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The Hemingway Conference will be held in Wyoming for the first time

Ernest Hemingway was an American novelist, short story writer, journalist, and sportsman.
Ernest Hemingway was an American novelist, short story writer, journalist, and sportsman.

Ernest Hemingway is considered by many in the literary field to be one of the most prolific authors in American literature. Books such as ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ and ‘A Farewell to Arms’ are just two of his famous works. A conference that will be held in Sheridan beginning July 17 celebrates his works and his life. Wyoming Public Radio’s Hugh Cook spoke with Sheridan College’s Debi Isakson and John Sutton who are helping to organize the event.

John Sutton: The last conferences were in Venice, and then it went to Chicago, and then Paris and now Wyoming. So, it's a biannual conference. So, every two years. We're really excited when they announced from Paris that Wyoming would have this conference.

Hugh Cook: How did it come to Wyoming?

JS: I started lobbying for it at the Chicago conference in 2016. And then I came back and asked Debbie, whether it was a possibility to really get that going. And we wrote up the proposals in early 2017. And then we wrote the proposals up again, and it was announced in Paris, in the summer of 2018. So, we've been planning this for several years. And it was originally meant to happen in 2020 and then it got delayed to 2021. And now here we are in 2022. But it's going to happen this time.

HC: Part of it will be held in Sheridan and part in Cooke City, Montana, correct?

JS: More sessions are here beginning on Sunday. We have four days’ worth of sessions. And then there's a travel day and it goes to Cooke City. Yeah, a lot of interesting things at Cooke City as well. But we're really excited about what's happening here in Sheridan.

HC: What will some of the events be in Sheridan there?

Debi Isakson: We have got a number of presentations. We've got Darla Worden, who has written a book on Hemingway's first wife; she'll be a keynote speaker. We also have Craig Johnson with the Longmire series and A Martinez. That will be one of our offers as well. And we've just got a number of different, Ron Hauser I think John can speak to that a little bit more than I can.

JS: We have a lot of really interesting things happening. We have international artists, Ron Houser, who's going to be doing [an] exhibit and talk. We have Robert Elder who's just written a book on Hemingway in the comics, who's going to talk and give an exhibit. An exhibit he had here a couple of years ago. His exhibits have been touring with Comic Con, so that's pretty interesting. It's Hemingway in the comics, here in Wyoming rather than a Comic Con. Like Debi said, Darla Worden is going to be here. She's a local, who has written about Hemingway. [A] really great book called ‘Cockeyed Happy’. We also have Judy Slack, who's done research for Hemingway for years and years in this area more than anybody I know. And she's going to have her book and be talking and signing her book. And then there's a premiere of an international film that technically premiering at Sundance, but we're going to have it here first, that would be open to the public.

DI: Yeah, no, that one is ‘Across the River and into the Trees.’ And that was actually Hemingway's last full-length novel that was published.

HC: When you mention Ernest Hemingway, he's often associated as one of the great writers in the history of American literature. It's interesting that he has some connections to Wyoming at points in his life.

DI: In order to be considered to host the Hemingway conference, Hemingway has to have ties to your area.

JS: Well, he first came to Wyoming in 1928 and came through Buffalo and then went, first [to] the Folly Ranch and then to Sheridan and his purpose was to complete ‘A Farewell to Arms.’ He left the Sheridan Inn because it was a little noisy and went back to Folly and then to Spear [O Wigwam] where he did complete ‘A Farewell to Arms.’ It reportedly has between 40 and 47 different endings, but he found the right one here in Wyoming. He came back many times in the 1930s. Mostly, he just traveled through our area and went up into the Yellowstone area near Cooke City. There's something called the L Bar T Ranch south of Cooke City where he spent several summers. He completed ‘Death in the Afternoon,’ ‘The Green Hills of Africa’ and a couple other stories here in Wyoming, so he was very productive here in the Cowboy state. And he even got married [to] his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, in Cheyenne in 1940. So, he felt a lot of connection. Mariel Hemingway narrated our Hemingway Highways audio tour, she talked about how the family has always felt a connection to Wyoming that came from their grandfather's time here.

HC: You said he was working on ‘A Farewell to Arms’ during his time in Wyoming. Is there anything else that he was working on during his time here?

JS: There's a short story, ‘Wine of Wyoming.’ I'm not sure where he wrote it, but it was about Sheridan, Wyoming. So, it's about a bootlegger, and a French couple that lived it based on real people in Sheridan, Wyoming. And that's one of the reasons why our keynote event is called Wine of Wyoming. It's based on that short story that was directly tied to this city. So, not only did he, you know, frequent the Mint Bar and other places here, you know, he also wrote about Sheridan.

HC: How many people are expecting for the Hemingway conference there in Sheridan?

DI: Well, I know when we first started it before the pandemic, we were planning on 400. Unfortunately, I think the pandemic has caused a lot of changes in those numbers just by academic funding or conference attendees and international travel. So, I think we would be really, really happy to get close to 200 attending the conference.

JS: Valerie Hemingway's going to be at both sites, and she is the daughter-in-law of Ernest Hemingway. But I think she is the only Hemingway that will be there.

HC: Cooke City events, what will some of those be?

DI: Well, I think with Cooke City, just because it's so remote, that a lot of the academic sessions and the panels and presentations really were focused in the Sheridan area. Their piece in Cooke City is going to be more hands-on. We are two separate conferences, but put together by the dates, but I do know that they still have some outdoor activities that will take place that Hemingway visited close to Cooke City. We are so happy that the international Hemingway Society chose Sheridan and Cooke City to host their conference. But more than that, they even extended it to do a Wyoming piece. So, if anybody in the state of Wyoming that lives in the state of Wyoming would like to attend the conference, it's a special registration.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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