short story. What got me as the reader more into the story? Was the detail noting who was in charge of all the American wars of mass murder. Democrats are warmongers seemed to be the end tale written about how President Wilson had lied about rationale for getting into the Great War.

Austrian’s “then there was a flash, as when a blast-furnace door is swung open, and a roar that started white and went red,” is most surreal to read the handwritten account. The driver while wounded carried some wounded soldier to safety and injured again, trying to go back by machine gun fire. The handwritten story describes how the driver received a Medal of Valor from the Italian government.

Then the handwriting, like a short story, went into some detail about how hard war was on a person’s soul. Going into small details of how gory and inspiring speeches seem to contradict one another in war and that inspiration should be found not in war but in writing or peace or something outside the horrors of war.

The handwriting at times was wet. And after a moment of realization I could smell whiskey or rumor some sort of liquor had been spilt on the paper. It had dried now but the words inspiring by not being a warmonger was something to understand from the short story. What got me as the reader more into it? Was the detail noting who was in charge of all the American wars of mass murder. Democrats are warmongers seemed to be the end table.




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As many of you know, I used to live in the library during the daylight hours of the 1980s. I spent my time with Lewis, Token, etc before it became cool or interesting to the masses.

On a trip to Montana and North Dakota, I visited a rather large library on the plains of North Dakota. The library looked like a bank built in the 20s. I got to spend a few hours there by chance due to the family and car troubles. I quickly found an ole favorite the Hobbit in the back of the library of course where the loners usually just enjoy the peace and quiet. I quickly read through the first 200 or so pages, stopping where the dwarfs were imprisoned prior to their release by Bilbo.

Just when the dwarf’s prison doors were to be opened; knowingly, since I had read the book a few times before a book popped out the shelf and fell open next to me reading the Hobbit. Humor how life happens at times. The book was something I had not read nor touched before Harry Flashman. Odd that the book defiantly was not categorized by the author last name or title of the book for a library category. So I was unsure why it was here. Putting it back on an older, boring colored hardcover caught my attention. Grabbing at it instead of pulling it from the self, it binged back and made me jump back as a click and the whole shelf swung against me as if through a door opening. And to that point, the shelf pulled back with my hand.

The librarian was nowhere to be found. I believe she had gone out to forget me. So, with no one to stop me, I pulled the door open. There on the floor was a pill of envelopes, and from the light from a window over the chair I was using I could see a light with a pull string light. Bending over reading the address, I was the majority addressed to a Mr. Babsy. Humor someone’s Hemingway hideout? Who knows anyway. Pulling the chain lighted a small room. A table, what looked like a still? The pill of envelopes and a small looking medical bag was what I could see. Being venturous I went through the envelopes. Which had wonderful 20s stamps all addressed to Baby. Trying to figure out why their presence was there, I noticed a mail drop between the back of the door.

Well I guess if someone was to hide a room, a library was as good as a place as any. What surprised me most was the lack of dust. Anyway, moving into the room, I started to review the books on the table. The first was a ledger accounting it seemed of a business operation of medicine? No, I suppose after seeing a liquor bottle. There in the ledger were small towns that appeared in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Illinois, Minnesota, and other small towns that I recognized from my travels with my mom since the split up of my folks. It seemed this was a major illegal operation built on the plains of North Dakota. Sort of like the Kennedy’s moon shine hold in Havre, Montana. Looking at the next book, it seemed like a personal diary. Last date 1929 written about a Mr. Babsy and venture of moon shine. The journal was given by someone named Limburg for a birthday gift to a Major Babsy. Reading the diary about Mr. Babsy seemed to be in love with someone. He had it bad. Seemed obsessive to appoint that I realized I had never fallen head over heals in love before. It seemed to detail that Mr. Babsy was a local who was planning to take and make himself a rich person.

Humor he even gave some detail on back accounts and politicians a few of them; I had heard about from history class. One name I saw I did not expect was my great grand father. Well, I knew the righteous stories on how he made it in flax in the 40s. Seeing his name there made me wonder a bit, but life is a mixture of chance opportunities. Anyway venturing into the boxes, one contained several old medicine bottles labels peeling with age and odd color liquor look inside. Another box had a letter on it without an envelope. Opening the letter which was addressed to someone whose name I had heard in the old folk’s home where my great grandfather lived. What a small world we live in. The letter was telling him that if Mr. Babsy might never come back; from reading the content of the letter, it was sort of last will and testament from Mr. Babsy. The letter went into how several small communities were being used and their libraries were being used to store medicine etc. Opening the box under the letter, there were roughly fifty thousand dollars in ones the year 1920 stamped on them. The box looked half full. Humor what one expected and what gets are two things. I closed the box. Thinking I needed to talk with my grandfather prior to doing anything. I took the diary, 20 dollars in one-dollar bills from the box, replacing them with a 20 dollar bill my father had given me on his recent visit to me. My parents, of course, being separated, tried to buy my love at times. I also took the letters unopened. Pulling on the chain, the light chain broke while closing the self back. Going back into the library, I pushed the shelf back into place. I went to the door. Humor the librarian had locked me in with a note saying she was out for lunch. Well life happens, so I went back to my seat and begin again the Tale of there and back again. Later in the evening the librarian awoke me by turning on all the lights and my mom was calling my name.

There is an always a time to remember things. I was not back to that area for sometime. Shelf wise I expected the librarian to find or see the room and something to be written about it in the news. But at age 10 I visited the library again because a cousin had passed away in a kayak accident. That was a spooky time. If I could have recorded my aunt's terror cry at the funeral, I could have made a mint in horror movie. Her cry was that of a broken heart in pain. Anyway, at the library I checked, and the room opened again. Nothing had been touched. At this point I was more greedy and the backpack I had been given I filled with the money, ledger, and a few bottles of liquor. I closed the room and checked an old book out of author Rice book on planet Mars and was off to listen to my family remember Steve. The howl from my aunt cries still ringing in my ears. Death is something to live with. That had been my 11th funeral in so many years of living. Anyway, hiding the money and stuff was hard. My mom was an observant lady thus I had to hide it in the camper prior to her seeing me with the backpack. In those days we rode in a Chinook camper a home on wheels.

So I hide the loot in a closet in the camper. The envelopes I hide in, the selection of books and the money in a board game that I topped with a shirt. The bottles went into the toy box with the toy soldiers. Being young with a hidden source of money was to affect my life in new ways. What do you do with ole money in a reservation town of Poplar Montana? My experiences were often and difficult with a very strict mother, but they were still there. My first attempt for fun was reading the letters. The first letter began with a story about a young farmer's kid saving a man off the east coast from a ship wreck. The adventures described made me want to run away and started my reading anew in adventure books. The boy saved the man, and the man gave him the world and he could afford to eat out at locations and have physical fun that only a farm boy could dream about. Partying with royalty, sleeping with women of interesting character, the first letter was seven pages long, detailing so much venting and opportunities that I re-read that life story all about school, religion, and dreams. The hand writing was at first difficult to read and with little time to be alone with them I did not chance their discovery. During this school year I hide them. Sports were something I did not excel at, but that was how I was babysat during these days after school. I just dreamed of re-reading the letter and adventure books that were not part of the letters. I made a decision not to open another letter for year wanting to enjoy the stories over time instead of devouring them all at once.

Mr. Babsy was just fourteen years old for his first letter description, which was exotic in content and started when he was young. The description of how some of Mr. Babsy's women friends were paid for their services caused dreams for the farmer boy these letters pages described his arousal and his worldly experiences in the world. The letter was my first experience finding out at a young age erotic content of the letters more interesting than pictures. The letter dated 1916: the world was a strange exotic world in the letters and brought more dreams than were appropriate for all those who read them. Mr. Babsy had experience that made him a physical man while all that I was still too young to understand everything I read. I was a tall kid, still turning 11, learning from letters how the real world worked and why or what to say in the 20s versus 59 years in the future. At my time and age in the 80s work was hard to come by and experience was something to ask for not be given to a kid at the age of almost 11 versus a life necessity that Mr. Babsy grew up in.

Anyway by this time I had reread the letter enough to understand its neat cursive hand writing I had decide to venture in the world. This time my mom provided the solution by sending me to Ekalaka, Montana bible camp, a place that drops off the end of the world and near enough to be the end of the world. There I had my first opportunity to spend some money.

Lairs and religions make the world go around. Girls turning to women are interesting to most if not all boys. There was a girl named Amy. Her voice perfect as an angel sang religious hymns daily at the camp sites meetings. Her smile cute if I had the chance, I would have been Romeo. However, her being a southern bell made her charmed by a Georgian boy older than me. There in the religionist camp things not spoken about happened between them. What humor to hear about something read about but not experienced and being able to listen but not do anything in the real world? But I had no one to tell or care. What a life to live a religious one.

Religion is funny it demands something belief then lets you down. Babsy in 1916 found a bird skeleton that was a cross between a dinosaur and current bird. He gave the creature to a museum and that sort if gave him an idea that religious timeline was bunk or not real. The letter showed how his belief in something realization that the belief is not worthless is a story all on its own. The letter 1916 describing the year’s end Babsy was involved in a famous party with rich people. At this party Babsy was introduced to a General Smith. Also Babsy meets a woman there, a countess. They danced and sang, and she was delighted with Babsy. Anyway true love and or infatuation caused him to be more of a romantic. The two were in a bedroom scene that was quiet explicit in details. Anyway, the countess had a husband not introduced till later in the letter. At which point Babsy and General Smith both fled the countess’ room.

General Smith, being old, wealthy, famous to some extent, gave Babsy some advice after both of them had just been chased from the countess’s room. The humor evidently was great, the details a bit more than two pages long and Babsy took Smith advice to heart. Anyway, Christmas was upon me. For Christmas, I decided to read another letter. I spent that Christmas night in a box outside a plastic tree in the living room, hoping for a good Christmas gift. But the sad tale I waiting hoping to be given more than was given to charity or spent on the dog’s food for that month for that Christmas was nothing good.

Ideas can change reality.

For those days when the well is feeling dry and a tad echo-y, I keep a running list of my favorite quotes—things I’ve read, things I’ve edited, things I’ve found in the WD archives, things people have said to me in interviews.


Such tiny, perfect revelations.


A couple of years ago, I posted a portion of this list on my old WD blog (around the same time we ran a great quote feature on 90 tips from bestselling authors in the magazine). Recently, someone asked if I was still collecting quotes.


Here’s the latest iteration of the list. (I’d love to expand it, too—please share some of your favorites in the Comments section of this blog post.)


Happy Friday, and happy writing.




“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”

—Philip Roth


“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

—Stephen King


“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”

—Enid Bagnold


“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”

—Allen Ginsberg, WD


“Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.”

—William S. Burroughs


“All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies. Such is the basic goodwill contract made the moment we pick up a work of fiction.”

—Steve Almond, WD


“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

—George Orwell


“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”

—Jack Kerouac, WD


“Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life.”

—Hunter S. Thompson


“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

—George Orwell


“I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”

—Roald Dahl, WD


“The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”

—Robert Benchley


“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

—Ernest Hemingway


“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”

—Virginia Woolf


“Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.”

—Stephen King, WD (this quote is from an interview with King in our May/June 2009 issue)


“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”

—Peter Handke


“To defend what you’ve written is a sign that you are alive.”

—William Zinsser, WD


“If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us.”

—William Faulkner


“For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”

—Catherine Drinker Bowen


“Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps 20 players. … I have 10 or so, and that’s a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them.”

—Gore Vidal


“We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. … Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.”

—John Updike, WD


“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”

—Samuel Johnson


“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”

—Elmore Leonard


“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”

—Larry L. King, WD


“Know your literary tradition, savor it, steal from it, but when you sit down to write, forget about worshiping greatness and fetishizing masterpieces.”

—Allegra Goodman


“I’m out there to clean the plate. Once they’ve read what I’ve written on a subject, I want them to think, ‘That’s it!’ I think the highest aspiration people in our trade can have is that once they’ve written a story, nobody will ever try it again.”

—Richard Ben Cramer


“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.”

—Doris Lessing


“Style means the right word. The rest matters little.”

—Jules Renard


“Style is to forget all styles.”

—Jules Renard


“I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”

—Tom Clancy, WD


“The writing of a novel is taking life as it already exists, not to report it but to make an object, toward the end that the finished work might contain this life inside it and offer it to the reader. The essence will not be, of course, the same thing as the raw material; it is not even of the same family of things. The novel is something that never was before and will not be again.”

—Eudora Welty, WD


“One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”

—Lawrence Block, WD


“Don’t expect the puppets of your mind to become the people of your story. If they are not realities in your own mind, there is no mysterious alchemy in ink and paper that will turn wooden figures into flesh and blood.”

—Leslie Gordon Barnard, WD


“If you tell the reader that Bull Beezley is a brutal-faced, loose-lipped bully, with snake’s blood in his veins, the reader’s reaction may be, ‘Oh, yeah!’ But if you show the reader Bull Beezley raking the bloodied flanks of his weary, sweat-encrusted pony, and flogging the tottering, red-eyed animal with a quirt, or have him booting in the protruding ribs of a starved mongrel and, boy, the reader believes!”

—Fred East, WD


“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.”

—Leigh Brackett, WD


“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”

—Joyce Carol Oates, WD


“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”

—Stephen King, WD


“Genius gives birth, talent delivers. What Rembrandt or Van Gogh saw in the night can never be seen again. Born writers of the future are amazed already at what they’re seeing now, what we’ll all see in time for the first time, and then see imitated many times by made writers.”

–Jack Kerouac, WD


“Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.”

—Jim Tully, WD


“All stories have to at least try to explain some small portion of the meaning of life. You can do that in 20 minutes, and 15 inches. I still remember a piece that the great Barry Bearak did in The Miami Herald some 30 years ago. It was a nothing story, really: Some high school kid was leading a campaign to ban books he found offensive from the school library. Bearak didn’t even have an interview with the kid, who was ducking him. The story was short, mostly about the issue. But Bearak had a fact that he withheld until the kicker. The fact put the whole story, subtly, in complete perspective. The kicker noted the true, wonderful fact that the kid was not in school that day because “his ulcer was acting up.” Meaning of life, 15 inches.”

—Gene Weingarten, WD


“Beware of advice—even this.”

—Carl Sandburg, WD


“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”

—Harper Lee, WD


“I think the deeper you go into questions, the deeper or more interesting the questions get. And I think that’s the job of art.”

—Andre Dubus III, WD (this quote is from an interview with Dubus in our July/August 2012 issue)


“Geniuses can be scintillating and geniuses can be somber, but it’s that inescapable sorrowful depth that shines through—originality.”

—Jack Kerouac, WD


“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”

—R.L. Stine, WD (this quote is from an interview with Stine that ran in our November/December 2011 issue)


“I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.”

—Ray Bradbury, WD


“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”

—Ray Bradbury, WD


“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.”

—Ray Bradbury, WD


“Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”

—Ray Bradbury, WD


“I don’t believe in being serious about anything. I think life is too serious to be taken seriously.”

—Ray Bradbury, WD


“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”

—Ernest Hemingway


“Writers are always selling somebody out.”

—Joan Didion


“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”

—Robert A. Heinlein


“Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.”

—George Singleton


“There is only one plot—things are not what they seem.”

—Jim Thompson


“Anyone who is going to be a writer knows enough at 15 to write several novels.”

—May Sarton


“I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.”

—William Carlos Williams


“The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.”

—Andre Gide


“Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.”

—Virginia Woolf


“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

—Elmore Leonard


“You do not have to explain every single drop of water contained in a rain barrel. You have to explain one drop—H2O. The reader will get it.”

—George Singleton


“When I say work I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.”

—Margaret Laurence


“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

—Mark Twain


“I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.”

—Patrick Dennis


“Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”

—Annie Dillard


“A book is simply the container of an idea—like a bottle; what is inside the book is what matters.”

—Angela Carter


“I almost always urge people to write in the first person. … Writing is an act of ego and you might as well admit it.”

—William Zinsser


“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.”

—Ernest Hemingway


“Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.”

—Henry David Thoreau


“You don’t actually have to write anything until you’ve thought it out. This is an enormous relief, and you can sit there searching for the point at which the story becomes a toboggan and starts to slide.”

—Marie de Nervaud, WD


“Whether a character in your novel is full of choler, bile, phlegm, blood or plain old buffalo chips, the fire of life is in there, too, as long as that character lives.”

—James Alexander Thom


“Writers live twice.”

—Natalie Goldberg




The story went along the following lines on the first notepad. It was like living a tale of an ambulance driver in Italy driving soldier to safety against the Austrians. The tale is about an ambulance drive in Italy went into vivid details. Serving in the American Red Cross during 1918. How the driver handed out chocolate and cigarettes to soldiers and children. That the driver wounded by mortar fire ascribed to Ambulnce hit.