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Our little black book of enchanting places


Heads up for budding Hemingways by Maggie O'Sullivan

Posted in DESTINATIONS By Maggie O' Sullivan

This is 907 Whitehead Street in Florida’s Key West. Between 1931 and 1939, the house was home to Ernest Hemingway and his second wife Pauline (you can read a fictionalised version of their time here in Naomi Wood’s riveting Mrs Hemingway). When they bought it, the house was a ruin and they spent a fortune restoring it, filling it with antiques from Europe and trophies from their African safaris. Hemingway went on to write 70 per cent of his published work here, including The Green Hills of Africa, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and For Whom the Bell Tolls.Ernest and Pauline divorced in 1940 but Hemingway’s association with Key West prevailed until his death in 1961, the house becoming a shrine to one of America’s best-loved authors. I mention it not just to recommend a visit – the best time to go is during the annual Hemingway Days festival in July, when there is a very silly Hemingway lookalike competition at his favourite bar, Sloppy Joe's, and a running of the (mechanical) bulls event – but because the region has just announced details of a fiction competition in which one lucky entrant will win the chance to spend 10 days writing in the author’s private study in Whitehead Street.

Says Mike Morawski, chief executive office of the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum: ‘We have never provided this kind of chance for anyone before. For a writer to be able to occupy Hemingway's same space and soak in the same creative atmosphere he did is a priceless opportunity.’ Just so.Tempted? The competition is open to US residents and other selected countries, including the UK. And you don’t have to write very much: 500 words or less by March 31 2016. The prize includes a $1,500 air travel card and accommodation in a residency cottage at The Studios of Key West (above) for 21 nights between July 5 and July 31, 2016. A $500 US debit card is included for meals and incidentals, as is a Key West Attractions Association VIP pass and admission to various events during the Hemingway Days festival (July 19-24).And just in case the winner is stuck for inspiration, there’s plenty to do in Key West, from diving, snorkelling and sports fishing to kayaking in the back country or just hanging out on Duvall Street, Key West’s mile-long street of restaurants, bars, shops and entertainment. Sloppy Joe’s, Hemingway’s favourite watering hole, is located on the corner of Duvall and Greene Street: though if he or she plans to get any writing done, they’d do best to swap the writer’s preferred tipple – a lethal absinthe-based cocktail called Death in the Afternoon – for a cold beer.

Full competition details, including rules and the official submission form, from Florida Key Flash Fiction ContestFurther information on Key West from Florida Keys & Key West

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