Last month, The Community Library confirmed acclaimed author and activist Terry Tempest Williams for the third annual Hemingway Distinguished Lecture.
Her work has garnered awards from literary, conservationist and religious organizations, demonstrating her versatility and ability to weave various disciplines and areas of focus into a coherent narrative.
The library established the Hemingway Distinguished Lecture three years ago, when the library accepted ownership of and responsibility for the Hemingway House and Preserve.
Jenny Emery-Davidson, executive director of The Community Library, considers the library’s “comprehensive Hemingway legacy initiative” as consisting of three distinct avenues: the literal and practical preservation of the house and associated artifacts and ephemera; the formation of a writer-in-residence program at the house; and educational outreach.
“We see Hemingway’s legacy as an opportunity to engage people in literature, which is of course core to what the library does,” Emery-Davidson said. “The Hemingway Distinguished Lecture is a signature component of that educational outreach.”
Embarking upon this path with the primary objective of bringing only the highest quality of contemporary author to the valley, the library continues right on track. It kicked things off in 2017 with Sherman Alexie, award-winning author of “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”
The library followed up Alexie’s lecture in 2018 with Anthony Doerr, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel “All the Light We Cannot See,” which, incidentally, ranked as the library’s highest-circulating novel that year.
Tickets to the lecture—which will be held on Thursday, July 11, at the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum—have already sold out, but there still remains an enticing opportunity for certain Wood River Valley residents to meet Williams.
For the next generation of literary talents in the valley, The Community Library will host a small group lunch and informal writing workshop with Williams at the Hemingway House.
Teen writers in the area must submit a short essay to be considered. In just one to three double-spaced pages, contestants are asked to describe a place of personal significance, and explain why it matters so much.
According to Emery-Davidson, the lecture committee determines the prompt each year to tie in with the author’s literary predilections.
She quoted “An Unspoken Hunger,” Williams’ personal manifesto on landscape and nature writing, saying, “Perhaps the most radical act we can commit is to stay home.”
Williams weaves her fiction, nonfiction and poetry around the world she knows best.
“Whether writing about her longtime familial home in Utah or anywhere else she has developed a sense of place, I think few people have developed an affinity for the natural environment in the way Terry Tempest Williams has,” Emery-Davidson said.
Teens hoping to take part in the workshop should consider this prompt deliberately and invitingly vague. The committee reading the essays is looking for creativity, a palpable passion for writing, honesty and a clear thoughtfulness for place.
These essays are due by Saturday, June 15, at the latest. Teens can submit by emailing their work to email@example.com. Contact Nicole Lichtenberg at 208-806-2640 with any questions or queries.
Successful entrants will each receive two free tickets to Williams’ lecture on July 11 in addition to the luncheon at the Hemingway House.
The library offered this opportunity to local teens in tandem with both previous lecture programs.
“This has been a really important element of the Hemingway Distinguished Lecture for us from its inception,” Emery-Davidson said. “We ask a writer to connect with youth in the community, because we want this to be a community where young people can envision themselves as writers.”
The applicants from previous years have delivered high-quality, promising work, demonstrating that they can achieve that vision the director laid out.
“Getting to witness those conversations over the last couple of years has been humbling and inspiring,” Emery-Davidson said. “I am impressed with the youth and the seriousness they show about their craft, and the discipline many of them are applying.”
All essay applications are free, and the library hopes that by scheduling the deadline after the end of the school year, young writers can take the time and care they need to develop strong essays.
For more information, call the number mentioned above, or visit comlib.org/event/teen-essay-contest.